Tag Archives: kenpo

A Taste of Kenpo

With the Liberty States Fiction Writers annual Create Something Magical conference coming up on March 19, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of martial arts self-defense training.   Kathy and I will be demonstrating techniques like this one in our Kick Butt Heroes workshop.

The Kenpo technique being performed in this link is called Crossed Twigs.  Picture your villain grabbing your hero or heroine from behind with both hands.  Maybe she is about to be restrained by handcuffs or plastic ties.  Good times!

(And yes, Kenpo techniques have very cool Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon type names which just add to the fun factor.)

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The Testing Process

Following up on Rayna’s post from last week, and since I’ve just finished up testing for my second degree black belt, I’m in the mood to describe the process.

Four months of intense preparation and physical conditioning.  There are numerous pre-testing classes during which candidates are assessed and judged to be ready for the actual test.  Then the grand finale, six hours of balls-to-the-wall curriculum under a microscope of scrutiny of a dozen 3rd to 10th degree black belts.  These sensei seem to thrive on finding every flub—and they take notes.  There’s also a sparring test.

Picture this:  40 sweating adults lined up in rows in a studio designed for 30.  Everyone is dressed exactly the same, plain black gi with white Kenpo patch sewn over the left breast.  Zero air circulation.  The most senior sensei sit at a long table at the front of the room, jotting down notes on candidates’ score sheets. Other instructors walk between rows, stopping to pelt candidates with questions on techniques, movements, Kenpo theory and history.

My favorite question is “are you sure about that answer?”

To this I always answer with an emphatic “Yes, sensei!”  After all, screwing up is one thing, but who wants to look like a weenie?  Every candidate on that mat will make mistakes.  The key is not to get flustered over them.   So your kata was a train wreck?  Move on.  Let it go.  Get over it.

See, that’s part of the test.

The instructors know the candidates are ready.  No sensei will recommend an unprepared student test for black belt testing.  The point of the whole exercise is to force every candidate not to his breaking point, but over it.

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Get a KICK Out of Your Fight Scenes

We already reviewed how you can use fighting terminology to make your action scenes more interesting in the Add PUNCH to your Action Scenes post.  More specific words add power to your pages.  This week we’ll focus on kicking.

Kicks are stronger than punches because leg muscles are larger than those in the upper body.  In the Fight Like A Girl self-defense seminar, we teach women to use kicks, which engage the strongest part of her body, her legs, against her attacker’s weakest targets, which fall in a straight line from his nose to his groin.

Other styles of martial arts may have additional, less common kicks, but these are the basic kicks in kenpo karate.

Front snap kick – a quick kick that utilized the snapping of the knee joint for power. The toes are curled back and the ball of the foot is used as the weapon. Knees, groin and stomach are common targets.

Front thrust kick – a stronger kick using a forward thrust from the hip to add power. The weapon can be the ball of the foot, the entire sole of the foot or the heel, depending on position.

Roundhouse –  a turning kick with the rear leg. The fighter turns 180 degrees, using the top of her foot or shin bone as the weapon in a sweeping arc.  The roundhouse is a strong kick due to the torque created by the twisting of the fighter’s body (similar to a golf club or baseball bat swing), but has one big drawback. Since it has a wide arc, the opponent can see it coming.

Side kick – The fighter draws her knee to her chest and fires the kick outward, stomping her heel and/or blade of her foot on her attacker.  The sidekick is very strong due to the engagement of most of the major leg muscles.  Side kicks are debilitating just about anywhere, but I love the knees and ribs as targets.

Stomp – A variation of the side kick and just what it sounds like. You heroine can stomp on her opponent’s instep. If you like, she can scrape her shoe all the way down his shin on the way.

Hook kick – The foot is extended beyond the target. The lower leg is drawn back in a hamstring curl, striking with the heel of the foot. Not terribly powerful but very sneaky if executed properly.

Knee strikes are effective blows when your heroine is too close to fire off a kick. You all know the best target for knees is the groin. But consider knees strikes to the face or abdomen if your opponent is bent over.

The standard kicks above can be combined in a series. Each of these kicks can also be done while spinning and/or jumping as shown in many TV shows and action movies. For some awesome karate fight scenes, check out the Transporter 2. Jason Statham has a background in martial arts that enables him to performs his own fight scenes.  Although the usefulness of these fancy kicks in a real fight (as in not choreographed for film or TV) is questionable, they sure are fun to watch.