by David Nishimoto
Footwork provides the evasive qualities of kempo. A weight distribution of 50 percent between the front and back legs serves no purpose. Kempo uses a 60/40 distribution between the front and back leg. In a reverse cover the weight distribution of 40/60. A cat stance changes the weight to 20/80 between the front and back leg. The width of the stance is shoulder width. Wide stances reduce mobility and slow down response. The weight of the body is distributed on the ball of the foot. The heel maintains contact with the ground, but the weight move from the center of the foot to the ball of the foot.
Kempo Karate has an ancient form called “Sets” designed to teach the student lightness. The set works to create lightness throughout advancing and retreating movement, pivoting, and advancing and retreating stances with punches and kicks. The “Set” improves balance, coordination, and speed and encourages the student to focus on footwork. The cadence of the set is an eight count with portions of the set done in a half count. The last series in the “set” requires the practitioner to perform side step crossovers both front and in back. The feel of combat concentration and power is reveal by the “Set” to the student. The eight count is counted aloud in a robust manner and the students move in symmetry to the count.
The principles of the “Ancient Set” demonstrate how the feel can be used like a spring increasing speed. Basically, the foot is the spring to move the body forward or backward. As the tempo of the exercise is increased, the practitioner will expert a certain degree of lightness and greater mobility by applying this principle. Additionally, pivoting is doing on the ball of the foot and not the heel. After each pivot the individual returns to a kempo stance with a weight distribution of 60 percent on the front leg and 40 percent on the back leg. This stance is called a right or left cover stance.
One of the first movements taught to a student is called the right of left 45. The most dangerous part of a punch is at the end. So logical its better not to meet force with force, but to evade the income force. The diagonal 45 degree movement allows the practitioner either to move outside or inside dangerous force, while maintaining a counter strike distance. The movement along the diagonal can be either forward of back. Sometimes when moving in a backward diagonal, the opponent own movement is accelerated into the practitioner’s counter strike. This makes the counter strike more deadly because the opponent is helping compound the degree of injury. The 45 degree diagonal forms a triangular relationship between the individual and the opponent. The practitioner is put in the strongest possible position, and the opponent is in the weakest most vulnerable position. If the practitioner is inside or outside the vector of force, the greatest opportunities for throwing or controlling exist.
The next foot work exercise, is the half turn. The half turn rotates the body 90 degrees. It moves the body around the opponent. For example, the first half turn can be combined with a elbow strike to the ribs, the second movement extends a step into a right cover behind the opponent; and drops the opponent to the ground with twist pivot to a horse with the right forearm to upper body; the end result is the opponent falls over the practitioners right leg. The foot work – changes the position of the practitioner and puts the opponent in vulnerable positions where principles of leverage can be applied.
Torque is an important power principle in kempo. The cross behind stance allows the individual to spin 180 degrees into the opponent. The spin is done on the balls of the feet allow balance and speed to combine. Entry into the spin puts the individual into a weak stance. However, the element of surprise combined with the power of the circle reduced the chances of failure. Before a spin technique is engaged, its important to have stunned the opponent. Otherwise, the opponent could stop the spin by jamming at the back of the shoulder blade exposing: the spine, back of the knee, ribs, neck, and throat (body manipulation).
The fastest movement occurs along the outer perimeter of a circle. The end of the elbow follows an arch path along the outer perimeter of the circle, maximizing the force of impact. A followup chop compounds the damage of the elbow strike and provides the continuation of movement in the direction of the strike. The continuation makes kempo extremely dangerous.
Side to Side movement is not preferred in counter striking; however, side to side movement is excellent movement to open up the opponent for a grappling entry. Sometime side to side movement can be used to lure the opponent to kick. Once the kick is extended, entry for a take down becomes possible. The risk in side to side movement is the amount of body area exposed to the opponent. The horse stance or cover stances are preferred.
Light foot work, allows the practitioner to move inside the right range and outside the fight range. The ability to change remain light makes the hand and foot strikes appear effortless. Whether your at the center of the wheel or the perimeter it doesn’t matter. Understanding the dynamics of both positions should be at the heart of the practice. Sometimes it makes sense to be in the center, and sometimes it makes sense to be on the outside.