Sunday, June 16, 2013


Last weekend, we had the honor of heading to Houston to train with Sigung Burt Vickers and his students. As always, Sigung Vickers provided a welcoming environment and excellent training as well as allowing Sifu Grant the opportunity to share variations on standard techniques we've been working on. I'll showcase a few of those modifications -such as the "Big Man" techniques- in future posts but today I'll be focusing on a portion of the training session involving the element of surprise and how it affects our reactions.

Most of the time, we practice specific techniques in a prepared manner. In other words, we know what is coming and what technique we are planning on using against it. This is a critical method for developing skills in the same way that basketball players practice jump shots, dribbling, and free throws. However, just as with basketball, things change drastically when the scenario is no longer strictly under our control. This is why it is important to mix things up in training. Other martial arts do this through free-form sparring, however, Kajukembo is not very well-suited to sparring; it's not a fighting or sporting art as much as a self-defense art.

To provide a sense of surprise, Sigung Vickers had us do a version of the "bull in the ring" which involved a known set possible attacks but what was unknown was which of those attacks each person would choose. We did rounds of grabs, punches, clubs, and knife attacks. Each of these general categories of attack consists of a few basic types and it was which type of attack that was the unknown.

For example, with a knife there are only a few basic possible attacks; slash, thrust, and overhead. Sure, the nuances of each attack (angle, speed, etc.) may differ but those are the basics. So, one student would enter the ring and be attacked by each other student in turn. The attack could be any of these three basic types because we train defensive techniques for each. What's interesting is that, even given the limited set of possibilities, not knowing which is coming this time can leave you doing a rather embarrassing imitation of Lucille Ball. In training this may be embarrassing, but during a mugging that reaction may be deadly.

As the training session progressed, you could definitely see that there were certain techniques that were the "go to" techniques for each person in a particular situation. Part of the beauty of Kajukembo is that many of the techniques work equally well in different circumstances. A haymaker is similar enough to an outside club swing, for example, that similar techniques can often be used against both.

It's important to reduce the natural surprise reaction to an unexpected threat. Incorporating this sort of surprise training into your sessions can make you better at reading the body language that precedes an attack. More important, it can steady your reactions and help you mount the appropriate defense and counter-attack.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

White Belt - Yellow Belt: A Guest Post

Mario Castro Jr. is a new student of Kajukembo under Sigung Burt Vickers and has written an essay describing what he has learned in his progress to Yellow Belt. His perspective is well-thought out and captures the core of Kajukembo. 
White Belt - Yellow Belt
Mario Castro Jr., Student of Sigung Burt Vickers, K.S.D.S.

Being a new student to GM R. Peralta’s KAJUKEMBO SELF DEFENSE SYSTEMS, I am attempting to explain what would be (in my opinion) the most important lesson to be learned at this level. That would be, one’s own balance. In order to understand why, we must first look at a primary dogma taught to students. Within K.S.D.S. we must understand our principle of speed, power, and accuracy which coincide with mind, body, and spirit.

To the right, is a chart which I will use to explain my theory. As you can see there are two columns and  three rows. It is to be read from top to bottom and left to right.

1.       Accuracy : Mind
2.       Power : Body
3.       Speed : Spirit

First, let us begin with the mind, where all things like ideas and imagination live. The Dojo is where we have new seeds of ideas planted by our Teacher. We are to do our best to remember the techniques taught while using our imagination during personal practice.  Slowly, thru meditating on the actions being performed, we begin the search for mental balance. As we continue on we see the beginning of patience within ourselves with the creation of discipline and only a glimpse of accuracy.

The body, which is used by the mind to move from one area to the other and to suffer the tension of muscles while maintaining a stance. We begin to understand the use of our bodies and the power it can create within a limited space. This is also the purpose of the octagon, to use it for our movement, attack and defense of self. We learn to use angles, lines and circles to create opportunity, disruption of balance, and weight transfer.  Finding balance while performing actions is like a child learning to walk for the first time, first falling then tripping and finally stepping with confidence. We are told to,” put our hip into it” or “drop your weight” but we will always lack power if we do not have stability which comes from balance.

Finally, speed will give us quick reflexes to what our spirit “feels” in the area. Some people call it a sixth sense, the repeated practice to create muscle memory which saves us from thinking. That precious moment when we need to react thru our senses, the tingling in the back of our neck, which warns us of danger. It becomes natural to not think but to just be in the moment as it is not as we think it is. Again, this can only be achieved by mastering the first two principles for if our mind has no accuracy, our body cannot generate power and our spirit will not be allowed to control our speed properly.

If one so chooses, in our crest we can see this in the root which is the clover. Three circles balanced on the tip of the triangle (circles & lines). Growing out of the basic techniques the three must be in balance in order to reach for the perfection of chi within.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

100% Natural

It has been a while since I've posted anything so I wanted to at least throw something up here to let you know the site isn't abandoned. 

Last night's TUF episode (Uriah Hall v. Bubba McDaniel) gave me an idea for a post but I need to think about it a bit before I write it. Hopefully, by this weekend I'll get around to it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Stomping the Bug

It's amazing how sometimes a concept can be explained to you 5,318 times (give or take) without it really clicking, but one simple comment can make it all clear. After that moment, it's difficult to see how you you ever failed to understand it. Today, Sifu Grant said something that explained the side kick so well that it actually made me stare at the ground for several seconds like a hippy on acid; my mouth hanging open, nearly drooling with idiotic bliss.

We were working on techniques that incorporate kicks today. After some roundhouse drills with a kicking shield and several rounds of Trick 6, we started working on Grab 7. Although the technique originally incorporated a roundhouse kick, Sifu Grant modified this technique to use a sidekick. After a few rounds of Grab 7, another student and I weren't delivering the power that Sifu Grant expected from the side kick. It turns out, we were essentially doing a leg extension from the knee. This means that the power is generated entirely from the quadriceps, which aren't sufficiently strong to drive through your opponent. This failing was not because of a lack of instruction from Sifu Grant; he had demonstrated and explained the kick many times in the past. We had done many kicking drills and had broken down the kick step by step.

For some unknown reason, I just didn't "get it." It seemed like I was doing it correctly when broken down, but when I tried to put it all together something was missing. I just couldn't connect the dots. Today Sifu Grant presented the analogy that brought it all together for me.

"It's like stomping a bug. The bug is just on the other guy's body."

It's a simple analogy that got my mind whirling. All of a sudden, images of everything we had worked on in the past flew through my head. It just made sense. Drive from the hamstring and the butt, not the knee and quad.

In retrospect, I can see exactly how the instruction I had received should have produced the proper technique. Sifu Grant had taught me everything I needed to know to do it correctly. I'm still reeling from the fact that I didn't get it before. All the pieces were there, I just failed to recognize how they fit together. It's kind of like watching a murder mystery. It isn't until the big a-ha moment when the detective points his finger and tells you that the butler did it that you're able to put the puzzle together. You're left thinking, "Well, no kidding. Of course he did."

So if you're not delivering power with your side kick despite the instruction you've been given, just remember to stomp the bug.