The Hidden Triangle

We all know that a tripod is more stable than a biped.

Black belt in stance

Black belt in stance

This is evident in how a tricycle and bicycle are parked. The tricycle, with its three wheels, can stand on its own while the bicycle needs a kickstand to stand on its own. That makes it a tripod structure. But how does this relate to martial arts and Kempo in particular?
Human beings are bipedal creatures. We use two legs to stand. In theory, that should make us tip over easily but we have joints, muscles and tendons to keep us upright. We can become a triped or quadruped by putting down one or both hands. This makes us stable but not very effective in a fight.

However, we can use this concept to help us become more effective. We have two feet, which equates to two vertices of a triangle’s three vertices. All we need is the third point to complete the tripod structure. Using a bit imagination and basic geometry, you can pick a place on the floor where the third point should go.

  • You can use that location to place your knee down for stability, especially for randori and jujutsu mat work.
  • If your opponent’s foot is there, you can push or pull his foot out of the stability spot to disrupt their balance.
  • You can use the spot as a target for your throw. Aiming at that spot will naturally create a stronger, more effective throw.
  • If you have a joint lock, move it towards that spot to create a soft throw.
  • You can also use that location by putting the opponent there to prop yourself up if you begin to loose your own balance.
  • If you believe in chi energy, create a pillar of force attaching you to that spot creating a tripod stance.

It is important to visualize and use your imagination while training or during a confrontation. The mind responds to those impulses faster than if it explicitly or discretely thinks about the problem. If you practice doing this during your training sessions, you will develop muscle memory thereby making it part of your repertoire.

Train hard. Train for real.

Class Review for Wednesday

September and October have been very busy months for me. The children are back to school and the dojo has added several new students. This has developed into a lack of time to write my articles. Thank you for your patience during this busy time.

Gun defense

Gun defense

Wednesday’s class focused on applying wrist locks from the same side and cross hand grips. Just for the record, the same side grip uses both a wrist and finger lock to cause pain. I showed a follow up move and throw for advanced students. The cross hand grip uses the knife hand to cause pain in the wrist.

With all locks, remember to keep the 90° angle in one if not two joints. They will work better that way. Do each step in sequence. Apply pressure and get the full bend before moving on to the next step or a twist/rotation.

Feel free to send me questions about class or the martial arts. I’ll attempt to answer them.

Why Learn Other Arts?

Learning a new martial arts style (or one that is upstream or cousin to your current art) is like learning a new language. It opens up your mind and allows you to think differently. You view the world different. You see different vantagepoints of a set of moves. You have other mental models to compare and contrast things. In short, it makes you smarter.

Gun defense

Gun defense

Cross-Train Other Arts

There’s a myth around that states, “My martial arts style is COMPLETE. Therefore I don’t need any thing else.” However styles get a false sense of authority and security. They should continue to explore, analyze and evolve to new conditions and new technology.

Seminars and workshops are great for this type of cross training. They provide key theories and concepts that can be adapted or aligned with one’s own style. It may also explain things that you either forgot or didn’t understand fully. If an art is complete, how can someone know something equally effective?

Style Bigotry and Lineage Myopia
Don’t become fixated on a single style for all things. Just like all tools, they are good for their specific purpose but not all purposes. Everyone is influenced or descended from something else. The whole notion of styles is born of modification and cross-pollination among other masters.

“What is your lineage? That master is no good! Only my lineage is correct and pure.” These lines may not be exact quotes but the sentiment is there. History tells us many Okinawan masters went village to village collecting katas and training from the locals. They assembled these arts into kara-te. If you notice, they cross-trained with others.

Another example is the founder of Judo who went from Jujutsu school to school learning what he could. He distilled his knowledge into a new art. Now there is a lineage from that source and anything different is “watered down” or “not true” judo.

We are just repeating the cycle. It must be done with caution and purpose though. To gain the most benefits from other arts, one should be well versed in their own arts—a black belt or equivalent. You need some point of reference from which to understand the new material.

Totally Complete Art
In my opinion, there are very, very few arts that are ‘complete’ in the true sense of the word. I believe all these complete martial arts are from China. They included martial, healing and spiritual development of the practitioner. They include single and two person forms. They have oral traditions, herbs, weapon crafting and so on. A complete art does not limit itself to kicking, punching, grappling or breaking hard materials.

Use leverage to unbalance your opponent

Use leverage to unbalance your opponent

It is also my belief that an intact style of this volume rarely continues unchanged for very long. It either synthesizes into a streamlined system, looses pieces to faulty human memory, or begins to focus on what the lineage holder finds the most interesting. Using this analogy, styles become similar to religious traditions and practices. In fact, the vehemence with which some people argue the truth of their style often reminds me of religious fanatics doing the same on street corners and on cable TV.

Open up, examine and test. Explore indigenous arts of other areas. Martial arts need to work all the time not only when it is the “true” art. Don’t wander the playground crying, “My style is better than your style” because it is the training of the artist that proves an art’s worth.

Disagree? Tell me why?

The Elbow and Kenpo Joe

I stumbled upon this video of Kenpo Joe who demonstrates a few elbow sets from a few flavors of Kenpo and Kempo. See it here on YouTube.

What’s nice about these mini-sets is they focus on the most devastating weapon in our arsenal, the elbow. It is versatile and is great at close and really close range. My favorite part of Joe’s articles and videos is how he compares and contrasts the flavors of Kenpo. He doesn’t do it to discredit them, rather he does it to explore and understand. In my opinion, that’s the attitude you need in martial arts training.

Visit his web page at

That’s all for today.

Motobu Seminar 2005 Review

Way back on July 23, 2005 (in Las Vegas), I was fortunate enough to attend a great seminar with some great instructors. Here’s my review for old times sake.

In the study of Okinawan Karate history, the name of Choki Motobu stands out as a legendary figure. However, this golden age of Karate was nearly a hundred years ago so any chance of me being near such heroes has always been ephemeral. That is until Prof. Kimo Ferreira and Prof. Tom Ingargiola invited me to their Kempo seminar in Las Vegas. The guest of honor was none other than Chosei Motobu sensei and his senior student Takeji Inaba sensei.

The son of one of Karate’s greatest instructors taught class. Both Motobu sensei and Inaba sensei don’t speak English, so Keiko Ferreira translated. The whole experience was surreal and exciting. Though freshly 81 years old, Motobu sensei moved with assured quickness and intent. Fifty years of teaching shows in all his movements.

The seminar was divided into three sections. The first section was on Shaolin Kempo concepts applied to techniques. The second featured Prof. Kimo Ferreira and his Kempo Jutsu. For the finale, we learned the kumite pattern of Motobu-ryu.

Prof. Tom opened the class up with warm-up exercises and shadow boxing but he quickly transitioned into several new techniques focusing on principles. He said students should avoid backing up into the power area of the opponent, rather one should move to safe areas like the side or behind the opponent. Several of his techniques were taught in July’s classes.

For those who are unfamiliar with Prof. Kimo, he studied Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu under GM Walter Godin, the co-founder of KGS with GM Sonny Gascon. He emphasizes the jujitsu aspect of Kempo, showing bunkai for several katas. His techniques favor absorbing principles and striking pressure points. His introduction to Kake-te drill was the highlight of his section. This drill will be introduced into our intermediate classes. It’s a great pre-sparring drill for developing combinations, accuracy, and muscle memory.

Motobu-sensei demonstrated Naihanchi one and two (Monkey Dance 11 and 14) from his families system. He said Naihanchi three was a later addition and not part of the original catalog of kata. Motobu-sensei began teaching Ju Ni Hon that is a set of 12 combinations. These techniques are similar to defense maneuvers or kempos except he calls them kumite techniques.

The seminar closed with his introduction to the Motobu-ryu Palace Hands secret style, which he learned from his uncle and a question period. It was great to see some of my old friends again.