The following is a link to an article from Black Belt Magazine featuring our very own Dr. Chapel:
I am pleased to announce the dates for the Martial Science University Open American Chúan Fa – SubLevel Tactical Kenpo Camp for 2017. Scheduled for Sunday February 26th through Saturday March 4th.
The last few years have been very successful in drawing participants from as far away as Europe and Japan, and commitments have already been made for attendance from those groups and more. Each year we get a little bigger and hopefully a little better. This year is special to me because it allows me to actually celebrate my one time elusive 70th Birthday with family, friends, and students.
Training Camp begins on Monday the 27th, and as always we train in the evening to allow sightseeing and vacationing during the day for those who bring their family with them. University members will wear the appropriate University uniform and belt, with no rank stripes allowed by anyone in attendance.
Those interested in making information or to make a reservation may make contact at msuacf.com, or email@example.com or call (213) 506-1027 – (213) 506-7295. I look forward to seeing everyone. Put it on your calendar, make your plans now, and pass the word.
By Ron Chapél, Ph.D.
The migration and evolution of Kenpo in the Parker Lineage is not a simple direct line as some feel, but one of significant complexities. The assumption that it “started at A, and ends at Z,” ignores some basic realities.
Although the lineage has many eras, diversions, and off-shoots, clearly the most significant in terms of influences on everything that followed it, is the “Chinese Kenpo” era of the sixties.
Initially at its roots, what was called “Kenpo Karate” in Hawaii by Kwai Sun Chow, was like most non-traditional arts of the time. That is, it was a mixture of philosophies, physical methodologies, and diverse cultural influences.
Arguably a mixture of cultural arts, (like Lua), with a heavy infusion of Japanese Cultural Arts, (like Seishiro Okazaki’s Dan Zan Ryu Jiu-jitsu), mixed with the Chinese Arts, and the gutsy street fight savvy of its creator, it defied many labels and its diversity was reflected in its name. Some would suggest that the term “kenpo-karate” is itself a cultural contradiction.
At any rate, the over-riding themes promoted by Chow, and picked up by Ed Parker, was about personal self-defense in the modern culture, and anything that didn’t support that philosophy was jettisoned. Ed Parker always gave his only Kenpo teacher credit for this driving philosophy in all of his many approaches and interpretations of “Kenpo.”
The most important thing however is the acceptance that, where we as individuals stand in our own kenpo evolution is not necessarily a straight line from Chow to what we do, no matter how much we would like it to be so. We all would like to feel that Parker’s evolution culminated at our own feet, (or at least at our teachers), and therefore there is no better “interpretation” of kenpo than our own. This belies the migration of students to other styles to “fill the gaps” in their kenpo teachers knowledge. Those who routinely speak of what kenpo does or does not have, would be better served to speak in personal terms rather than what someone else’s kenpo of whom they have no knowledge, does or does not contain.
But where we stand is influenced by such a plethora of factors. Consider Parker never stood pat at any level or versions of his many kenpo(s) and created off-shoot diversions of his own interpretations every time he taught someone something different from another. This in turn created another lineage branch no less valid than any other philosophically, if not practically.
Parker began in judo and made black belt. He dabbled in western boxing before he found the Chow Brothers, and started Chow’s kenpo-Karate. He was also proficient at elements of, and ultimately received his black belt in jiu-jitsu, and Karate-do.
Once arriving on the mainland, Parker began his own interpretation of Chow’s teaching and began a codification process that Chow never had when he was under his tutelage. This was the original Kenpo-Karate depicted in Parker’s first book on the subject in 1961. Innovative and unlike any of its “karate-do” influence, it was more jiu-jitsu than Karate, but even then the lines were blurred. Most cultural arts contained elements of other arts of the same culture, and some even crossed cultural lines philosophically, (like Kenpo), so this was not at all unusual.
The distinctions made today about elements of various styles virtually didn’t exist then. The martial arts world was more homogenous, and most openly shared with each other with cross-pollination being the rule rather than the exception. Except that is, for the sophisticated aspects of the Chinese Arts. Held culturally close even today, this aspect of the arts always remained shrouded in mystery and skepticism of the effectiveness of its unusual methodologies. Still on American Soil, all methodologies on some level will fall to means testing, or cultural proclivities for artistic sake. Some have chosen to be partially means tested, while ignoring volumes of other information.
Having been a student of one of Mr. Parker’s teachers as well as The Kahuna himself, gives me a unique perspective of some information, and its interpretations from various sources. Obviously I found Ed Parker’s interpretations and teachings for me, invaluable an infinitely informative to this day and continue them religiously, means testing as I go as he mandated.
Mr. Parker’s association with my former teacher, Ark Yuey Wong had a significant influence. So much so that by the time he wrote his second book for publication in 1963 (the year I met him), Parker had completely abandoned the Japanese Influences of his birthplace in favor of the now Chinese Sciences.
Although others such as Lao Bun, and James Wing Woo had an impact, it was to a much lesser extent than many are aware. Lao Bun, based out of Northern California placed him geographically consistently unavailable. Although James Woo was influential, he was out of Ark Wong’s Kwoon as well so his impact was in actuality no greater then Lau Bun’s in practice. What Sifu Woo did do however, is spend time teaching with Parker in Pasadena, bringing Taiji to the school, and contributing the bulk of the historical information for Parker’s book, “Secrets of Chinese Karate.”
This for many was no small matter, and as Parker continued his evolution, Sifu Woo took some of Parker’s early black belts with him when they parted ways. As much as this may sound negative, this was not at all unusual. Everyone bounced around from school-to-school in those days, picking up different philosophies and techniques while still calling kenpo their primary “style.” I know I did, picking up black belts in Japanese and Korean Arts while a Parker student. Parker actually encouraged it, and in the process, sometimes often lost students. Although this may sound somewhat impressive, in those days getting a black belt in a year or so was about average in this country, or for Americans studying in Asian Countries. While in the Chinese Arts, it took about three plus years to gain a black sash from Sifu Wong. That proportionality hasn’t really changed much over the years, even with commercial influences.
Dan Inosanto also studied with Sifu Ark Wong, left to be with Parker, and then left with Bruce Lee. Prior to studying with Ark Wong, Danny studied his own traditional Filipino Arts and came to Sifu Wong to expand on his knowledge.
Over the years most of Parker’s black belts left him. If not in practice, in actuality as he changed things continually and students searched for a more stable atmosphere, and had no desire to revisit “basics” while Parker refined them, or transition to the commercial system he settled on as a business. Those who stayed in business with him and remained loyal were promoted even though they didn’t follow him in his quest. He justified it by saying they got the rank for “.. what they are doing, not for potential.”
But the biggest influence on Ed Parker in my opinion was the little known Haumea Lefiti. A student at Ark Wong’s as well, Parker saw several things in him that he ultimately adopted in some form in all of his own arts.
Sifu Lefiti was Samoan, and culturally that made him Parker’s “island boy cousin.” “Tiny,” as he was affectionately called, was a much bigger version of Ed Parker. At about 6’8”, he was actually faster than Parker at the time. Wrap your mind around that for a moment. Most importantly, Sifu Lefiti brought a methodology to the forefront in the school that had not previously been taught by Sifu Wong. That methodology was “Splashing Hands.”
Sifu Wong was well versed in the method, but had chose to not teach it until “Tiny” Lefiti showed up at the school with a Mok Gar Black Sash, and a written recommendation, after a stint in the Marine Corps and studying in Taiwan.
It’s important you understand why I call it a “methodology” and not a style. Historically, depending on whom you talk to, Splashing Hands was an interpretation of Mok Gar used specifically by especially chosen and trained guards, that was reputed to be “down and dirty,” and taught without the cultural restraints found in the traditional teachings of Mok Gar and the Chinese Arts. Think of it as the “street Kenpo” of its day. Stripped of cultural impediments and whose only purpose was to maim, blind, incapacitate, and literally destroy the adversary as quickly as possible without salutations or useless forms and sets.
Much like my own “SubLevel Four” is American Kenpo, but the methodology is SL-4 Kenpo. Many of Parker’s early Black Belts (pre-motion) teach their own interpretations of Kenpo, but that doesn’t change the style. Identifying the methodology simply identifies the first generation Lineage of what you do.
However, those that were born in the commercial era of the seventies were dictated a singular methodology that allowed for individual interpretations without the necessity of a Lineage Identifier.
This interpretation was and is based on “motion” and had its singular objective adopted by Parker from Mok Gar – Splashing Hands. It contains all of the of the slashing, ripping, gouges, and stomping of downed attackers found in Splashing Hands, taught with a motion-based theme to effect quick self defense skills for commercial viability. It works, and left the morality of its use to the teacher and their students. This is where most of the Parker lineage students reside today, and Splashing Hands is the primary methodology influence on what they have learned.
Discussions about different style influences are valid, but more so outside of the Chinese Arts. Because of the base science aspect, I was always taught the Chinese Arts are “all the same,” and only methodologies differ to reach essentially similar objectives. Other arts are not necessarily based in science, but cultural philosophies and creator personal preferences. I know all of my Chinese Teachers felt this way, and for that reason they usually only made references to methodologies, rather than styles.
The issue of “styles” was promoted by the more traditional arts. Some, created for various reasons other than “fighting,” promoted a particular “way” over practical applications. Others, including the Chinese can be heavily culturally influenced to purposely elongate the process of learning artificially as a life long experience and endeavor. While all arts are a “life long” journey, some artificially withhold effective methods while waiting to build character and show “worthiness” for the knowledge. Today many argue about style sometimes because of personal identity issues, and/or a need to distinguish oneself from others, while in the past it was only to establish methodology parameters in training, not identity. This is why today in the Chinese Arts in particular, some vehemently defend their “style” distinctions as if it really mattered in reality.
The reason the arts are studied will determine where you sit, but from the cat bird seat, means testing is a far more important place to put ones energy.
So in answer to the question, primarily Slashing Hands for most, Mok Gar, Splashing Hands, Five Animal, Hung Gar, for some, plus every practical aspect of every art that Parker ever came into contact with.
Or put another way off the top of my head, “Answer E.” All of the above.
Ron Chapel, Ph.D.
(First posted on the KenpoTalk forum)
The “Star Block” was a variation on a Five Animal Blocking Routine, and was the beginning of all sets. The original Finger Set followed it almost immediately. Ark Wong was a major influence on Parker and is also the root of his understanding of structural integrity, internal energy, and nerve applications that I use.<br />
In all honesty although I studied with Ark Wong for several years, it was not until I actually met Ed Parker did he begin to explain what I had learned in a manner that I could really understand. I came to him with a great deal of information, but not truly understanding the applications because it was out of context until he began to enlighten me.<br />
The Chinese martial arts community was a “closed shop,” with real information not generally taught to outsiders, and for the most part still is. They liked and embraced Ed Parker and even expressed their feelings of how much they liked him to his son after he passed. <br />
Parker never really left “Chinese Kenpo,” but he Americanized it for his own consumption and personal art, and than he created a commercial version for the vast majority of his students from the last couple of years or so of the sixties and seventies on. <br />
Unfortunately, the complexities of the Chinese Sciences are not easily taught, nor were they intended to be, in general, available to most. That hasn’t changed. The level of knowledge required to teach is extradordinary. Although some put the label of commercialization of Kenpo at the feet of Ed Parker, it was actually the Tracy’s who started first and at least initially arguably were much more success because of the astute business acumen of Al Tracy.<br />
As you can see below, this was how Star Block was presented in the original manuals of Mr. Parker, which doesn’t tell you much. All of his technical writing were done this way in "outline" form, to give a general idea of what was to be done. But the real knowledge had to come out of Mr. Parker’s head, unless you studied with Ark Wong, and even if you did the info came with little explanation not only because of the tradition of teaching, but elements of a language barrier as well.<br />
As example, the Star Block, which later became known as Blocking Set 1, not only contained the basic blocks but secrets of alignment and block relationships, as well as the built-in models of extrication for limb seizes and indexing. But, none of that information was ever committed to codification by Mr. Parker. What is below is pulled directly from the yellow Belt Manual.<br />
Followed by the Finger Set, which too had nothing to do with using the fingers as weapons, but was originally an "Index" set taught by Ark Wong. I use the word "index" where Sifu Wong and Mr. Parker spoke of "position" and "posture."<br />
Anything else sir?<br />
<b>BLOCKING SET 1</b><br />
<b>(STAR BLOCK)</b><br />
(BOTH SIDES)<br />
a. <b>Contains:<br />
Sequence of blocks that are as follows: (up, in, extended outward, down, re-cock, pushdown)<br />
1. Right upward block for a left overhead club attack or chop.<br />
2. Right inward block for a right punch to the body.<br />
3. Right extended outward block for a left punch to the face.<br />
4. Right outside downward block for a left kick to the groin.<br />
5. Right hand re-cocks (a right back elbow block) to your right hip for a left roundhouse kick to your right kidney.<br />
6. Right push-down block for a right knee kick to the groin.<br />
b.<b> Teaches:<br />
1. Five (5) major blocks in addition to one (1) hidden block.<br />
2. Sequence of blocks that promote Continuity of Motion and preserve Economy of Motion.<br />
3. Correct manner in which to use your major blocks.<br />
4. Blocks that protect all three (3) "Zones of Protection".<br />
5. The execution of these major blocks while in a stationary position.<br />
6. Maximum cover of head and upper body areas.<br />
NOTE: REPEAT THE SAME SEQUENCE ON THE LEFT SIDE. on the KenpoTalk forum)
The “Star Block” was a variation on a Five Animal Blocking Routine, and was the beginning of all sets. The original Finger Set followed it almost immediately. Ark Wong was a major influence on Parker and is also the root of his understanding of structural integrity, internal energy, and nerve applications that I use.
In all honesty although I studied with Ark Wong for several years, it was not until I actually met Ed Parker did he begin to explain what I had learned in a manner that I could really understand. I came to him with a great deal of information, but not truly understanding the applications because it was out of context until he began to enlighten me.
The Chinese martial arts community was a “closed shop,” with real information not generally taught to outsiders, and for the most part still is. They liked and embraced Ed Parker and even expressed their feelings of how much they liked him to his son after he passed.
Parker never really left “Chinese Kenpo,” but he Americanized it for his own consumption and personal art, and than he created a commercial version for the vast majority of his students from the last couple of years or so of the sixties and seventies on.
Unfortunately, the complexities of the Chinese Sciences are not easily taught, nor were they intended to be, in general, available to most. That hasn’t changed. The level of knowledge required to teach is extradordinary. Although some put the label of commercialization of Kenpo at the feet of Ed Parker, it was actually the Tracy’s who started first and at least initially arguably were much more success because of the astute business acumen of Al Tracy.
As you can see below, this was how Star Block was presented in the original manuals of Mr. Parker, which doesn’t tell you much. All of his technical writing were done this way in “outline” form, to give a general idea of what was to be done. But the real knowledge had to come out of Mr. Parker’s head, unless you studied with Ark Wong, and even if you did the info came with little explanation not only because of the tradition of teaching, but elements of a language barrier as well.
As example, the Star Block, which later became known as Blocking Set 1, not only contained the basic blocks but secrets of alignment and block relationships, as well as the built-in models of extrication for limb seizes and indexing. But, none of that information was ever committed to codification by Mr. Parker. What is below is pulled directly from the yellow Belt Manual.
Followed by the Finger Set, which too had nothing to do with using the fingers as weapons, but was originally an “Index” set taught by Ark Wong. I use the word “index” where Sifu Wong and Mr. Parker spoke of “position” and “posture.”
Anything else sir?
BLOCKING SET 1
Sequence of blocks that are as follows: (up, in, extended outward, down, re-cock, pushdown)
1. Right upward block for a left overhead club attack or chop.
2. Right inward block for a right punch to the body.
3. Right extended outward block for a left punch to the face.
4. Right outside downward block for a left kick to the groin.
5. Right hand re-cocks (a right back elbow block) to your right hip for a left roundhouse kick to your right kidney.
6. Right push-down block for a right knee kick to the groin.
1. Five (5) major blocks in addition to one (1) hidden block.
2. Sequence of blocks that promote Continuity of Motion and preserve Economy of Motion.
3. Correct manner in which to use your major blocks.
4. Blocks that protect all three (3) “Zones of Protection”.
5. The execution of these major blocks while in a stationary position.
6. Maximum cover of head and upper body areas.
NOTE: REPEAT THE SAME SEQUENCE ON THE LEFT SIDE.
Excerpts From the Diary of a “Mad” Kenpo Scientist
“Stripping the System?”
Stripping away at the system by implication, suggests that there exists a standard system from which you can perform this task. Unfortunately the “system” by which most understand it, is non-existent. One person may strip away something, only to discover it was never included in another’s understanding. One stripped, and the other didn’t, and they both theoretically arrive at the same place.
The system, as most want it to be, does not exist. It is NOT a set of codified movements of forms, sets, and techniques. Nor is it a systemized methodology to convey the aforementioned because a teacher must perform that task, influenced by his own ideas and experiences, gleaned from various points in time from the ever changing ideas of the system itself, and who taught them with the same limitations.
Because in reality it is only a series of ideas, many of which are open to extreme subjective interpretation, the “system” in Parker Lineage Kenpo-Karate, is different from teacher-to-teacher, and even student-to-student in the same school or organization. The teacher, specifically YOUR teacher IS the system, and that will change over time as the teacher matures, and gains experience and knowledge. Ed Parker’s ideas for Kenpo-Karate are a suggested open-ended training methodology, in many ways like JKD.
For those who seek definitive answers to definitive questions, that may be bad news but the reality is, the system was designed to do just as it does. It allows and encourages teachers and students alike to experiment and explore to the best of their abilities, whatever that might be. It is an open ended idea system that is devoid of hard codification. It is designed for the individual to get as much, or little out of it as they desire without the fear of structural invalidation in the process. (Street application is another review process)
It allows the casual housewife, child practitioner to exist side-by-side with the hard-core geeks, and lifers. Under any other circumstances this would be considered genius, and in fact, is. But, commerciality raises the specter of incentivizing the process for the purpose of student retention.
You have a distinct dichotomy of concepts. One method suggests that you “do you own thing” for your own personal reward and purposes, while the other seeks a standard measurement relative to others participating as well, when the only true standard is what your teacher accepts, along with your own acceptance of his standard FOR YOU.
There isn’t even an agreement on what it is. While some see it as strictly self defense, others view is as exercise with a martial component, while still others want to import the “artistic” aspect from other styles with weapons that they can’t even carry legally, or morally use, while still yet there is a group that only see it as a tournament competition venue to win trophies, and everybody wants a black belt so they can at least, feel they have accomplished something.
Examined under the light of the Dance School Business Model it was derived from, it makes perfect sense. Dance is one of the ultimate forms of personal physical expression, and any measure is subjective to the dancer, not those around him. If he is satisfied with his dancing ability, than it doesn’t matter. We’ve all seem them on the floor, and were tempted to call paramedics for what we were sure was some type of seizure. But the big difference is, no one who ever walked into a strip mall dance studio/school full of kids kicking and screaming and old ladies ever felt they were going to become “masters” of anything. They’d settle for adequate, or “non-embarrassing.” For some reasons Kenpo-Karate people think all the secrets of Ancient China Martial Disciplines can be had from a thirties-something guy with limited life skills and education, who has never left the state, teaching Kenpo as his occupation.
In the beginning of Mr. Parker’s modern commercial business model, he not only sought, but advertised for, and drew black belt instructors from other styles and disciplines, and allowed that they would take the body of work of which they were already familiar, utilize their experience in conjunction with Mr. Parker’s ideas to instruct, but that ultimately the student would make the final decision for him/herself as to what they would or would not actually use. This was necessary for several reasons; There was no hard curriculum, only suggestions outlined in a business guide; Mr. Parker was not even remotely available to students on a regular basis to teach and correct; and what was being instructed had to have broad commercial viability regardless of age or circumstance, outside of the sphere of Mr. Parker influence on a day-to-day basis.
Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate is not being reduced to a series of individual systems, it IS a series of individual systems by design. Instead students have elevated it far beyond what it is. Practitioners once indoctrinated into the system’s norms of behavior and philosophical expectations, want to have it both ways. They want the flexibility to do their own thing, but the comfort, security and accolades of a traditional systems rank accomplishments.
The ideas are mutually exclusive, and practitioners tend to be very unforgiving in allowing other methodologies equal legitimacy, touting instead the superiority of this personal tailoring rearrangement method. What they fail to realize is most of the teachers they revere the most came from those traditional schools, and formed the basis of their abilities they used to teach the next generations from the very methods they look down upon.
Considering the lack of codification, and Mr. Parker’s own suggestion that you may insert, rearrange, prefix, suffix, add, and yes delete with impunity as long as you were satisfied with the results, each individual is creating his/her own system. And that system will insert, rearrange, prefix, suffix, add, and yes delete as long as they choose to practice it, with no fear of philosophical incorrectness. SHort fat people with stubby legs will never do some of the suggested kicks. Older more fragile people will shy away from break falls, even though they too, are suggested. Children, no matter how enthused and dedicated lack the intellectual capacity to comprehend most of Mr. Parker’s “suggestions.” None of this is bad or wrong, because once again, it is as designed. The problem is when you give all of these diverse people rankings, and all of them think, (or at least want to pretend) they’re all equal with the same rank, then you have a problem. No one wants to accept it for what it is. Mr. Parker knew what it was, and reminded students all the time, but they just paid the money laughed and piled on the stripes, while Mr. Parker admonished them, “Just because the red show, don’t mean that you know.”
In the Traditional Chinese method the singular System Teacher individualized instruction to the student to maximize their abilities, and it was the teacher who made the determination of what the student needed, or did not. The lack of retention issues or commerciality, with no external rank mechanisms made sense. Students were not casual practitioners, but serious participants who did not need motivating. The accomplished stood out for their ability, not for patches, belts, or other accouterments.
So the question is, “Where is the system we’re supposed to work from?” It doesn’t exist in form, only in philosophy. The physical manifestation is as numerous as there are practitioners – and all of them are on the right track, sort of.
Ron Chapél, Ph.D.
When dealing with the physics of human anatomy the relationship between the many parts of the body are “infinite” when it comes to movement. In my lessons this is what Mr. Parker meant and how he explained it to me, and why he chose the titles for his last series of books.
The human body has (in general) 206 bones, (more if younger, less if much older). They are all attached, (except one) through tissue of various viscosity densities, and therefore maintain various degrees of relationship fit or “tightness” to each other predicated on the body movement and posture. It is the bodies ability to vary this “tightness of fit or structural alignment,” that allows it to perform actions that are NOT always structural sound.
In other words, humans align and misalign themselves constantly to suit the purpose at hand, and to allow fluidity that is difficult to re-create in machines. It is also why humans have the capacity to injure themselves by doing things inefficiently, whereas a machine cannot and will only work within set parameters of their mechanical design. Humans can lift heavy objects with their back muscles, when they should be using their leg muscles as the primary muscle group. We have the ability to make conscious decisions as to “how” we perform learned movement.
So the relationship between the many parts is truly infinite, and therefore possesses an infinite amount of variables that may not be accounted for with some “universal or singular movement.” It is anatomically impossible.
However, there are some movements that by nature occur more frequently than others, and Mr. Parker described them using his unique language analogy as “vowel movements.” He continued, “Using the parts of speech as an analogy to physical movement is appropriate.”
He used a similar thought process with his “motion kenpo” vehicle when he spoke of “phonetic, printed, and cursive or scripted “motion” in general terms.
The sentence structure and parts of speech analogy is more labor intensive and requires a stricter understanding of biomechanical martial postures and movements, but nevertheless is still quite appropriate. So he, in essence, had on one level promoted an understanding of “motion,” and on another an in-depth understanding of “movement.” One is general, and the other specific.
The general view allows for “universal concepts,” while the other does not. That is why in “motion” terms, he might suggest, “throwing a punch to the ribs.” Than in “movement” terms he would define the physical “subject,” “predicate” actions, followed by the smaller verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections that make up the movement in its entirety.
The parts of the (movement) sentence are a set of terms for describing how people construct (movement) sentences from smaller (movement) pieces. The closest we come to a universal concept is some movements occur because of the similarity in action because of human limitations. These groups of muscle movements are called “Index Points” to the “Subject Movements.”
Like the parts of (movement) speech, however, the parts of the (movement) sentence form part of the basic vocabulary of (movement) grammar, and it is important that you learn and understand them if movement is to be sound as you also seek to be (biomechanical) grammatically correct. Unfortunately most do not speak or move correctly in many areas.
Excerpts from the Diary of a “Mad” Martial Scientist
Understanding Human Structure
Ron Chapél, Ph.D.
Over your lifetime beginning when you first began to have control of your body, you have performed various tasks, and in that process created synaptic pathways to the brain that support these many physical activities. Most of them are unconsciously engrained into your muscle memory and autonomic nervous system. You body can work efficiently when your body “senses” the need to use or overcome resistance, or inefficiently if you make a conscious decision to do something that contradicts sound body mechanics.
Most are “trained” into using poor body mechanics and in many cases have over-ridden and created “bad” synaptic pathways for inefficient and body damaging physical movement.
The human body is a great machine if you listen to it. Unfortunately for many, they have stop listening and retrained it so poorly; they can no longer “hear” what it is saying. You have forced yourself into “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.”
In Martial Science, much like other sciences, there is a direct cause and effect to all activity. Martial Science draws on many different scientific disciplines, but all are in some way related to one another through the conduit of human anatomy. There exists a significant cause and effect interaction between all the many parts of human anatomy whether static or in motion. In any examination of the many martial postures and their transitions, the efficacy of its many positions are predicated upon, among many factors, weight distribution and an exacting posture relative to the physical activity at hand.
The relative position of the feet to each other, and their movement, also significantly determines whether structural integrity is created or maintained. Let’s discuss for a moment structural integrity in posture, movement, and weight distribution. Any variations in these categories beyond proper anatomical posture can diminish or enhance effectiveness on multiple levels offensively or defensively.
How you move your body in its entirety, and arms, feet, and even the head in particular, in martial science affects the stability of the complete body for a variety of reasons. For most this probably is not news. However what is probably “new” information to most is that some of the basic things taught in most “martial arts” fall quite comfortably into the negative and inefficient category. Surprisingly their effectiveness can be demonstrated to be much less than perceived. That is, when these things are tested in the light of reality, they fall well short of their well-intended goals. Lets us define efficiency relative to human physical activity in general, and martial science in particular.
Essentially, the “human” machine is a large gelatinous bag punctuated by multiple directionally dedicated and articulated appendages, connected by loose and flexible tissue. This semi solid shape is supported by an articulated and rigid substructure we call a “skeleton.” This necessary substructure skeleton, supports the human body as the primary load bearing entity, but also simultaneously provides it with mobility and maintains and sustains a general shape. It also supplies the major structural frame for anatomical rigidity on demand.
This relationship between the sub-structure frame, (skeleton) the connecting tissues, (ligaments, muscle, tendons), and the containment vessel epidermis (gelatinous bag) have a constant and perpetually active interaction relationship from one jiffy millisecond to the next. The “system software” or brain constantly monitors all external stimuli from thousands of body sensors and subsequently makes thousands of minute adjustments every millisecond to allow the machine on one level to function intuitively, and on another, to take directed commands from the central processing unit simultaneously.
By its very evolutionary design the human body unit operates in one of two non-destructive modes, either operating efficiently, or inefficiently. The inefficient mode I have termed “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.” In order to accomplish this, this extremely complex machine has an inherent ability to “disconnect” or create a more loose and flexible relationship between its many articulated parts, expressly for the purpose of performing movements and/or postures not necessarily anatomically structurally sound, but necessary for fluid human movement. Therefore by the very nature of the body, all movement is not necessarily effective, efficient, or even structurally sound, even though it may be performed quite easily. This is the reason humans do not move like “rigid” robots or automatons.
Most modern martial arts place a heavy emphasis on immediate satisfactory results and therefore are usually conceptually driven, allowing practitioners flexibility to achieve immediate short-term goals of questionable or elementary effectiveness. Unfortunately, these arts usually have levels of efficiency defined by some ranking process, and they include belts despite the lack of knowledge and quantifiable basic skills. Clearly, Martial Arts have taken on a business life of its own. A look in any martial arts magazine will yield pages of books and videos for those who believe they can actually learn this way and virtually teach themselves to mastery.
When any physical activity is taught with only an emphasis on conceptual movement or motion with no regard for anatomical structural requirements and physical mandates, than inefficient movement is the most likely results. The reason this can be confusing is because most martial “arts” instructors teach from this aesthetic perspective emphasizing the “look” over the proper anatomical “execution” to obtain the desired results.
A lack of knowledge has created a plethora of interpretations as numerous as there are “instructors.” Thus the western term “martial art” is indeed accurate because of this interpretive aesthetic perspective. Art, (in this instance artistic movement and postures) is clearly subjective, whereas martial science and its proper anatomical movement and postures are not. This explains why one “martial art” can have so many different interpretations from instructor to instructor, school to school, and even student to student.
This methodology is also inherent in cultural based martial discipline “do” (way) type “arts” that choose to emphasize a cultural and artistic methodology over an efficient anatomical results driven perspective. It is also an unintentional byproduct of modern eclectic commercial self-defense arts that lack sufficient foundation material beyond their conceptual design, as well. At least the traditional “way” arts emphasize consistency of movement and execution from student to student.
Oddly enough some of the most effective of these modern types “arts” are “stripped down” bare bones courses that at least allow participants to be “attacked” and retaliate against a person dressed in protective armor for a more realistic assessment of perceived skill development. This methodology also has the effect of introducing a level of “Adrenal Stress” to training that is also missing from most martial arts self-defense instruction.
Subsequently, training in improper movements like stepping backwards into any stance as an example, is an “inefficient” methodology that is readily revealed in realistic practice and application. Using this most basic of footwork to obtain a stance causes the body to go into its loose “disassociated“ mode to achieve the objective. The architectural human frame is designed to locomote forward partly deriving its balance from the swinging of the arm opposite the forward moving leg. Although the body can walk and move rearward, it does so inefficiently and in a definite disassociated mode. Even moving forward is essentially a “controlled fall.”
As an example, when you walk backwards your arms do not swing naturally and balance is more difficult as a result. Additionally, moving forward aggressively without the ability to move your arms creates the same “disassociated” condition. The principle area affected in all of these situations begins with the “Primary Disconnect Mechanism,” the pelvic bone. The same holds true in any lateral movement as well.
However the converse of stepping backwards to meet resistance moving in the same direction as you’re stepping, is stepping forward when you are being pulled forward. Both of these movements are inefficient and must have correcting mechanisms to regain structural integrity.
Stepping rearward without the mechanism makes alignment impossible. Stepping forward however because the body functions to locomote forward naturally may create alignment, but only predicated on either how far or how many times you step, or if an additional correcting mechanism is involved.
Therefore to teach any execution that by necessity requires inefficient movement forward backward or laterally, first there must be recognition of these absolute anatomical facts, and second a mechanism must be designed to compensate, re-connect, or re-associate the body unit into singular structural integrity for efficient transference of power, or to resist body mass driven assaults. Additionally as previously stated, proper weight distribution and postures are also mandated based on anatomical parameters, and not aesthetics.
Other good examples can be found in various forms of footwork taught in most traditional and non-traditional arts alike. Lateral and forward movements where feet move toward one another create similar results of instability and structural disassociation as “stepping back.” Although all of these activities are a staple of most arts, anatomically speaking, such maneuvers lack structural stability, absent a compensating mechanism.
Let’s conduct an experiment to determine if you have the stability you think you have:
Beginning with feet even, step back and settle into your strongest “fighting stance and posture,” making yourself as stable as possible. Have someone slowly push on your shoulders from the front toward the rear or 6:00 (Presumably the direction with the most stability) to simulate a bodily assault or grapple attack to the upper torso from the front.
You’ll notice that the top part of your body is easily pushed backwards until the angle is extreme enough to cause the front foot to lift from the floor, and subsequently the rear foot will be forced to adjust backwards to retain balance. The torso seems to be “disconnected” from the feet and lower part of the anatomy. The feet only remain in place until the torso is moved sufficiently to pull the feet from their position. This is why “street grapplers” entertain a measure of success against those unprepared or unknowledgeable. Most are always taught to “step back” in preparation to defend themselves, and without the requisite skills to counter our own inefficient body mechanics our chances of success are diminished significantly.
What has happened is the step rearward has created the “Disassociated Anatomical Condition,” at the hips separating the lower platform (hips to the floor) from the upper (Hips to the shoulders) platform, causing them to work semi independently of each other with no shared structural integrity. Thus there is no significant stability to counter any realistic physical pressure from any angle, and specifically from the front.
This relationship of the hips to the rest of the body can be explored in another simple observation. When walking in a normal manner, if a decision is made to change the gait or stride significantly, before one can jog or run, a “skipping action” must be made to change the relationship of the hips to the torso. This is done naturally without conscious thought but never the less it must be done to run efficiently. This action is termed a “Platform Aligning Skip.”
In SubLevel Four Kenpo™ we teach a variety of mechanisms to counter every Disassociated Anatomical Movement we may be forced, by necessity to perform. These mechanisms are known as PAM’s, (Platform Aligning Mechanisms), and/or BAM’s (Body Alignment Mechanisms), and PAS for Platform Aligning Skip. Because of their variety and complexity, they are explored in detail in the physical curriculum and are taught situationally within the context of specific self-defense techniques.
The important thing to remember is that all rules of martial science are specific, and therefore apply to specific circumstances. Any variation of any portion of the body, no matter how minute, may cause a complete breakdown of structural integrity, as well as other anatomical properties for later discussion. This means all methodologies have “correcting mechanisms” to compensate for inefficient movement or improper posture.
In martial science posture, there are rules relative to weight distribution. As an example, whenever the feet are parallel, weight distribution (absent a correcting mechanism) must be 50/50. This is the over riding base for the beginning of understanding correct postures and corresponds with the traditional “horse” stance found in most arts for a reason. However, that is not all. The position and manner of the hands, wrists, head, shoulders, fingers, muscle tension, etc. in addition to weight distribution will ultimately determine whether you are correct structurally or not.
Therefore, proper posture in the execution of all things must be explored and defined in significant detail as the starting point for any serious study. Funny, that’s how the traditionalist always started, and the knowledgeable still do.
It seems that most teach, “Every attack is an attempt,” and the answer is always to “Move first.” This point of view is prevalent in a lot of kenpo interpretations to mask the lack of knowledge of teachers who do not have the answers to completed assaults, or by those who have never considered the reality of the Psychology of Confrontation over just following what some teach as “the” kenpo curriculum.
When I have broached this perspective with “motion” people, they have said that “I don’t believe in defending before, or during an attack,” which is ludicrous, and it astounds me that someone might entertain that notion.
Certainly given the opportunity, one should neutralize any threat as soon as possible, even taking the offensive when it is appropriate. Multiple decades as a street cop have made me acutely aware of reality over, “techniques done on the mat at the school.”
Kenpo-Karate based on motion has degenerated to that level because of the dearth of competent instructors ever since the first generation of black belts Mr. Parker recruited to teach his commercial curriculum. They knew what worked in reality and ignored or changed what did not, all with Mr. Parker’s approval.
Subsequent generations who had gone through the curriculum had no real world experience, and instead opted to just teach what was in the manual because its easier than thinking, and much easier than creating. They “traditionalized” what was in the manuals like it was gospel, but the “manuals” were only an outline of what was, in many cases dysfunctional ideas, designed to be formalized and adjusted by a competent teacher for his students.
While some techniques were labeled “attempts,” and rightly so, many more were not but instead were treated as such anyway. I watched Mr. Parker cringe to see someone attempting a defense to “Twisted Twig,” by first handing his arm to his training partner, and than as soon as he touched it, try to snatch it back, as if that is a defense against a “wrist-flex lock and/or throw.”
Clearly some techniques have to be viewed from an “after the assault” profile perspective. If a technique says, “push,” you must wait until pushed to train for a “push.” If a technique says “grab,” you must not only wait until grabbed, but you must consider what happens to you when you are grabbed realistically because attackers bring Body Momentum to a grab as a byproduct of the assault, just like they do for a “push” and a punch. The difference is, a person can “punch” without hitting anything. You cannot grab or push without physical contact.
Why wait you ask? Because, sooner or later it is going to happen, and you need to train for it. Unless you’re going to tell me that you are always ready, and ever vigilant and will NEVER get caught off-guard, than you need to train for when it happens, because in comparison, moving first is a piece-of-cake. Which is I guess why it is the prevailing method among the warriors who don’t have to get their methods tested regularly.
Discussions should begin with “How do I survive The Initial Assault?” and recognize that each attack brings a unique set of circumstances that has to be analyzed. A punch, is not treated the same as a punch or grab. Moving before a punch strikes you makes sense if you see it coming, and that helps give you the skills to move for other “attempts.” But techniques Mr. Parker did not label as “attempts” are not to be taught or trained otherwise.
We have way too many keyboard warriors and mat experts, who need to get their head out of their butts, and talk to people who fight as a matter of course in their employment. I would rather talk to a good bouncer any day, over some black belt who studied a bunch of techniques, knows all the terms to use in a discussion, but can’t fight his way out of a Girl Scout meeting. But then again, some of those Girls Scouts are pretty tough. Much tougher than a lot of keyboard warriors, who need to go on a ride-a-long with their local P.D. and get an up close look at their worse nightmare. It’s called, reality.
Ron Chapél, Ph.D.
Or; Anatomical Indexing versus “motion master keys”
I. Stage One – Alphabetic
This is the preliminary physical stage of learning in any physical activity, where the alphabet “letters” or basics are learned and “pronounced” singularly and properly in preparation for the next stage of learning.
II. Stage Two – Phonetic
This is the secondary stage of learning in any physical activity. It stresses the basics of proper [url=http://sublevelkenpo.org/moodle/mod/book/view.php?id=3″]execution[/url] and constant physical correction, anatomical alignment and structural integrity, as its primary function. Its primary goal is to begin the process of training the body, and creating muscle memory and synaptic pathways associated with the activity in preparation for the next stage of development. Here the term “Phonetic Basics” is appropriate to distinguish what is learned from more expeditious and intuitive action to come later in one’s development.
III. Stage Three – Script/Cursive
Here the movements began to take on a more fluid look as the mind and body becomes comfortable with the activity. The “corners are rounded” although the movements are still significantly large and pronounced as we execute with a flowing, smooth, and unhesitating action. It can be compared to drawing a square as opposed to drawing a “circle.” A circle may be drawn rather quickly but a square takes more time. The square is phonetic, while the circle is scripted movement.
IV. Stage Four – Shorthand/Abbreviated
When the movements externally begin to become significantly shorter and more direct in their scripted [URL=”http://sublevelkenpo.org/moodle/mod/book/view.php?id=3″]execution[/url], it becomes “shorthand.” This is where external speed begins to emerge beyond the ordinary. Although the movements originally learned in “Phonics” are present, they now flow with a shorter more directed action, but still retain the structural integrity of the now well-trained substructure anatomy. While “shorthand” may be desirable in some applications, others demand a stage 3 scripted execution. Still others may demand a stage 2 phonetic application.
V. Stage Five – Internal/Chi
Here the indexed movement is no longer needed and for the most part is externally imperceptible, creating all the alignment and structural integrity necessary for the functional activity internally. This is the ultimate in functionality and speed with true economy of movement created by the external training of the body to have the subsequent effect of training the internal to the extent that the exaggerated phonetic external movement is no longer necessary to achieve structural integrity or anatomical efficiency.
This methodology although expressed differently in other disciplines, is well documented within the older cultural arts from the Chinese, Indonesian, and East Indian, and movements that may appear excessive or unnecessary have only to be properly interpreted. Nevertheless, all stages are functional, although as you develop mental and physical familiarity to any movement, it naturally becomes more expeditious in [URL=”http://sublevelkenpo.org/moodle/mod/book/view.php?id=3″]execution[/url], even though an application may demand a different stage.
However, just because some movements may be internalized does not mean that all applications allow such [URL=”http://sublevelkenpo.org/moodle/mod/book/view.php?id=3]execution[/url]. Some applications require large movements to maximize efficiency physically in real world interaction.
Where’s Control Manipulation?
Ron Chapél, Ph.D.
Let’s talk about the four distances of combat as defined by Ed Parker in his Encyclopedia, and how they relate to each other and exactly where “Control Manipulation” actually resides, because clearly it is not included in the definition used by Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate.
I was taught there are subcategories to all four of the well known ranges of Kenpo-Karate, with each range as you progressively get closer to your attacker, encompassing additional concepts and principles, and still including all of the previous ones. Thus, the fourth range contains all of the other range principles of combat, as well as those exclusive to the fourth range itself.
This somewhat counters the “different stages of action” perspective some have adopted because of a lack of information regarding the full scope of Ed Parker’s Range definitions. Although it is true varying “ranges” can dictate the availability of various fighting tools at ones disposal, they do not dictate or restrict beyond simple physical limitations normally associated with human physical interaction.
Ed Parker Sr. defined the four ranges as 1; out of reach/range, 2; within reach/range, 3; Contact Penetration, and 4; Contact Manipulation. Each of these ranges in my teaching have extensive subcategory information that must be learned en route to a full, and advanced level understanding of the science.
From a motion-based Kenpo-Karate perspective, “Control” could be seen as a subcategory of “Contact Manipulation.” Because most of this information is not included in Ed Parker’s Kenpo-Karate, the subcategories become significantly important to the higher levels of the science of execution.
However, when the higher-level science is studied exclusive of the Kenpo-Karate interpretation, the subcategories actually exchange places with the more superficial simplistic range explanations of the encyclopedia, and “contact” is really a subcategory of “control.”
As an example and as previously stated, the first range is simply defined by Ed Parker as “out of reach/range.” The subcategory for “out of reach” however is “Psychology of Confrontation Theory.” As you can see, the subcategory is where the real knowledge and comprehensive understanding lies. Therefore, if you study the Kenpo-Karate level, “out of reach” is how the first range is defined. At higher levels of interpretations, “Psychology of Confrontation Theory” must be learned supplanting the obvious “out of reach” description.
One of those exclusive fourth range subcategory concepts is “Control Manipulation.” Although most are aware of “Control Manipulation,” its definition and its general function, most are unable to resolve its omitted relationship with the “Four Range” definitions, or its apparent contradictory descriptive similarity with “Contact Manipulation.”
This holds true for every range, where the conventional is well known, versus the in-depth unknown. Ed Parker Sr. only published the simplistic Kenpo-Karate versions of his range theory because his popular interpretation of Kenpo-Karate did not contain significant depth to warrant additional information he was not generally teaching anyway, or supporting in his Kenpo-Karate schools and students.
Take “Control Manipulation” as another subcategory example at the other extreme at distance four, which simplistically is defined as “Contact Manipulation.” This is a category of grappling” yet, popular Kenpo does not address grappling or control manipulation in its codified curriculum in any form.
In reality, the only concept Kenpo-Karate addresses in any range is “contact manipulation” and it only hints at Control Manipulation through techniques where victims are seized, grabbed, hugged, choked, and tackled with no clear instruction as to how to actually deal physically with these type attacks.
Because of the lack of information, most teachers of that information have addressed these attacks as “attempts” rather than actual completed assaults as they should be. Lacking the knowledge to address extrication from a significant lock means you must move before you are seized. They have no choice absent additional information.
The rare Kenpo-Karate Instructor addresses these issues by having training in other arts or disciplines, as well as trial and error to insure functional techniques. Most however do not because it is labor intensive, requires significant knowledge not contained in the system itself, and is not student friendly to the greatest percentage of Kenpo-Karate Clientele.
Thus, you see the origin of the term I coined based on my Ed Parker’s teachings and lessons, “SubLevel Four Kenpo,” shortened to SubLevel Kenpo. It is a level of Kenpo that embraces all the concepts of all the sub-level ranges, but draws its name from the fourth range because it is conceptually all inclusive as its teachings.
Now you also see why “Control Manipulation,” although defined by Ed Parker Sr., is not included in the Kenpo-Karate version of his range theory. Nevertheless, by defining it he hinted at its existence, while not including the “how” of any of its execution in the curriculum most learned.
Nowhere is a wristlock, throw, pin, offensively or defensively or any control concept addressed in any of his writing other than a description of “what” the action is, but not “how” either works offensively or defensively.
In the Infinite Insight series physical categorical breakdown, all of the tenants of SubLevel Four, are addressed in the category he nebulously labeled, “Other.” When I asked why he didn’t go into more detail, he suggested it would be even more labor intensive to write and explain. He went on to say, “Have you ever looked at a “Judo or Aikido book? What you see is mostly pictures because writing HOW to do a wrist-lock is very difficult without hands-on instruction. So Books are meant to supplement instruction, not teach it.”
Therefore, Mr. Parker’s Kenpo-Karate teachers with a background or experience in other arts like those that he had from the beginning, fill in the blanks on that material. Those that came up strictly in the Kenpo-Karate Curriculum who do not go outside the art to study, will not fare as well in teaching a great deal of the material.
The roots of all the versions of Ed Parker’s many teachings still lie in judo, jiu-jitsu, and the Chinese Arts, and those who do not have this experience will fall well short. When you examine Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate, and count all of the pushes and attempt pushes, grabs and attempt grabs, hugs and attempt hugs, locks and attempt locks, throws and takedowns, at least 75% of the Ed Parker Kenpo Karate System is some form of grappling. How could you leave that out? Easy if you’ve never been taught that way, and Mr. Parker didn’t generally teach that information. The system was designed to take experienced martial artist from other arts and integrate them into the Kenpo Karate Concepts of self-defense and was successful. Those who came later whose only experience began in Kenpo Karate, missed a great deal of information. The smart ones will seek it out, and the rest think the “manuals” contain everything you need to know.