In Kenpo Karate you are taught three phases of a technique. The first phase is called the Ideal Phase in which the technique is done by the book, as it is designed. In the second phase, we have the What If: The attacker moves a certain way so that he’s in a position in which you can only do certain moves; or he grabs you, throws another attack, and you have to deal with it. Finally, we have the Formulation Phase in which you change a technique, short-cut it, rearrange the moves, add or delete moves, or graft other techniques into it.
Here we will examine a set of Kenpo techniques, first showing the techniques in their Ideal Phase and then moving on to What Ifs and possible solutions to the What-Ifs in the Formulation Phase of a technique.
Five Swords is that famous Master Key Kenpo technique that can work in a variety of scenarios and positions and is a stand-out technique as one of the favorites by many practitioners because of its versatility and fluid movement.
First we look at the Ideal Phase of the technique, which is against a hay-maker or round-house or hook punch. The defender steps in to cut-off and jam the punch, then delivers a slicing chop to the face or throat and immediately flows into a heel palm strike or finger strike to the face–using proper body mechanics for power, of course–and then the defender shifts his body back into an upper-cut to the body or groin. This last punch bends the attacker over, then the defender off-angles slightly back with the left foot, chops and grabs the neck with the left hand and then pulls the attacker’s head down to deliver a final chop to it with the right hand.
As James comes in with a right round house or haymaker punch, Joe step in and gets a solid stance and uses an inward block to stop the attack.
Joe delivers a right slicing chop to the neck, monitoring the back-up weapon, though his right hand is in position to pick it up if it comes.
Joe delivers a left heel palm strike, turning his body into it to add power. These last two moves are done in succession, like one move, making them sophisticated (having multiple effects with one move).
Joe shifts back into his neutral bow stance and delivers an upper-cut to the body, bending James at the waist.
Joe off-angles back and toward 5:30 with his left foot and delivers a chop to the neck with his left hand. This move adds opposing forces as the right hand chambers high.
Joe shifts back to a neutral, lending torque and marriage with gravity to a downward chop to the back of the neck or base of the skull.
Next, we move to the Formulation Phase. The attacker grabs the defender’s right arm after the initial block of the attack. The defender problem solves by grafting another technique onto Five Swords; the technique he grafts is called Gripping Talon, a technique originally intended for a straight wrist grab. The defender grabs the opponent’s wrist with his left hand and pulls it off of his right arm and takes control of it as he delivers a hammer-fist strike to the groin; he then chambers his right arm to get travel and line of entry and angle of execution for an inward elbow to the ribs. It should be noted here that generally in Kenpo techniques moves come from point of origin without extra movement; however, the inward elbow in this case would not be effective unless chambered because it needs travel and the correct angle to be effective.
The defender chambers again for an outward elbow that turns into a back-knuckle through the ribs. He shuffles up, sweeps the opponent’s leg and drops a forearm (sometimes a wedge-hand is used) strike to the back of the neck, bending the attacker over. The defender then knees the attacker in the face and lands with a break on the arm.
James grabs Joe’s arm so he can’t go into Five Swords.
Joe grabs James’ wrist with his left hand.
As he escapes James’ grab, Joe secures James arm across his own body and pulls as he delivers a hammerfist to the groin. The strikes has opposing forces on it, the arm is pulled as the strike goes in.
Joe chambers his right arm so he can get good travel and angle for an inward elbow to the ribs.
Joe reaches to the left with his right arm to get travel for an outward elbow into the ribs.
After the outward elbow, Joe immediately comes through with a right back-knuckle through the ribs on the way to chambering his arm high, as he shuffles up to his right foot with his left to get ready to sweep the leg.
With his right leg, Joe sweeps out James’ left leg on the 45 (about 2 o’clock) and strikes the back of his neck, a move that uses opposing forces because the leg goes back and the arm strikes out and down. This also bends James over.
James’ face is now in position for a knee strike. Note Joe has maintained control of the arm.
Then a strike to the elbow joint is delivered after landing from the knee strike.
It should be noted that the inward and outward elbows in the Gripping Talon technique are a cross-reference to other techniques that use inward and outward elbows in other zones of the opponent’s body. This issue will be covered in the future.
In the next situation, after the initial block, the opponent throws another punch, a left hook or round-house punch. It should be noted that these counters, like the grab of the blocking arm and this follow-up left punch, are likely to happen. An attacker doesn’t just attack once and give up; they will try to control you or continue to attack you, especially if you spring into action.
So, this time we graft on a technique called Shielding Hammer which is against a left hook or round house punch. You execute a right outward block, rake through the face with the knuckles on the way to chambering for the last move which is an outward elbow with a push-drag shuffle into the opponent; that last move makes use of back-up mass, and the shuffle is done in one-beat.
The initial block happens as if going into the 5 Swords technique.
Before the 5 Swords technique can be completed, the attacker throws a left punch, which is blocked with a right outward block.
The defender is now in position to do the technique called Shielding Hammer. He rakes through the face with the knuckles on the right hand to chamber the arm.
Joe reaches far back and out to get good travel on the next strike.
Joe moves in with a one-beat push-drag shuffle and delivers an outward elbow to the body, using the power of back-up mass.
In this next set, we are using the technique called Circling Destruction. The technique, by the book, is against a left straight punch to the face; the defender slips to the right and parries the attack with the right hand and immediately picks up the punch with another parry (outward) with the left hand and this double parry flows right into a back-knuckle punch to the ribs; the defender shuffles to the attacker’s back centerline with his right foot and hooks the chin with his left hand and chambers the right hand high; the left foot continues the shuffle behind the opponent to get a good stance to the rear centerline of the attacker as a chop is delivered to the neck with the right hand. The right hand claws through the eyes, from behind (a cross-reference, by the way), and the right foot scoop kicks the groin. The defender lands with a downward inward elbow into the kidneys.
Joe slips the punch and parries it with his right hand.
He then picks up the punch with an outward left parry.
This double parry flows right into a back-knuckle to the ribs.
Joe shuffles to the back centerline and strikes the face or neck and hooks the chin with the left to control the head and open the right side of the neck for a strike. Notice this movement involves backup mass and chambering as you move into position so you don’t waste motion, adding strikes as you move, taking care of multiple things at once. Sophistication.
Joe finishes the shuffle by sliding his left/rear foot to position him in a neutral bow stance behind James and delivers a right chop to the neck.
Joe claws through the eyes with his right, maintaining a check with his left. and…
…he scoop kicks the groin, checks with his left and chambers with his right, as the kick bends James over.
…this puts James in position for the inward/downward elbow to the kidney, which is delivered with marriage with gravity as Joe lands after the kick.
So, now we explore a “what-if” of this technique. In this scenario, after the initial left punch is parried and first strike is delivered, and before Joe can move into position for the rest of the technique, James spins and tries to hit Joe with his right. Joe picks up the punch and deletes the rest of the standard technique and changes up and goes to an arm bar; he then gives James a kick and a strike to finish off the technique.
Joe gets through his parries and first strike of the standard technique.
But just then, James spins to hit Joe with his right.
Joe picks the strike up with his right.
He goes to an arm bar and steps back and around with his right foot, swinging James subsequently.
He knees or kicks to the face as he pulls back on the right arm with his right and also maintaining a check with his left.
Then he lands with marriage with gravity with a hammerfist or forearm strike to the back of the neck or base of the skull.
Thrusting Salute is a Kenpo technique against a right step-through front thrust kick to the mid-section. You block the kick with a left downward block as you step back with the right foot to the 45 (right back corner or about 4 or 5:30). You immediately bounce your right foot into a front kick to the groin and then land with backup mass and borrowed force (and borrowed reach) with a heel palm strike to the face. A short and sweet technique, with a lot going on in terms of principles.
Joe steps to a position that lines him up to kick James’ centerline as he delivers a block that will open James’ centerline.
Joe kicks, covers with his left hand and chambers his right hand, total economical motion.
Joe lands forward with backup mass and a heel palm to the face.
Now we explore various what-ifs. It is possible that the opponent leans too far forward or lands too deep after the initial block of his kick. You are then jammed and will have to change the technique, rearrange it, alter a weapon or delete a move.
Here you see James is leaning forward and lands too close to Joe for Joe to do a front kick, so he changes the front kick to a knee to the groin.
Joe has to change to short range weapon since he is now in close range.
He changes the heel palm strike to the more appropriate short-range inward elbow strike.
In this next series, Joe finds himself close enough to deliver the heel palm strike (a mid-range weapon) first so he does and then is in position to deliver the long-range front kick. This is called rearrangement of the technique; it involves changing the order of the strikes or moves.
Joe finds himself more in range to strike with his hands than kicking with his feet.
So he delivers the heel palm to the face first.
Then he shoots the front kick to the groin.
Then he adds the inward elbow as he lands forward.
So, there you have it, the final phase of a Kenpo technique in which you must spontaneously deal with the situation as it changes; therefore, you formulate an answer, problem-solve, by adding moves, deleting moves, changing technique, grafting techniques, rearranging moves and even short cutting a technique. This is the more sophisticated and final phase of a technique in which you must take what you’ve learned and apply it independently and extemporaneously. This is what you’d have to do in a real situation involving self-defense.