Self Defense Principles Not Techniques: Dimensional Zones

Continuing with our on-going discussion of the underlying principles of Kenpo self defense techniques, I thought we’d delve into the manipulation of the opponent, to check or stop him and end the fight, by means of manipulation of dimensional zones: The dimensional zones are height, width and depth; height is up and down, width is side to side and depth goes in toward the opponent. All of these can be manipulated, by various means, one at a time or simultaneously to check the opponent or end the fight. It should be said that it is ideal to, at least, check height and width zones; he cannot effectively throw his back up weapon in a forward direction when his width zone is canceled, but he could spin and hit you; if his height zone is canceled, he can’t spin and must somehow regain an upright position to attack effectively. If his depth zone is compromised, he can’t do much but back-pedal or nothing at all, depending on the nature of the check.

It should also be noted that manipulation of dimensional zones also offers you targets with a principle called Borrowed Reach. The rule is: With Borrowed Force you always have Borrowed Reach but you do not always get Borrowed Force with Borrowed Reach. Last time we explored Borrowed Force, which is simply using the opponent’s momentum against him to enhance your own strike. Borrowed Reach involves somehow bringing the target within reach of your weapon, mostly by manipulation of the attacker.

Let’s explore.

Mace of Aggression

Mace of Aggression is a Kenpo technique against a double-handed lapel grab and he pulls you in. The first move is to grab and pin your opponent’s hands to your chest using the rule of “get on top“. When someone grabs you, you must get on top of the grab to gain “the upper hand“. You control him this way, you check him. In addition, keeping your hands above the opponent’s hands, even when there’s no contact, gives you an advantage. This also brings in the concept of “cover until you can check” and Read Time. You cover your targets to protect them but if you are close enough you must check your opponent, meaning you stop his movement. While in close, you have much less Read Time, much less time to perceive and respond to an attack, so it’s even more vital to check the attacker.

In the first move of Mace of Aggression, you immediately check the opponent by grabbing and pinning his weapons to your chest. You then stomp on his right foot with your right foot, using a cross-check, which covers your center-line and simultaneously checks his foot rather effectively; at the same time you strike his temple and the bridge of the nose with a hammering-raking strike and continue the movement down onto the opponent’s arms, which collapses his arms on the inside of the elbow hinge which bring his face down and within reach for your inward elbow strike. It should be noted that this is, too, economical motion, because there is no wasted motion; the strike and the frictional pull on the arm and the chamber for the elbow are all one continuous movement, coming from point of origin. The last move is an outward elbow that has decent travel, and so power, because you’ve reached far back to load it and deliver it. It should be noted, the issue of telegraphing does not apply here because you’ve got your opponent pinned and the chamber is incidental to the last strike; in other words, this is one continuous motion with your opponent checked, with enough travel on the weapons to make them effective and without unnecessary movement that would make them inefficient.

Dan on the left grabs Joe on the right.

Having struck Dan’s face with a downward strike, Joe continues down onto the arms to bring Dan’s face in and down within reach for an elbow strike.

It should be said that you get Borrowed Force on the initial strike and stomp in this technique because the attacker is pulling you forward. Also of note are the orbital switches and changes in striking patterns, which is seen throughout Kenpo techniques. The strike to the temple is vertical circle which turns to a horizontal circle with the inward elbow and then you use a straight line with the outward elbow strike. Continuity of motion and economy of motion are both used.

Triggered Salute

Triggered Salute involves manipulation of the depth zone, checking, Back-up Mass, Borrowed Force, Borrowed Reach and frictional pull. The attacker pushes your left shoulder with his right hand, so a straight push, and you step in and pin his hand to your chest as you strike him in the chin with a heel-palm strike; you get Borrowed Force because he runs right into your strike and you’re using Back-up Mass because your momentum is going forward with your weight behind and in line with the strike, you check his pushing hand by pinning it to you, and you’ve completely penetrated his depth zone with full commitment to the strike which forces his head upwards besides. You come down the arm with your arm and use frictional pull to pull him into an elbow, giving you Borrowed Reach; Joe in this technique has opted to deliver the inward elbow to the face, a more viable option considering height differences. Again, the outward elbow is delivered with travel. Notice this is Mace of Aggression on the middle plane; normally, by the book, both elbows are delivered to the body.

At the end of the technique, a back-knuckle is delivered to the ribs, on the way to chamber for the final vertical back-knuckle strike to give it travel and a decent line of entry with angle of incidence. Angle of Incidence means you hit the target straight and not in a way that the strike deflects off the target.

Lone Kimono

One of the prominent features of Lone Kimono is the canceling of both height and width zones by way of frictional pull and at the same time getting Borrowed Reach and Borrowed Force.

The attack is a left-handed lapel grab; again, you pin the attacker’s hand, then turn his hand clock-wise to expose the elbow joint which you strike with your right arm; the effect of this move is the canceling of the opponent’s width zone while manipulating his height zone by bringing his body up, possibly on the tippy-toes. This effectively cancels his back-up weapons. Quickly you bring your right arm down and around the opponent’s arm and strike his arm at an angel going down and in, to manipulate his height and width zones; this turns him and draws him in and down, giving you a line to chop him in the throat while his weapons are canceled.

Fallen Falcon

Fallen Falcon is against a straight grab or push on your left shoulder. You immediately pin the hand and step in and behind the attacker, driving and striking your forearm straight into his shoulder joint which disturbs his depth zone and puts him off balance; with a simple turn to the left, you throw him straight to the ground. This technique shows an obvious manipulation of depth zone and use of the hinge to manipulate the opponent.

In Fallen Falcon, there is a very quick and forceful push-pull effect; as you push in on his shoulder joint, you immediately turn and use a pulling action to throw him. Also, and this is common in Kenpo techniques, you disturb his base while establishing and reinforcing your own base.

One main thread throughout these techniques is the use of the hinge of the body to manipulate dimensional zones; the hinges are the joints: The hip, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle, wrists joints; all of these can be used to manipulate the opponent’s body and his dimensional zones.

In the next article on this subject we will explore how control of the head can control the whole opponent’s body.


Ed Parker goes into detail about dimensional zones in Infinite Insights Vol. 4.

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