Friday, November 12, 2010

Kenpo Sparring

Mr. Parker described the four ranges of combat as Out of Range, Contact Range, Contact Penetration Range, and Control Manipulation Range. Each range requires a different mental approach and a different set of physical techniques.

Most of the Kenpo techniques take place within the last two ranges. Contact Penetration and Control Manipulation. Most karate style point sparring takes place within the first two ranges, Out of Range and Contact Range. One of the benefits of sparring practice is it helps us to learn how to move from the first two ranges to the last two. But this difference in range, and concomitant difference in attitude and technique gives rise to the question, "Why don't we see more Kenpo techniques used in sparring?"

The first thing to point out is that the self defense techniques are not designed to be used in sparring. Sparring is a very specific combat style activity which has very specific restrictions. Self defense techniques are designed for a different situation with different rules.

That being said, it's easy to see why this concern gets raised. Sparring can look like generic punch kick karate that has very little to do with kenpo. The important thing to remember is that you are using different techniques because of context and range, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some kenpo techniques that make the transition well.

Some good examples are using Fallen Sword or the first part of Penetrating the Wall against a jab, or using Deflecting Hammer against a kick, but changing the elbow strike to a reverse punch.

The key is to pick one technique, and then spar with it. One student uses only the attack for that technique, over and over and over. The other student uses only the specific assigned defense. After a few minutes, switch roles. Repeat this process with two or three techniques. Then begin again, this time using any of the attacks you've practiced, but only those attacks, while the other student uses any of the prescribed defenses. Finally, spar unrestricted, but focus on using the practiced defenses whenever the specific attacks are presented.

What you have to do is drill these defenses against attacks. If you've practiced your kenpo, these things will happen naturally, but it's easy for even an experienced kenpo practitioner to fall into the trap of using basic sparring maneuvers when playing that game.

Remember when sparring to always fire at least two strikes at a time. One strike will fail 99% of the time. Two strikes have a 50/50 chance of success, but three or more strikes will succeed 99% of the time. This will help you to stay in the kenpo mindset.

Combinations, practice, and repetition. That's how you get better at sparring, and working your kenpo into your sparring is the same.

Ultimately, sparring is an intermediate drill. As you progress in your training, you should move past karate style sparring into continuous sparring, and eventually into fully integrated combat style activities, involving stand up and ground grappling as well as street techniques and targets, always with control. During these activities, you will see more self defense technique material because these activities are more closely related to the arena for which that material was created.

Kenpo is designed for self defense, not sport. But we can blend it into our sparring with a little work, and ultimately that will make us better at both.

Drills -
Beginner: Option drill. Choose two kenpo techniques with similar attacks. Have your partner give you either attack and respond with the appropriate technique. Repeat.

Intermediate: Position Recognition. Spar normally at super slow speed. Occasionally pause during attacks and analyze your relative positions. Choose a kenpo technique appropriate to that position and execute that technique in a sparring context. Gradually increase speed.

Advanced: Free Combat. Paying special attention to safety and control, engage in unrestricted "street freestyle" using striking and grappling, standing and ground fighting. Incorporate kenpo techniques both standing and on the ground.

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