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Thread: Redux...What is Kenpo?

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    Default Redux...What is Kenpo?

    There was an interesting thread over on MT about Gathering Slithering Thingies, and a strategic disadvantage we place ourselves in during the execution of the tech. Someone asked, "why?". There are some excellent responses by Michael Edwards and James Hawkins worth reading if you get the chance and the urge takes you.

    What also came up is a reference to the age old discussion about kenpo myths. One ascribed by the thread originator is "kenpo techs aren't supposed to be done the way they're written". So I posted the following reply, and am re-posting it here to prompt conversation, feedback, and alternative positions on the subject.

    My original post from MT:

    James and Michael...excellent posts!!!!

    I have had very specific discussions about this fictional myth with several seniors, including Mr. Parker. Of course, the hard part of referencing discussions with a deceased entity is proving it. Among the people no longer with us with whom I've had this discussion, Robert Perry (one of Mr. Parkers early black belts and the founder of the Orange County, CA, IKKA affiliate from back in the early-mid 60's), and SGM Parker. Both said the same thing: The techniques teach us the skills we are to apply intuitively and creatively to each individual attacker, depending specifically on circumstance. Not meant to be used verbatim, long or short version. They are miniature learning labs to demonstrate how those concepts and principles play out under the influence of circumstantial contingencies.

    Among the living with whom I've had kindred discussions, Mr. Chap'el (Los Angeles IKKA charter holder under Mr. Parker & Long Beach Internationals coordinator for the last more-than-a-decade of Mr. Parkers life), Mr. Conatser (longtime student and friend of Mr. Parker, travelling teaching partner with Mr. Parker for seminar circuit, and couch fixture in the Parker living room), Mr. LaBounty (another very old kenpoist, whose physical longevity is a mystery to all since we're sure he actually dates back to the pre-historic times), and Mr. Hale (long-time kenpo student, studio owner under the direct guidance of Mr. Parker, excellent kenpoist, and an interesting paradox as a super nice guy who is also super dangerous...kind of a bearded, grinning, potentially sadistic Clark Kent).

    It's not a kenpo myth; it's kenpo. It's even in Mr. Parkers written materials (Secrets of Chinese Karate, Infinite Insights 1 & 5), that once you own the lessons in the techniques, you should move to a spontaneous phase in your kenpo development. The techniques should ultimately teach you HOW to move, why, and which patterns of movement do best for which relationships to your opponents positioning and target availability. Your own mastery and creativity should move to the forefront in the heat of combat, replacing learned techs with on-the-spot made up ones that fit each specific circumstance perfectly.

    Mr. Parker tried multiple metaphors to make this point, and still many won't see it...most often by choice. Music: A song is not the music; it is merely an arrangement of music. Music theory allows one to learn all about full notes, half notes, quarter notes, writing and reading music. Once they own the language of music, you can hear, read or write Bach, the Beatles, or Fitty cent, and flow seamlessly in and out of each. Each song is just an arrangement of concepts and principles, demonstrating how music can be played in a 4/4 or 3/4, waltz or jazz, etc. One learns these things, but as a Jazz player, uses their knowledge and experience to jam, not spend their lives playing the same written pieces. Scales are for practicing, not enjoyment. You use them for warm up and tuning, not performance. Language study was another example he often used. We don't communicate with a memorized phrasebook, though the phrasebook may demonstrate for us how laws of syntax govern sentence formation for proper grammar and communication.

    Techniques are simply individual songs or phrases that demonstrate for us how certain words or notes can come together for a desired effect, based on circumstantial contingencies.

    Try this: Get a Barron's phrasebook, and spend a month communicating with family and friends at work and play using ONLY phrases from the book. If it's not in the book, you don't get to say it. Because that's not how it's written. Your wife will leave you, your job will fire you, and your friends will stop taking your calls. It's not a playbook for life; just a demonstration of how words ought to work together in certain contexts.

    Same with the self-defense techniques in kenpo. Learn to piece combinations together that utilize the language of motion to dominate an attacker, and are circumstantially appropriate.

    I hope that helps, though I know many will stay with "kenpo is the techniques" until the sun burns out. It's easier that way, and as Mr. Parker said to me, it's a nice copout when the artist fails...to be able to blame the art, rather than their understanding of, and flexibility within, the skills the art teaches. (after I told him about how I got my face punched in trying to use Grip of Death verbatim, instead of improvising with spontaneous use of kenpo concepts and principles).

    Be good,

    Dave
    Clear mind, clear movement. Mastery of the Arts is mastery over the Self. That in this moment, this motion, the thoughts, memories, impulses and passions that cloud the mind must yield to the clarity of purpose, and purity of motion.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    A most excellent post!

    I've held for years that techniques, like sparring or forms, are simply a tool used to help one attain spontaneity in their reactions. They are templates used to help teach principles (like a scale is to a muscician as you so aptly put it.)

    Again, outstanding post and great analogies.
    "It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." – Charles A. Beard

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Kenpo is a way of thinking. Its up to you to decide which or who's way of thinking. Above all, make it your own.
    Sean

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by KenpoChanger View Post
    Kenpo is a way of thinking. Its up to you to decide which or who's way of thinking. Above all, make it your own.
    Sean
    Quote Worthy. Spot on.
    James Hawkins III, SI
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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    There is no way I can really add to this.
    I do know that for my size there is little chance that I will be effective doing things by the book on the street. But with a solid understanding of priciples and muscle memory of how movement can flow...I should do ok if it came to that.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Dave in da house View Post
    ... *lazy eight* ...
    Thank you.

    Thank you, thank you thank youthankyou THANK YOU!

    Thanks.

    They are mini kata, to be torn apart and devoured, not set as the centerpiece in a posed dinner set photo. Thanks for an excellant post.

    Dan (did I say thanks?) C
    Last edited by thedan; 05-17-2007 at 05:54 PM. Reason: Dr. Crouch, thanks again. Dan
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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Spot on Dr. Dave. Techniques are a short story to help teach the underlying concepts of kenpo. I will add though, that even though the SD technique may not be what's used, they STILL have to work. Otherwise, I think you're going against what you're trying to teach.
    Be careful what you say, some may take it the wrong way.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Very nice!
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    Michael Huffman
    1st Black, AKKI
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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anoise View Post
    There is no way I can really add to this.
    I do know that for my size there is little chance that I will be effective doing things by the book on the street. But with a solid understanding of priciples and muscle memory of how movement can flow...I should do ok if it came to that.
    Actually, if you apply the proper principles correctly, body size and physical strength aren't as important in properly executing a maneuver.

    Though on hiatus pursuing a Masters degree, we have a female student that is only about 4"8 and maybe weighs 90 lbs soaking wet. I've seen her pull off a technique flawlessly sending her husband (also a student about 6'0 and 190 lbs) flying across the mats...and made it appear effortless!

    It just takes practice, practice, practice and focus, focus, focus. Now... go out and practice Delayed Sword 500 times!
    "It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." – Charles A. Beard

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Dave in da house View Post
    The techniques teach us the skills we are to apply intuitively and creatively to each individual attacker, depending specifically on circumstance. Not meant to be used verbatim, long or short version. They are miniature learning labs to demonstrate how those concepts and principles play out under the influence of circumstantial contingencies.

    It's not a kenpo myth; it's kenpo. It's even in Mr. Parkers written materials (Secrets of Chinese Karate, Infinite Insights 1 & 5), that once you own the lessons in the techniques, you should move to a spontaneous phase in your kenpo development. The techniques should ultimately teach you HOW to move, why, and which patterns of movement do best for which relationships to your opponents positioning and target availability. Your own mastery and creativity should move to the forefront in the heat of combat, replacing learned techs with on-the-spot made up ones that fit each specific circumstance perfectly.
    The sentences I quote here are probably the BEST two paragraphs on American Kenpo Karate's greatest strength!!! Thanks Dave!!

    One way I like to put it is to compare it to learning another language.
    Saying that Kenpo SD-Techs were meant to be performed verbatim would be as IF I were to send you to another country on an important 4 year assignment, and I gave you a text book...a HUGE one...full of the 10,000 most common phrases... but never really taught you how to speak the language. Then you go over there and someone says something to you, you then would have to look up what they said (Hopefully it's one of the 10,000) and then decide what you want to say in return and hopefully there's one of the 10,000 that fits what you need to get across.
    Wouldn't work, would it?

    OR: I could give you lessons to build even a basic, foundational, vocabulary and then teach you HOW the language is used, HOW the sentences/phrases are formed....
    and how to form your own!
    Then you'd have a MUCH better time at being able to interpret and form your own speech in their tongue. You'd be able to communicate.

    In Kenpo = Sam Ting.
    I teach great techniques that are founded on solid/consistent principles and rationale.....I not only teach the techs (the vocab, the 'how') I also DRILL you on the principles and logic (the whys) that drive the system.

    Good topic Dave!

    Your Brother
    John
    Last edited by Brother John; 08-17-2007 at 12:22 AM. Reason: kuz mah spelin sux
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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by KenpoChanger View Post
    Kenpo is a way of thinking. Its up to you to decide which or who's way of thinking. Above all, make it your own.
    Sean
    James was RIGHT!!!
    Quote worthy!

    Thanks Sean

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    For the most part I agree.

    Kenpo teaches "how" and gives examples of "when". Sometimes the examples of "when" are not always the best examples of "when".

    But sometimes, they are exactly the best examples of "when".

    Jim

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    THIS.

    I've found that, in Kenpo, many are obsessed with 'finding' or 'creating' the "perfect technique" - but not nearly as obsessed with developing solid basics. Techniques don't matter if basics suck, and the lessons within the techniques cannot be imparted via weak basics. The material is just a boat to the other side; once we hit the promised land, we'll only slow ourselves down by trying to drag the boat on dry ground.
    "But it ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward... How much you can take and keep moving forward - that's how winning is done!"

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother John View Post
    The sentences I quote here are probably the BEST two paragraphs on American Kenpo Karate's greatest strength!!! Thanks Dave!!

    One way I like to put it is to compare it to learning another language.
    Saying that Kenpo SD-Techs were meant to be performed verbatim would be as IF I were to send you to another country on an important 4 year assignment, and I gave you a text book...a HUGE one...full of the 10,000 most common phrases... but never really taught you how to speak the language. Then you go over there and someone says something to you, you then would have to look up what they said (Hopefully it's one of the 10,000) and then decide what you want to say in return and hopefully there's one of the 10,000 that fits what you need to get across.
    Wouldn't work, would it?

    OR: I could give you lessons to build even a basic, foundational, vocabulary and then teach you HOW the language is used, HOW the sentences/phrases are formed....
    and how to form your own!
    Then you'd have a MUCH better time at being able to interpret and form your own speech in their tongue. You'd be able to communicate.

    In Kenpo = Sam Ting.
    I teach great techniques that are founded on solid/consistent principles and rationale.....I not only teach the techs (the vocab, the 'how') I also DRILL you on the principles and logic (the whys) that drive the system.

    Good topic Dave!

    Your Brother
    John
    Wait a second. The techniques don't teach you how to move. Who told you that? If you think they teach you how to move, I would invite you to spend a few minutes on youtube. Type a tech name and let the fun begin. Ha Ha
    Also Mastering Tsing Tao.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    I agree, but even some of the staunchest technique advocates will tell you that it is very difficult to pull off an entire technique verbatim. I believe it is OK for example for grip of death to pop into your memory with a side headlock throw attempt, and should be good for first move or two, however then recognize the response make adjusts if necessary, graft into another technique, add an insert, run, whatever is needed. Then again don't stop with the ideal sequence if there is no reason to if the response is similar to the 'dummy' you have been working with - go for it.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buckler View Post
    I agree, but even some of the staunchest technique advocates will tell you that it is very difficult to pull off an entire technique verbatim. I believe it is OK for example for grip of death to pop into your memory with a side headlock throw attempt, and should be good for first move or two, however then recognize the response make adjusts if necessary, graft into another technique, add an insert, run, whatever is needed. Then again don't stop with the ideal sequence if there is no reason to if the response is similar to the 'dummy' you have been working with - go for it.
    I don't think we should be using memory in a fight.
    Also Mastering Tsing Tao.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by KenpoChanger View Post
    I don't think we should be using memory in a fight.
    then what is all this technique and basics training for? Sure cognitive memory could be compromised but properly ingrained muscle memory should be what is being utilized.
    KenpoChanger likes this.
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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by punkmonkey View Post
    then what is all this technique and basics training for? Sure cognitive memory could be compromised but properly ingrained muscle memory should be what is being utilized.
    It is all about timing. If you have your had in the past lesson while in a fight you will not perform as well. You train so you don't have to try to remember.
    Also Mastering Tsing Tao.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by KenpoChanger View Post
    It is all about timing. If you have your had in the past lesson while in a fight you will not perform as well. You train so you don't have to try to remember.
    And with this you should never have one of Ras's Technique Paradigms flashing through your head either. Just do what you do, or go home. LOL
    Also Mastering Tsing Tao.

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    Default Re: Redux...What is Kenpo?

    Quote Originally Posted by KenpoChanger View Post
    I don't think we should be using memory in a fight.
    Explicit memory, No. Without implicit memory you won't be able to move at all.

    Respects,
    Bill Parsons
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