Krav Maga Video by Alain Cohen: What Is Krav Maga Security’s Approach to Countering Kicks?
When Israeli officials want their soldiers to beef up their fighting skills, they send them to train in krav maga. For Israel’s elite law-enforcement officers, soldiers and bodyguards, however, their training option of choice is krav maga security — a reality-based, close-quarters-combat system founded by Alain Cohen.
Krav maga security is, of course, based on the Israeli martial art of krav maga. However, it takes the art in interesting directions — both mentally and physically — to make it especially appealing to security professionals.
But is krav maga effective in situations involving kicks?
In this exclusive krav maga video excerpt from his comprehensive six-DVD set Krav Maga Personal Protection: The Israeli Method of Close-Quarters Combat, Cohen presents options for handling a kick.
KRAV MAGA VIDEO
Alain Cohen Demonstrates Krav Maga Security’s Approach to Handling Kicks
A hallmark of reality-based fighting is an emphasis on a smaller set of techniques, and krav maga security maintains that tradition. Alain Cohen believes that a “less is more” approach yields two benefits:
1. It prevents the freeze that can occur when a martial artist must choose just the krav maga technique from the hundreds (or even thousands) that he may know, and …
2. It enables him to focus practice time on each of the fewer krav maga techniques.
Through using this “less is more” approach, Alain Cohen says that “the student can better assimilate the essential principles in less time.”
Ideas such as this have evidently worked for Alain Cohen. His krav maga security training program is taught in the United States, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Denmark and Belgium in addition to Israel, where he’s based.
by Raymond Horwitz, partially adapted from a Black Belt article by Robert W. Young
Photo by Laura Guerrier – Today
Kali Sticks Video: Julius Melegrito Demonstrates a Single-Stick Disarm
In this exclusive look behind the scenes during a kali sticks photo shoot featuring Black Belt Hall of Fame member Julius Melegrito, you’ll learn how to engage a single-stick combatant and disarm him quickly and definitively. The technique is direct and focused, which fits with the classical approach to combat with Filipino fighting sticks.
“Your whole purpose in classical Filipino stick fighting is to hit your opponent until he’s out of the fight,” Melegrito explains. “In practice, you use your stick to hit his stick as close to his gripping hand as you can manage while staying safe, but in a real fight, you’d hit the hand. It usually makes him drop the weapon. Of course, in a fight, an attempt to hit his hand might miss, which is why you must practice follow-ups.”
KALI STICKS VIDEO
Filipino Fighting Sticks Master Julius Melegrito Shows You an Effective Single-Stick Disarm
Follow-Ups in Fighting With Kali Sticks
Julius Melegrito’s approach to follow-ups involves using an empty hand — assuming, of course, that the opponent is not holding a second stick — to check the opponent’s hand right after it’s hit.
This move serves as “insurance” in Melegrito’s take on fighting with kali sticks: If the strike doesn’t work, he can prevent his opponent from bringing the weapons hand back into action. The Filipino fighting sticks instructor then has the option of immediately following up with a stick strike to the forearm, elbow, face, neck or some other available target.
A Modern Approach to Fighting With Kali Sticks
“In the modern arts, it’s OK to touch the stick,” Julius Melegrito says. “When the guy swings at you, you intercept his strike with a strike from your stick — aimed at his hand — then you grab his weapon close to his hand if he doesn’t drop it. Grabbing it allows you to use it against him or take it away.”
Part of the modern methodology for fighting with kali sticks is separating your opponent from his weapon, Melegrito explains. You can hit the hand holding the stick with the intention of making him drop it. You can also leverage it out of his hand using a twisting motion. Or you can use your stick to push his stick out of his hand in such a way that it goes flying!
by Robert W. Young
Photos by Thomas Sanders – Today
Jeet Kune Do Techniques: Ted Wong Shows You How to Fix 14 Mistakes
Like the people who run most magazines, we at Black Belt love to look at surveys — in particular, surveys that tell us what you want to read. Back in the 1970s, those surveys told us you were interested in kung fu self-defense moves and jeet kune do moves.
In the ’80s, it was taekwondo techniques, ninjutsu techniques and jeet kune do techniques. In the ’90s, it was kenpo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and jeet kune do. In the 2000s, it’s been the mixed martial arts and — you guessed it — jeet kune do.
To serve up an article about the one fighting art that has remained on everyone’s radar ever since Bruce Lee began showcasing it in movies, we talked with Ted Wong, the man many claim was Bruce Lee’s No. 1 disciple. In 2006, Ted Wong was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Man of the Year for his ongoing efforts to propagate JKD around the world. Who better to turn to for advice on fixing the mistakes students make in their jeet kune do techniques?
Sadly, Ted Wong passed away on November 24, 2010. Before his passing, however, he shared with us the 14 mistakes he encountered most often and offered advice from his decades of experience.
JEET KUNE DO TECHNIQUES VIDEO
Ted Wong Explains the Importance of Distance, Angles and Alignment
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #1: Wrong Origins
Not all aspects of JKD punching stem from wing chun kung fu, Ted Wong says. “Much of the JKD being taught today is based on wing chun structures. I have a lot of respect for wing chun, but it’s not JKD. In fact, the majority of Bruce Lee’s notes in Tao of Jeet Kune Do are from boxing and fencing.
“One of the most important phrases in his notes and in the Tao comes from a boxing book: ‘The essence of fighting is the art of moving at the right time.’ But you have to move and think like a fencer because mobility is the key in JKD or any fighting art.”
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #2: Wrong Balance
Bruce Lee taught that the key to balance is having your head positioned vertically over the line that connects your feet, Ted Wong says. “If it’s not and your opponent forces you to move backward, you have nowhere to go while staying balanced.”
Even worse, you can’t follow up when your balance is off. You’re basically limited to your initial jeet kune do moves, be it a punch or a kick, because you’re not in a position to throw another one with any power, he says.
In some instances — specifically, when your opponent is backing up after your first strike — you’ll need to pursue him with follow-up shots. That’s when you really have to keep your head over the line between your feet so you can quickly close the distance.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #3: Wrong Stance
Bruce Lee developed the JKD stance for a reason: It serves a fighter well in the greatest variety of situations. All the more reason not to abandon it as you face different opponents — a grappler, for instance.
“If you make your stance too wide, you cannot move,” Ted Wong says. “A grappler will pick you up and throw you to the floor. If you keep the proper stance while your opponent shoots for your front leg, however, you can quickly move back and hit him.”
Remember to keep your balance forward for maximum power, he adds.
In order to execute jeet kune do moves correctly, you need the proper JKD stance. To construct the right stance, imagine a line between you and your opponent. The toe of your front foot should be on that line, as should the arch of your rear foot. An isosceles triangle is formed with your lead toe at the top and your rear heel and rear toe at the bottom vertexes.
“If you have an open stance like a boxer, that line will point away from your opponent, and you’ll lose your power structure,” Ted Wong says. “One key part of JKD is, it’s not how fast you hit or how much muscle you have; it’s that you have that power structure. You have to keep it intact no matter how or where you move. When you’re off, you lose power and mobility.”
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #4: Wrong Understanding
You can’t rely on one or two forces in jeet kune do moves. You need three, Ted Wong says. “The first is vertical. Your stance is slightly down to begin with, and then you strike as you rise. It’s normally used in the uppercut.
“The second force is linear, which means you’re moving forward. It’s what powers the lead-hand strike.” Obviously, footwork is important to create that forward motion.
“The third is rotational,” Ted Wong says. It emanates from twisting your hips and is the force that powers the hook punch and hook kick.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #5: Wrong Distance
“Perhaps the most common mistake people make when learning JKD is [related to] distance, Ted Wong says. “If you have the wrong distance, you cannot get your technique or combination off, and you might get hit. So it’s critical to be able to judge distance.”
The philosophy, which derives from fencing, is simple: Stay far enough out of reach to prevent your foe from touching you with a punch or kick — and from being able to lean and touch you. If he wants to make contact, he’ll have to take a step. Obviously, you’ll have to do the same to reach him, but because you’re trained to close that gap, it’s easier for you.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #6: Wrong Timing
“Nobody throws a punch like in JKD,” Ted Wong claims. And that’s why it’s so hard for the average martial artist to master jeet kune do techniques. When developing timing in your jeet kune do moves, Ted Wong advocates memorizing a motto from fencing: Hand before foot always.
“You can see reference to it in the Tao,” he says. “Your hand moves before your feet move. It comes from Aldo Nadi, who was a four-time Olympic medalist in fencing. It enables you to bridge the gap and land the shot.”
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #7: Wrong Defense
Too many students lean away from their opponent to avoid a punch. Ted Wong calls the remedy to this mistake “half-half sharing.” Instead of merely leaning, your upper body is angled backward to cover half the distance needed for your evasive movement and your footwork covers the other half.
That gives you a margin of safety, and it doesn’t leave you out of range or off-balance, either of which could preclude a counterattack, he says.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #8: Wrong Flow
Another mistake beginners make is separating their forward step from their lead-hand strike — in essence, they step, plant their foot on the ground and then punch. It’s way too slow, Ted Wong says.
The preferred way to execute jeet kune do moves is to make sure that when you land your blow, your front foot isn’t on the ground yet, Ted Wong says. “When you hit, it’s one, two, three. One is your fist hitting his face, two is your front foot hitting the ground and three is your rear foot hitting the ground after the step.”
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #9: Wrong Power Source
The power of your jeet kune do moves should come from your rear leg, not from your arms. “You channel the power from your back leg through your body and into your punch,” Ted Wong says.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #10: Wrong Angles
Jeet kune do combat isn’t just a back-and-forth exchange of blows. It’s two-dimensional. That second dimension comes from moving off to the side when you’re confronted by an attack.
“Angling can put you in a safer position to counter from,” Ted Wong says. “For example, at the same time you move in for a punch to counter your opponent’s punch, you angle to the outside of his arm so he can’t hit you with his counterattack. It’s a built-in safety.”
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #11: Wrong Approach
In JKD, you shouldn’t just step toward your opponent and try to score with a punch, Ted Wong says. Even if you execute the attack correctly, success is hard to come by because he can react before you land the shot.
The right way to enter is with a stop-kick — for example, using your lead leg to attack his lead leg or body, whether he’s moving forward or not. Then you launch your punch as your front foot comes down. Make sure to angle off to the outside as you strike, Ted Wong adds.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #12: Wrong Punching
Many martial artists throw the rear-hand punch while their fist is vertical, but that creates less than optimal bone alignment, Ted Wong says. The right way according to JKD is to turn your fist so your elbow is pointing slightly up — so your pinkie knuckle is higher than your index-finger knuckle. That orientation aligns the bones in your forearm with the ones in your hands for maximum structural integrity.
It also raises your upper arm, which protects your chin. In contrast, if you punch with your fist vertical, your upper arm will be lower, thus exposing your chin to a counterattack.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #13: Wrong Kicking
One of the most serious mistakes Ted Wong has identified involves practitioners who lean backward while kicking. It’s bad for many reasons, he says. First, you sacrifice power whenever you lean backward. Second, you probably won’t have a chance to land more than one technique because your arms can’t reach him from your compromised position. “It’s a one-shot deal for you,” he says.
Third, you might fall — more than a few fighters have taken a tumble in the ring or on the street because they’re off-balance after such a technique. Fourth, if you have to struggle to avoid falling, you could very well find yourself hopping backward to regain your balance, and that’s not good.
In lieu of leaning in your jeet kune do moves, you should keep your balance forward as required by the JKD stance.
Jeet Kune Do Techniques Mistake #14: Wrong Reaching
Punching is a highly effective subset of Bruce Lee’s art, but it’s often sabotaged when beginners lean too far forward to hit in their jeet kune do moves. “In JKD, we start from farther back — just like in fencing — so if all you’re going to do is lean, you won’t make it,” Ted Wong says. “It’s too far, which is why footwork is important to cover the distance.
“In boxing, it all takes place within arm’s reach. I touch you and you touch me. But in fencing, if I touch you and you touch me, we both get killed. It’s about who can bridge the gap and get in quicker to score. JKD students think the same way.”
by Raymond Horwitz
Photo by Robert Reiff – September 11, 2013
Self-Defense Moves: Tim Kennedy Shows You H2HC Techniques Based on His Army Rangers Training and the Special Operations Combatives Program (SOCP)
In the March 2012 issue of Black Belt, Executive Editor Robert W. Young named MMA fighter Tim Kennedy the Most Dangerous Man in the World — and with good reason, given his at-that-time 14-3 (and now 16-3) MMA record driven by extensive training in karate, kickboxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu. However, as Young pointed out in his editorial, it’s Tim Kennedy’s extensive H2HC training and experience that truly make him the Most Dangerous Man in the World.
Tim Kennedy’s H2HC experience includes Army Basic Training, Airborne School, the Special Forces Qualification Course, serving on a counterterrorism unit in Iraq, Army Rangers Training, serving as a combatives instructor for the 7th Special Forces Group, plus completing the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) and the Special Operations Combative Program (SOCP). In addition to being a mixed martial arts fighter, this H2HC instructor is a staff sergeant in the Texas National Guard.
In this exclusive video, H2HC expert Tim Kennedy demonstrates self-defense moves he acquired in Army Rangers Training and the Special Operations Combatives Program. Although he is wearing military gear, the H2HC concepts and basic self-defense moves are applicable to attacks in civilian life.
H2HC / SELF-DEFENSE MOVES VIDEO
Tim Kennedy Demonstrates Self-Defense Moves Based on His Special Operations Combatives Program (SOCP) Training
Tim Kennedy Puts Army Rangers Training Self-Defense Moves Into H2HC Action
In the above H2HC video, Tim Kennedy is about to be ambushed by an assailant. The man grabs hold of the Army Rangers Training expert, who immediately implements his Special Operations Combatives Program (SOCP) training and raises his left leg to execute a foot stomp. He uses a rear head butt to create enough space to turn and face the attacker for execution of more self-defense moves.
While holding the attacker, Tim Kennedy drives a knee thrust into his torso, then sweeps the nearest leg. When the opponent is down, Tim Kennedy strikes him while staying on his feet for maximum mobility in any further H2HC action.
“During the hundreds of combat missions I went on, I never saw a guy who didn’t have at least a long gun, a pistol and a knife,” Tim Kennedy explains regarding the role of H2HC in Special Forces missions. “[Hand-to-hand combat] gives guys the opportunity to make space so they can get to their tools: their gun, their knife, their cuffs and so on.”
How Did the Special Operations Combatives Program (SOCP) Develop?
“You have to have a heads-up, prepared-for-anything martial art that’s fast, dynamic and dangerous,” Tim Kennedy says. “You have to be able to do damage and then get back to the important stuff. Recognizing that, Greg Thompson developed SOCP. Now every Special Forces member trains in it.”
What Does the Future Hold for H2HC Expert Tim Kennedy?
“Of course I want to get back onto an Operational Detachment Alpha team and be a shooter, but I think — I don’t think; other people think — that I would be better used as an instructor of hand-to-hand combat,” Tim Kennedy says. “I’ve been doing martial arts for 20 years now. They know I have the ability and the experience needed to teach the Special Forces, which a lot of people don’t have.”
For more information about H2HC expert and MMA fighter Tim Kennedy, visit timmkennedymma.com and check out Tim Kennedy’s clothing company at rangerup.com.
Adapted from Kapap Combat Concepts: Martial Arts of the Israeli Special Forces by Avi Nardia and Albert Timen with Special Adviser John Machado
– June 19, 2013
Israeli Martial Arts: Avi Nardia and John Machado Demonstrate the Intersection of BJJ Techniques and Kapap Self-Defense Moves
Kapap expert Avi Nardia and Brazilian jiu-jitsu master John Machado demonstrate the intersection of kapap’s “relative position” concept, Brazilian jiu-jitsu ground movements and close-quarters combat with firearms in this exclusive Israeli martial arts video excerpt from Kapap Combat Concepts — Vol. 4: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Applications. Simply put, the kapap concept of “relative position” is the best position for you to be in at any particular moment and is determined by your environment and the position of your opponents. By taking your situation, condition, state, position, stance and posture into account, you’ll be able to maintain the advantage throughout a fight.
Israeli Martial Arts Training for Maximum Versatility
To prepare their students, kapap instructors such as Avi Nardia throw as many variables at them as possible through realistic and creative exercises. Kapap instructors train their students in potential conflict locations, which can include stairways, elevators, parking lots and cars.
A kapap instructor also might momentarily blind his students with flashbulbs or strobe lights to imitate conflicts in which they can’t see, or he may have them fight in water to overcome a natural human fear.
And in this video featuring kapap expert Avi Nardia and Brazilian jiu-jitsu master John Machado, the focus is on using the ground movements of BJJ techniques for more effective self-defense moves in kapap — in this case, self-defense moves involving a handgun.
Israeli Martial Arts Video
Avi Nardia and John Machado Demonstrate How BJJ Techniques on the Ground Influence Kapap Self-Defense Moves Involving Firearms
Getting Started in Kapap
Because fights never go completely as planned, kapap instructors like Avi Nardia want their students to be able to make quick decisions to assess their relative position when real conflict requiring decisive self-defense moves breaks outs.
The ground is a good place to start learning about relative position and how it works with self-defense moves because it helps Israeli martial arts beginners overcome their fear of being thrown or hit. Security, law-enforcement and VIP-protection personnel, on the other hand, might find ground-based self-defense moves as taught by BJJ techniques experts like John Machado difficult because they are taught to never fight on the ground unless they have backup.
Even if you’ve never done any ground work for your self-defense moves such as those found in BJJ techniques, you could still find yourself unarmed and fighting for your life on the ground. And even if you’ve studied Israeli martial arts, knowing how to integrate movements from BJJ techniques into your self-defense moves from the ground can make a huge difference in your response.
Whatever your combat background, however, remember that real safety in conflict depends on simple skills that address every facet of defense.
True Kapap Requires Discipline
Calculating your relative position under stressful circumstances requires practice. Israeli special forces units, for instance, learn how to consider and deal with variables that can affect their relative position and subsequent self-defense moves until such planning becomes second nature.
However, it’s important to understand that the questions, elements and variables a person learns to consider depend entirely on the individual because civilians, police officers and soldiers rarely prepare for the same encounters. Instead, they must all consider their own abilities and experiences to determine which techniques and positions will work best for them during a fight.
In fact, true masters of this principle from the Israeli martial arts will begin considering their relative position from the moment they wake up in the morning — long before any conflict begins. It is simply their second nature to take into account every factor that could affect their safety every time they leave their homes.
Kapap has made relative position an integral part of its current system because the principle is flexible and benefits practitioners of any skill level. Because kapap borrows techniques and principles from many systems — including BJJ techniques — students will always have the necessary tools to gain the best position during a fight. Also, kapap puts a great deal of emphasis on the first move of a fight because it will determine the combat options for the conflict’s duration.
About the Authors of the Source Material:
This post was adapted from the Israeli martial arts book Kapap Combat Concepts: Martial Arts of the Israeli Special Forces by Avi Nardia and Albert Timen with special adviser John Machado. Learn more about Israeli martial arts experts Avi Nardia at avinardia.com and Albert Timen at kapapacademy.com. And be sure to check out BJJ techniques expert John Machado’s homepage at johnmachado.net.
by Raymond Horwitz and Robert W. Young
Photo by Robert Reiff
Ask anyone who’s visited the Shaolin Temple or watched Shaolin monks perform on tour, and he or she will attest to the phenomenal shape these martial artists are in — and to the phenomenal feats they can coax their bodies to do.
The type of fitness the Shaolin monks exhibit is not a bodybuilding kind of fitness; it’s a functional, practical musculature that’s perfectly suited to executing the kung fu moves in which these martial artists specialize. Furthermore, their ongoing practice of kung fu techniques fosters holistic health by building internal strength.
For expert guidance in the way of Shaolin kung fu fitness, we brought in a genuine Shaolin monk named Wang Bo. Formerly of the Shaolin Temple, Henan province, China, Wang Bo is now based in Torrance, California, where he teaches Shaolin kung fu techniques as well as meditation, yoga and tai chi.
SHAOLIN KUNG FU MOVES VIDEO
Shaolin Monk Wang Bo Shows You Internal Exercises for Stronger Kung Fu Techniques
Wang Bo’s Mission: Spread Shaolin Kung Fu Physicality and Philosophy
In the United States since 2008, Wang Bo is on a mission to promote Shaolin philosophy and physical culture by spreading the practice of traditional kung fu techniques and the discipline that goes along with them. “My goal is to help as many people as I can while [teaching] them how to defend themselves,” the Shaolin monk says.
Unlike some martial styles, Shaolin kung fu teaches not just physical skills but also methods for building inner strength and spirituality, Wang Bo says. “Beating somebody is not that hard; loving somebody is harder. We say, ‘If I beat you today, you may hate me for a long time, but if I help you, you may remember me forever.’
“In kung fu, you don’t see people beating each other too much. More often you see self-practice — one person doing forms. The techniques are very powerful for fighting, but when you learn kung fu, your teacher doesn’t allow you to fight. You can fight 10 people and win now, but eventually you will get old. Eventually you can’t fight anymore. It’s better to cultivate yourself and help people use this art to improve their lives.”
Slow-Motion Breathing: The Foundation of Better Health and Stronger Kung Fu Techniques
With the concept of life improvement in mind, Shaolin monk Wang Bo recommends a series of “internal exercises” for development of people’s mind-body connection. Most of these internal exercises from Shaolin kung fu involve a foundation of slow-motion breathing.
“As one of the internal practices, [slow-motion breathing] starts inside and moves outside. When you punch [during kung fu techniques], it’s a physical movement from outside to inside which is the opposite. Slow-motion breathing will make your organs work better and make you healthier. It looks very small, but it does a lot of work inside your body.”
Building a Center for the Study of Kung Fu Moves in America
Shaolin monk Wang Bo hopes to build a Shaolin Temple branch in the vicinity of his current facility in Torrance, California. His goal: to train more Americans in the ancient ways of the Chinese martial arts.
“Kung fu was created by people who were enlightened, who had very high consciousness,” Wang Bo says. “What they developed can help today’s society — in general, we don’t have enough patience, we don’t have enough concentration and we’re easy to get angry. When we fight, however, we give and receive, so we feel better. Mentally, practicing [kung fu moves] helps us because kung fu and spirituality are based on compassion.”
In the book Chinatown Jeet Kune Do: Essential Elements of Bruce Lee’s Martial Art, authors Tim Tackett and Bob Bremer (who studied directly under Bruce Lee) delineate the technical details of an array of jeet kune do techniques — including the JKD backfist, which Tackett demonstrates in this excerpt from his companion DVD for the book:
DVD PREVIEW | Backfist Technique From Tim Tackett’s Chinatown Jeet Kune Do: Essential Elements of Bruce Lee’s Martial Art
“While not very powerful, the backfist is fast and deceptive because it can be thrown from the on-guard position with very little, if any, preparation,” Tim Tackett and Bob Bremer write in the book Chinatown Jeet Kune Do: Essential Elements of Bruce Lee’s Martial Art. “The backfist that [Bruce] Lee taught [Bob] Bremer differs from the ones thrown in action movies. Instead of making impact with the back of the hand, [Bruce] Lee believed it was better to use the knuckles because it lessens the chance of self-injury.
“This makes it more difficult to aim the hand, however, which is why a JKD practitioner needs to be selective of his target. Usually, students learn to aim for the opponent’s eyes, which are vulnerable and don’t require power to harm. To reach the target, throw your backfist like a stationary lead punch: Penetrate two inches beyond the point of impact, use your whole body, transfer energy from the legs, etc.
“Remember, the move should be deceptive. Traditional martial artists usually use a lot of preparation for the strike — they cock their arm, they place their elbow at the proper angle — which gives an opponent time to react and counter it.”
The above video is an excerpt from the book’s companion DVD, also titled Chinatown Jeet Kune Do: Essential Elements of Bruce Lee’s Martial Art. It features live-action demonstrations of the ideas presented in the book, organized in parallel structure for easy reference — but it also features an on-screen guide to chapters and pages in the book that further illustrate and explain what Tim Tackett and his partners are demonstrating in the video. This makes for a true martial arts multimedia experience and a powerful educational tool from which jeet kune do students of all experience levels can benefit!
by Dr. Mark Cheng, Senior RKC
Photo by Rick Hustead
The power-vs.-speed debate has raged in martial arts circles for decades. As soon as a rapid-fire striker convinces you that speed is the key to victory, along comes a powerhouse prodigy who’ll bend you back toward the other extreme.
But now there’s a newcomer from Japan who’s set up shop in the Los Angeles suburb of Culver City, and he just might settle the debate once and for all. His name is Kenji Yamaki, and he was one of the top kyokushin karate competitors in Japan. He recently started teaching his own style of knockdown karate, which he’s dubbed yamaki-ryu.
Having come from a system made famous by Masutatsu Oyama’s murderous striking techniques, Yamaki favors an arsenal laced with kicks that are frighteningly powerful and lightning fast.
KYOKUSHIN TECHNIQUES VIDEO
Kenji Yamaki Demonstrates Two Karate Moves From His Full-Contact Karate Techniques 2-DVD Set
If you were to watch the 6-foot-2-inch heavyweight walk into a dojo, you probably wouldn’t believe he can move and kick as rapidly as a bantamweight. His heavily muscled frame looks more like a linebacker’s than a kicker’s, yet as soon as he stands to demonstrate a move and places his instep against my ear with blinding speed and incredible precision, I’m a believer.
History of Karate: Inside Mas Oyama’s Hard-Core Kyokushin Karate Conditioning Program
When I ask about his trademark moves, he points the conversation toward the three most basic leg techniques of karate: the front kick, round kick and side kick.
It’s been said that Kenji Yamaki, who appeared with fellow kyokushin alumnus Dolph Lundgren in The Punisher, has an uncanny ability to make the ordinary become extraordinary. The advice outlined below is his offering to the readers of Black Belt who are looking to make their own foot techniques extraordinary.
Kyokushin Karate Technique #1: Mae Geri (Front Kick)
The mae geri, or front kick, is Kenji Yamaki’s favorite. He insists it’s the most versatile leg technique in the martial arts, and once you see him demonstrate it, especially when he uses it as a counter, you’ll agree.
Kenji Yamaki kyoksuhin karate front kick techniques.
The foundation of the front kick is built on properly chambering your kicking leg. “The positioning of your knee is the key,” Kenji Yamaki says. “From a standing position, you have to be able to chamber your knee as high as possible, and that’s what gives you the luxury of options in terms of where and how you place the kick. If you bring your knee up high, you can kick at any height; but if you chamber your leg weakly and only bring your knee up slightly, your mae geri will be limited to the waist or lower.”
To illustrate his point, Kenji Yamaki asks me to walk with him to a clearing between tables in the coffee shop where we’re meeting. He proceeds to break down the movements of the technique and perform them in slow motion, maintaining perfect balance as he delineates his concepts.
With his knee held high and close to his chest, he slowly extends his foot to my chin. Re-chambering his leg tightly with his knee high, he extends his foot to my solar plexus. After bringing his leg back to the chambered position, he slowly pushes my front thigh backward. “All three kicks were the same mae geri with the same chambered position but with three completely different targets,” he says.
If you set up your front kick properly, distance is irrelevant, he claims. Now, some karateka may get their kicks “stuffed” by an opponent who knows how to close the gap and refuses to allow enough distance for the karateka to accelerate his foot.
“That’s a problem only for a fighter who has a slow and low chambering motion,” Kenji Yamaki explains. “If you chamber rapidly and bring your knee up very high and close to your body, the mae geri is very useful. A spring is only as useful as the degree to which it is compressed, and a kick is no different. That’s also part of the reason I like to use the ball of my foot when I do mae geri. It gives me greater reach and more extension through my opponent.”
The beauty of Kenji Yamaki’s front kick lies not only in its versatility but also in the way he employs that versatility. A high and tight chambering motion again comes into play because it sets up your opponent’s defensive reactions. If the other man responds to your knee lift by pulling his leg back, you can fire a knockout high front kick. If he reacts by tilting his head backward, you can plant your foot in his midsection or bury it in his thigh.
To boost the impact of your kick, Kenji Yamaki recommends weight training. “The power comes from the degree to which the leg is chambered prior to kicking and then from how suddenly you can go from that compressed position to a fully extended position,” he says. “Doing squats really helps you develop that power and extension. Just make sure to do them with a full range of motion. Simply making a little dipping bend at the knees isn’t going to give you the full power-building benefits of the exercise.”
Kyokushin Karate Technique #2: Mawashi Geri (Round Kick)
The yamaki-ryu round kick, or mawashi geri, begins the same way as the art’s front kick. Unlike the methodology that other styles advocate for their round kick, Kenji Yamaki says you must ensure that your initial phase features a high, tight knee position.
As we stand once again in the space between the tables, Yamaki launches what appears to be a front kick. He lifts his knee, and I slide to the outside to let it pass. But with a quick rotation of his hips, he transforms his attack into a round kick that whizzes over the back of my head. Grateful for his control, I ask him to extrapolate.
“Mawashi geri has more options than people think,” he begins. “Depending on how you rotate your hips, the kick can cut upward at an angle, into the target perpendicularly or downward at an angle.
“The mistake most fighters make is in how they try to achieve power in this kick. It shouldn’t be a big, looping knee lift like you’re trying to swing your knee around. The kick has to be deceptive to be effective, and using the high knee as the universal chambered position is part of that deception.”
While we stand there, Kenji Yamaki shows me how, from a single starting position, he can deliver a high round kick to my head, a standard round kick to my ribs and a downward, cutting round kick to my thigh.
I quickly learn how poorly a standard leg block works against a Kenji Yamaki round kick. He asks me to lift my limb in Thai fashion to stop his attack, and as I do it to forestall his midlevel kick, he loops his shin over my defending leg and crashes it down on my thigh. “The beauty of this way of kicking is that you can use the instep at long range and the shin at close range,” he explains. “There are no limitations.”
Kyokushin Karate Technique #3: Yoko Geri (Side Kick)
The yoko geri, or side kick, is the final entry on Kenji Yamaki’s list of preferred leg techniques. Despite the fact that it’s considered a basic move in numerous arts, witnessing it being used to score in competition is like coming across an endangered animal in the middle of Manhattan.
Kenji Yamaki admits that it’s not one of the most common techniques in competition — but it should be. “There are lots of fighters who don’t practice the yoko geri outside of doing kata because they feel that it’s a low-percentage technique for scoring,” he says. “But it’s still very important in self-defense and in the ring.
“One of the best times to use the side kick is after you set it up properly with a round kick. If you throw a fake mawashi geri and draw your opponent in a little, you can follow it with a yoko geri from the same leg and drive it up and under his guard.”
Kenji Yamaki kyoksuhin karate side kick techniques.
To illustrate his claim, he fires a quick round kick at my thigh. I instinctively slide backward, but he capitalizes on my retreat by running me down with a stepping side kick. “You can use this kick as a quick stopping technique to halt an opponent’s advance, but if you want to get the maximum force out of it, you have to put your hips and weight behind it,” he says. “In this way, the yoko geri can be your most powerful kick.”
Kenji Yamaki then relates an incident that took place while he was training with Oyama: “[He] was teaching us one day, and I watched him punch a tree as he was telling us how to develop power. The tree was about 1 meter (3.3 feet) in diameter, and his punches were shaking the leaves. He said: ‘This is how you punch! This is how you use your power!’ That image never left my mind.”
Kenji Yamaki’s remarkable kicking techniques reflect that same method of combining speed and power for the most devastating results. He honed those attributes during his years of grueling workouts and forged them into the legacy he now passes on to his students in America.
About the Author:
Dr. Mark Cheng, Senior RKC, is a contributing editor to Black Belt magazine and the co-author of Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit with hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee. For more information about Dr. Cheng, visit Dr. Mark Cheng’s Facebook page! Special thanks to Haruo Matsuoka for translating during this interview.
Shorinji Kempo: Shaolin Kung Fu’s Kicking Cousin
Although martial arts movies and magazines have caused the popularity of numerous arts to skyrocket, shorinji kempo remains a mystery to most people. Even martial arts enthusiasts are frequently ignorant of shorinji kempo’s techniques and philosophy.
And they are almost always astonished to learn that the style has accumulated some 1.5 million students in more than 3,000 dojo in 27 countries. A single group, headquartered in the town of Tadotsu on the island of Shikoku, Japan, regulates all that training and testing.
However, with only 23 dojo in the United States and four in Canada, shorinji kempo is still an enigma to most Americans. This article will attempt to remedy that.
The History of Shorinji Kempo
Doshin So is the founder of shorinji kempo. Born in 1911 in a small mountain village high above the city of Okayama, Japan, he traveled to China at age 17 and lived there for more than a decade and a half as a special agent for the Japanese government. His work brought him into contact with several Chinese secret societies, and he learned the Chinese martial arts from instructors who had gone into hiding because of the Boxer Rebellion.
After training extensively in Beijing with a Shaolin master named Wen Laoshi, Doshin So was permitted to succeed him as the 21st master of the Northern Shorinji Giwamonken School. He started with various kung fu techniques he had learned in China, then added moves of his own and melded it all together. He named his creation “shorinji kempo,” which translates as “Shaolin Temple fist method.”
Doshin So returned to Japan in 1946 only to find his nation in a post-World War II state suffering from moral decay and dismal self-esteem. Because of his concern for his country and desire to end its mass depression, he began lecturing young people. When he failed to get his message across, he realized that words alone were not enough to modify minds. So he opened a dojo and began the task of rebuilding the character, morale and backbone of the Japanese people by using his shorinji kempo techniques as the bait to attract new students and as a vehicle to teach his message of Zen philosophy.
In December 1951, Doshin So founded the Kongo Zen Sohonzan temple in Tadotsu with shorinji kempo as its main teaching; thus he was able to teach the art despite the Allies’ prohibition on martial arts training. Two years later, he created the Japan Shorinji Kempo Federation, and in 1974 he set up the World Shorinji Kempo Organization. In the 33 years that followed the founding of the art, he dedicated his life to developing young men and women into strong adults through his philosophical and physical teachings.
He wrote a bestseller titled Shorinji Kempo: Philosophy and Techniques, and in 1975 it was abridged and reprinted in the United States as What Is Shorinji Kempo?
In 1976, a movie was made about the life of Doshin So. It featured martial arts film star Sonny Chiba performing shorinji kempo techniques and playing the role of the founder. The film primarily dealt with Doshin So’s return to Japan after the war, the opening of his dojo and his rebuilding of his people.
Unfortunately, when it was dubbed into English and released on video in the United States, it was sensationally retitled Killing Machine, thus misrepresenting virtually everything the founder stood for.
In April 1980, Doshin So traveled to Shaolin Temple, where the Chinese priests welcomed him with a festive ceremony.
A stone monument dedicated to him still stands in the courtyard of the temple. He returned to Japan, and on May 12, 1980 he died of heart disease.
His daughter, Yuki So, then 22, decided to continue her father’s vision and serve as president of the World Shorinji Kempo Organization. Today, the system she oversees is used by police and military agencies in Japan and is recognized not only as a martial art and a religion, but also an entity that is committed to the betterment of society.
Shorinji Kempo: A Complete Martial Art
As a religion registered with the Japanese government, shorinji kempo seeks to follow in the ancient traditions espoused by the Shaolin monks — in short, unifying the mind and body through spiritual and physical development in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha. Because the art revolves around Zen meditation and Oriental medicine, it can offer students three main benefits: improved health, spiritual development and self-defense.
The self-defense component stems from the shorinji kempo’s reliance on combinations of “soft” and “hard” techniques designed to allow a weaker defender to control a stronger attacker by dynamically applying the laws of physics. That makes it perfect for women, children and people of all ages. Its curriculum can be broken down into four basic parts:
Goho, which refers primarily to punches, kicks, hammers (non-punching hand strikes) and slashes.
Juho, which is composed of close-contact techniques, including releases, joint locks, reverses, throws and pins.
Seiho, or Zen acu-therapy, which offers health promotion through the prevention of illness.
Zazen, or seated meditation, which promotes spiritual and mental development through Zen Buddhism, ultimately fostering the ability to seek a solution to conflict without unduly harming others.
Shorinji Kempo Training
Shorinji kempo’s techniques that can be broken down into 25 categories. For the most part, they are taught through partner training, with the students alternating roles as attacker and defender.
The partner is not a competitor or opponent, and the object is not to defeat him. Instead, he is a partner in the learning experience, one who can help the student improve his technique.
Students continually change partners during class, thus forcing themselves to adjust their shorinji kempo techniques to size, height, weight and reach differences.
The esoteric Japanese martial art also teaches pressure-point techniques for self-defense and healing. Out of 708 points known to Oriental medicine, shorinji kempo makes use of 138 for combat. Learning to use them effectively requires much experimentation with a partner.
Stance and foot positioning are crucial in shorinji kempo. The Zen term kyakkashoko means “to look at the area around your feet” or “to be aware of what your feet are doing.” If a student fails to observe that, his mind and body cannot function as one. If either one lags behind the other in a confrontation, critical mistakes will be made and techniques will lose effectiveness. The mind and body must remain calm, focused and aware.
In the East, shorinji kempo students train in a gi adorned with the Buddhist manji symbol because they seek to follow the traditions of Shaolin Temple. The symbol has been used for millennia by different civilizations and actually predates Buddhism. It possesses profound meaning, and in Asia it can be found in temples, on maps and in works of art.
The manji represents the fluidity of the universe and the foundation of life.
It also stands for the all-important theory of opposites: heaven and earth, day and night, positive and negative, male and female, fire and water, etc.
Each component maintains its own distinct nature while finding harmonious relations with its opposite, and students learn to apply that principle in their interpretation of the art.
Unfortunately, Adolf Hitler latched onto the manji, turned it on its side and used it as the swastika. It eventually came to represent his Nazi party.
As a result, Shorinji kempo students in the West wear the ken (fist) symbol on their gi.
Shorinji Kempo: Art, Not Sport
Shorinji kempo is not a sport. Sports have rules, but in self-defense, there are no rules. A practitioner does whatever is necessary to fend off the attacker. To temper that potential lethality, students are taught that under no circumstances should they attack first, as Buddhism holds it is always wrong to strike the first blow.
In lieu of the sporting ideal of striving to defeat others or set world records, shorinji kempo emphasizes the importance of overcoming oneself by unifying the mind and body. It is not designed for fighting against others, but as it teaches the practitioner to improve himself physically, mentally and spiritually and thus become a positive person who is useful to society, he can assuredly take care of himself on the street.
Because of this philosophy, the art does not award rank based on a comparison with others or a win-loss tally from a tournament circuit. Instead, it is based on the individual student’s improvement. Rank is not used for the purpose of setting up a hierarchy in class, but to provide a series of goals and markers for training. In addition to undergoing a physical test, practitioners must take a written exam that includes crafting an essay on technique, philosophy, history, their motives for studying the art and their current state of mind with respect to it.
Shorinji Kempo Philosophy
One of the most important lessons of Shorinji kempo is that the body and spirit are indivisibly one and that both are of equal importance. The art advocates training the two halves through the physical techniques described above and through zazen meditation. The guiding principle is that the student must first save himself and then be of use to the world.
Developing breath control, mental discipline, and physical and spiritual strength are among the many benefits of shorinji kempo practice. “Boundless strength and unlimited love” is a slogan often used by its adherents.
The philosophy teaches that love without strength is ineffective, while strength without love is violence. Movement exists in stillness, and calm exists in action.
Through meditation and physical training, shorinji kempo seeks to find balance and harmony between love and strength, mind and body, power and compassion, self and others, and action and stillness. It ultimately becomes a lifestyle, a formula for personal happiness and for the realization of human potential.
by the Editors and Bill Wallace
Photo courtesy of Bill Wallace
The martial arts world is full of myths. They usually start when someone tells a factual story and, as the years pass and it’s retold, it becomes more and more distorted until it bears little resemblance to the original account.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Regardless of whether the myths were ever true, they do give us something to think about and add depth to the culture of the martial arts.
As long as there is a possibility that a spectacular event happened (or could happen), people have a reason to persevere in their training.
— Bill Wallace
The following are five of the most common martial arts myths, according to Bill Wallace — and, of course, Bill Wallace’s opinion regarding each one.
The reverse punch, when executed correctly, endows people with an almost superhuman “one punch, one kill” capability.
Bill Wallace: The reverse punch is just like a boxing punch, except it’s thrown from the hip. Instructors claim it’s the deadliest technique in the world, but when you throw it in a sparring match and nail your opponent in the ribs, he usually just bounces back and says, “Hey, good shot!” You didn’t kill him, and you have to come up with an excuse, so you blurt out, “I controlled that punch pretty well, didn’t I?”
The truth is, you threw it as hard as you could, and it didn’t do what it was supposed to.
I believe the reverse punch is less deadly than it used to be because peoples’ bodies change. The Chinese, Japanese and Koreans who used it centuries ago were not very physically powerful; somebody with big knuckles could throw a reverse punch and break a rib or puncture a lung, and the person might bleed to death.
Today, people are larger, and medical advances have almost eliminated the risk of fatality when such injuries occur.
The karate chop has magical power.
Bill Wallace: No way. This technique is definitely a powerful one, and when it’s thrown to the side of the neck, it can be very effective. But it’s not as deadly as many nonmartial artists think.
I remember witnessing a fight when I was in high school. One of the guys just stood there with his shuto (knifehand) held high, and alarmed bystanders whispered, “He knows karate. He’s gonna hit that guy and kill him.”
Needless to say, nobody was killed in the skirmish.
A martial arts expert can touch a certain part of a person’s body and kill him.
Bill Wallace: Many people say Bruce Lee died from a “death touch,” supposedly inflicted because he showed Westerners the secrets of kung fu.
The people who believe stories like this also believe masters who say they can kill you if they want to — but they don’t want to, so they’re not going to. There is no spot on the human body that you can tap and kill a person.
A woman who has trained in the martial arts can beat a man who has not trained.
Bill Wallace: A woman can be victorious against a man only if she’s got the element of surprise on her side or she is significantly stronger than her opponent.
There are plenty of techniques a woman can use against a mugger who thinks she won’t fight back; the woman can hopefully buy a little extra time to escape.
But generally women are not as strong as men, and no matter what their game is — kicking, punching, grappling or whatever — if they hit a guy and don’t do any immediate damage, they’ll be in trouble.
If a person is a champion in the ring, he can easily knock out any opponent.
Bill Wallace: Not necessarily true. If you want to be a good fighter, you have to train the way you will fight. If you are going to fight full-contact, you have to learn to take the contact.
Before I was a kickboxer, I was a national champion in point fighting three years in a row. I thought I was a super fighter because I could kick or punch my opponent and he couldn’t hit me back. I never took into consideration the other guy’s ability to defend against or absorb my strikes.
That’s why when kickboxing was born, kickboxers kicked butt against point fighters. The kickboxers could take a shot, and we didn’t know what to do when we got hit. It takes a long time to psychologically and physically learn to take a punch.