By Marlon Wilson
The use of the knees in kicking holds a particular importance to my thinking and practice. In order to generate power in most kicks the movement of the knee is key. Without the knee exploding from a chambered postition towards the plexus most kicks will lack the force they could deliver. By using the center of your body you use your whole body, neglect this and you exponentially dimininsh what you want to do for almost every kick in the system. The non kicking leg maintains your root (especially with impact) and cannot be locked. the knee must bend and even sink with the kick and not striaghten out or lock. The return to the crane afterwards re indexes the spine and brings you back to center alignment and equilibrium…bring the knee back to your center. the further you move from these prinicples of the knee the less effective your kempo becomes.
By Marlon Wilson
It is obvious that breathing is essential to life. We all do it, and usually unconsciously. Singers, athletes, meditators, people with respiratory illnesses all know the importance of conscious breathing. We, as martial artists, also place a particular importance on breath. So I would like to take the time to share some of my knowledge and mishaps with breathing.
I first encountered the idea of conscious breath at a yoga class I took in college. I was late registering and there was not much left. I did not feel so at the time but, lucky me! The lessons began with breathing and ended the same way. We were taught to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth as a general rule. Nostril breathing was taught as an important method as well as holding the breath in and holding it out. All of this seemed way too complicated for something every baby knows how to do well, but order to make the grade, I learned.
I learned that breathing was not only about oxygen, it was about prana: a mysterious substance that is the animating force behind life. I learned that the control and cultivation of prana was supposed to improve health, extend life and somehow impart to the really diligent...extra powers.
A small aside
I originally looked into the martial arts searching for magic. As a child I loved comics and believed in the possibilities that they presented. Children used to mock my name, turning it into Merlin, so I tried to find out all I could about this Merlin. And so my search for magic began and cue the comic book "Dr.Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts" with some dramatic music in my young head and a light bulb flashed on! You see, an essential part of Dr.Strange's education in magic was developing his physical body enough in order to channel the vast amount of energies he would need as a protector of earth. I think you can see where this lead me...end of aside.
Back to theory
Prana, as taught my yoga teacher, exists all around us, the main medium of its transport being air; we must cultivate breathing in order to maximize our benefits. I later learned that the Oriental terms Ki and Ch'I relate to many of the properties of prana. You are born with an amount and when that runs out your life ends. It circulates throughout your body in channels similar to veins and arteries. There are places on the body and in nature where it is more concentrated. It can be transferred for the benefit or to the detriment, from and to, any living thing. Cultivating it and developing it has many benefits for health, power, longevity, and out-of-the-ordinary abilities.
How to breathe
Babies, when born, are free of tension and are naturally belly breathers. This means that when they breathe it is their belly that moves and not their chest. Somewhere, somehow, in our society we all seem to learn to do what is not natural and begin to breathe from our chest rather than our abdomen. This on a purely physiological basis allows for less oxygen exchange with the bronchioles and therefore less oxygenation of the blood. Prana/ch'i/ki...a.k.a. energy also needs belly breathing and relaxation in order to properly transfer to the breather. This deep abdominal breathing seems awkward at first but with regular practice can become as easy as to seem unconscious. Start with lying flat on your back or sitting up straight (the important thing is a straight spine). Place your hands on your lower abdomen either at or just below the navel. When you breathe out your hands should sink towards your spine, sink in. As you breathe in, your hands should be lifted away from your spine by your belly, pushed out. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Take the time to master this; all other breathing is based on this first step.
In yoga they have postures and in the martial arts we have stretching and forms to help the body become supple enough for the free flow of energy. Suppleness and relaxation are key to proper breath control. Training the body internally this way cannot be left out with out frustrating our attempts to grow to a higher and ever higher level. Through the unity of mind, body, intent and spirit we may attain the goal of harmony called mastery to which we all aspire.
This is all good in theory, but what of practical applications? I have to tell you that, as you learn more about breath, you need to understand that although things seem to start in the same place, they change dramatically considering the application. That I learned yoga, energetic healing methods and martial arts provides a good example from my own life. I transferred the knowledge of breathing that was very well taught in yoga and healing to martial arts, when I did not have in the past teachers who emphasized how to breathe. To be sure, they repeatedly said that we must breathe and control our breath, but did not go into details. Yoga and healing tend to want to induce an altered state of consciousness and their breathing methods reflect this through longer exhalation than inhalation. My current Kempo instructor noticed oxygen deficit in me as I moved through my material. I had focused on increasing my cardio to correct this; he was astute enough to ask me what I was doing with my breath. When I told him...well, I learned my error, received correction, and, he showed me the best way to train it: Forms! Yes, find your breath in your forms. Begin now to find the islands of breath in your forms. This will add presence and power to your forms and create the habits of proper breathing that will transfer to sparring, dragon circles, testing and any real life situation that you failed to find a way to avoid.
Take the time as you move through your forms to breathe, whether you are doing your forms fast for cardio, or slow for proper mechanics, or at regular fighting pace. Breathe into your abdomen; breathe in the same volume as you breathe out. Begin with a 2 count: Exhale for a count of two; hold out for a count of two; inhale for a count of two, hold in for a count of two then begin to exhale again. Take your time to slowly work the count upwards...I would not bother to exceed a count of five for the purposes of what we do. Remember: practice, practice, practice. Remember the benefits of proper breathing: Health, power, longevity and out-of-the-ordinary abilities. These things are not secret and of course, there is more to learn, but they take awhile to develop. Use the skills of perseverance and a continued commitment to growth and learning that you have acquired through your training. These things are essential.
Study, practice, and share what you have: This is the way of mastery...and have fun along the way.
Sitting on the Job
By Bryan Bagnas
One must always remember that the technique is not complete until the opponent is immobilized or submits, yet many students hope the throw, leg hock, or reap is sufficient. You must control the opponent during their fall and sit on them as they land, securing a standing pin. This is called seating. Most often used after a leg hock, you can use your knees to press on the shoulder and the hip of the fallen opponent. Don’t let the opponent fall flat on their back nor to brake fall. During the floating portion of your hock, you secure the arm and prepare to sit. As the opponent hits the ground, you immediately use your knees to pin. You can alter the points to include a knee to the throat or face, but this option is more risky. As you apply pressure with the seating, crank the arm into an arm-lock or seek a submission hold. The combination of holding down the shoulders, the hips, and an arm-lock will secure the opponent’s defeat. You can use the arm-lock to induce pain should the opponent try to squirm out of the seat. Teach them proper manners with pressure on the elbow across your knee. This grounds the opponent, keeping them from mounting a good counter. Their own body traps the grounded arm and leg. Your seating checks the free arm and leg from attacking or defending. Always find ways of using the ground as a tool or point of leverage, it can be your greatest weapon. The next time you’re working on self-defense techniques, remember to “sit on the job” and apply or seating concepts to the finishing moves.
(originally appeared in GLK’s Black Belt Club Newsletter, May 2005)
The Hand Postures of our dojo patch from Kosho Ryu Kempo
Kigan: Praying Hands Position
• First Representation: The right hand (representing the physical) and the left hand (representing the spiritual) are placed together for peace and avoidance of conflict.
• Second Representation: Escaping Arts
• Third Representation: Skeletal Strikes
Kaishu: Open Hand Position
• First Representation: The right hand and left hand are placed together in the shape of a mountain. Look for the good in man as you would see a mountain from a distance, without nitpicking flaws and imperfections.
• Second Representation: Folding Arts
• Third Representation: Internal Strikes
Hoken: Covered Fist Position
• First Representation: The right hand (representing physical skills) is covered by the left hand (representing spiritual skills). One should temper his actions with morality, avoid conflict, and hide his weapons.
• Second Representation: Muscular Strikes
• Third Representation: Total Domination