Gaseous Expansion

“Gaseous Expansion is the concept of ‘filling the volume’ of the defensive situation at hand.” (Quoted from Advanced American Kenpo Concepts article on Gaseous Expansion)

It is the natural adaptations to the chain of events that occur once a defensive situation begins. By altering small aspects of your technique, you can adapt your reaction to the opponent’s reaction. You flow into the cavities of their reactions and counter-reactions to control them to your end goal. In our case, the end goal is immobilization, submission or destruction.

Your expanded awareness of the environment is just as important as understanding the biomechnical cause and effect of your techniques. In short, the gaseous expansion investigation is exploring many of the “what if”s of a confrontation. Having only read their explanation of the concept, I can not replicate their actual drills or methods for exploration. It would be best to seek out a seminar on American Kenpo Karate theories and application to learn more about this concept.

How does it adapt to our art? When we first learn a technique, it is done slowly, step by step. Then it evolves into a smoother version. Then the strikes and levers begin to make sense, making it run smoother on various body types. Then the uke moves “unconventionally” and we adapt. Then we expand the situation to engage and conquer, where we complete the technique by immobilization, submission or destruction — not just getting away. It is at this point that we investigate and flow further using “gaseous expansion”.

High water or carpet dragger?

Over the years, perhaps decades, I’ve notice a trend in marital arts uniforms. Back when I started training there were two choices, black or the white gi (karate uniform). The sleeves usually came down to your wrist and the pant legs stopped at the ankles.

For many arts, the traditional length of pants and sleeves are different from this manufactured standard. In our school we call it Hawaiian style. The pant legs stop just below the calf muscle — high water height. Sleeves stop at the mid-forearm — 3/4 sleeve or softball length.  This is the classical look of many Karateka.

Recently, I noticed a lot of schools are allowing students to have their pant lets drag on the floor. The pant legs are so long they reach or pass the heel. Likewise, the sleeves fall to the mid-hand or knuckles. It makes students look as if they’re wearing their parents’ uniform. I’ve also seen uniform jackets without sleeves, exposing the upper arm.

The benefit of having high water pants and short sleeves is ease during training. When you kick, shorter pant length keeps the pants from catching on one’s foot. Shorter sleeves allow you to execute arm- and wrist-locks without catching on the long sleeve. It also helps those watching and learning to see what the instructor is doing to the joint.

At the end of the day, the individual must choose which style they like. It’s really a case of appearance over function. So are you a high water or carpet dragger?

The Hawaiian Blessing and Other Customs

In traditional Karazenpo go Shinjutsu  (KGS), you bring your new belt and new uniform to the ocean. Soak them in the ocean water. Let the water saturate the belt and uniform. This blesses them with the spirit of the ocean and provides you with the strength of the seas. This is called the Hawaiian Blessing. It’s a wonderful custom that was forgotten by many schools and instructors.

Black belt takes time

Black belt takes time

Another custom of KGS is twisting the belt. Twisting of the newly awarded belt takes some of the newness out of it. Usually, they come out of the wrapper and into the hands of the recently advanced student. The belts are stiff and nearly untieable. The twisting or breaking-in of the belt signifies the efforts you put into training. It also represents the fact that you are not new even though you have a new rank.

During Black Belt ceremonies, there is a custom of breathing into belts. Breathing into the belt transmits the spirit of the Testing Board into the new belt. The master or grandmaster put a bit of their knowledge into your belt. The belt (also known as obi) represents your knowledge of the art and loyalty to the school. This custom links you spiritually to the lineage of your ancestral teachers.

Black Belts also have another custom issued by the master. Getting hit by the belt signifies the combat element of the art. It demonstrates you can take punishment and hardship. The ceremonial hit also symbolically tempers the spirit, forging your perseverance and reminding you of humility.

Finally, newly ranked Black Belts drink a shot of saki when the Testing Board presents it. This ceremonial drink represents camaraderie–sharing a drink with your fellow students. You are now a member of the Yudansha, the Black Belts of the school. You have earned the right to represent the school because of your diligence in training and skill in techniques.

These are some of the more interesting customs found in Karazenpo go Shinjutsu. There are undoubtedly more. Does your school have a custom? Tell us about it in the comments.

Kajukenbo’s Link to Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu and Shaolin Kempo Karate

Kajukenbo was found in 1947 combining western boxing, judo, jujutsu, kenpo karate, Tang Soo Do and kung fu. Brief histories of this art can be found here and here. Grandmaster Sonny Gascon trained in Kajukenbo and developed Karazenpo go Shinjutsu. This would eventually transform into Shaolin Kempo Karate.

Some would argue that the arts are so divergent that they are not just different arts but unrelated arts. I think the problem stems from a typical Shaolin Kempo Karate (SKK) practice, allowing lightly training Black Belts to run schools. Often times, these ambitious and enthusiastic students jump at the opportunity to run a school. The problem is they aren’t proficient enough in the art or do they know enough about the history. To be fair, I too didn’t know about our actual roots. I did however take the time to learn what I could.

My knowledge of Kajuenbo is not thorough but I feel I know enough to make comparisons. Like SKK, Kajukenbo’s curriculum is set up with katas, combinations (called punch counters), weapon defenses and escapes (called grab arts). Kajukenbo’s 21 punch counters (PCs) are the parent techniques of most Combinations and Kempos in SKK. Here’s a quick reference for you all.

  • PC1-4 and 17 are Combo 6 variants
  • PC6 is a Combo 4 variant
  • PC8 and 10 are Kempos I got at Black Belt
  • PC19 is Combo 7 done opposite (kick with left)
  • PC20 is Combo 8 without blocks
  • PC21 is Combo 30, the beginning only

The other PCs (5, 7, 9, and 11 through 18) are club and knife techniques or Kempo variants. Some rarer Kempos and higher-level Combinations are similar to or copy of Kenpo Karate. I don’t have a comparative list now but that would be a great benefit for the records. I assume this developed during the early 60s when Prof. Cerio met with GM Chow and other Kenpo practitioners. Or it could be a parallel development based on core concepts.

Kajukenbo also has 14 kata* called Pinans or Monkey Dances, depending on when you learned them. GM Gascon added six to eight new katas to this list during a formative stage at his school. The first five eventually evolved into Kata 1 to 5 in the Shaolin Kempo Karate system. I believe the rest were forgotten or lost to antiquity. This is the main reason many Kajuenbo artists don’t recognize the SKK kata — because they were late additions to Karazenpo Go Shinjustu.

Have opinions or other examples? Let me know in the comments below.

* There are some traditional schools of Kajukenbo that have 26 kata.

Why Chi Gung is good for you

Meditation develops the ability to listen to your body, not a physical hearing of talking arms or other silly notions. I’m talking sensing what your body is feeling. This manifests as knowing when you are tired, what types of foods you should eat or if you need to work out more. You should also sense when your body is starting to get sick or has an injury.

Recovering from illness and injuries is an important skill to acquire. Obviously you should consult your doctor and other qualified medical professionals. But you can also assist their work and advice by doing Chi Gung exercises. Chi Gung is primarily a preventative medicine but it also helps in recovery.

Here’s a way to imagine how it works. Chi Gung moves the body in various strenuous ways. This is wring out the body like a dirty, wet towel. The Chi Gung drills squeeze the dirty water out of your body. Then your body is open to receive new, fresh Chi.

Chi Gung is not like running a marathon or a heavy weight program. They are simple, normal movements that help keep the body limber and flexible. They are a great way to warm up in the morning. Chi Gung gets blood flowing into the muscles and joints, which can prevent some injuries. It’s also a great way to warm up–because Chi Gung will make you very warm.

Give it a try. I recommend doing the Five Organ Set that we call Taoist Five. The more you do the better you’ll feel and the clearer your body will speak to you.