Kenpo Techniques for Self Defense?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate, Self-defense
5 Jul 2014

 

Way back when I first started in the Hawaiian Martial Arts, the first one I tried was Lima Lama (I later transitioned to Kenpo). That was a really cool – flowing martial art where I was first exposed to self-defense techniques. One would learn how to defend against a right cross or a club attack. The attacks and defenses seemed to go on forever from my beginning karate mind.

 

I recall telling my instructors that these techniques were really complex and when would I ever use one? I mean after you blocked – you then counter punched, kicked out the leg and dropped a knee and punch. That was a lot to remember and even back then – I did not believe if someone threw a right cross – I was going to do all of that.

 

In this post we will ask and hopefully answer the question of why we learn complex self defense techniques and are they relevant. But first watch this example of one such technique.

 

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Before I get too far into this I should say that techniques are taught from both a form and function point of view. I tend to come at this from more of a function point of view but others want to highlight the flowing art. Generally the art form (art) point of view work ok in kata competitions.

 

This girl went through a complex system of moves for a weapon attack that must have included 10 to 15 moves. The beginning moves were done ok – one could believe that she could block the club attack, do a quick strike I’m guessing, knee the guy and throw him down.

 

The second part of the technique would have worked too but you could have never told that from the flowing moves that never made contact with his body. So I would classify this technique as more form than function – even though it is a good solid technique.

 



So my beginning Kenpo self would have asked why was the technique so complex? I mean just a block, chop, grab and knee, throw and a stomp would have been more that enough! Right?

 

Yep if you were just trying to teach a quick move for a club attack – striping down all of the moves would have been fine.

 

But wait – that girl was wearing a gi. I suspect she was a karate student that wanted to learn how the kenpo karate system moved and transitioned in a fight. What the world of possibilities were in a given situation. I think the girl did not merely want to learn self defense but an actual martial art…. Kenpo Karate in this case.

 

Would I ever use a whole Kenpo technique in a fight? Probably not but I would use bits and pieces. After doing Kenpo techniques for almost 40 years – the moves are part of who I am. If someone grabs me – I can easily escape – all the while counter attacking my assailant – all without thinking. Once you know all of the moves and have to teach them to someone else – or practice them, your body and mind just knows what is possible.

 

I would suggest practicing the moves in staccato like – complete moves so you body does not get too artsy on you in a fight. Remember you will fight the way you train.

 

There are a lot of Martial (fighting) schools out there that claim to do self-defense better than anyone else. Some are also great methods but I would caution you to include Kenpo Karate into your school search because I do not know of any other school that have this level of self-defense techniques for a students benefit.

 

So while it is true that Kenpo self-defense techniques do not work for sport karate, mma, or any other contest (too many rules). If you are learning a martial art to defend yourself – Kenpo Karate self-defense techniques are an ideal way to learn advanced fighting methods that are second to none!

 

 


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6 Responses to “Kenpo Techniques for Self Defense?”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    Well said, John! Habits is every area of life become self-sustaining. I’ve reacted effectively with self defense moves from the habits of my Kenpo training. In addition, I’ll always remember having a friend who I taught the first basic Tracy’s defense for a two handed lapel grab who came back a week later telling me that he was being bullied at work, and he used what I had just taught him up to the two hand finger thrust to the bully’s neck and they hadn’t bothered him at work since!

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Great story about the two hand lapel grab Dr. J! I had a friend that was grabbed by the arm and he shot his hand forward, and back into the stomach! I don’t think you ever forget a good technique!

  3. ElijahFloyd Says:

    Learning self-defense is an important thing to everyone especially ladies. Women are more targeted these days if they learn self-defense techniques then it will help them to face problems with confidence.

  4. Zara Says:

    Complex technique really seem to me to have been developped more for the art’s sake than for practicality or at least in a time and by people who had far more time to spend learning this than the average westerner needing to make a living doing something else.

    I’ve been trained in semi-classical jujutsu so I do now a thing or two about traditional martial arts. I won’t say they won’t work per se but they generally take a lot of effort, time and dedication before they become really effective: if you decide to become a true martial artist and this is what you want to do for a large portion of your free time that’s perfectly fine and more power to you but I really don’t think this is the way to go when you want to learn basic self-defense asap.

    What you need is quick releases to the most common grab attacks (like a quick poke to the eye or throat in response to a front choke or lapel grab as dr. J indicated), at least one decent defense to a wild swing (haymaker) and a few simple striking combo’s that don’t require fine motor skills and are mainly aimed at the head designed to effect a knock-out by aiming at the chin, jaw or eardrum. If you need to think about techniques (first I need to do this, then that, followed by that…) then they likely won’t work when you need them to therefore to me at least it makes sense to streamline everything and teach people to always respond in the same way as much as possible.

    To me the best follow-up to most initial techniques (or even in lieu of them: why wait for him to strike first if you can get your own hits in first?) simple boxing combinations modified for street fighting (palmheel instead of the fist, much less chance of anything breaking or getting cut on your part) along with a few basic low-line kicks (for when he puts up a high guard or when he opens the distance and tries to run) or elbows and knees when you got a hit in but he isn’t down yet, advances towards you or simply tries to defend while stationary. I’m sure if you train this enough and do it with gusto and aggression you’ve a good chance to get out of most physical confrontations. This may not be a pretty way of fighting but at least it’s a method that can be taught fairly quickly and doesn’t require you to enroll in a school or dojo for years on end. It’s the same basic idea behind krav maga and that system has proven its value in both civilian self-defense, police tactics and military combat. The more complex a system or technique the more likely it is to fall apart under duress, therefore it’s wise to always adhere to the KISS-principle: keep it simple and stupid. Don’t try to be fancy or look good as no-one will give a rat’s ass about it later and certainly not when you’re lying in the dirt all bloodied and broken because you lost.

    I’ve studied a few kenpo technique DVD’s and trained them for a reasonable amount of hours with my teacher (who also used to train this under a high ranking master) and there are indeed some great techniques in these curricula (e.g deflecting hammer in American kenpo) but also some very questionable ones. Sword of destruction for example: retreating and blocking while someone attacks you with any type of hook is a bad idea since you’ll lack mass behind your block (imo either block moving into the hook or avoid it by leaning back or by bob & weaving under it) and he’ll likely knock you off balance when he connects with your block, especially if he’s bigger and stronger than you, or maybe even strike straight through your defense. Most weapon defense techniques I’ve seen in kenpo are also pretty crappy imo: staying in the power arc of a stick swing hoping you’ll be able to block his arm and then kick him in the groin is fairly suicidal if someone actually swings hard at you (hard enough to break your arm if the stick connects) and with malicious intent (meaning he’ll not stop once your arm is broken or you managed to hit him once) but of course that’s just my opinion and I don’t claim any expertise in this system. Through escrima training I do know how to (properly) swing a stick or use a knife though: totally changes your perspective on what is likely to work and what almost certainly won’t in unarmed weapons defense, I can tell you that.

    Conclusion: as usual we’re more or less in agreement (art and self-defense are two totally different animals although from the same family, like the difference between a shiny sports automobile and a rugged jeep) but personally the art aspect interests me less and less (I’m not getting any younger so why spend so much time on things you’re not going to do or need anyway or are only very loosly related to fighting? any form of kata for example or chi sao in JKD and WC) but to each his own and I might very well change my mind yet again later on. My next forray in the martial arts world is probably going to be (kick)boxing or sambo (Russian grappling system) as they are sports orientated styles (I do think sparring is the way to go if you want to get better) and there’s nothing ornamental or traditional about them. If I want art I’ll listen to a Bach cantata or go to a museum, I’ve seen more than my share of it in the martial arts and quite often it’s merely an excuse for incompetence or lack of proper training (sometimes even for a lack of the basic ability to reflect critically on what they’re doing) on the part of instructors (the amount of crap I’ve seen performed by so called sensei, sifu or guru is quite impressive). The Mc-dojo phenomenon is very real although by now it’s probably infected MMA too due to its high popularity.

  5. Zara Says:

    As to the video: I cringe everytime I see someone perform any type of defense against an incompetent attack by someone who clearly doesn’t know what to do with the weapon he’s been given. If you really want to hurt someone with a stick or club you won’t give him your hand (meaning the tip of the weapon points towars the sky instead of at the target you’re supposed to be hitting) but actually take full advantage of the length of your weapon and hit him with the first few inches maximizing the impact. With this technique in combination with a proper attack you’re likely going to block the weapon itself instead of his arm and if he means business you’ll be in a world of hurt.

    Attempting to block a knife attack with two hands is likely going to end with you being punched in the face (his other hand is still free and you’ve done nothing to disrupt him) or locked into a deadly wrestling match for possession of the blade. A real attacker isn’t going to stop his attack halfway and jump up acting like he’s been stabbed himself.

    I’m really not being mean or unreasonable but I wasn’t impressed by this, not in the least.

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Zara!

    Always good to read your evaluations. The way I look at techniques is they are kenpo’s dirty fighting methods. For instance when I was a bouncer I knew all of these inside fighting methods because I had years of kenpo self-defense practice. I have used parts of techniques in fights such as elbows and ground attacks.

    One humorous instance I can recall is one of my buddies was grabbed from behind at the elbow by (unknown to him) a cop. He shot his arm forward and back with an elbow strike to the gut before he looked back. Dropped the cop (who by the way did not have a sense of humor about it).

    We also integrate the more advance fighting basics from Joe Lewis to bridge the gap and actually hit something instead of telegraphing… that does translate into a sport match of some kind as well as a self defense technique.

    Where you and I really are on the same page is the techniques are not really meant to be implementated like a jiu-jitsu or judo technique… but kenpo techniques have many starting and ending point all within the same technique… so you are just practicing them to teach your muscles/body how to move and are unlikely ever to do one move from beginning to end.

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