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!


I recently learned that there are 3 basic stages when learning any martial art:

1. Primitive: Learning the basic movements, getting used to your body and comfortable with moving a certain way.

2. Mechanical: You’ve learned many of the movements and can do them chronologically in unison, without stopping due to memorization and frequent practice.

3. Spontaneous: You know the movements by heart, you’re comfortable with your body and know how to use your body and the movements at once, adjusting each of the techniques or forms to fit your needs, circumstances etc. to make them work for you and with your body without too much thought.

I am very much still in the primitive stage of things. I’m learning the movements and I know a few techniques and possibly part of one kara/form by memory, but I do not know them all and cannot do any of them with the smooth, yet solid grace that someone in the spontaneous stage would be able to. I cannot move with the calm certainty of someone in the spontaneous stage of things or even someone in the mechanical stage of things, although I really do hope to be capable of this kind of reflexive execution someday soon.

Until that day, I return to my kingdom of utter newb-dom and try, try again to gain some form of fluidity and ease with these often uncomfortable and seemingly unnatural movements in the hopes that one day ( again hopefully sooner than later), somewhere past the primitive and mechanical stages amid the sweat and blood and sore muscles, I will bloom into spontaneity. That is my wish, my prayer. Until then, it’s a great deal of discipline, determination, focus, and faith. Wish me luck!

As I learn more and more about martial arts, American Kenpo in particular (though I’m sure it’s something many other martial arts share), and the various idealistic values that go along with it, the more I realize how much emphasis is put on respect and humility. From the way you stand, address and greet your instructor (physically and verbally), put on your uniform and belt (belt direction), to all of the pledges you are made to memorize with each belt advancement until finally your black belt when all of the belt pledges should be fully memorized and recited during grueling tests on forms/karas, techniques, stances etc. It makes me reflect fully on how these things will affect and shape me as a person.

I realize now I pay more attention to the respect of other martial arts and I am learning that there is no superior martial art only, it seems, superior martial artists. I am realizing that martial arts is not about the control and submission of others, but the control and mastery of yourself. It is a test in extreme physical and mental discipline that tries your patience, your body’s endurance, strength and capacity for pain, and most of all, your dedication and determination to better yourself and continue this until you can’t anymore. Martial arts and the mastery of yourself is a lifelong journey and I feel it can only be reached through the utmost humility and consistent dedication. Pledging yourself to a life of martial arts in any style/discipline is a choice you make about how you will live your life each day and how these pledges and lessons you learn will reflect your actions and choices made in your life.

It makes me a bit nervous to realize I’ve made this choice for myself, but I do so without hesitation. There is some level of wisdom and calm and most definitely a level of focus and balance that I want out of this for my life. I am so frequently in a state of nervous turmoil and hysteria being thrown around life. I want to stride forward with the greatest balance and focus so I may accomplish all the things in my life without fear of failure or rejection, a compassionate and accepting heart, and a calm confidence that I may reach my goals if I am consistently diligent in my determination to learn and improve til the day I die. Because, to me, that will be a life well lived; one that is full and left with no stone unturned, no opportunity left without careful consideration and all the compassionate heart in the world to aid humankind, the world, wildlife, etc. To look in the mirror and smile knowing I can say I’ve done all I can and mean it, wholeheartedly and true.

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!

This is my very first blog posting! :] I’m excited and curious to see where this will lead. To start, I’m doing this blog to track my progress (starting 07/12/10) in American Kenpo as taught to me by my boyfriend, Armando Villanueva Jr., who is a first degree black belt in the art. I have the utmost respect for Armando and am ecstatic if not a little terrified that he is willing to teach me what he knows. If you don’t know what American Kenpo is, you can click here for more information on the history of this martial art: History of American Kenpo for a better explanation than I could ever give you. Back on to my journey with the utmost respect for this art, its founders and its colorful history… :]

For awhile, we only trained on and off very casually, but have recently began pretty intense conditioning. This means a lot of exercise including running, intense squats (using something called a lead bag?WTF?), blocks, strikes, crunches, pull ups (which I cannot even do yet), and push ups (apparently while elevated on chairs! Eek!).

I am pretty afraid of all of this. I have to admit that while I’ve been in a few stupid high school girl fights, I’m terrified of being hit, let alone being hit in the face. I just freak out and go into the fetal position. Not only that, but I’m not exactly in shape. While I’m not considered morbidly obese, I could be thinner. So, I thought this would not only be a great way to stay in shape, but also an amazing experience in which I can learn American Kenpo, get passed my fears of getting hit, and learn something about martial arts; a lifestyle that has fascinated and drawn in the curiosity of many people for thousands of years. And, though this may be a little overeager, overzealous and definitely too early to tell, maybe participate in tournaments in the future. Regardless of what happens, I am very excited and grateful to be taught any martial art at all.

So, moving on respectively… :] (since I am the Queen of Rambling), a lot of conditioning will be had, I may blog about broken, shattered or sprained bones or muscles ( let’s cross our fingers on that one please and thank you) . At any rate, I’m sure he has more in store for us, which he is used to and I am not, than even I can comment on yet. Of course this will eventually involve much more that includes actual American Kenpo techniques, forms AKA Karas, etc., but for now let the conditioning commence!

To end this first blog, I will leave you all with an appropriate quote:

” I come to you with only karate, empty hands. I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor; should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong; then here are my weapons, karate, my empty hands.”
—Ed Parker – March, 1957