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!

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!