Friday after lunch we started the study of kenpo techniques. Kenpo is a hard martial art which is in opposition to what we studied Friday morning (click here for part one). Ed Parker intended the art of kenpo to be the study of motion. It is a highly organized martial art. There is a base technique to be learned first and an extension or finishing technique for later.
Before the Filipino martial arts, Master Zach Whitson studied Ed Parker’s American Kenpo. From these two arts, Master Whitson designed kenpo counterpoint to teach his kenpo students the countering and re-countering skills of Filipino martial arts. In the creation of this drill lay the seeds of Counterpoint Tactical System. Most of CTS’ advanced students have a background – if not a black belt – in kenpo. Master Whitson holds a seventh degree black belt (senior professor rank) in Parker’s kenpo. It’s an understatement to say that kenpo has played a large part in this system.
At this point, a disclaimer is necessary. I have no experience in Ed Parker’s American Kenpo apart from Counterpoint Tactical System. All the technique and knowledge that I have of that martial art is directly through CTS and talking with other CTS practitioners. I am rare in this system due to my lack of kenpo history. Therefore, any mistakes about kenpo are mine.
Kenpo counterpoint one (KCP1) drills begin at third degree brown, which is halfway on the journey to first degree black belt. The first set combines kenpo techniques with the counter and re-counter philosophy of pekiti tirsia and Cacoy doce pares. The result is a partner drill where the attack shifts back and forth. It is similar to hubud drills from FMA. The driving force behind the set is to teach students countering and countering the counter. It covers a number of attacks to demonstrate that counters are possible everywhere. These drills also teach that countering relies on timing. There comes a point when the technique is locked in, and by taking a slow exploration of the drills, the CTS student begins to find that timing.
During camp, Master Whitson taught us the kenpo technique sequences from which he built the KCP1 drills. For me and other students without a kenpo background, the base technique was the focus. The technique extensions were also taught. So, for the students who had the base technique down, they were able to focus on the extensions. There are sixteen individual drills that make up the KCP1 set, and I believe they come from sixteen techniques. We began with raining claw, which is a defense against an uppercut. My favorite technique set was/is snapping twig, which is a defense against a grab.
Everything we learned had a precise sequence with specific targets. It takes an adjustment to learn this way for me. The approach is more restrained than the FMA that I’ve learned so far. Due to weather, it took us two sessions to cover all of the sixteen techniques. Friday afternoon, we had to shift from the field to the convention center. We lost a bit of time as everyone transitioned from one locale to the other. It was worth it, though.
Master Whitson’s ability to combine arts is something that I hope to gain in my study of Counterpoint Tactical System. I am at a stage where I’m still discovering how CTS interconnects with itself. The kenpo counterpoint set as a whole seems to be one martial art viewed through the concepts of another. At this camp, we were given the other half of the coin for the kenpo counterpoint one drills. We’ve studied and will continue to study FMA concepts. Now, we have the raw material to which those concepts were applied.
I like the kenpo counterpoint one set because it’s a platform to further study countering in a way that my brain will process. I think of the drills as an engineering problem. There is a start, a set of tools, and a destination. How you get there is up to you! The two students practicing the drill are given a pre-determined number of tools – sixteen, in this case – which avoids inaction due to overwhelming options. The two create their training by mixing and matching drills, speed, feel. The training can isolate an aspect by focusing on repetitions only two of the drills at a Cacoy doce pares speed and lightness. Or it could be a pre-arranged sparring type of training at speed. The drill adjusts to the students needs.
Master Whitson taught us the raw material of the KCP1 drills. We covered the sixteen sets that were modified into the kenpo counterpoint drills. The campers learned the beginning – the kenpo techniques – with a defined end in mind – kenpo counterpoint one drills. All of my engineering training sees this as an opportunity to reverse engineer the process of creating KCP1. I have more FMA to learn before the reverse engineering will work correctly. But now I have an example of how to create drills out of arts that might not have the flow of FMA. As I’ve said before, Iron Mountain camp is CTS Christmas.