Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kenpo details...

So someone requested some more details about the Kenpo test. This is a long post. You've been warned.


I had just narrowly avoided being set on fire when my phone rang. I had smelled the gas and heard the frantic scrabble of a striker as the lady next to me struggled with the recalcitrant torch. The sudden ball of flame was no surprise. I ignored the smell of burned hair. Likewise I ignored the grumpy stares, it was after class and they could bite me if they didn't like me using my phone.

It was my Kenpo instructor, he had a cancellation and wondered if I might make an earlier class. A quick glance at the clock showed that if I ran home, leapt in the car and drove like a madman I would make it just in time.

So I did, with 2 minutes to spare.

Small talk preceded the formal bowing-in, once done we were all business.

The techniques started simply enough Heelhook, being a simple defense against a rear bear-hug. The technique flowed smoothly enough, a settling into a deep stance then the dominant foot flashing up to strike one direction the the other, ending in a stomp on the arch of the foot.

This transitioned into the Japanese stranglehold defenses, blocking the kick, and headlock escapes.

Then Sensai called Crash of the eagle. My brain froze.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the instructor grin. I hrmphed quietly under my breath. I always confuse this with Crashing Wings, a different technique from a different Kenpo school, a different life.

"Rear Push" he murmured, taking pity on me. Realization flooded me.

Dipping at the waist and lunging forward as if pushed from behind I swayed forward under the force of the imaginary attacker. Pivoting swiftly about my center I spun, left hand extended in a vertical in knife edge I cleared his pushing hands, my right hand in a palm strike hitting his chest. Pivoting back about my center I pulled him forward driving my left elbow into his temple.

I froze.

"Something wrong?" the voice broke my visualization of the technique. "I know I am supposed to back out at this point... but it feels wrong. Like I should be doing more."

He grinned. "Stop anticipating advanced techniques, you'll learn the extension soon enough. Remember yellow belt is hit and run belt."

I nodded and cleared out of the position.

Swiftly I ran through Tackle Techniques, Pushing the circle, and Opponent at the sides.

Without thinking I moved directly into Rising elbow not needing to be told. Grabbed from behind I slipped sideways, left hand driving forward and back into the now exposed solar-plexus. I used the inertia to rotate downward driving a hammer-fist into his groin, which left me perfectly positioned to lead my elbow upward inexorably upward driving sharply into the soft tissue of his throat. The parallel uppercut to the solar plexus, merely icing on the cake.

Backing out, even as I checked the position of my (hopefully) fallen opponent a voice called out "The Dancer." It meant a rear shoulder grab as if I was wearing hoodie and the like. I did a small cover step to clear the target area, and drove a hammer-fist back into my opponent's groin. Not satisfied, I extended that step out and pivoted under his arms and stepped into a horse stance facing him. Using the momentum of the spin, my change in height from low to high and distance traveled I drove a punishing ridge hand into a deep arc. I felt my fingertips brush the carpet as I brought it forward and up, a fast moving centrifugal whip that ended, again, in his groin. I continued to spin, hopefully tangling his arms if he managed to retain his grip after to punishing strikes to a vulnerable region. A region that almost half of the yellow belt techniques grace with at least one strike.

From there I found myself in a basic arm bar which allowed me to use the the paired techniques "Passing from the horizon" and "Retreating from the horizon" the only difference in them being intermediary strikes of different distances, both of which end with satisfying arm breaks. Satisfying not in the pain inflicted, but the sheer logic of their placement in technique; an natural punctuation to sentence of movement.

The techniques are getting more complex, and sweat has begun to stand out on my brow. I focus on advice that has been given, my techniques has been too rigid, too jerky between steps. Ed Parker insisted that every straight line become curved and every curved line become straight. A simple reminder of a fundamental principal of Kenpo, every movement has multiple purposes and you should flow between the steps not lurch.

Suddenly, an previously unseen opponent uses both hands and grabs me from the front, dimly I hear the technique name "Kimono grab", but I am to focused on the clear threat in front of me.

Reaching across with my left hand I trap the hands on my chest, I manage modified butterfly pin on the far right, but his left hand is only held with the pressure of my forearm. Moving swiftly before he can loosen himself, I sink back deepening my stance and locking his elbows just in time for my rising right forearm bar to strike them. Probably not break, but a distraction and disruption to the nerve centers for the arm. Not pausing, I rake right hand in a back knuckle across his floating ribs. It's a bonus shot really likely only doing distracting damage, mostly using the movement to set up my next strike. My right arm now cleared our bodies, I sweep back in an inward block to clear his arms and probably tweaking his already abused elbows a bit more. If I struck correctly it should also rotate his arms a bit out of line to foil any of his potential strikes. That sweep also sets up the right elbow and I lunge in striking for the throat, elbow shooting out while by left hand covers any wild swings from his hands. Strike completed, I pivot my body to the left using the rotation as fulcrum to swing my right fist downward to strike, of course, the groin.

Coughing from the throat shot, and bent over from the last strike his nethers, his head has been temptingly lowered. But he is tall and I am not, rather then risk an upset I shoot a back kick straight to land squarely on his leading knee his bodyweight rests heavy on it and it buckles. I use the rebounding force to spin out range.

But he has brought a friend. Again some distant voice calls "The Lever" but I don't need to be told, I can feel him grabbing me with his left hand has his right draws back to wreak vengeance for his friend.

He should have learned from his friends lesson and not grabbed me, nor telegraphed the move so openly. A common mistake for those without martial arts or boxing training. Still he not a small fellow and the punch will hurt a lot if it lands. It's not enough to merely clear that grab, I have to prevent that punch from landing. Again I reach across and trap the hand, this time when I step back I do so a bit further and hold the trap tightly as I sink into stance. This has two effects; the first it rotates him off balance and puts that chambered fist off target and on the far side of his body; secondly it locks that elbow tight, a nice tempting target.

I oblige.

No simple tweak, I go for the break slamming my right arm into his already hyper-extended elbow. Unlike what I did to his friend I maintain my grip with my left hand, but that break has chambered my right arm for an elbow strike, I shoot it out aiming for his exposed temple. To help bring the target in range I fiercely yank down and back on the retained broken arm. His head lowers obligingly and meets the lunge of my elbow. The backfist I send as I retreat almost seems like an afterthought, a not so gentle kiss of knuckle to remind him of what he intended when he first grabbed me.

I pause and look for another opponent. From behind me I hear an amused "Inteeeeeresting." I blink the sweat from my eyes and as I control my breathing. UnsuccessfulyI try and discern what my instructor means.

"You kept hold of the left hand and pulled him into the elbow, yes?"

Not trusting myself to speak I nearly nod, trying to quietly suck in huge gulps of air.

"And you haven't been studying ahead on orange belt techniques?"

I shake my head, I barely have time to do my assigned homework, read ahead for Kenpo? Hah!

"It is not part of the technique." He says grimly. I wilt just a bit under his fierce gaze.

Suddenly he grins.

"It is however part of the 'The bridge', an orange belt technique which you will learn next week. I don't think any more review is needed, in fact that review was so good we'll just count it as your test too. Congratulations."

He shook my hand, and exhausted it was all I could do to properly bow out; to show my respect for my instructor, for the school and for Kenpo, a style which I so dearly love.


  1. Hey, Great post. You can do that kind anytime. I was out of breath and beginning to sweat by the time I finished reading it.

  2. Woo! You can do detail-heavy content better than me!

    Thank you!