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.)

What is Sungadan?

July 31, 2010

This is a further in-depth explanation of what exactly Sungadan is. Please keep in mind that these are excerpts as written by Mr. Francis C. Blanco (Founder/Instructor) and as such was not written by me. All written below is for information purposes only to inform those who want to learn more about this Martial Art Sungadan and therefore all the credits and rights go to Mr. Francis C. Blanco.

“… Our studio practice the Discipline of Sungadan, ‘The Art of Self Preservation.'” Sungadan is a blend of several empty hand and weapon base combat discipline that I have studied since I started training in the Philippines in 1967. Using Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate as the base art, I incorporated the empty hand art of Awaten Combat Ju Jutsu, Tae Kyon (Tae Kwon Do), Yang Luchuan Tai Chi, Gee Joh Acupressure and Dimmak, and the weapon base art of Filipino Stick Fighting, Filipino Knife Fighting, Japanese Sword Art of Goshindo and Okinawan Kubodu Weaponry intro one system…”

Further Explanations of Each Art Involved in Sungadan/Sungadan Studios::

“Sungadan: a small fishing village in the llocos region of Northern Philippines. It is a place where people put Love, Peace, Respect, Honor, and Commitment to Family above anything. Sungadan ( literal meaning “Entrance”) is chosen for the name of the art, to symbolize the student’s entrance to the secrets of martial arts.

Karate – Shorin Ryu (Kobayashi Ryu): an Okinawan form of martial art which focus on strong traditional movements. It is an art that covers the long combat range with kicks, punches and hand strikes. It also covers the medium combat range with blocks, elbow strikes and knee strikes.

Ju Jutsu- Awaten Combat: Awaten which literal meaning “Take it” is the basis of our Ju Jutsu philosophy of “Take what you opponent gives you, and let your body dictate what technique to use.” It is a system that employs extensive use of the triangle principle of leverage. It covers the short combat range with different types of joint locks, chokes, throws, take downs and ground grappling techniques.

Weaponry- Filipino, Okinawan and Japanese: We teach weapons to cover the extreme distance of combat range. We teach the Filipino Balisong or Butterfly Knife Fighting and the Filipino Arnis or Stick Fighting. We also teach Okinawan Kobudo such as Tonfa, Sai, Nunchaku and Jo (Bow Staff). We also teach the Japanese Sword Art of Goshindo and Chanbara.

Tournament Training: Sungadan Studios is well known in the Open Martial Arts Tournaments in California, Arizona and Nevada. We have several instructors and students that have won World, National and Local Level Competitions. We teach techniques that turn average students into Martial Arts Champions.

Fitness: We believe that fitness is a foundation of any martial arts. We use Tai Kick Boxing movements in our Adult Warm-Ups. In our junior warm-ups, we use traditional and sparring techniques. In our Little Warriors, we use exercises that improve motor skills and coordination.”

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!

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!

I’ve begun meditating before each new martial arts lesson or conditioning session in an attempt to clear the clutter in my mind. It’s not the easiest thing to do as my mind works at a million miles a minute and the moment I think I’ve started to achieve stillness and calm, I’m grasping at another thought. Despite the business of my mind and seeming impossible task of “turning off” so to speak, I do occasionally achieve the stillness I hope for. This is what happened last night. It’s strange to think of achieving this task as so simple, but for some reason, after a bit of stretching and a few exercises to get my nervous energy out, I simply sat down and meditated for 5-10 minutes until I was called up for the martial arts lesson. No thought went into how I would execute my journey to calm. I just sat down on the floor, legs crossed and inhaled. Exhaled. Then the next thing you know, ten minutes gone and it’s time for my lesson.  Not all to surprisingly, my lesson was much more focused this time after meditation. It seems to calm me down and bring me into a weird sort of space where I’m here in the present and yet not and yet floating on stillness. It’s a foreign feeling, but a great one nonetheless and it definitely improves my lessons and the quality of my concentration. I seem to be able to grasp the techniques and movements better after a good meditation session as seen last night. If you want to meditate, but you’re a completely twitchy person like I am most days, try doing some intense cardio or weight training before you start your meditation so you aren’t twitching around on the ground like a lunatic. This really helps to calm me down prior to meditating. After meditation, you will feel much more focused. Might also help with writers block, etc. Good luck!

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!