Kenpo Seniors

L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior


Kenpo Seniors Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #1

The Bushido Value for this testing cycle in Bravery. Of all the Bushido Values, Bravery requires the least surface explanation because you’re already very familiar with it. You see images of physical courage in the movies you watch, in memes celebrating the bravery of our armed servicemen or police. Thoughts of physical bravery in the face of an attacker are among the main reasons you signed up for martial arts lessons here at Tucson’s Greatest Martial Arts academy (™). 

But that’s not the only kind of Bravery. Bravery is doing the hard things, even though you feel risk or fear. Here are six examples of people who were extremely brave, though outside of the traditional action and combat context most people associate with Bravery.


Malala Yousafzai (link to -- at the age of 17, Malala became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She received this reward for her advocating for women’s rights and girls’ education in Pakistan, despite warnings not to from and being shot by Taliban forces. She continues to speak out despite the death threats.

China’s Social Media Protesters -- social media and Internet access are closely monitored and strongly restricted in China. Despite this, social justice workers use coded language and mocking images to share information and call the government out on current and past excesses. Though this risks (and sometimes means) arrests, beatings and death, the protesters continue and have forced some progress towards a more just society. 

Scott Bonner (link to is in charge of the Ferguson, Missouri Public Library. During the riots, when the city offices closed, he kept the library open as a safe space for the community. When the schools closed for safety reasons, he invited children and educators to come to the library to continue their education. In areas where police and other city officials wouldn’t go, he kept the library open.

People in Recovery -- it can be easy to dismiss alcoholics and other types of addicts as somehow worse people than the rest of us. It’s true that while controlled by their addiction, addicts certainly do worse things than many other people. But to make the decision to accept the hard fact of what they have become, and then take on the extremely difficult work of fighting and overcoming that addiction -- that’s bravery at a level many soldiers and police never have to face. The same is true of people recovering from a major mental or physical trauma. The pain they know is coming, then face daily, is a terrifying prospect. And yet they meet that fear head-on. 

The Dalai Lama (link to -- they say you’re not truly awesome until somebody’s made a rule because of something you did. The Dalai Lama has annoyed the Chinese Government so much they passed a law making it illegal to be reincarnated without permission. (This is because the Dalai Lama is considered the reincarnated spirit of the same being, moving through a new body with each life). His Holiness lives in exile, away from the physical dangers he would face if he still lived in occupied Tibet. He doesn’t have to show physical bravery. But he does show the simple courage required to speak what he considers truth every day, despite the fact that it means living far from home and never being able to return. 

As you train in your kenpo during this training cycle, we want you to think about Bravery in the context of real life and the real world. Bravery in combat is expected of warriors, and again what probably brought you to AIK in the first place. But martial arts training is about personal evolution. Do you have the Bravery to identify and admit the things you don’t like about yourself, or even the things you do like but hold you back from being the person you want to be? Do you have the intestinal fortitude to make apologies to people you have wronged, and risk looking foolish as you learn new ways? Are you courageous enough to do the hard things that will make your life, and the lives of those you care about, better?

That’s what Bravery is about, and the code of modern Bushido. 

For a little extra Bushido Bravery, check out this video of Malala being interviewed by Jon Stewart. If you listen to her words, you’ll find out you’re even brave enough to cry a little. 

L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior


Kenpo Seniors Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #2

This month we’re going to look at bravery from the perspective of its opposite: fear. It’s been said in many contexts, by many brave people, that bravery is not the absence of fear. It’s doing the right thing even though you are afraid. By that definition, bravery can’t exist except when fear is also present. 

This is a powerful understanding of what bravery really is. It’s not putting on a No Fear t-shirt and never backing down from a bar fight. It’s identifying what wanting to fight says you’re really afraid of (usually looking or feeling like a “wimp”), then standing up to that fear.

Author and martial arts master Stephen Barnes says that all of our emotions come from just two prime emotions: fear and love. 

Emotions from love are always positive. They’re the emotions that fuel all of our Bushido Values, and create the life of service that true warriors strive to live. If you feel happy, it’s because you’re mindfully experiencing your love for something. If you feel proud, it’s because of accolades from people you love. Even sadness -- when it’s healthy, like proportional grief -- stems from the love you have for somebody. 

Negative emotions stem from fear. Jealousy comes from fear that you will lose somebody you love, or fear that you aren’t succeeding in your career enough to afford the things you want. Hatred always comes from the fear that somebody can hurt you physically, emotionally or socially. Stalkers (who think they’re acting from love) are acting from fear of losing somebody, or fear of not being adequate enough to have a relationship with the person they’re stalking. Anger comes from fear, often fear of the pain from a “weaker” emotion like sadness or embarrassment. 

As a martial artist, physical bravery in battle is one thing but it pales in comparison to having the courage to set aside emotions that come from fear.

But fear isn’t always something to set aside. As Gavin deBecker points out in his personal safety guidebook The Gift of Fear, it can be an early warning system that tells you when real threats are around you. This applies to real threats to your physical safety, like the fear you feel when a large person walks toward you in a dark ally. It also applies to some of those negative emotions. Sometimes you take an instant dislike to somebody -- which is caused by fear of losing something because of that person -- and find out the individual is untrustworthy or actually dangerous. 

Which brings us to your bravery project for this month. 

Over the course of this month, track the times you feel any negative emotion. You can do this in a journal, just mentally, or even publicly in a blog. We recommend making a brief note when it happens, then thinking about it at length later -- but whatever process works best for you is what you should do. 

When you have time, think deeply about that negative emotion. Look for the fear behind it. Identify what loss or pain that negative emotion is protecting you from...and then do the hard part. 

Look at that fear: that belief that a person or situation can cause you lose something or fear pain. Identify its source, then analyze it logically and with as little emotion as possible. Can the person or situation actually cause the loss or pain that you fear? Or is it an illusion you can safely walk away from?

Understanding that difference will make a massive and empowering difference in your life. Don’t worry about acting on that understanding yet. For this month, just build the habit of identifying and qualifying your fears. That’s what true bravery is all about. 

L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior


Kenpo Seniors Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #3

After even a little bit of kenpo training, you’ve figured out how to strike quickly. Our katas and techniques are full of rapid-fire attacks throwing strike after strike into the softest parts of an opponent. 

But force equals acceleration times mass. Speed is only half of the equation. 

You can’t actually get bigger when you enter into conflict, but kenpo training teaches three ways to insert additional power into your techniques by maximizing how you use and apply your mass. These three Power Principles deal with the three physical dimensions: height, width and depth. 


Rotation and Torque (Width)


If you keep your body straight from head to toe, you can attack with only what mass is present in the limbs you strike with. But if you twist at one or more important points, you rotate more parts of your body…bringing all of their mass, plus the power of the muscles pushing the rotation, into the strike. 

You see this first with your straight right punch. Try it while moving just the arm, then when you twist your hip to drive it forward. Finally, begin the push with a rotation of your leg. Each hits much harder than the last, because of that rotational torque. 

Pop quiz: name three techniques and one piece of a kata that strongly illustrate Rotation and Torque. 


Inertia and Backup Mass (Depth)


Punching with just your arm puts only the mass of your arm behind your strike. Thugs and other untrained people might use a roll of quarters or similar object to add mass to that arm, but the final force of impact is still limited.

Instead, trained martial artists practice punching with not the arm, but with as much of their body as they can. This is true of every strike in kenpo (even headbutts), and allows for even small strikes to hit with devastating power. 

Bruce Lee’s one-inch-punch is an example of this in action. Although his fist moved only a couple of centimeters, it traveled with the mass of his entire body behind it. In kenpo, you first see this in action when you learn to put your hips into your front kicks. Once you learn it there, you begin to see it in everything. 

Pop quiz: name three techniques and one move from a kata that are made more powerful by inertia and backup mass.


Marriage of Gravity (Height)


9.8 seconds per second. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law. 

A law of physics. The earth attracts objects to it, which is why your keys go all the way to the ground when you accidentally drop them. Any strike you deliver that moves in the direction of gravity adds the power of gravity to its impact, and the more of your body you include in that motion, the more impact the gravity has. 

For a brutal example of this in action, watch this video of Judo champion Rhonda Rousey using marriage of gravity to possibly break the ribs of a chauvinistic reporter. VIDEO LINK

In that case, Rhonda literally fell on the reporter, marrying almost her entire body weight to the acceleration of gravity. When you watch senior kenpo students perform techniques, you’ll notice that many stomp for no readily apparent reason. The reason is marriage of gravity, adding a little bit of falling to the power of the strikes the deliver at the same time.

Pop quiz: name three techniques and one piece of a kata where marriage of gravity is evident.  


Bonus Concept: Borrowed Force


This fourth Power Principle can be applied on its own, or in combination with any or all of the other Power Principles in any situation.  Borrowed force is when you use your opponent’s force and momentum against him, adding the mass and acceleration behind them to the impact of your own strike. 

You see this tragically in head-on auto collisions. Two cars traveling down the highway at 60 mph going the same direction might collide at just 40 mph if the rear car hit the lead car. It they hit head on, they would strike at 120 mph and do far more damage to the car and its riders. 

In kenpo, consider the block in Avoiding Hawk. When you block that incoming attempted grab, the impact on your attacker’s forearm is everything you put into the block plus everything he put into the punch. Your ulna bone is also achingly familiar with this principle after any intense blocking drills you do with a partner. 

At first glance, you might be tempted to call this stolen force because your opponent certainly doesn’t give it to you voluntarily. But look at it this way: you give it back to him right away, with interest!

L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior


Kenpo Seniors Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #4

Yep, we’re going to ask you to show bravery this cycle. 

The good news is we’re not going to ask you to go save a sorority girl from a gang of bikers. We’re not going to ask you to go ten rounds with Holly Holm. We’re not even going to ask you to jump into cold water or rip a band-aid off on the first try. 


We’re going to ask you to do something much, much worse. 


Your assignment for this cycle is to decide between two choices:


Mend a broken relationship you wish was better, or back in your life

Make good something you did wrong in the past


Mend a Broken Relationship


We’re not talking about that high school buddy you haven’t called in a few years, but who’s probably on your Facebook feed. We’re talking about somebody who used to be a friend, and you played a part in screwing that up. Everybody has someone like that in his or her life. You’re already thinking of someone, maybe an ex or a relative or somebody you were once very close with. 

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to complete this assignment in the month before testing, but on your honor it’s your job to begin the conversations that might lead to repairing this valuable part of your life that somehow got broken. If you’ve never done this, you will be surprised how much courage it takes to make that first phone call or schedule that first face-to-face over coffee. 


Make Good Something You Did Wrong in the Past


By the time you’re an adult, you’ve committed a sin or three. We’re not talking about everyday screwups or little insults people accidentally or negligently do to each other all the time. We’re talking about serious wrong you’ve done. Maybe as a kid you stole candy from a neighborhood store. Maybe you were violent with somebody who didn’t deserve it. Maybe you ignored someone who needed your attention and help. Whatever it is, you know in your heart the situation you need to go fix. 

Now go fix it. If you stole something as a kid, find the shop, apologize and pay for it. If you bullied somebody, find him and tell him how glad you are that he turned out okay -- or try to help if he didn’t turn out okay. Like the relationship challenge above, there’s a solid chance this will take more than a month. But it’s your job to start the process this month, and follow it through to its conclusion. 

Write about your experience to the degree that you're comfortable. As a martial arts student, you should have the bravery to tell your own personal stories to people you trust -- but giving all the details of the situation might mean telling personal details about somebody else. Your write-up should include the information you feel you should share about what went wrong about the situation or relationship you chose to address, what you did to fix it, what you still need to do, and how it felt. Turn it in a week before testing, and include a brief note about whether of not you're comfortable asking questions about this in public. 


One note about this assignment. It’s different (and in one important way worse) than other assignments you will do on your way to your Black Belt. It relies in part on the actions of others. Everything else you’ll be asked to do, you and only you get to decide whether or not you succeed. This task assumes the person you try to make amends with is willing to have amends made. 

That’s okay. The real bravery happens in opening the conversation, admitting you were wrong and putting yourself out there as willing to make good. If the person in question refuses you, you’ve still fulfilled the assignment. You’ve shown bravery, and made an honest effort in making the world better. 

Nobody can ask more of you than that. 

Whatever It Takes - Until The Last Day