To be able to perform a self defence system the individual needs to evolve many qualities. These ingredients can be summed up in three foundations – basics, self defence techniques and finally fighting
Every martial art has a foundation of basics. In order to generate power, explosives, manoeuvring and a good defence you need a well established base. To ignore this will affect your blocks and punches and make them ineffective and the risk of being overrun is a fact. Sometimes you need to be well established on the ground (stability) and sometimes you need to move (mobility). A good martial artist must have a good footwork because it’s the feet who decide your upper body’s speed and work. Fast feets imply fast hands.
The largest problem in kenpo is that the practitioner rushes through the techniques and cheats with the basics. Mr. Parker said “speed and rush is not the same”. Mr. Planas say that “rule number 1 is to establish your base”.
Don’t stop and train and repeat your foundations. Without a solid foundation the house will collapse and so will your Kenpo. This is your first foundation and it’s just as important as the next two foundations.
With a solid ground you can now build up the practitioners habits and reflexes against various attacks. Give the students possibilities and suggestions for an effective defence. There are 154 fixed solutions made up by principles in Ed Parker’s Kenpo, but also rules of motion designed to make the students defence as effective as possible and, foremost, safe for the student. When you have reached black belt you have learned the basics of the system and now you start analysing and striving for perfection. Techniques should save you from certain types of attacks such as straight punches, hooks holds and so on. The defence is based on the fact that the attacker has no knowledge of your skills. Most often the attacker is surprised and you will get the upper hand which will last only for a second or two. If your defence is not effective enough you will end up in another situation. This new situation leads us in to the third foundation.
When you have the situation that both you and the attacker are aware and foremost ready for a clash (confrontation) then you stand before a fighting situation and thus the moment of surprise is gone. If you haven’t trained this good enough it might be hard when the attacker comes on in full speed with a planned attack. A series a punches or a well aimed kick might come. It’s hard to defend against this because you do not know anything about the attack. Here it’s important to have good basics and good alternative to quick and effective results. Often it’s this part that is least trained. You must not forget we are training a martial art, “the warriors art”, where the fight is the final test that you can defend yourself.
I recommend the practitioner to practise all these parts equal and fighting at least once a week. Be active in your club and train as much as possible. You become what you train. Here comes a story to show what I’ve been talking about. Pelle steps into an elevator. Three’s a man and Pelle stands in front of him. When the doors close the man gets the idea that Pelle was one of the guys who struck him the weekend before outside a club.
Pelle, who is a specialist on self defence, doesn’t break a sweat defending himself when being pulled back. Pelle blocks and delivers a couple of well aimed punches against his attacker. When the man lays down on the floor Pelle turns around to leave the elevator but realizes his stuck there. When Pelle now turns around again to face his opponent the man is now ready to attack again. If Pelle has no knowledge in fighting he will have a tough time. The moment of surprise is gone and good skills in fighting become important. On the other hand if Pelle were a very good fighter but had no ideas about self defence he might not have come very far when the attacker pulled him back and gave him a couple of punches in the face.
To have certain preferences is ok but you can’t ignore what I’ve mentioned. Practise all parts of your kenpo for it makes you complete and your understanding for what you do grows for each day you practise these moves. Good luck in your training!
5:th degree black belt
Head instructor for Ed Parker´s Kenpo Karate in Sweden.