Smash, knee, elbow, kick

My son and I spent last weekend at AKKA’s bi-annual (biennial?  Hell, twice a year) Black Belt test weekend.  As always, it’s auspicious affair marked by loud music and rampant goofiness.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a serious component to it, too, but we also get Chinese lion dances and guys pretending to be grumpy Scotsmen.  I also got pestered more than once to test for 3rd Black.  I really don’t see the problem with holding a belt for nine years; so what if my rank is older than some of the kids I teach and if I had kept up my momentum I’d probably be heading for 5th now?

But I digress.

After spending the weekend surrounded by Kenpo I hopped on Facebook and found this image floating around.


Being the martial arts geek I am I immediately recognized some of the moves.  Steps one through three are almost directly from Defendu and are regularly used in military martial arts.  A headbutt to the underside of someone’s chin is pretty debilitating and I have no doubt that guy would be in a world of hurt as soon as her head impacted his jaw.  Step 4, the knee to the groin, would probably finish him off.  The rest may well be extraneous, but I’m assuming this guy is a potential rapist and he probably deserves what’s coming to him.

At a glance, it looks like a simple set of strikes that anyone can learn in a short amount of time and employ effectively against an attacker.  The devil’s in the details, though, and there are a couple of potential dangerous spots and at least a couple of murky areas.

Now, let me back up a bit and throw out a bit of an explanation.  As you may have surmised, I study Kenpo.  I’ve been at Kenpo for just over fifteen years now (yes, I know I need to test for 3rd, let it go.  I had my reasons), and studying various other arts for 25 years now.  I have a pretty good understanding of what I’m talking about.

Kenpo is an art that emphasizes multiple strikes all over the body, usually to soft targets and we’re not averse to kicking someone when they’re down.  It’s a fight; we aim to win it.  There are certain predictable elements to a fight that can be used.  For instance, if you’re facing someone and knee them in the groin their head will come forward and their knees will buckle.

I think it’s the little predictable things that make me wonder about the picture.  In step 4 she knees him in the groin.  In step five, she’s at his side.  How did that happen?  There’s a step we’re missing here.  The same thing happens in step 6.  Now she’s in front of him again.  After step 6, he should collapse straight to the ground, but in step 7 he’s on his side and she’s beside him.  Steps 8 and 9 seem to show an axe kick, which works like this:


The axe kick goes high up and then smashes the heel down on your opponent.  But the opponent is already on the ground so the axe kick is going to be less effective.  A better solution would be a kick to the back of the head or to move and stomp his ankles.

I guess the bottom line is this: you can’t really learn how to fight from a picture.  There are too many nuances and gotchas that you need some experience to catch.  If you’re really concerned about getting attacked, look around and see if you can find a personal defense class or something like that.  You could embark on a study of Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Krav Maga, or whatever, but those are long-term studies.  Someone out there has to have a shorter class: a few weeks, a few nasty tricks.  Most of the people you’ll ever tangle with will back off after a couple strikes and most people will never need to fight a dozen ninjas at once so unless you’re looking for a long-term study, stick to the shorter classes.  If you are looking for long-term study, research schools, attend classes, try it out before you commit yourself to it.

How would I handle the situation in the picture?  If someone were to try to grab me like that I’d keep it simple.  Kick him in the side of the knee and get the hell out of the situation.  If your opponent is close, stick your fingers or thumbs in their eyes.  Be mean in general.

2 thoughts on “Smash, knee, elbow, kick

  1. As part of the job (psychiatry) we got trained in breakaway technique, but of course, the emphasis was on not causing pain, as these were supposed to be patients we were dealing with…But thanks for the advice (mind you, the training has changed a lot over the years).

    • Interesting. I’ve always viewed the martial arts as fighting where survival was the single most important thing. It makes sense that other fields would make use of similar techniques without our requisite “beat the opponent into submission” philosophy. Thanks for reminding me that there’s more to it than that. As a buddy of mine pointed out in a picture: as soon as a mosquito lands on your testicles you’ll realize there’s a non-violent solution to every problem. Thanks for stopping by!

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