Monday, February 28, 2011

Myth of The Slap Art

Not sure when it began but I have heard people talk about it as far back as the 60’s. Watch the average kenpoist work his stuff and you hear and maybe even see quite a bit of slapping. Now, I’ve been backhanded as well as forehand slapped and have yet to be put on my butt let alone put in the hospital. So, what’s with all the slapping, on your body as well as your opponents? Well, let me tell you what I’ve heard first and then we’ll go into a few theories of mine. Anybody that knows American Kenpo will tell you that it’s predominately a hand system and that the hands move at a VERY high rate of speed. One of the ways kenpoists maintain and even increase their velocity when striking is to rebound their weapons off their own body. In the AKKI, this principle is called elastic recoil. For example, my strike goes out on a straight line, makes contact with the target, and after the desired penetration, the weapon rounds off and comes back. At this point, I’ve decided to hit another target with the same arm so instead of recovering my weapon to position, I maintain velocity, neutralize my weapon by relaxing my hand and opening it up, bounce it of my own body and launch a new weapon on the same/different trajectory to the same/different target. Below is a short clip of one method of Elastic Recoil. Here, I strike Carlos with a backfist to the liver, rebound off my own body and ridgehand to the throat (in this case, his upper chest).

Quick side note here, while training under an unnamed kenpo senior in the early 90’s, he always stressed travel being necessary in order to develop power. In other words, the more time and distance your weapon had to travel, the more power it had when it got to the target. Logically, this is true, but it is only one method available to ensure max power on contact. Increasing time and distance while striking isn’t normally the best course of action. (think John Wayne). On the other hand, striking using the elastic recoil principle still gives us that big chunk of travel but now it’s part of an ellipse with no stopping and re-starting. On the other side of the slap is a basic method called slap checking. Here, your open hand acts as a check to your opponent’s weapons or body. They are very momentary unlike positional or pressing checks hence the slapping sound created when applied.
So far we have a whole lot o’ slapping going on but nobody’s been hurt yet. Now here is where we get to the part that I feel has led to the “Slap Art” moniker. I’ve been in my fair share of dust ups and on one particular occasion, I tried a speed shot to the jaw of a young shirtless Scorpions fan in the RFK Stadium parking lot. He flinched at the last second and I clipped him in the temple. He was out but I fractured the metacarpal of my little finger in two places and I still had two more guys to fight. With that said, I’m not a big fan of punching people in the head but I am a big fan of dropping an open hand on a jaw, maxillary sinus, or temple. Note, a palm-heel to the jaw can offer VERY impressive results with no tweakage to the small bones of the hand. Unless your training partner is armored up though, hitting with power to the face does not usually encourage a second practice shot. What you end up seeing in many kenpo schools is using open hand shots to the body vice the head/face. This allows the weapons to build in the muscle memory of hitting uninterruptedly. Now before you beat me up for training to miss the target, it is only one method kenpoists use to train. When it comes to demos or show and tell though, it is the more visually impressive method of demonstrating the speed and power of American Kenpo. Please understand that there are many methods of training that will get you to the top of the pyramid. Working the body is one, as are pulling the strike before it hits the target, slow motion training with attitude and effect, and full power training on armored up partners. They all have their weaknesses and strengths and with that mindset, I incorporate all of them into our training paradigm. Actual training methods will be discussed in future blogs but for now let’s get back to slapping. 
I watched a 235lb Black Belt drop to his back from a Paul Mills chest slap. I have been dropped to my knees and have dropped students to their knees with chest slaps. Now imagine taking that slap and raising it up 8-12 inches and striking a 12 lb.object on a flexible support. The last time I did it to someone was five years ago in a bar in Kansas City and it was the only strike I threw. Technically, it wasn’t quite a slap but it was an open hand to the jaw and it did enter on an arc. Last bit of FYI. Ed Parker's "slap" was affectionally known as "The Parker Paw". I've only seen pictures of the aftermath of a Parker Paw so take my impression with  grain of salt but OMG (I have kids), it left one hell of a mark. Please, before you pick on our slapping, find a qualified instructor and stand in front of him as he or she touches you. It will leave a mark and I am very confident you will have a much greater appreciation of the power of the slap.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Aren't We Tough Anymore?

Not sure where I read or heard it but I use the previous statement quite often to students and those I mentor. It is very much along the lines of a Friedrich Nietzsche quote "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" used as a training mantra in the U.S. Navy's BUD/S Special Warfare Training School. Up until the last few hundred years, life was tough for most. 20,000 years ago, it was a struggle to find food, shelter, survive the elements, and to keep from being eaten. Once communities began to form and a roof was a sure bet, there was less fear from tooth and claw, but now man had to deal with "I want what you have". In other words, the strong took from the weak. Pretty much up to the industrial age and the Rule of Law, the majority of humans had to work hard as individuals and as communities to fulfill their basic needs. Work was very physical for both men and women and the image of the rugged individual persisted well into the 20th Century. With the widespread use of electricity and all of its wonderful progeny, leisure time became a significant part of our lifestyle and the concepts of adversity and struggle became a distant memory for most western societies. These days, adversity is finding a lost remote or getting to work on time. A struggle involves making a choice between eating at Outback or Chili's. Psychologists say that humans are basically lazy and that is why we have the modern wonders we have. Humans are always looking for an easier/better way to do things; especially those that help is exert less effort. Greater productivity in less time gives more time for leisure activities and for most; those activities usually don’t require great physical expenditure or risk. We have become soft and spoiled and we like it. Today in the U.S., “Manifest Destiny” has been replaced by “shop ‘till you drop” and “can I super-size that?” The vast majority can spend their whole lives without ever having to deal with the threat of somebody trying to take their stuff and/or killing them. Most of my students have never been in a fight let alone a violent physical assault. As the “softening” of our society continues, the weaker we become both as individuals and as a nation. Lucky for us though, the United States is known for its individualism, its rich history of overcoming great odds, and when push comes to shove, woe be to yea who try picking on us. Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Grossman introduced me to the concept of Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves in his groundbreaking book “On Combat”. The premise being the vast majority of people are sheep, and that’s okay. Sheep keep society humming along on an even keel. Sheep are nice, adverse to violence, pay their taxes, and wave at you on country roads. They have found their station in life and are happy or at least excepting of it. Wolves on the other hand, are not nice, are willing to use any means including violence to get what they want, may or may not pay taxes, and usually see sheep as resources. Sheepdogs in turn look a lot like the wolf, have the same tools and are not hesitant to use violence but only for the common good. They keep the sheep safe and insulated form the big bad wolf. At one time, sheepdogs wore shinning armor or white. These days, they wear the camouflage of our services or the blue of law enforcement officers. Sheepdogs also come in a subtler form, those that recognize violence is a possibility and take steps to ensure they are prepared to meet it even if it includes using violence on their part. The common thread to all sheepdogs is ADVERSITY. Sheepdogs constantly challenge themselves by voluntarily taking on tasks that are difficult. Whether it’s the mental and physical challenges of the military, the dangers of working in law enforcement, the blood and bruises of training in the martial arts, even the effort of going to the gym or shooting range regularly, sheepdogs always take the hard road. Unfortunately, choosing the challenge has become the exception while taking the easy way has become the norm.
I wish I knew the secret to wanting to make things difficult for myself vice sitting in front of the tube for hours. I don’t always want to train, eat in moderation, or workout, but I do because I know I’ll feel better about my choice afterwards. If your informative years have been easy with no expectations other than getting good grades and staying out of trouble, odds are you’re going to want to continue that thought process as an adult. Simple efforts lead to simple rewards. Rewards lead to expectations and expectations lead to entitlements. Pretty soon, everybody is getting, and nobody is giving. Those that have struggled tend to appreciate what they have a lot more than those who have had things given to them. Hard work brings great rewards even if it is only the satisfaction of having done a good job. When I mentor youth, my message is one of effort, service, and choice/consequence. I believe the key is to get the word out to our kids through leadership programs such as Explorers, Scouts, JrROTC, and martial art classes. Even organized athletics offer many opportunities to teach kids the value of effort and challenge. As long as we keep having enough young people volunteer for the military, enroll in a Police Academy, or take responsibility for their own health and protection, we can keep the wolf at bay. Otherwise a nation of sheep with no one to protect it will soon become someone else’s flock or worse.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Experiences Part 1

One of my former students who lives wayyy too far away to train has asked about my experiences with violence as to seek insight on what, why, how, and to include the “after action” report. I’m always a little antsy on discussing my “fights” on a public forum for several reasons. First, while I don’t want to advocate violence as your first option, sometimes it’s your only option. As noted Combatives Instructor Tim Larkin says, “When violence is the answer, it’s the ONLY answer”. Second, the written word is notorious for being taken out of context and I’d rather not spend the rest of my life defending my statements so please just take it for what it is, MY experience. Lastly, I don’t want to come off sounding like my “fighting skills” rock and that “Bruce Lee don’t have nuthin’ on me”. With that said, I’ll share three experiences that left a lasting impression, changed my martial art outlook, and show that they ALL could have been avoided. This first one still invades my dreams and taught me some very life changing lessons so I’ll describe it first. I’ll relate the other two in future blogs.

1980 San Diego 20 years old
I had attended a friends birthday party in Imperial Beach and was returning home when I had a burning desire for some Jack in the Box onion rings. I pulled off I-5 and went to the nearest JaBo which was located in the Shelltown (Mistake #1) area of National City. It was almost 11:00pm and instead of going through the drive through, I went in to order (Mistake #2) as well as use the rest room. When I entered, I noticed four vatos in Pendletons and pressed white t-shirts (Ignored Warning #1) sitting at one of the tables. I ALMOST (Mistake #3) turned around and left but I had to use the head and I wanted those onion rings. While making my order, the server gave me a strange look, (Ignored Warning #2) which I disregarded. She told me that they were in the process of closing and that they would have to make my onion rings which would take a few minutes. While waiting, I went to use the rest room. When I returned, the place was empty other than the two servers (Ignored Warning #3). I collected my food and went outside to my truck. I immediately started digging into my onion rings (Mistake #4). I sensed/heard someone running up behind me (Ignored Warning #4) and as I started to turn, I felt the shock of the hit as well as seeing a flash bulb go off in front of my eyes. Onion rings went everywhere as I staggered back against my truck and I started throwing blind punches. My vision was fuzzy and I could only see the guy directly in front of me but I knew that there were at least two more because I could feel them hitting and grabbing at me. One of them kept yelling something about “East Side” but other than that, at was all noise. I managed to drive my thumb into an eye (Good Move #1) of they guy in front of me. He screamed and that’s when I went down to the ground. I immediately went to my back (Good Move #2) and started kicking anything and everything that I could reach. They in turn started playing soccer on my torso. I had kept the truck to my back (Good Move #3) and when I had been put down it was now to my right. It took several seconds (hours?) to realize that I was taking some serious damage to my ribs. After one nasty barrage, I found I couldn’t breath and scared s$#*tless, I rolled under my truck (Good Move #4). Thank goodness for lift kits and off-road tires. They would not go under after me so they slung rocks, concrete, bottles and insults at me for about a minute (or it could have been another hour). I heard a siren come on close by and I could see them take off. An SDPD patrol car pulled up about 30 seconds later. After paramedics and paperwork, I drove myself to the hospital. Total damage, one broken rib, three cracked ribs, multiple contusions, cuts, and abrasions, a split lip, and a concussion. All and all, for making a bunch of stupid mistakes, I came out okay. I did find out during the interview why I was jumped. One of the hoods was the server’s boyfriend and she had noticed my affiliation tattoo on my wrist. They were Shelltown Cholos and in my teens, I had run with East Side and still wore the tag. They hated each other with a passion then and five years later, they still hated each other.

At the time I was a Green Belt in Chinese Kenpo. We were a fight school and the techniques were more for belt progression than actual use. We were not taught any awareness or avoidance skills but we were taught how to take a punch and keep fighting. Skipping the very obvious mistakes I made prior to taking the first punch, I learned the following lessons about the attack itself:

Always step off when covering. I did not learn COVER until I began my American Kenpo training in 1988. Turning in place just gives your assailant a different part of his intended target to hit (think OODA).

Don’t try to kick in a mass attack. The violence of action on my part combined with the pushing, pulling, and striking from my attackers forced me to lower my base. Even lowered, I still felt unstable and attempting a kick/knee would have put me on the ground a lot sooner.

They don’t come at you one at a time like the movies. In fact their exuberance probably kept my damage to a minimum because they kept getting in each other’s way.

Maneuvering to the outside in class is relatively easy. When the attack is real, it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to maneuver anywhere let alone maneuver with a plan.

Use your environment. Vehicles, buildings, fixed objects, clothing, anything lying around that might make a weapon or a defensive tool.

When tunnel vision kicks in, go after the guy you can see and inflict as much damage as possible up to and including maiming and lethal force. One of my students is a Federal Corrections Officer and two weeks ago, he handled his first inmate killing. An inmate was beaten and stomped to death by five other inmates. He had the unpleasant task of trying to keep the inmate alive until medical help arrived but ended up watching him die before help got there. Even if no weapons are involved, a mass attack is a deadly force assault. Treat it as such and do whatever it takes with the eyes and throat being the primary targets.

Tattoos can get you killed but peroxide and table salt will get rid of them.

Last, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. I believe there is nothing mystical or psychic about a “bad feeling”. It is your mind’s unconscious ability to pick up on ‘triggers” that the conscious mind is too preoccupied to process. Good awareness skills are the conscious mind’s answer to why these triggers are important. Awareness is a skill and like any other skill, must be developed and practiced. Future blogs will discuss some of the methods I use to teach awareness. Fighting is ugly and it’s even uglier when you’re getting your ass kicked. Hopefully, you might learn a little from my mistakes that will keep from having your ass handed to you with bag of onion rings.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Fighting/Self-Defense is the epitome of Interval Training combining cardiovascular endurance as well as anaerobic endurance. When coupled with the added psychological stress and associated adrenal dump of an unprovoked and unexpected attack, fighting is one of the most physically demanding venues the human body might be forced to endure.
Conditioning specificity for self-defense is a must for your overall martial art training. In the past, traditional martial arts used traditional training methods to strengthen and develop the body. Many of these practices while functional left a lot to be desired when it came to time involved and the return on that time investment. Today's methods incorporate modern science and equipment that allow the student to strengthen specific attributes in the limited time that students allot to training while still holding down a job, raising a family, etc.... Swimmers train to swim, runners train to run, and fighters train to fight. There will always be crossover skills when it comes to conditioning just as there are crossover skills when training in various martial activities. but being a good tournament fighter or forms competitor will not guarantee success in an ally. You must train and develop the specific skill sets required to specifically deal with violence.
A street fight or assault for the average person uses a significant amount of physical strength in a very short period of time. One-punch knockouts are rare, even for trained practitioners. Whether you choose to fight or run, your overall conditioning has a high probability of being the determining factor of whether you win or get away. You do not necessarily have to be stronger than your opponent but you should be able to last longer than he does.
Your ability to take damage and survive is also relative to your fitness level. Most people when faced with violence tend to "give up" or go defensive once they start taking damage. Physical conditioning goes hand and hand with mental toughness. A strong, trained body usually equates to a strong mind and a strong mind does not give up no matter how much pain or damage has been inflicted.
There are no rounds or time-outs in a violent encounter. You must be able to exert high-intensity effort for as long as it takes to survive or end the assault. You must also have enough physical strength to push, pull, and strike with damaging force.  Last, you must have the *Mental Toughness* to never quit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I wrote this in 1988 when I first began teaching. A little simplistic but it shows my mindset at the time.
The goal of any true self-defense system is ensuring personal protection. There are many ways to accomplish this goal with some of them being physical and others being non-physical. The best way not to get hurt is to avoid any situation where danger or a confrontation might be possible. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world and violence can happen anywhere and at anytime. When avoidance and awareness fail, self-defense is your next recourse, but you still don't necessarily have to bring it to a physical level. Self-defense is also about psychology; can you talk your way out of it? Can you bluff your way out of it? Do you have your running shoes on if talking doesn't work? Remember, we live in a violent world where a simple argument can lead to a deadly encounter. Weapons are readily available and those combined with drugs, alcohol and a "I don't give a f#%k" attitude can make for a potentially deadly situation. Why take a chance to escalate a situation if the only things being exchanged are words? If you can walk away, walk away. If you can't walk away, talking hasn't worked, and you realize the situation is escalating to the physical level, it's time to act. You don't necessarily have to wait for your opponent to throw the first punch or make the first move but you do have to consider the results of your actions. In a court of law, anyone that reasonably believes that their person is in danger of physical harm has the right to defend them self, EVEN IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PHYSICALLY TOUCHED. Respond according to the situation. If it's a drunk, control him; if the assailant has a weapon and you believe he is trying to kill or maim you, you can respond with deadly force.
Now, what happens when you attempt your self-defense and it doesn't work? You miss with your pre-emptive strike, your timing is off, your strikes don't get the expected response, who knows? Anything is possible, self defense is not a 100% art and you have to be prepared for the unexpected. The situation has now gone from a self-defense scenario to a fighting scenario. In self-defense, skill, speed and surprise rule the outcome, but in fighting, size and strength are now more of a determining factor. In the fighting scenario, you and your opponent have squared off and you are both looking for openings and opportunities that either of you can take advantage of. This is the situation we, as KENPO practitioners, want to avoid for the simple reason that we no longer have full control of the situation. In self-defense, we control everything because we have the element of surprise and confidence in the knowledge of our skills. Once fighting has begun, we have to maneuver into a position where we can attempt to gain control back and apply self-defense techniques once again, but our opponent is now aware that we are a danger and will be much more wary of our actions.
Self-defense and fighting, two different worlds but still very related and either can turn into the other. While the KENPO practitioner does train to fight, both standing and on the ground, we acknowledge that our strength and the safest course of action lies in self-defense and that is the area we seek to perfect.

Welcome to My Blog

Am I paranoid if I identify Emergency Exits or sit facing the entrance in public places? Am I paranoid for locking my doors and turning on outside lights at night? Am I paranoid because I carry a utility knife and keep a handgun within arm’s reach of my bed? Just what is “paranoid” these days?
I am a martial artist who learned many years ago that self-defense training is more than two or three nights a week at the local karate studio. True self-defense, like fitness, is a lifestyle. I don’t diet but I do make healthy choices because those are the foods I want to eat. I exercise not to “get in shape” but to maintain a strong body and mind that can meet any demand placed on it. I have studied American Kenpo for over 30 years and researched modern self-preservation methods because the only one responsible for my safety and security is myself. The police do a great job of catching bad guys but more often than not, they end up investigating the crime scene. Stretched thin, over-worked, and under-paid, their ability to prevent crimes is limited at best. As an American raised on John Wayne and Louis L’Amour, the ultimate responsibility to ensure that I live a long, healthy, and productive life, is mine alone. In my youth, I played the man-dance and survived several violent encounters that should have left me dead. I believe in the basic “goodness” of people but have seen the worst of what one human being can do to another. In all likelihood, I will spend the rest of my life without ever getting into another fight or being shot or cut again. As the saying goes though, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. We can never choose what bad things will happen to us but we can strive to be prepared when they do.

My name is Rick Brumby; I am a career martial artist, a student of history, modern combatives, combat conditioning, and a survivor. I make no claims to be a “Master” or an expert on anything but to paraphrase my teacher, Paul Mills, how can you teach swimming if you’ve never been in the water. I’ve been in the water and hope that my experiences can offer a little insight and a few ideas on how to stay safe and healthy. Welcome to my Blog.