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).