AIK Coach's Corner: Truth

Coach’s Corner Blog - Truth #1

For this month’s Coach’s Corner, we sit down with Mr. Pilch, co-founder of American Institutes of Kenpo. He took some time to chat with us about three important self-defense concepts that play out both on the street and in the courtroom: Proximity, Capabilty and Intent.

Andrew Pilch Card

Coach’s Corner: Mr. Pilch, at the top level, why are three three concepts important in street self-defense?

They’re three things somebody needs to have for you to be in a true self-defense situation. We teach patience and compassion here, because without them Kenpo is just organized thuggery. If someone has proximity and intent without the capablity, then we’re not justified in unleashing our Kenpo skills on that person. The same goes for somebody with the intent and capability without the proximity. Better to use your running shoes in that situation.

But when somebody has all three, then it’s your right -- and in my opinion, your moral obligation -- to defend yourself using as much violence as necessary.

Okay. A potential attacker needs Proximity, Capability and Intent to turn an uncomfortable situation into a dangerous one. Tell us a bit more about proximity.

Proximity just means that an attacker is close enough to hurt you. For an unarmed person, that’s close enough to hit or kick you after taking just one step. Weapons make that “circle of danger” larger. Randy Couture with a baseball bat can yell at me from the other side of a stadium all he wants. Unless he comes a lot closer, he’s not actually a legitimate threat no matter how much he could hurt me from up close. Put a hunting rifle in his hand, though, and the proximity changes.

What if the proximity changes?

Well, that’s where self-defense starts, isn’t it? A guy with the capability to harm you starts threatening you and moving into range, that’s a clear-cut case of self-defense. Especially if you do your best to keep him out of proximity by moving away, positioning a chair or car between you, or anything else you can do to escape. Morally and legally, if somebody takes action to keep you in range of an attack while you try to leave, you’re justified in using violence to stay safe.

But if you close the distance -- say, stepping up and getting in the face of somebody who insulted you -- well, that’s no longer self-defense. That’s you getting into a fight, which is stupid, immoral and illegal.

Rory Miller mentions this several times in his book Meditations on Violence. In a situation where you’re not sure about somebody, ask them to stand far enough away to not have proximity. It might feel a little awkward, but it’s a sure-fire way of forcing them to establish proximity if they want to harm you. It also lets them know you’re aware of the tactical situation, which in many cases will change an attacker’s mind.

What about capability?

Capability is whether or not somebody can actually hurt you, even when he’s in range and wants to. Most of us have been hit or kicked by an angry toddler at one time or another...and we all know hitting the child back would not be acceptable. He has proximity and intent, but no capability.

Unarmed, size is the most important factor here. I’d say in general anybody 70% your size or larger has the capability to harm you without a weapon. In court, somebody smaller will definitely get the attention of the prosecutor, who will make sure the jury notices the size difference. This is just a rule of thumb, though, so don’t whip out your calculator if somebody starts becoming aggressive with you.

It’s also important to remember that your capability is part of the moral and legal landscape here. You’re a trained martial artist, and that fact will come up in court. You have an ethical and lawful responsibility to only protect yourself as much as is necessary. Our kenpo techniques don’t demonstrate this very well.

Ha! Like Blinding Sacrifice, for example?

Right! A guy grabs your shoulders, so you spear him in the eyes a couple of times, break his jaw with a knee strike, then bust most of the bones in his foot on the way out? After the first eye rake, his capability is severely limited. You’re probably better off shoving him away, then moving out of proximity.

What’s not fair is that people who don’t train generally think martial artists are much more capable fighters than we actually are. You can blame Hollywood for that. This doesn’t matter during a self-defense situation -- you must do everything you can to survive -- but it will come up in the court battle later.

Good point. What about the third concept? Intent?

If I was sitting right next to you holding a karambit knife, I’d have proximity and capability to hurt or kill you, right?”


But we’re friends, plus I don’t have a reputation for gutting people at random. So you know I don’t intend to hurt you. Even though proximity and capability are there, I have no intent. It wouldn’t be a self-defense situation.

I see. But I only know that because I know you, and I know other people who think well of you. What if you’re a stranger? That knife and your proximity would make me nervous.

That’s right. If it’s a stranger, you have to gauge whether or not there’s real intent. And, of course, predators aren’t going to be honest about that kind of thing. I have two pieces of advice on this tricky subject.

Okay. What’s the first?

Go with your gut. Gavin DeBecker tells us in The Gift of Fear that our bodies have evolved an incredible ability to read small signs about whether or not somebody means us harm. The total of those little things -- body language, eye contact, voice tone, etc. -- that we don’t pick up individually are what we call “intuition.” If your subconcious mind is telling you somebody’s dangerous, listen to it.

And the second?

Force the proximity issue. Walk away. Ask the person to back off or stay at a distance. If that person doesn’t mean you harm, it will be a little embarrassing. But if he does, he has to ignore your request to keep or establish proximity. Then you know his intent, and can act on it without hesitation.

Thanks so much, Mr. Pilch. If people have more questions, they can comment here or reach out to you on Facebook, right?

Exactly. And my pleasure.

Coach’s Corner Blog - Truth #2

For this month's Coach's Corner we have the privilege of bringing you words from AIK Master Council Member Lee Wedlake, Jr. Master Wedlake is one of the few surviving direct students of Kenpo founder Ed Parker, a published author, and all-around expert in all things Kenpo. He was kind enough to share with us his thoughts on the Purpose of Forms (used with permission from the author) from his book Kenpo Compendium published by Blue Snake Books.

This book is required reading for all AIK Black Belts and we strongly suggest that you pick up a copy from your AIK School or at Mr. Wedlake’s website link as follows:

In our system, forms act as a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or an appendix -- they define, describe and preserve information.

A dictionary will give one or more definitions of a word. If you were to look up "Kenpo," the dictionary would tell you the correct spelling and pronunciation, and might even have a phrase incorporating its use. But this is basic knowledge, without much context.

An encyclopedia provides more in-depth knowledge. Under an entry for "Kenpo" in an encyclopedia, you might find a description of its origins, history, outstanding qualities, and philosophy. There would be much more about the subject of Kenpo, not simply the definition of the word.

Additional or related information is found in an appendix. The annual appendix to the Encyclopedia Brittanicaupdated information found in earlier volumes. Some things change or new information is discovered. The appendix fills this void.

In Kenpo, the first four forms act as dictionaries. They provide basic information and exercises. A brief "definition" of the movement is illustrated. Repetition of some movements creates the exercise component and some context.

The rest of the forms are encyclopedia forms, the knowledge-in-depth. They elaborate on how to apply the basic movements, and the concepts are developed further.

Our sets are like the appendix, pointing out other facts a student should be aware of, such as finger formations or kicking. Sets are defined as "additional, related information" -- basically a form containing supplementary information.

The Western Chinese often use "set" and "form" interchangeably, but in our system it's a form with related information. "Standards" are the set patterns taught with their widely used interpretations, so "standards" and "sets" are also somewhat interchangeable terms.

Forms are a wonderful tool for developing many physical qualities. By practicing forms correctly, you will see improvement in the following:

Attributes including speed, power, balance, timing and rhythm

Physical fitness factors like endurance, strength, flexibility and cardio-vascular fitness

Finding physical, emotional and spiritual centers

You can derive numerous mental benefits from forms practice as well, beginning with how the exercise releases endorphins: chemicals in the brain that promote a feeling of well-being in most people. The mind and body connection is experienced in a well-executed form. Below are some of the benefits:

Mental visualization and speed

Perception of things internal and external

Balance between right and left brain

Awareness of how the upper and lower body work together

Awareness of how the limbs move in relation to the torso

Insights into the bulk of Kenpo's technical knowledge

Finding your center

Be sure to get your copy of Lee Wedlake’s book - THE KENPO KARATE COMPENDIUM - today!

Coach’s Corner Blog - Truth # 3

Bullying. You hear a lot about it, and every kid experiences it from one side or another before she leaves school. Most adults deal with it from time to time at work and in social situations. But just because you can’t avoid it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

Mr. Knight has taught martial arts for 24 years, worked in corrections and talked with teachers from all over the country. We took a few minutes to sit with him and talk about this important and urgent topic.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is when one person uses superior power, or the appearance of superior power, to force somebody else to do what he wants.

The classic image of this is a big kid punching a smaller kid until the smaller kid gives up his lunch money, or says uncle, but that’s not the only kind of bullying. Socially putting down a less popular child to “look good” is bullying. So is a boss at work using his position to make unreasonable demands.

The other important thing to know about bullying is that whatever form it takes, it’s wrong to do. Being a bully is being a jerk.

Where does Bullying take place?

It can happen almost anywhere, but one key aspect of bullying is it only really works when somebody can’t just leave. Because of this, most bullying happens either at school, at work, or online.

What’s the best thing to do about bullying?

If at all possible, the best thing to do about bullying is tonot be around bullies. If somebody starts bullying you, leave. If somebody starts bullying somebody else, help the victim leave. If somebody’s saying mean things about you online, just block that person from your feed.

Bullies thrive on appearing powerful. If you don’t interact with them, they don’t get what they want out of the exchange. You rob them of their power, and their ability to bully you.

What if I can’t get away?

You can’t always escape bullying, for example being on a school bus where the driver won’t or can’t help. If you can’t leave the situation, take these steps:

1.Call it out. Point verbally or physically at the bully and say “Stop bullying me. Stop right now.”

2.Don’t engage with the bully. Whatever he says or does (short of hurting you or somebody else), just carry on with whatever else you were doing.

3.Report the bullying immediately to somebody with authority and responsibility.

4.Report the bullying, and who you reported it to, to your parents as soon as you get home. If you are an adult, record everything in a journal so you can use it later if legal action has to happen.

Remember, as a student in school it’s the responsibilities of the adults in charge of you to keep you safe. As an employee, it’s the job of the people up the chain of command to keep you safe. It’s totally okay to insist that they fulfill that responsibility. It’s even okay to insist over and over until something changes.

Should I use violence?

Not if you can help it. The movie narrative of a bullied person beating up the bully, then the bullying stopping, is false. Bullies like to fight, and have practice at it. Even with karate training, you might not “win” a fight. Even if you do, many bullies won’t leave you alone. They’ll come back later with friends or a weapon.

Worse, society doesn’t like violence. At school you’ll get suspended or expelled for fighting even against a known bully who started the fight. As an adult, attacking a bully will put you in jail and get you sued.

You should only use violence against a bully if that bully is being violent to you. Even in that case, you should only fight enough to get free and run away.

What about cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a special case in many, many ways. Let’s take time another day to talk about it in detail, and maybe get an expert on the subject in to give her take on it.

What smart thing didn’t I ask?

There are times in life where you just have to accept bullying. Maybe you have a teacher who’s a bully. Many adults have to deal with bosses who are bullies. Sometimes a police officer or security guard seems like a bully even when he’s not arresting you. In these cases, avoiding and even resorting to violence are Bad Ideas. Both will only make the situation worse.

The only thing to do about it is to keep notes on the bullying and do your best to deal with the situation until you can get out of it. Find out how to transfer to another classroom. Look for another job. Politely comply with the officer until you are free to go.

Then write down everything. Once you’re no longer under the power of the bully, go to the people in charge of him or her. Make a formal complaint, so that somebody else might stop the bullying.

Coach’s Corner Blog - Truth #4

Part of any practice is understanding and mastering the preparatory and ending steps of a process. Take wearing your uniform, for example. There are three stages to that task:

Stage One:Putting on a clean, pressed gi and tying your belt appropriately

Stage Two:Wearing your gi while training

Stage Three:Putting your gi away, respectfully, after practice

Abeginningstudent of the martial arts focuses only on Stage Two -- the exciting, fun stage where the gi is immediately useful and important. Anintermediatestudent of the martial arts pays mindful attention to all three stages of this process, understanding fully that Stages One and Three aren't things you do before and after you use your gi. They'repart ofusing your gi.

Anadvancedstudent of the martial arts not only observes all three stages in her training, she lets that mindful attention seep into every activity of her life. The activity of playing a board game isn't over until the pieces are put away. A conversation isn't over without a heartfelt expression of appreciation at parting. A road trip isn't over until the car is clean and its tank is full. This habit not only indicated mastery, but it makes each iterative time you do any given thing that much easier, because you've ended each time setting yourself up to succeed later.

An illustration of this in action surrounds your car keys and getting to and from work. You get home from work, tired and needing a bit of rest. You drop your keys haphazardly and go about your evening. The next morning, you can't find your car keys and spend fifteen minutes in a stressed-out search, then show up late to work. This makes you more tired and needing more rest at the end of the day. But, if youfinish your work dayby properly putting your keys away (considering that the last task of the work day process), the next day begins better. You get home less tired, needing less rest, and more likely to put your keys away.

We practice this each class by observing a traditional end of class procedure, taught down our lineage via Ed Parker and our own teacher Sigung Stephen LaBounty. In the macro sense, this process teaches the value of ending ritual and finishing tasks for any given activity, and at the micro level each step has significance. You've probably observed it on the deck dozens of times, but here's the full breakdown so you can give it mindful attention going forward:

Step One: Students line up in standard class formation, with the head instructor standing in front of the most senior student. All assistant instructors stand to the head instructor's right.

Step Two: The head instructor calls forward the most senior student.

Step Three: The head instructor and student salute one another, using the traditional gesture to show respect for the past that made modern martial arts possible.

Step Four: The head instructor and student exchange a handshake, celebrating the present and their relationship as student and teacher.

Step Five: The head instructor and student exchange a hug, together embracing the future their shared training makes possible.

Step Six: The student moves down the line of instructors and students, exchanging the salute, handshake and hug with each.

Step Seven: When the student reaches the end of the line, he stands facing the rest of class.

Step Eight: Steps two through seven are repeated with the next most senior student.

Don't hesitate to reach out in person, via email, or on social media if you have any questions about this process and what it means. The staff at AIK Tucson is always ready to serve you. It's as much a part of our job as teaching class on the deck.

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