AIK Kenpo Seniors: Courtesy

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Courtesy #1

Let’s talk a little bit about courtesy. As an adult, you already know what it means. You already know why it’s important. But let’s look at how it evolved as a martial arts value and what it can do for you in your day-to-day life.

It probably started as a way to keep samurai alive. In any group of young men, tempers run hot. If those young men are given swords and taught how to use them, those tempers become deadly. They had to find a way to turn soldiers into warriors, which is what an ethical code does. Courtesy was one way to keep the tempers in line.

A century or so later, dojos were part of every major city and could be huge moneymakers...and if a student were to defeat or kill a head teacher, he then became the head teacher. Many of the bowing-in ceremonies are the way they are to make students more vulnerable than the teacher at the beginning and end of class. Military structure similarly used visible observances of courtesy to enforce discipline and establish routines, for the safety of both the officers and the rank-and-file troops.

This development isn’t unique to the Samurai, or even to Eastern martial cultures. Almost every warrior culture in the history of human society has a set of strictly observed courtesies designed to prevent deadly flares of anger, and to protect the structure of that society.

It’s a kinder, gentler world today...but courtesy is no less important to a warrior’s life. It makes your life better in three important ways:

1. Like in days of old, it makes your world less violent. This applies to both actual violence a poorly-timed remark can bring on, and to “emotional violence” of living in a space where personal attacks and unintentional slights are part of your environment. By simply being courteous, you create a sphere of more pleasant behavior around you.

2. It helps you get what you need. Your grandmother was right: saying “please” and “thank you” motivate people to go out of their way for you. This isn’t the most selfless reason to observe a bushido value, but it’s an important reality.

The third reason is more complex, and probably the most important. Being courteous is hard. It requires attention to detail, attention to others’ emotional states, self-control when you feel tired or offended. If you practice being courteous on a daily basis, especially in those situations where courtesy is hard, it builds your discipline.

If the Code of Bushido is an engine of growth and personal power, discipline is its fuel. Every opportunity you have to practice it builds you as a martial artist and as a warrior...and courtesy gives you opportunities almost every waking moment.

One of the tricky aspects of courtesy is that it’s a moving target. What’s perfectly acceptable having a meal with friends would be rude at Thanksgiving dinner with family. Looking one friend in the eye is courteous, while looking a different friend in the eye makes him uncomfortable. Formal speech and etiquette is important with some people, and actually insulting with others.

This makes courtesy one of the values that interacts most with other Bushido Values. You can use the values of Discernment and Compassion as guides for how to act when you’re not sure what’s actually courteous in a particular situation. Discernment can help you observe what others want or are feeling, to best know how to observe Courtesy for that person. Compassion makes you more open to the small signs that tell you whether you’ve made the right observation and choice in that department.

In short, courtesy is one of the best tools you can have in your lifetime toolbox. It’s up to you to keep it sharp and well-maintained.

The staff here at AIK is here to help you any time you need it, in as courteous a way as we can.

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Courtesy #2

Last month we looked at some of the history of courtesy as a Bushido Virtue, and how courtesy can help you in your martial arts, career, relationships and life. One important aspect of that exploration was how courtesy is nice for courtesy’s sake, but it’s also a highly powerful tool for developing your personal discipline and attention to detail.

This month, we would like you to take on an assignment to apply courtesy to exactly that purpose. Your mission, which we encourage you to accept, is to log 100 random acts of senseless courtesy.

A Random Act of Senseless Courtesy (RASC) is an intentional, unusual act of courtesy that others notice because it stands out. Some examples of RASCs include:

Dashing ahead of somebody for the express purpose of holding a door

Offering to help a stranger carry a heavy load

Making meaningful small talk with your waitress or the checkout guy at the store

Asking “How are you?” and meaning it, following up with additional questions

Meeting aggressive or rude behavior with sincere, cheerful politeness

Leaving a break room or other shared space cleaner than you found it

We’re sure you can come up with other examples on your own. The key is to be courteous in (a) places you wouldn’t normally be that courteous, (b) in ways that others notice and might learn from your example. You’ll also find that looking for them usually turns up far more opportunities than you would expect.

At 100 RASCs per month, you need to perform three per day to meet your goal. Keep track of your RASCs in a journal. Its format is up to you. It can be a diary where you write details of each event, a spreadsheet with 100 lines to fill in, a blog or Twitter feed, or a whiteboard in your office. How you keep track of your RASCs isn’t important. What’s important is that you keep track. It’s important for several reasons:

Keeping track of a thing you want to do makes you more likely to do it regularly. It keeps the behavior (in this case your RASCs) in your front-of-mind awareness.

Successfully filling in your journal is a way of celebrating your success. Even if you fall behind, each entry to put in is like checking off a box on your to-do list.

You can use this method for other things, whether it’s breaking a negative habit or a new practice you want to take on. Using it with Courtesy lets you practice and learn how to build the behaviors you want.

It can keep you cheerful with a consistent reminder of how well you’re doing on a challenging personal goal. Cheerfulness can mean motivation both for your other RASCs and for other things you’re working on during the day.

Check in with your instructors each week with your progress on your RASCs and your favorite RASC thus far. That will help you keep on track, and give you a chance to ask for help if you’re falling behind. Remember throughout this experience that it’s not just about’s about how practicing Courtesy will grow you as a martial artist and as a person.

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Courtesy #3

Kenpo has sometimes been called an “alphabet of motion.” Each basic is a letter. Each combination is a word. Each technique is a sentence. Kata are poems. In keeping with that idea, some of the words in the names of our techniques apply to a specific move or concept. Here is your glossary of Kenpo Keywords, to help you remember what each technique is.(Click Here for Part 1)(Click Here for Part 2)

Sacrificeis in any technique you execute without positional checks. Think of it like a sacrifice fly or sacrifice throw. You’re taking a little more risk in hopes of an even greater gain.

Squatting Sacrifice

Twirling Sacrifice

Blinding Sacrifice

Salutetechniques all include a heel palm strike to the opponent. The name comes from how closely the motion of a heel palm strike resembles some kinds of salutes.

Triggered Salute

Glancing Salute

Thrusting Salute

Stormrefers to any defense against an opponent armed with a club. Honestly, nobody we know has any idea why Grandmaster Parker chose “Storm” for that. But it’s consistent and reliable across the system.

Checking the Storm

Evading the Storm

Calming the Storm

Obstructing the Storm

Defying the Storm

Returning Storm

Brushing the Storm

Capturing the Storm

Securing the Storm

Clipping the Storm

Escape From the Storm

Circling the Storm

Swordshows up in any technique where you strike with the edge of your hand with a chopping strike. It refers to the blade edge of your hand, which is much like a sword. It’s also worth noting that you can perform almost any “Sword” technique using an actual sword.

Delayed Sword

Sword of Destruction

Sword and Hammer

Five Swords

Obscure Sword

Shield and Sword

Talontechniques are a defenses against a grab, a refernce to the talons of a bird gripping its prey.

Crossing Talon

Snaking Talon

Gripping Talon

Twinsdescribes techniques where you attack with both of your hands simultaneously.

Destructive Twins

Aggressive Twins

Twigrefers to your arms, just as “Branch” refers to your legs and “Leaves” refers to your fingers.

Captured Twigs

Twisted Twig

Snapping Twig

Spiraling Twig

Crossed Twigs

Wingis found in any technique where your elbows are important. In most cases, you’re hitting somebody with one of Kenpo’s many elbow strikes. In others, you’ve been grabbed in a lock that uses your elbow joint against you.

Locked Wing

Obscure Wing

Crashing Wings

Twirling Wings

Parting Wings

Circling Wings

Hooking Wings

Flashing Wings

Entangled Wings

Wings of Silk

Glancing Wing

Poetical Description

Several other techniques have names that, while they don’t include Kenpo Keyword vocabulary, have names that clearly or allegorically describe their action. The complete list is below. As you read them, think about how well the name describes key aspects of the technique. Understanding this helps you both better remember the technique, and better understand the lessons the technique is designed to teach.

Locking Horns

Scraping Hoof

Striking Serpent’s Head


Flight to Freedom

Begging Hands

Repeated Devastation

Thrusting Wedge

Tripping Arrow

Gathering Clouds

Twist of Fate

Heavenly Ascent

Menacing Twirl

Conquering Shield

Detour From Doom

The Back Breaker

Rotating Destruction

Glancing Spear

Deceptive Panther

Desperate Falcons

Falling Falcon

Prance of the Tiger

Fatal Deviation

Intellectual Departure

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Courtesy #4 (Assignment)

Testing time is coming up again, and as always you’ll have three different testing requirements:

1: Show understanding of the physical requirements for your belt: all the kata, techniques and basics associated with your desired rank

2: Complete any reading and knowledge requirements for your desired promotion

3: Finish your Bushido Courtesy Assignment

Your Bushido Courtesy Assignment is to identify three areas where you historically have trouble with courtesy. This could be verbal courtesy, like losing your temper with your family after a hard day. It could be physical courtesy, like how you sit in meetings at work or standing in ways that intimidate somebody. It might be something like driving too aggressively. Whatever it is, you’re already thinking of at least three.

Choose three days in the coming two weeks. You don’t have to set them ahead of time -- in fact it’s best to choose them on the day so you do it on days when you’re feeling your most resourceful. For each day, focus on remaining as courteous as possible in one of of the three areas you identified.

To be as courteous as possible, start with real mindfulness as you enter the situation. Mindfulness is simply being as aware as you can of what’s happening in any present moment. Bad habits -- and regularly being discourteous in any given situation is a bad habit -- start with not being mindful. They happen when you’re thinking more about what happened before or after, instead of the present. You’ll find staying mindful means you pay closer attention to the decisions that make up courtesy or discourtesy.

Apply this concept to each of the three days, and write up your experience and anything you learned. Make the paper as long or as short as you want, and share only as much personal experience as you feel comfortable with. Anything too close to your heart, you can keep to yourself -- you will have already internalized the lesson. Turn in your paper a few days before your test, and be prepared to talk about it with your coaches.

As always, our staff is available any time to help you with any questions or trouble you might have with this assignment.

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