Kenpo vs Damaged Goods

This is bit of long setup, so bear with me.  Also, I kind of stole the title idea from Adam Oster’s blog, so props to him and a promise I won’t do it again.  It was just too perfect to pass up.

When I was in college I slipped on some ice in Colorado Springs, CO, and folded my left leg under me and landed right on my knee.  Yes, it hurt, but I was in my early twenties and indestructible, so I got up, walked it off and put up with the discomfort until it healed.  I could, and probably should, have gone to the student health services and gotten some advice on it but young and stupid trumped wise course of action.  Over the years, it’s gone in and out of whack from time to time and I usually just put a brace on it and wait for it to heal.

Last week in the kids’ Kenpo class I was trying to get them to understand that you don’t always have the perfect position to strike from, so we worked through punching from a bow stance.

Forward knee bent, holding most of the weight of the body, back leg rigid to keep from being pushed back
Forward knee bent, holding most of the weight of the body, back leg rigid to keep from being pushed back

We also worked on crescent kicks from a horse stance.

Weight evenly distributed, legs loose.
Weight evenly distributed, legs loose.

And striking from a twisted stance.

Stand with a wide stance and twist.  Now try generating some power from here.  You can unwind or rise up.
Stand with a wide stance and twist. Now try generating some power from here. You can unwind or rise up.

One thing all of these have in common is they all require a lot of leg strength and put some serious pressure on your knees.  I’m pretty sure the kids were less than pleased with me, but it was kind of an important lesson to learn.  Amazingly, my legs (which were already sore from running and lifting that morning) held up but my left leg was feeling a bit wobbly.

Flash forward about fifteen minutes and I’m teaching one of the brown belts a black belt technique called Whirling Python (Sorry, can’t find a video on it).  Whirling Python looks like a fairly simple technique but it has one of the hardest kicks in the system to pull off.  The gist of the technique is to deal with an incoming punch by slipping to the opponent’s side and winding up behind their back.  From there, you twist their neck to stress the vertebrae and strike the side of the neck.  That part just requires some speed and dedication.  The next section involves a chicken wheel kick.  You hit the side of your opponent’s right knee with a wheel kick (most people call it a roundhouse, the JKD folks call it a hook kick, we just call it a wheel kick).  This starts to collapse the opponent over to their right side.  Now, jump off your left foot and bring that left kick way up to the opponent’s head and continue the turn.  Do it right and you’ll wind up pulling them down onto the ground.  It’s effectively a throw with a kick and it’s pretty slick when you do it right.

Do it wrong, or have an aleady weak left leg, and the results are less impressive.

I’m pretty sure I pulled every muscle in my left leg.  That was Wednesday.  Now, on Sunday, I can mostly walk again although my leg muscles stiffen up when I sit down and getting up means I need to stretch the muscles back out again.  Rather than just sit on my butt and wait for everything to be fine, I’m working it gently and actually made a trip to the gym this morning to do a little workout on the heavy bag.  Needless to say I didn’t do any kicking, but I found I was having to fight my instincts to kick.  This just left me with punches and elbows.

While I was hitting the bag I was kind of thinking about how this whole debacle could be turned into a lesson.  In some ways it spins off my original lesson of realizing you don’t alway have the perfect position to strike from.  In others it should probably be an object lesson about listening to your body when it tells you to knock this crap off.  So, I guess in some ways, I taught myself an advanced lesson about mobility and striking from bad positions.

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