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!

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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!

Yes, I stole this saying from ” The Karate Kid AKA Kung Fu Kid AKA Kung Fu Dream,” but the saying does actually exist.  This saying describes my current state in martial arts quite well in that, I am now practicing everything I’ve learned in an almost obsessive sort of way. Because I’ve noticed since I’ve learned a few techniques, stances and one form, coupled with conditioning I find that I really want to perfect each of them. This, of course, is encouraged by the fact that Mando refuses to teach me anything new until he thinks I am comfortable with the things I know currently. Therefore, I am sufficiently obsessed with practicing each stance, technique and the one form wherever I go including but not limited to : the bathroom (mirror is helpful!), my bedroom, the shower, my office, the garage, the pool, the backyard and sometimes if I think I can pull it off with enough subtlety, while waiting in line. There is something infectious about martial arts that I can only compare to the likes of a religion or more familiar for me, acting. I hope that I can reach new heights in this discipline and become graceful, controlled and if possible, wise. :]

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?

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