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Kenpo Mandatory Step Techniques

Basically, in a self defense or fighting technique, there are two reasons to make someone step: To cancel their weapons or open their center-line. You either want to keep them from hitting you or you want to be able to hit their targets.

Some Kenpo techniques are Mandatory Step techniques, meaning you must make the person step to do the technique effectively; the purpose is generally to open up targets.

Obscure Sword

Obscure Sword is against a left handed stiff armed grab on your right shoulder from behind; the guy is wanting to pull you into an attack or otherwise attempt to control you. The technique depends on you pinning his right hand that’s on your shoulder with your left hand and you stepping forward to 12 o’clock (the 90 or straight ahead) to get an angle at your opponent who is at the 45; this puts you in a position to attack his centerline. This, at the end of the technique, opens him up for a shot to the groin. You actually do not make him step because his centerline is already open when you step to a 90 degree angle to position yourself to attack the opponent who is positioned at a 45 degree angle from you. I’ve included this technique to show the contrast it has to the next technique in which the opponent is positioned directly behind you, so you step to the 45 to make him step and open him up to attack his centerline.

Joe grabs James from behind.

Joe grabs James from behind.

James pins Joe's hand to his shoulder. This is the get on top rule for grabs in Kenpo. It ensures control.

James pins Joe’s hand to his shoulder. This is the get on top rule for grabs in Kenpo. It ensures control.

James steps forward, pulling Joe and making him step, cancelling him and opening him up.

James steps forward, opening Joe up.

James turns and delivers a chop to the throat.

James turns and delivers a chop to the throat.

The technique ends with a kick to the groin while shedding off the attacker's hand with your right hand, introducing some opposing forces power principle.

The technique ends with a kick to the groin while shedding off the attacker’s hand with your right hand, introducing some opposing forces power principle.

Circling Wing

Circling Wing is a technique in which you must make the attacker step initially. He’s choking you from behind and you rely on him grabbing you strongly to pull him forward as you step to the right 45 (degree angle). This step opens up his center-line, so you escape his grip, trap his arm and initiate a series of hard strikes and well-placed checks.

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Joe steps to the right front corner, or to 1 or 2 o'clock, making James step and open his center-line.

Joe steps to the right front corner, or to 1 or 2 o’clock, making James step and open his center-line.

Joe circles his right arm over and on top of James' arm and traps/checks his arm and delivers a left heel palm or finger strike to the face.

Joe circles his right arm over and on top of James’ arm and traps/checks his arm and delivers a left heel palm or finger strike to the face. Note his body mechanics.

Joe checks with his left hand.

Joe checks with his left hand.

Upper elbow to the chin, checking with the left, and again note body mechanics.

Upper elbow to the chin, checking with the left, and again note body mechanics.

Joe strikes to the groin. Notice the checking and heavy use of the right arm for striking in this technique generally.

Joe strikes to the groin. Notice the checking and heavy use of the right arm for striking in this technique generally.

Snaking Talon

Snaking Talon is against a left-right combo, basically a boxing combination. You step back and parry the first punch, draw to a cat-stance and parry the other one and then deliver a right kick to groin or body as you pull the attacker’s right arm which you are now checking. You land with your right foot to the back-left 45 and pull the attacker’s arm downward and diagonally, which makes him step and cancels his height and width zones simultaneously, as it disrupts his depth zone by making him step forward; in other words, you totally cancel him. Note that in the pictures, it is shown as the attacker stepping in with his right foot with the right punch, which is not by the book according to the ideal phase of the technique; normally, the pull on the arm downward and diagonally would make him step with his right foot (which is actually back in the by-the-book technique); this unloads his foot. However, here we show that you can still make him step with the right foot already forward and cancel him, because the crucial thing is canceling his zones by pulling on his arm correctly; besides, it’s important to be able to perform a technique effectively, no matter what happens spontaneously.

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James twists Joe's wrist, pulling him and making him step.

James twists Joe’s wrist, pulling him and making him step.

This opens up the ribs, too.

This opens up the ribs, too.

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These next techniques are not Mandatory Step techniques but they are techniques in which you essentially move the attacker’s leg to open up his targets. Note this is often called “putting him in a Horse”; the Horse Stance generally only being a training stance because it leaves you wide open and not covered.

Buckling Branch

Buckling Branch is a defense against a left front thrust kick. You step to the back 45, block with your left and this block then spins the attacker into a position that gives you the back center-line; from there you scoop kick the groin and then kick the knee out.

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Note how Joe covers with his hands in case James keeps spinning and hits him with a spinning back-fist or something else.

Note how Joe covers with his hands in case James keeps spinning and hits him with a spinning back-fist or something else.

As soon as he can, Joe checks James at the shoulders.

As soon as he can, Joe checks James at the shoulders.

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The technique in ideal phase ends with a hard-style Okinawan Karate style kick driving down into the back of the leg and knee.

The technique in ideal phase ends with a hard-style Okinawan Karate style kick driving down into the back of the leg and knee.

Thrusting Salute

Thrusting Salute is a simple but effective technique based on you moving to an angle and positioning the attacker where you can unload your weapons to his opened targets. You block his kick which puts him in position this time where you are in his front center-line; in this way, it’s the other side of Buckling Branch. You then unload a front kick the groin and heel palm to the face. Note that you kick him in the groin on your first attack to follow the Inside Rule, because you are in his center-line. The Inside Rule dictates that you must break his height zone if you are in his center-line so you can cancel his loaded weapons.

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So it is important to look at Kenpo techniques in terms of how they are designed to cancel your opponent’s weapon and open up his center-line. Much of the techniques that are designed to make the attacker step with one of his feet are made to cancel him or open him up or both. This fact makes for a good amount of examination of the system if you are willing to look into it.

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