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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Philosophy » Action with effect keeps an opponent in check

Action with effect keeps an opponent in check

A couple of weeks ago, our Kenpo school had a sparring class with a first time sparring student.  As a newly-minted yellow belt, 7 year old boy, he did a fantastic job of overcoming his fear, putting on the pads, and practicing what we’ve been doing in class.  While he made the normal first time mistakes you’d expect of bad stances and not keeping his hands up, he did do something interesting.  He kept running through the punches of the other kids who sparred with him. They’d hit him, but it wouldn’t slow him down.

Action with effect keeps an opponent in check

Action with effect keeps an opponent in check

Kenpo has a philosophy which applies in this situation: Action with effect keeps an opponent in check. In this instance the action was the punching, kicking, and stance movement with the check being keeping the sparring partner at bay.  The yellow belt’s sparring partners were making contact with their punches and kicks, but not strong enough.  So their action had no effect.

Why is this so important? In a fight or flight situation, you’re potentially only going to have a few seconds to defend yourself.  As such, every movement must count and be effective.  Effective action doesn’t only have to be the strength of the hit, but also the correct target.  Hitting someone in the arm may hurt but probably wouldn’t slow them down.  With the same power though, a kidney shot or strike to the face can stop someone in their tracks. The action you chose to take, a punch for instance, had better work. It needs to connect to the right target hard enough to keep your assailant distanced from you, out of the fight, set up your next attack, or cause him to run.  All of these are versions of “checked”.

Back to the story, in a martial arts school sparring scenario, you shouldn’t practice fighting hard enough to hurt people.  You should connect, and it should be hard enough to hold the opponent back.  Not take his head off.  So in class, everyone got a lesson in “It’s ok to hit when we’re sparring”.

It’s normal for kids to not want to hit hard enough to hurt, especially the age 10 and under group.  But where possible it should be selectively corrected to make practice effective.  The kind of practice where one person attacks just hard enough to force the opponent back and the other defends and counters just hard enough to reciprocate.

While the “Action with effect keeps an opponent in check” philosophy is a requirement to learn for green belt, it’s applicable for all ages and ranks.  And all of the kids understood the message even if it will take additional practice to adopt.  It’s a goal we’ll continue to work on in future sparring classes.

Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

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