I’ve recently began practicing my techniques, blocking set and kicking sets as well as short form 1 in my very small closet sized bedroom. This may seem counterproductive or ridiculous to some, but it really helps a lot when doing American Kenpo. For Sungadan, it definitely would not work at all. The stances and movement is far too wide for me to make any progress. In contrast, for American Kenpo, it actually helps me keep my form and stances tight and sharp and prevents me from using unnecessary space to do the movements. I find this really beneficial because I have the tendency to do wide large movements if I have the space to do so. Practicing American Kenpo in such a small space does not allow me to practice large movements or wide movements for any of the forms or techniques. I recommend this to anyone who is practincing American Kenpo or anyone who is practicing another martial art that requires small, close to the body sharp movements in each technique. Please leave comments! Let me know how this works for you: what problems do you encounter with this method of practice? What benefits you from working the techniques and forms in this type of space? Are there any other practices that you could recommend? Let me know!

Good luck!

A Symbol of the Ideals and Beliefs Taught in American Kenpo Karate

This is the crest of American Kenpo Karate. Actually, it is one of many crests as each school has its own variation. I tried to get a close to the original as possible, or at least as close to the ideals that Mando says he was taught. I asked him what each part of the crest symbolizes and this is what he told me:

“It varies between schools. It’s so diluted that many patches have many different meanings. Hear is how I learned it and what it means to me:
The top of the patch is like a roof. It protects and shelters all who are under it. The sides are curved because of the belief of many Chinese monks. They are curved so that they may repel evil demons and spirits and send them back to where they came from, should they descend onto your protection. The bottom is in the shape of an axe, the weapon of choice for an executioner. Should anyone in the home of Kenpo should ever be influenced by greed, gluttony or evil, they are executed and removed from the protection of Kenpo. The Tiger represents strength: A white belt that is strong and affective, but lacking the fundamentals of a mental fight. The Dragon represents Spirtual Strength: A Black belt with enough trainging to be deadly, even without ever physically touching an opponent; very wise and accurate. The Chinese writing on the left side of the image mean something like “Kenpo Karate, Law of the Fist and Empty Hand.” The right side literally translates to “Spirit of the Dragon and the Tiger.””

Thanks to Mando who has been kind enough to lend his knowledge, expertise and wisdom to my lessons, blogs and to you all out there in the world. Without him, my dream of learning a martial art may have never become a reality.

COMING SOON! Since I cannot seem to find many suitable videos on youtube or anywhere else on the web that demonstrates well executed techniques, forms, etc. I have asked Mando if I could film him doing each of them so that everyone who visits here and wants to see exactly what I am talking about in action, can finally do so wherever they are in the world. Therefore, very soon I am going to start filming Mando demonstrating the techniques of American Kenpo Karate as I learn them over time so look in the links and media categories very soon for video demonstrations on each technique, form and set. Over time, as I advance, he may also demonstrate how to apply them in real life and/or in tournaments, adjustments and the philosophy of American Kenpo Karate and martial arts.

Talk to you all again very soon!

There are, of course, many notable differences between the art of Sungadan and the art of American Kenpo, but the most evident one at first look is the difference in movement. For instance, in Sungadan, the stances are very wide and open. They require a lot more space than American Kenpo, which in contrast, is very close and in tight proximity to your body. I find it very awkward to practice each of them concurrently, both of which take a lot of focus to do, yet even more so on my part so as not to confuse the moves and stances between the varying styles. Therefore, in order to make it easier on myself, I have found that practicing American Kenpo in smaller spaces or rooms really helps to keep the moves closer to my body and to not waste the energy doing each of the techniques and forms by putting my arms and legs to far out of the way. The exact opposite is being practiced for Sungadan. I use my larger sized living room and focus on the open, wider movements to tackle these techniques because the radius of movement is a lot larger. I find this very helpful not only for movement and precise technique practice, but also for fitness. There is a lot of aerobics type workout involved in Sungadan, which requires more space while American Kenpo really does not require as much space and focuses more on strength training. Both do require quite a lot of cardio and strength training in the end, so of course, practice, practice, and then practice again! Because for some reason, your sensei or shifou ( teacher or master, respectively) will never EVER tell you that’s enough or that you’re good enough. So, that being said, there is never a limit to your what you can learn or to your potential. It is limitless. So aim high and good luck!

After spending this much time practicing the little that I have learned so far in martial arts, I’m starting to realize how much it affects your mind. I think that while it affects everyone differently, it has a profound effect on each of us, whatever that effect might be. For me, it’s a clarifying, calm experience, the same I experience during those moments of extreme fitness where you’ve just finished X amount of push ups or some other crazy exercise, one you never thought you would be able to complete so much of. You’re standing there, panting and sweating so much the salty sweat is threatening to burn its way into your eyes and yet, while you’re amazed that you were even able to do something like it in the first place, you almost crave more of it. You crave more of that feeling, that almost mind numbing clarity. It’s the same feeling for me with martial arts. I get that quiet focus which, to me, feels exactly like my meditation sessions and my mind recognizes that even though my physical body is in pain at the moment, I’m fine and I can do more if pressed. And I’m addicted to not only this kind of clear mindedness, but also the pain that brings it to me. It’s an odd feeling of not quite infallibility, but more of a possibility.. like anything you want to do is possible. And personally, I think we all need more of that feeling in our lives. That feeling that nothing at all can stop us in the world, that the world may even be working in mysterious ways, working to help us on toward our goals. I’m addicted to that kind of feeling. And, of course, it may just be that my body and mind are addicted to the endorphins that are being released every time I do this, but there is something to it. Something about it that feels a bit more fulfilling. Just food for thought. I leave you with this awesome quote from a book I really love. I definitely recommend it to those who like reading philosophical fiction about the journey to self discovery and life, etc.

When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
(The alchemist to Santiago, echoing the words of the old king.)

Sungadan

July 30, 2010

You might be asking yourself, what the heck is Sungadan? Sungadan is a new Martial Art that I started learning this past Monday. If you have never heard of Sungadan, don’t beat yourself up just yet because it’s a very new form of Martial Art that was actually created and innovated by my instructor Francis C. Blanco. This martial art consists of a variety of styles of fighting ( I will upload another post on each style as described by Mr. Blanco later) that include Shorin Ryu Karate, Philipino Knife Fighting, Ju Jutsu ( Not to be confused with Jiu/Jiiu Jitsu) and many other styles that are all implemented into one fighting style: Sungadan.

I have attended one class so far in which I learned a 10- Technique Kick Boxing Routine. This routine was a lot of fun as it #1 gets your blood and adrenaline pumping and #2 demonstrates all the techniques that will be applied later in karas, forms, etc. I am very excited about attending class with Mr. Blanco  ( also his wife, two children who were great Black Belts and helpful instructors!) and learning not only the Sungadan Karate, but also the Ju Jutsu grappling and Tai Chi on Saturdays and possibly if I am lucky, the Demo Team or Open Tournaments ( you know, once I’m over the whole idea of being pummeled in the face)!

I will update you guys more later on the exact definitions of the styles implemented into Sungadan style as well as how to contact Mr. Blanco if you decide you want to join us all with his amazing instruction in his own Martial Art and take classes yourself!

Hope everyone is having a great day and enjoy your weekend!

Tonight I learned Short Form 1. This form is a series of right and left neutral bow stance movements in basically a circle doing a series of blocks as learned in Blocking Set 1. In short, it’s kind of difficult to wrap your head around if you aren’t used to moving around in odd ways smoothly…which I’m not.  That being said, this was hard. A form is not like a technique. It’s more like a combination of stances and techniques where you combine stances and techniques in movement. This gets you used to moving in a certain way that’s much more applied than a technique. Really, the movements feel awkward and if you’re uncertain, which I am, they look incredibly stiff. So, I’d like to take a second to picture myself moving not so gracefully around the floor looking stiff and uncomfortable and most likely sweating as Mando will have had me do the form over about a thousand times since I can’t get my feet right and my blocks look wrong or my body ends up facing the wrong way.

Yes, this happened frequently throughout the night and by the time it was over, I was pretty drenched in sweat with that metallic-like taste in my mouth that many will associate with “what happens when you’re about to pass out?” Yeah, that.

Anyway, I’ve learned my first form so congrats to me!

So tonight I learned the following two techniques:

  • Sword of Destruction (Opposite of Delayed Sword)
  • Deflecting Hammer (Deflects Right Kick)

I also learned much about the Neutral Stance and how it can be done anywhere in any direction and will always be generally the same aside from the direction your facing. I discovered that the Neutral Fighting Stance can be done using a Bamboo Staff in between your feet with your front foot’s toe touching the bamboo staff and the your back foot’s heel touching the staff. This is a great tool to use to help practice the neutral fighting stance, neutral stance on an angle and attention stance. If you don’t have a bamboo staff, you can just use any long stick-like item you may have around ( ie. broom, mop, or even a long cord or string). I cannot express enough how helpful this will be in gauging where your feet need to be positioned and how to transition between attention stance into a neutral stance or a neutral fighting stance on an angle. To be honest with you, although I am pretty happy I was able to learn the two new techniques tonight, I learned more practicing the neutral fighting stance and shuffling my feet as well as the importance of using your free hand to “cover” your other hand.

When I say “cover” with your free hand when doing a technique or a form, what I mean is if you step back with your left foot into a neutral fighting stance and deflect a kick with a downward block (using your right hand) as seen in Deflecting Hammer, your left hand should be covering your right hand that is blocking the kick. The act of covering is done by holding your palm face down either above or below the hand you are acting with. Meaning, in Deflecting Hammer, since your right hand is doing a downward block, your left hand is covering above your right. This is meant to guard against any other attacks that might come at you.

I personally find the neutral fighting stance and the act of “covering” more insightful than the techniques themselves at the moment. I feel this way because they both go well with the idea that martial arts is the act of fighting without fighting, or fighting by not fighting. The idea that you are, again, mastering yourself and practicing self control and not mastering or controlling others. The proof is in the covering and defensive stances. I also find it more important to learn these as they teach you to always be prepared for those “what if” situations which, let’s be honest, is what we’re really training for, right?

So I’ve experienced another night of conditioning, conditioning, and still more conditioning along with practicing Delayed Sword, Alternating Maces, Blocking Set 1 and more of the almighty Horse stance. Finally after much conditioning in the form of various stretches and tiresome circuit training, I’m put under the magnifying glass of Mando’s observative eye. I admit, it’s not something I’m totally comfortable with. I find that while I try my very best at all times and after much practice, I am still pretty terrified of being hit or taking a hit or someone coming at me and I sometimes attack harder than I mean to with a complete lack of control. I hope that I can learn better control in my movements as I definitely do not want to hurt anyone and would like to achieve the discipline of control through practice and meditation. After much demonstration of Alternating Maces, Delayed Sword & Blocking Set 1, I have finally proved I know them well enough to learn two more techniques! Thankfully I’ve proved my worth through practice, determination, concentration and discipline! Really happy!

We began our workout at the ripe old hour of 9:30PM thanks to the painful heat wave that has recently struck Socal (Southern California) and left us sweating in 101F degree weather with humidity levels in the 20-30% range up until literally midnight and did not cool down until probably the early morning. So, we started out with a variety of exercises including a few random kid friendly ones to entertain Armando’s visiting nephews (including a spontaneous MJ Thriller dance executed by his 3 yr. old nephew Moses. I admit I was impressed by his accuracy with the moves).  We did a chain of exercises alternating between Jumping Jacks, Push ups (with feet elevated off the floor), Sit ups, Various Abdomen/Core Strengthening Exercises, Various Stretching Exercises, etc. We continued on with Circuit-like training where you start by doing 5-15 jumping jacks, roll onto your back to the other side of the room where you do 5-15 push ups and hold the last push up for 10-20 seconds. This goes on until Mando (Armando’s nickname) tells me to stop. At this point, I feel pretty high on oxygen. We take a small 5 ish minute break and learn the following techniques:

  • Blocking Set 1
  • Delayed Sword
  • Alternating Maces

Truth be told, I learned blocking set 1 before and have been practicing it for about a month now everywhere. Literally, I go to the bathroom, pee and then do this set in the mirror. I got hit in the face once because I didn’t execute an inward block correctly. It left a shiner and hurts, but shows the importance of strength when you block and correct execution of each block in the Blocking Set 1. I will upload some youtube videos of each of these techniques (I’ll have Mando find the best ones) so you can see exactly how each one should look when executed.  More tomorrow, after another night of pain and progress has been had!