Standard 5 #1


Standard 5s (Five Count Techniques) are crowd favorites for American Kenpo practitioners.

The technique Five Swords is one such example of techniques like Standard 5s. In the Tony Martinez Sr. lineage we practice variations of Standard 5s to explore variations in weapons, targets, and intents within the same general flow.

The Technique


Defense Against: a step-through right-handed punch – can be against a “hay maker” or a straight punch.

  1. The attacker steps in with a Right-Handed Punch about head level
  2. You step in toward 1:30 and executes an Inward Block with the right hand – your left hand is checking low in a Neutral Bow
    • Stepping off the line of attack creates a margin for error in avoiding getting hit by the incoming punch
    • The block should make contact below the elbow to prevent the attacker’s arm from wrapping around the block
  3. Execute a Backfist to the attacker’s temple with the right hand
  4. While twisting to generate torque with the Backfist execute a left Heel-Palm strike to the attacker’s chest as you shift into a Forward Bow and you chamber your right hand for an Uppercut
  5. Unwind into a Neutral Bow as you execute right Uppercut to the attacker’s solar plexus, the left hand is checking at head height
  6. Shift into a Forward Bow as you execute a left Heel-Palm to the attacker’s chest and draw the right hand back to check attacks coming in on your right side as well as setting up for a Hammer-Fist
  7. Unwind into a Neutral Bow as you execute a right Inward-Downward Hammer-Fist across the attacker’s jaw
  8. Settle your weight forward into your Neutral Bow as you execute a right Outward Hand-Sword to the attacker’s neck
  9. Cover out toward 7:30

Other Notes

With vs And

One of the things we strive for in American Kenpo is to eliminate the word “and” and substitute the word “with” – the difference being “with” implies happening at the same time while “and” implies action one after another – as with all rules in Kenpo there are exceptions but this should be the general mode of thought as an application of Economy of Motion.

Note the act of executing the Heel-Palm to the chest as you draw the right hand back to setup for the Hammer-Fist to the jaw. Pulling the hand back helps create more torque in the direction of the Heel-Palm.

Anticipated Reaction

American Kenpo techniques use the idea that the body moves away from pain (or to prevent pain) in order to create speed in execution and overwhelm the attacker’s ability to orient and respond to counter strikes.

Note the placement of Inward Block in anticipation that the orbit of the fist will be cancelled. As well the Uppercut to the solar plexus should cause the attacker bend forward slightly, exposing their jaw. The twisting of the head compromises the musculature of the neck amplifying the damage of the Hand-Sword to the neck.

Instructor's Thoughts

Economy of Motion

It’s not who is fastest, but who gets there first.

Bruce Lee

A key to speed is to eliminate wasted motion, if you cover less distance you can still arrive first even if your strikes are “slower.” This is why we don’t do a “John Wayne” wind up for punches.

For the younger readers, in John Wayne movies when there was a fight John Wayne would wind up before punching someone – this was so the audience could see the punch coming – realistically this would allow the target of the punch to see it coming as well.

Rapid Fire

American Kenpo is primarily a striking art, meaning we rely on percussive methods to win. The basic idea is to overwhelm the opponent by striking a variety of places on the body with such rapidity that they can’t orient to any one strike and become able to counter the sequence.

Kenpo relies primarily on using the closet weapon to the closet target, as well there are other movement rules such as:

Point of Origin – where a weapon starts is where it needs to return to.

Where a line ends a circle begins, a where a circle ends a line begins.

Anticipated Reaction – The body pulls away from pain.

Single-Hand Wrist-Grab

To illustrate these rules lets look at the first technique we learn:

Single-Hand Wrist-Grab

An opponent does a straight-across, single-hand, wrist-grab.

We respond by executing a hammer-first with our other hand to the opponent’s Radial Nerve – the RN is the closest target that will neutralize the grab, so we hit it with the hammer-fist of our free hand.

As we hit the RN with the hammer-fist we step back with the same side leg that was grabbed as we twist the grabbed wrist free and position it to cover low just in-case the opponent responds in a way we’re not expecting.

From there we bring the hammer-first back up and execute a back-fist to the opponent’s temple. Bringing the hammer-first back up is point of origin. However we use a slightly circular path on the way back up to help smooth out and speed-up the transition to the back-knuckle.

As we pull the back-knuckle back to the point of origin (in a straight line) we also pull our lead leg back into a Cat Stance and execute a front snap-kick to the opponent’s groin (a close weapon and a close target), we land in a Neutral Bow (where the foot started moving from) and execute a snapping punch, to the the now bent forward opponent’s nose (the body pulling away and naturally covering the groin, brought the opponent’s upper body forward).

Retracting the punch, we cover away from the opponent.

Instructor's Thoughts

Transmitting Power

Being able to generate power is important, but just as important is being able to do something with it.

Backup Mass

When you look at the physics equations that describe motion, particularly force – mass is a major component.

  • Force equals Mass time Acceleration
  • Kinetic Energy equals 1/2 Mass times Velocity Squared

In both instances, more mass means more energy. With martial arts we want to get as much mass behind our hits as possible.

If you punch with just your first, you’re not going to get a lot force. You need to get your whole body behind your hits.

The Centerline

There’s an imaginary line that bisects (cuts it in half) your body. The closer you can get to your centerline being behind your strikes the more mass they’ll have behind them.

Bone Alignment

You have to be judicious in contracting your muscles, to generate speed. But you need something solid to transmit the force into your target. Your skeleton is nice and rigid, but if the bones in your hands or feet aren’t lined up properly you can easily hurt yourself on impact.

The basic rule is to create a straight line between what you’re connecting with and your spine.

In the case of a fist, you want to connect with your two big knuckles the bones in your hand, you want to line up with your radius and your ulna, then your humerus into your shoulder – which connects with your spine through your clavicle and and your scapula.

Surface Area

Kevlar, one of the major materials in modern body armor is particularly effective at stopping hollow-point defensive rounds, meanwhile, it can’t stop a sewing needle – even though the sewing needle is moving much more slowly than the hollow-point.

The difference between the two is the amount of area the force is spread out over. In imperial units, we use Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) express how much force is being exerted over a given area.

If you halve the surface area over which a given force is applied, the force applied over that area is doubled.

This is why tight weapons are important, if using a punch concentrate the force over the two larger knuckles as opposed to the face of the fist.

Instructor's Thoughts

Basic Ways to Generate Power

There are three basic ways to generate power in martial arts, those are:

  • Stepping
  • Twisting
  • Dropping


Stepping is the simplest method, step in the direction of your target and throw a strike.


Twisting generates torque or a rotational force around a central pivot. You can twist in a lot of subtle ways, the easiest is to swing-step. A more subtle example is the twist of the hips going from a Neutral Bow to a Forward Bow – or the reverse.


Dropping uses a controlled fall to create force. In order to fall, you have to move upward first, then you fall. The fall is typically timed with a step, you simply let your body fall a little farther with your step (and then hit with the energy create by the “bounce” as your foot connects with the floor).


Cat Stance Notes

Purpose: the Cat Stance is primarily used a transition from retracting the front foot into a kick, typically a front kick.

A Good Cat Stance

  • Start from a Neutral Bow
  • Shift your weight onto your back leg
  • Pull your lead leg back so it’s inline with right next to your back heel
    • The lead foot shouldn’t be right next to it but close
    • The lead foot should be up on the ball of the foot
  • The weight distribution should be about 90/10 toward the back foot
  • Drop your rear hand to your low-zone
  • Bring your front hand to cover your high-zone

Notes on Practicing

  • Practice pulling your lead leg back and then executing a front snap-kick to the groin
    • After you re-chamber the kick land forward in a Neutral Bow
    • When your foot makes contact with the floor, execute a lead-hand snapping punch to the nose or to the solar plexus
    • Retract your punch to your guard

Forward Bow Notes

Purpose: transition force forward into strikes.

Despite the term stance implying something static, in martial arts stances should be looked at as moments in time, positions you flow through in order generate power, preset for strikes, or reposition yourself avoid your opponent.

The forward bow is primarily used for driving power forward, but it can also be used as a brace against a forward rush.

A Good Forward Bow

  • From a Neutral Bow
  • Pivot your back heel toward the outside of your stance
    • Left foot would go out toward the left, right foot out toward the right
  • Straighten your back back leg until it’s straight, but not locked out
  • Shift your weight forward onto your front leg
    • Front knee should be bent 90 degrees
    • Weight distribution should be around 70/30 to the front leg
    • Drive forward with the balls of your feet
  • Rotate your hips forward so they are squared up with your target
    • Shoulders should both be forward stacked over hips
  • Squeeze your glutes
  • When practicing the stance in isolation put your hands in the chamber

Notes on Practicing

  • Practice punching with your rear hand to the solar plexus or the nose as you shift into the Forward Bow
    • Retract your punch as you shift back into a Neutral Bow


Neutral Bow Notes

Purpose: a good default position to train kicking, striking, and combinations from.

The neutral bow is a compromise between mobility and limiting access to targets while still allowing the use of all weapons without having to move around yourself.

There are a lot of variations on hand placement and slight variations on foot placement – the following are good general guidelines.

Other Names: Guard, Basic Guard, Guarding Stance

A Good Neutral Bow

  • Feet should be just outside of shoulder width
    • Weight should be shifted toward the balls of the feet
    • Feet should be parallel and pointing 45 degrees in relation to your opponent/target
    • Should be able to draw a line from your back heel through your front toe (toe-heel alignment) to your opponent
  • Knees should be bent
  • Shoulders should be stacked over the hips
    • A more practical position is to drop the chin toward the lead shoulder
    • The lead shoulder should be raised toward the chin
  • Let the elbows hang and protect the ribs
  • Bring the rear fist up close to the jaw
  • Bring the lead fist up out in front of the nose
    • Not too far forward, but not too close either

Horse Stance Notes

Purpose: to practice upper-body movements in isolation

While not exclusively a hand focused system, American Kenpo relies on a wide variety of hand/elbow strikes and defensive arm movements to accomplish objectives.

Working movements in isolation helps the practitioner understand the movements and develop coordination.

A Good Horse Stance

  • Feet are a foot-width or two more than shoulder-width apart
  • Toes are pointed forward or slightly toed in
    • Your weight should be shifted forward slightly onto the balls of your feet
    • There should be just enough room under your heels to slide a piece of paper under them
  • Knees are bent and pushed out
    • You should feel the outside of your quads engaging
  • Tuck the butt underneath the spine
    • Think of curling the pelvis forward
  • Pull the shoulders back
  • Head should be stacked above the shoulders
    • Drop your chin slightly
  • Pull the fists back into the chamber palm-up
    • The chamber can be one of two positions: by the hips or the floating ribs



  • Same overall position as the Horse Stance
  • But bring your hands up into a shield and hammer in front of you mouth/nose
    • The right hand is a fist
    • The left hand covers the fist
  • Let your elbows relax and hang next to your ribs

Symbolism of the Hammer and Shield

  • The hammer represents the warrior
  • The shield represents the scholar
  • The warrior and the scholar are the two parts of the martial artist
    • The warrior knows “how”
    • The scholar knows “why”
  • The shield covering the hammer represents the scholar directing the warrior
  • Placing the hammer and shield in front of the mouth means to think before you speak or act

Fighting Horse

The fighting horse is a very defensible stance, the width zone is completely obstructed and the lead hand covers the head and ribs. The down side is that the body must be re-positioned or the rear weapons must move around around the lead weapons in order to be used.

  • The same foot/leg position as a horse stance
  • The hands are in a guard position
  • The opponent is directly to the side

Attention Stance Notes

Purpose: to help the student develop focus.

The student is expected to maintain focus directly forward. The idea is to focus so intently that they look through or past anything that gets in the way of them and their goal.

While in the attention stance the student may do 3 things:

  • Smile
  • Breathe
  • Blink

Other Names: Closed Stance

A Good Attention Stance

  • Feet are together
  • Palms of the hands are open
  • Palms are touching the sides of the legs
  • Fingers pointing at the floor
  • Back is straight
  • Shoulders are pulled back, but relaxed
  • Shoulders are stacked above the hips
  • Gaze is directly forward

Single Hand Wrist Grab

A video on the single hand wrist grab – the first technique taught and some variations on it.