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Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Building of Foundations in Kenpo Karate

What is the meaning of a foundation? That question sounds deceptively simple, yet it baffles many people. As a martial artist and a teacher, I think about this often. I find it takes greater meaning and importance each time I go back to review it. Foundations are simple, yet incredibly important for creating whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish. As a teacher, I try to stress the importance of going back to the beginning each time I do a lesson, but many students want nothing to do with it. They want what is flashy, complex, and inefficient activities and ideas to dominate their attention. They fail to see the beauty in the simplicity of creating a foundation that will support all future knowledge.

Look at a house and ask yourself how long it will stand if the foundation is flawed. What do you think? The answer is not very complicated. There is a great deal that can be learned from building a great foundation. Let us switch gears from architecture to Kenpo Karate. Yellow Belt is the foundation of Kenpo. It has the beginning of all movements there. It has the first basics, the first self-defense techniques, the first forms, and it introduces how to apply Kenpo principles to all these beginning motions. The rest of the Kenpo system builds from there. Yellow belt is the keystone for the rest of the system. If a practitioner understands this, then it makes sense to constantly revisit the principles, concepts, and movements from the beginning.

Often times, when I am in a lesson with my instructor, he references certain techniques and moves as master key techniques or moves. It is around these moves that other movements congregate because they are effective, efficient, and follow the rules and principles of Kenpo in a most efficient manner. What I talk about in terms of Kenpo can also be applied in terms of self defense techniques, sparring techniques, training practices, and any other disciplines both within the world of martial arts and outside of martial arts. The principles of foundations and learning apply across the board. Martial arts and Kenpo training are microcosms in life, and what applies there can apply in how you live your life.

Think back to when each person is a small child. The usual pattern for a baby is to learn to sit, then crawl, then walk, and then run. The progression happens gradually as an infant and child learns to master each stage. Each stage of movement is a foundation that builds to the next stage of movement. The same holds true with the knowledge learned at each belt. Each belt acts as a foundation that builds to the next one. Just like any foundation, whether it is physical or mental, if one leaves it alone for too long then it grows weak. A foundation must be tended to through practice and review. Just like a foundation for a building must be tended to in order to ensure it can support the greatness of the structure above it, so it is true in Kenpo. Kenpo is a great system, but only in so much as each practitioner tends to their foundations.

If we take this idea that building a foundation is as simple as practicing and attending to the basics, then, in theory, there should not be much of a problem in becoming proficient at whatever you apply this to, or anything that you create. However, it goes deeper than that. There is one other issue that must be attended to before revisiting basics. This issue in question is the idea of motivation and practice. I could separate these out, but in the interest of brevity I will address them together. Motivation and practice are major obstacles in trying to achieve fluency and proficiency in anything. That is why I bring this up. If a person does not apply himself/herself, then there can be nothing achieved. Each person must find their motivation to rise up and drive towards that goal of excellence. Excellence goes further back than the fundamental basics, it goes to your motivation and drive to practice that which you know. The other half of that is how you choose to practice. Fortunately, in today's world, there is a plethora of information out there that can help guide you. It is best to have a good teacher to help you, but there are those who train more alone than with others, who are forced to find that information and knowledge to help guide them on their own. But there are many good teachers and sources of information to help guide your practice, you just simply need to take your time, do your research, and be smart about the choices that you make. Your time and energy are precious, do not waste them on bad practices. Any good martial arts teacher will try to guide you more than tell you their way is the only way. There is no one answer or way to practice or to learn. That part of the journey is up to each individual. Remember that. The way you choose to think, learn, and make choices is up to each person, and nobody else.

Your base knowledge, your motivation, and your practice are all fundamental parts of your foundation and that is where you skill, proficiency, and style of martial arts will grow from. Do not take them lightly and do not take them for granted. Remember where it all comes from and you will be well served in how you learn and progress.

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