A block is a strike and a strike is a block and also…

The numbered combinations teach us how to do good Shaolin Kempo, only if we practice them with precision, presence, power, control, understanding, correct rhythm, timing and drill them for self defense. I had the fun of writing out all the combinations I know for the school syllabus. The greatness in the exercise is that it forced me to think deeply about what I was taught and what I do. It was a wonderful workout as well, getting up and down from the desk to go through the movements and then sit down quick, while I have it!!! Then, of course, the students (especially the lower belts and the young’s), ask the questions that let me know that so much of my work and ups and downs from the desk, still did not capture it…
The effort is never ending, yes.
As I wrote them out and the animal techniques and kempo I noticed that there is always a block and a step to begin the technique. But, is that how attacks happen? In a sporting event, more so, however, enemies tend to jump you from unexpected directions with unexpected attacks. This step with a block thing is either a carry-over from competition / point sparring or a poorly contrived teaching tool. Since, I teach this way( step with a block), we will leave the training tool thought alone 🙂 . The carry-over from competition teaches some concepts that are not self defense minded. As such, these tendencies require a clear perception of their context and to be drilled very little, if self defense is the main focus of your training.

As I practiced and “worked” my material I realized that a third option exists. What if, through these movements and angles (step and block) we are being told to keep a live hand and being given the most effective angle of response to an attack…
In a form we cannot be told how to get to a specific angle in relation to the enemy, because a violent situation is a dynamic and fluid thing. What forms do give us is the optimum directionality of response to an attack. I submit that so do our numbered combinations and kempo and animal techniques. Combination #3 for example steps left towards 11:00 and then pivots to 2:00. 2:00 is the optimal angle for our self protection violence. At this angle we have effectively reduced the capacity of the left hand and leg to attack us while exposing several choice targets for our free weapons. That first step is an attempt to illustrate the “how” of getting there. It is not the most effective move, yet the concept and principle hold a fundamental position in Shaolin Kempo “theory of movement”. Combination #18 teaches us…no…no… wait…the meaning of cat stances let me save for another time. Combination #33 teaches a direct center angle, while # 34 manipulates the attacker’s body to create an angle that also checks off their weapons and exposes specific targets for our counter and MSK manipulation. Our direction of force is shown through the directionality of our center / hara. The block is simply a tool to make sense of the how we get to that angle and to maintain the integrity of never having a dead hand. Drill combination #2 and have the back-2-knuckle blocked by your partner. Then take the angle necessary for combination #3 using the initial “block of the combination to rotate your attacker’s body counter clockwise while clearing the arm and, continue with the combination until, again, your partner blocks the back-2-knuckle. Adapting combination #5 to the outside, use the initial block to keep contact with the offending limb, extend the left hand to strike the face and follow up with the back-2-knuckle. The attacker can block it again but the concluding kick of combination #5 (going to the knee) ends the drill. Use this as a flow drill 2 then 3 then 5 and find how necessarily alive the “blocking “ hand must be in a self defense situation. It is fun and a good way to work you techniques. This way we can learn to do good Shaolin Kempo, through practicing the combinations with precision, presence, power, control, understanding, correct rhythm, timing and drill them for self defense.

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6 Responses to A block is a strike and a strike is a block and also…

  1. Shaun says:

    Excellent post. I hope you continue to expand on this topic…I think breaking down the concepts and drilling it for a realistic self defense situation has a lot of value and is often missed in dojo settings. I’ve always struggled with how to apply the combinations in a self defense situation.

  2. Marlon says:

    Hello Shaun,
    Thank you for the compliment. Have you discussed this topic with your instructor?
    I certainly agree that these core elements of our system need to be drilled in a realistic manner with an understanding that competition training does not usually translate to self defense training and preparation. Our system is well suited for self defense, but we need to work the elements the right way. I will make a short video of the drill I described and maybe a few more. I seem to be in a writing phase at this time, so definitely more to come.

  3. marlon says:

    Hello Shaun,
    Let me know if this helps to illustrate some of the points I make above:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9vS1BSBpXc

    Cheers

  4. matt says:

    Marlon – your flow drill video has been sent to me on Facebook (the circle of life?). I think there is demand for a post fleshing out the theory and practice regarding this. Please feature and expand your drill!

  5. Marlon says:

    Hello Matt,
    The facebook posting surprised me, actually! I will touch base with you to discuss and see if I can produce what you are asking.

  6. Marlon says:

    The drills are ways of training the skills taught through our techniques and forms. The goal is to be able to apply the skills and principles taught through the combinations and forms naturally and effectively in a situation of violence. Often practice occurs using the distance, timing and rules of a competitive event. That is all well and fine but it is not the situation of being jumped or set upon by multiple attackers. We all hate some of the techniques we learn, however, that is mostly due to the artificial context with which we are taught. I cannot say I hate any of them any longer. Breaking down the techniques into component parts and working the application of that component part serves to increase skill. Practice on a live, resisting opponent from very close in (not “sparring” distance ) represents a study in the protection skills of our techniques that has been a game changer for me. The theory is one we all preach: Dojo martial arts and competitive practice have their place; yet, they do not prepare a student for the reality of a violent confrontation. Something as simple as the fact that our cross and cover is a constant reminder that escape is the goal…not beating an opponent, is crucial to self protection. It is a different mentality. The way we practice is to use Embu, the regular step through punch practice, forms practice, reaction drills and the type of drills in the original post and on the vid, to work up to kempo sparring. This improves skill and the ability to protect ones self and others from criminal violence. I still owe a vid on combination 3. I will add some of the drills in there and hopefully illustrate well enough my points. Of course, this is just my way, how I have worked my understanding and development of shaolin kempo…and I am forever a student, so…

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