2013 was one of those years when you take two steps forward and one back, it did have some great highlights though. This blog is more about some of the things that have happened in the past year and a look into the future. American Kenpo (AK) still remains a focus point for me and in February 2014 will see my 33rd anniversary in the art of AK. For those that have never experienced the art of AK, I would strongly suggest you take a look. During the year I read a quote by someone who considers AK a weak system. Most of us that have been around for a while understand that any chain is only as strong as its weakest link and AK is no different. Over the years so many people have started to teach AK that in some camps it now looks like a distant copy of an even worse copy, which again is no different from any other martial art. However such a broad statement of a system that has been around for the length of time that AK has is not justified, there are different variations of instructors, but the way the system was designed has yet to be matched, which is my opinion. It was designed to evolve which to many instructors is an excuse to teach what they want, but that’s not the essence of what the evolution of AK should be like.
During the past decade there has been an explosion of reality based combative arts and I have added to that myself with Volitional Attention Training which I will discuss later, for now I want to cover a problem that a lot of these instructors have in these reality based arts and that is the question of how to teach a combative art that has to be completely variable and be able to adjust to the ever-changing environment of a fight. Let’s face it how do you teach individuals to know how to change to a void of different techniques that nobody can predict? or just teach a few moves and hope you do not get attacked in a way that is not covered in what you teach!
Well that’s the difference between a method of teaching something and to be honest, just winging it! To help anyone understand how this can be achieved all I need to do is take you back to when you were a young child learning to get to grips with communicating to your parent. You start at a very early age usually between one and a half years old and three, before you can talk yourself you begin to understand language and meaning, you learn the meaning of simple words but have no ability to talk. So how do you start? You learn the good old alphabet A through to Z and you start with simple Phonetics “Aaaaa, Baaaa, Caaaa” and so on. Eventually you are capable of putting short words together, then sentences and so on until eventually you are able to write. Now once you have achieved this ability your are able to write whatever you want as long as it makes sense, others can read it, and it follows the rule of your particular language. Well that is exactly how any movement based combative art works as well, or at least it should do, you have to know basics, once you have them and are capable of putting them together in a pattern that follows the rule of fighting then you have your method, if you do not follow this procedure then what you have is chaos and your students will soon fail at following your mind.
During the year I had the honour to teach at a few events where students from other arts were present and the one thing that stood out was their ability to be open to learn, even though some of the techniques were not what they were used to. What was evident was the students and their instructors were not held down or tied to a process that restricted them and that’s the way it should be, sharing and learning from different people and different arts. Eddie Quinn and his group were a prime example of this, along with others, such as the Sacred Springs Group, GIMA, and my High Wycombe guys, Steve and Julian and their students and not of course to forget my good friends in Holland. It is groups like these that make the journey worthwhile. Closer to home everyone in the BKKU contributed to an excellent year. Over the years one thing has become apparent and that is that getting a Dan grade within the art that I teach is not an easy path, with only one Dan grade moving up in 2013 Mr O White from 1st to 2nd and no Dan grades. It’s been a quite year, plenty getting to Black to start the long road ahead of consolidating and training to test for 1st Degree Black – I am looking forward to seeing what happens in 2014.
In October 2013 I launched Volitional Attention Training (V. A. Training) this has been something that I have been working on since the early days when Rapid Impact Combatives was launched, the trouble was the title did not encapsulate where I wanted to go with it and as expected there are now people in the martial arts world that say I am no longer teaching AK, again nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that AK does not hold all the answers, as the animal which is violence is a massive one. Ed Parker Jr for example has launched what he calls Paxial Arts, a method designed to teach primarily children how to “not get caught up in a physical confrontation” how to take the aggressive movements and not return them with hard strikes or kicks, it’s not Kenpo but it’s still very effective for that very specific part of violence and I personally believe that it has its place right at the bottom of the social violence ladder with a cross over into some areas of higher intended violence. However as you begin to climb this ladder the aggression and violence changes. The bottom rungs are your low-level bully tactics that involve violence that is threatening, with an escalation to strikes. What we then have is everything in between that is not A Social violence, this includes all martial arts and sport applications, maybe a project for 2014 should be the categorisation of this ladder of violence! unless it’s already been done. A social violence is at the top and primarily includes WAR and situations when an individual is actually trying to kill you, period! It’s this level that V.A. Training is designed for, right at the top of the ladder of violence. It seems logical that to cover all areas of violence you will need knowledge that would take several lifetimes to achieve.
There two areas that are lacking within the combative arena and these are psychology and body control procedures, all to often what I see is a concentration on physical technique. I am not saying before anyone gets on their high horse that technique is not important, as quite obviously it is. What I am saying is that physical techniques make up for maybe 50% of what you should be training in, it could be as low as 30% with the rest of the 70% divided between psychology (mental training) and internal body control (breathing). there are some arguments that the majority of the time should be concerned with mental preparation rather than physical, today most have it about-face with the majority of time spent on physical application of techniques. In the future once individuals really understand this, I predict a massive change of focus. In 2013 I really started to push the psychology behind weapon training and the negative loop mechanism, just about everyone that understood it, got it! Let’s see how long it takes to filter into the mainstream. What was great to see is that groups that have taken this on board in the past have now altered their training procedure to reflect positive training loops that support spontaneous reflexive actions. V.A. Training is all about creating this balance and ensuring that the training uses the most up to date processes with regard to psychology and internal control systems. In 2014 I will be licensing V.A. Training out to instructors of other arts who have already gained experience and knowledge in what ever their style is, as V.A. Training only deals with the top of the ladder violence.
Looking forward further into 2014 will see my second book on the shelves, the next one is a step up from the last and covers the in-depth knowledge that V. A. Training is based on, check out a couple of the last blogs in 2013 as they will give you a flavour of the material to be covered.
If there are any areas that readers of my blog would like to see featured next year drop me a message and thank you to everyone who has visited this site and taken the time to read my material.