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Black Belt Thesis

Submitted by: Dawn Venton from Roy Macdonald Centre of Excellence in Jersey.
Dawn Venton


Several years ago I took my three children to a Karate Class. The aim wasn’t for them to become accomplished fighters, it was for them to find some self confidence and be able to stand up for themselves. I had no idea how a Karate class would help them achieve anything but hoped it might offer something. After a few lessons with me sitting by watching I was encouraged to “have a go” in an adult class. Eight years later and I am now submitting this thesis. I now have clearer ideas of what Kenpo Karate can offer; self confidence, co-ordination, balance, perception, awareness, self defence, respect, friendship, it depends on what you ask of it and what you are prepared to give to find out. As I have learnt a small amount of Kenpo, so I have been taught a great deal about myself.

One thing that intrigued me from the start was how someone could ever hope to truly defend themselves against a larger attacker, particularly small children against someone larger or a woman against a man. The facts are that as a woman I am shorter, lighter and weaker than a man. Does it mean that I should train to be able to run quickly to get away, or should I weight train so I’d be stronger, or should I do both and would even that be enough? Everyone has the right to defend themselves regardless of their age, sex or size and, I have learnt, can have the ability to do so.

The human mind is exceptional at processing data from several sources at once and with guidance quickly learns and identifies new stimuli. The human body is a truly remarkable thing and is capable of exerting a tremendous amount of power with very little effort if the basic mechanics and principles are utilised.

Understanding basic human anatomy and rudimentary body language is invaluable, not only so we can realise our own strengths and weaknesses but so we are able to recognise the same in another person. When all of these basics are combined we are better prepared and equipped to defend ourselves against anyone.  It has been these thoughts that have continued to intrigue me and to drive me to find out how best to utilise the body mechanics and principles naturally available to me.

Natural Movement

Although we all have movement that is unique how we form that movement is basically the same hence why as a developing child motor skills, gait, dexterity etc are regularly checked as indicators to normal development. A child isn’t taught how to walk, it is a process of trial and error over many

months, involving a complex series of adjustments, shifting the centre of gravity, how much to bend and flex the hips, knees and ankles, the coordination of arm and leg movements, to make the transition from crawling to finally walking. The same can be said for every other action that we perform in the course of everyday life and once learnt these movements become a subconscious action to which we no longer need to give any thought. The same subconscious behaviour can be achieved through repetition in training and with small alterations natural passive movements can be readily used defensively. We are all physiologically different and something that may be possible and work for one person may not necessarily work for another which makes it vital that the individuality of each person is taken into account when they are under instruction.

Most of our techniques begin with the phrase “standing naturally” but what is standing naturally? Standing with the feet together doesn’t always mean having an even weight distribution, most of us will tend to bear more weight on one side and periodically shift the weight to the opposite side to relieve tension. This can be considered as being light on one foot which should be the first foot to be moved to help with positioning employing the principle of Point of Origin.

If we were to be pushed or grabbed we would naturally step in the direction of the attack. It is an advantage to go with the attack and borrow the force of the aggressor whether you are pulled towards them, as in the technique Sword and Hammer, or pushed away as in Circling Wing.

Unfortunately as we age we can all develop “bad” habits such as bad posture or poor balance.

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Injury may alter our actions in an attempt to avoid further pain which can then cause a chain reaction where other areas of the body have to compensate, however, these aren’t necessarily corrected again after the injury has healed. Many of these habits can be helped or rectified through correct training.NormalAppImage(13) (2)



Reflexes and Responses

We are all born with a wide variety of reflexes, many of which are designed to aid our survival, but the primary one that we retain throughout our lives is the Startle reflex. Responses are different from reflexes in that they are usually learnt and can be altered to be more useful . The Startle Reflex is an immediate, involuntary response to an unexpected event such as a loud noise or threatening movement causing the body to react with a sudden jerk as the muscles of the body contract. This contraction causes a chain reaction throughout the body including a change to blood pressure, breNormalAppImage(13)athing and heart rate and the production of adrenalin all of which are the body’s way of preparing to deal with the situation at hand , the “Flight or Fight” response.

Whilst some of the body’s responses are may be useful, it is possible in a threatening situation to react in such a way that would put a person in more danger, for example, squeezing the eyes tightly shut, raising the hands up to the face, curling up into as small a position as possible or even freezing. Through training, using realistic attacks with punches or kicks aimed for the correct target, it is possible to gradually desensitise a person and to recondition their responses accordingly i.e., not to squeeze the eyes shut, to use the response of bringing the hands up to the face in a more productive way, perhaps to poke an attacker in the eyes or to grab the throat, not to freeze but to learn the importance of stepping back, up the clock or slipping and to relax the muscles so that reaction time of the body as a whole and in turn the natural weapons used is decreased and the speed and power of the natural weapons is increased.

Use the response of bringing the hands up to the face in a more productive way, perhaps to poke an attacker in the eyes or to grab the throat.

Human Anatomy

The human body is highly complex but even a basic understanding of some vital points will be sufficient to aid us. We are all made the same, our flexibility, suppleness or pain tolerance may differ but generally we can all be hurt in the same way, therefore, whatever we need to defend is a target to aim for.

Generally the eyes, throat and groin are the most vulnerable targets needing very little power to achieve a significant result and these results are virtually identical in us all. We will cover our eyes with our hands to protect them but if struck the vision will be blurred as the eyes water. A blow or grab to the throat results in panic, the hands may be used to attempt to clear the threat and the effects can vary from shortness of breath to gagging, choking or passing out. The groin can be protected by positioning the legs or hands, however, if struck invariably the result will be a complete collapse of the body.

The joints are difficult areas to defend and can be easily damaged resulting in limited use of the affected limb or, with the correct technique, locks and holds can be applied that can limit or prevent any retaliatory movement. Some areas of the body are more sensitive than others particularly the head, neck and face but also the shin, top of the foot, Achilles tendon, floating ribs, solar plexus and kidney region. There are also particular areas within the body known as pressure points but each persons sensitivity to a pressure point is different and they can be difficult to pin point in an attack. The possible physical results of attacking particular targets should also be understood as the damage inflicted could be permanent and with this knowledge comes the responsibility of only using the force required for the particular situation.


Suggested Natural Weapon

Result or Effect

Parietal (Crown of Head)

Hammer fist, Handsword, Normal Fist, Elbow, Knee, Ball of Foot, Heel of foot

Stunning Pain. Possible unconsciousness, possible bleeding in brain tissue, possible death

External Jugular Vein

Handsword, reverse handsword, Hammer fist, Inner Wrist Bone, Elbow, Footsword

Possible unconsciousness or death

Solar Plexus

Mid knuckle fist, normal fist, Back knuckle, Elbow, Heel of foot

Temporary paralysis, Nausea, Physical collapse, Possible death

Lymph Gland(Lower arm pit)

Mid knuckle fist, Normal fist, Back fist, Elbow, Heel of foot

Pain, swelling, possible death

Patella (Knee cap)

Normal fist, Handsword, Elbow, Knee, Footsword, Ball of foot

Pain, Sprain, Unable to standor walk, possible fracture or dislocation

Phalanges (Toes)

Normal fist, Handsword, Elbow, Knee, Footsword, Ball of foot, Heel of foot

Pain, unable to stand or walk, possible fracture


Normal fist, backfist, hammer fist, handsword, heel of palm, elbow, heel of foot

Pain, headache, temporary disability, possible unconciouness and fracture


Normal fist, back fist, hammer fist, elbow, knee, ball of foot, heel of foot

Severe pain, temporary paralysis, physical collapse, possible rupture

Examples of targets, natural weapons and possible injuries as described in Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Volume 4


Understanding how a body is likely to react when particular areas are struck in certain ways is invaluable as this not only allows you to know which new targets are likely to be presented but can also help you understand how the direction of a strike can keep an attacker close or create distance and can illustrate how to avoid becoming hurt accidentally by a reaction. For example, a straight strike to the stomach may send the attacker backwards and result in a bend at the waist, bring the arms to the front of the body to defend the area and bring the head forward. Possible solutions to this are to punch at a 45 degree downwards angle that will send the attacker straight down or to be ready for the head coming forward with a strike to the throat or face. A strike to the face will immediately bring the attackers hands and arms up and the head will turn away to avoid further damage. This motion exposes the entire lower body allowing a choice of available targets. Any movement of the head will affect posture as the body seeks to follow the head. If the head turns the remainder of the body tries to turn, if the head is taken backwards the feet will move backwards to try to maintain an upright posture.

Blocking a strike at a downwards vertical 90 degree angle will affect an opponent’s height but may help launch at second weapon or may cause the head to be thrown forwards creating a head butt. Striking at 90 degrees upwards will help to expose the torso but may cause a leg or knee to be lifted. Striking inwards at a horizontal 90 degree angle may affect an opponents width and negate one weapon but may cause the opponent to spin and attack again.

“Never send an opponent’s weapon into orbit to only have it re-orbit back to you.” SGM Ed Parker Sr.

Blocking a strike at a 45 degree angle in any direction will affect an opponents height, width and depth and make it more difficult for them to recover their posture and retaliate. Invariably they will also expose further vulnerable targets as they react to the initial strike.

Attacks focused on the joints can produce many reactions. Exerting pressure on the back of the knee will cause the knee to buckle forcing a person into a kneeling position. From the rear side of a person this then makes the kidneys a viable target. Striking the kidneys effectively will cause the head to jerk backwards offering softer more devastating targets around the neck, head and face. An angled kick to the knee can turn an attacker approaching from the rear, diverting their line of attack and disturbing their balance and stability as in Unfolding the Dark. NormalAppImage(13) (4)Snapping Twig and Lone Kimono illustrate how pressure on the wrist and elbow will prevent an attacker from launching a second weapon, turn the body and expose more targets. To be able to fight effectively there are 3 basic requirements, height, width and depth. Take away any one of the 3 requirements and the body becomes vulnerable. For example, take away height, bent forward at the waist it becomes ineffective to punch and only possible to kick backwards, bent backwards and it is again ineffective to punch or kick and balance will be lost.NormalAppImage(13) (3) Turn sideways and width is taken away resulting in at least 2 limbs becoming virtually obsolete as weapons. The depth between two people will dictate which range weapons can be used and which targets become more viable. These 3 requirements have a direct relationship with the 3 ways of generating power, Marriage of Gravity, Rotational Force and Body Momentum. When the 3 ways of generating power are combined the body becomes quite powerful with little effort and when enhanced with further Principles of Motion the results can be devastating. Once we understand how the body will react it then becomes possible to set up new targets or to temporarily disable an attacker.

Body Language

The study of body language is a vast subject in itself but, again, a basic understanding is invaluable. Body language is usually subconscious behaviour that we are not aware of, some of the things we do are useful, some are not. An aggressive person may display several actions such as a glaring look, grinding the teeth or clenching the fists and jaw, pointing, jutting out of the jaw, frowning, squinting to name a few. It’s also important to remember that we are all born with an inherent ability to sense another person’s aggression and this “gut feeling” should not be ignored. For instance, particularly in men, when threatened a commonreaction is to draw themselves taller and expand the shoulders and chest to appear as large and menacing as possible. All of these actions create tension in the muscles which slows the ability of the muscles to react therefore becoming a hindrance in a combat situation.(“When skin kisses skin, tension begins.” Senior Grand Master Ed Parker SR.) However, a reaction that appears more relaxed, natural and passive can be deceptive and effective.

NormalAppImage(13) (5)Imagine that you are being threatened, you hold your hands out infront of your body, to your attacker you appear defensive and scared and are attempting to maintain distance between you. This position may encourage a roundhouse punch or a kick. Or, perhaps you spread your arms to show you have nothing to hide and wish to diffuse the situation. This stance may invite a straight punch, push or kick.

What you have actually done is relax the muscles to enhance reaction time, alter your balance and weight distribution so that one leg is bearing more weight allowing the other to move more quickly in any direction, position your natural weapons to enhance reaction time employing Point of Origin and Economy of Motion. By positioning the hands you have also framed the target you wish the attacker to choose, and, as we all tend to take the easiest route this may encourage the attack you would prefer to deal with. However an aggressors actions are unpredictable and it should never be taken for granted that they will do as you expect. When a person has decided that they are going to attack they have usually already formulated in their mind how they are going to initiate the attack and have a set goal in mind. Although you may think you have set them up by inviting a particular punch they may have another plan which you may not have anticipated so it is essential to “stay in the now” and remain focused and ready.

Body Mechanics & Principles

Using the body correctly can enhance the power exerted and can also protect it from injury. It is these mechanics that we should use in everyday life to perform everyday tasks and it is the same mechanics which when used in

conjunction with the Principles of Motion that can create remarkable power and strength in a correctly trained human body. Musculoskeletal injuries account for a significant number of working days lost, a fact recognised by the HSE and addressed by the requirement that as part of the induction procedure in a new employment position manual handling and safe lifting training are compulsory. The same injuries can be caused through improper use of body mechanics in training.

Correct body mechanics and the Principles of Motion as described by SGM Parker are directly linked as without the correct mechanics the Principles can become difficult to achieve and execute.
An erect, centred posture is obviously essential for musculoskeletal wellbeing and helps to maintain balance by dispersing the body weight equally. It is related to vertical motion and also encourages ease of movement, directional change and the use of Marriage of Gravity. When the back is placed in any other position it becomes more vulnerable to injury, more difficult to maintain balance and the body becomes weaker. It is possible to lift from a position where the body is bent forward at the waist however this places unnecessary strain on the spine whereas if the legs are bent and the pelvis is brought under the torso it aligns the body and enables the strain to be placed on the legs. Looking at dropping, the reverse motion of lifting, erect posture enhances stabilising and solidifying of the base and naturally uses Marriage of Gravity, (the motion of combining gravity and body weight to enhance power) Back up Mass, (where the force of the drop is backed by the weight of the body) Body Alignment and Directional Harmony.(the coordination of body parts so they all move together at the most effective angle to the target.) Attempting to hold or carry any weight away from the body with the arms causes strain on the arms, shoulders and back. However when the arms are used closer to the body any task becomes easier and produces less strain and tension. Within our system these mechanics are directly related to the Principle of Anchored Elbows which aids in better leverage, coverage and control. “For example , the elbow is firmly fixed at a much lower level than the fist when executing and inward block. This principle, when applied, gives better bracing angle, more force, and allows a greater margin for error, in that it gives one greater protection.” Ed Parker’s Encyclopaedia of Kenpo. The positioning of the elbow contributes greatly to the power exerted in a block or strike and by keeping it tucked in and in front of the body Back up Mass and Body Alignment are naturally employed and over extension of the arm and leaning is prevented. The action of bringing the arms in closer to the body can be adapted into a hooking motion where the hand grips a target and the motion of the arm returning to the body, in conjunction with other Principles, forces a reaction as seen in Triggered Salute, Defying the Storm and Twirling Hammers.

The techniques in our Kenpo Karate system all highlight particular principles upon which further principles will naturally follow. The first technique in our syllabus, Delayed Sword, highlights Marriage of Gravity. There is no choice but to employ the Marriage of Gravity as the kick is landed, however, when body momentum and rotational force are included as you land from the kick and time the strike to the neck the results are multiplied. When the technique is more closely examined these same 3 principles, and more, can be found in each move.

Lone Kimono highlights Rotational Force and by working against a joint reactions elsewhere in the body are guaranteed to follow. First we seize the grabbing hand, anchor the elbow, step back, rotate and strike the elbow. The attackers reactions when we employ some basic principles are fairly predictable and can be used to our advantage. Seize the grabbing hand: Strike the hand to loosen the attackers grip and break their mental picture, then fuse the hand to your own body and counter grab the wrist.
Step back: and stabilise to create distance, there maybe a head butt or punch on it’s way, straighten the attacking arm which is weaker than a bent arm and expose the elbow. Rotate: As you rotate the whole of the attacking arm including the wrist, elbow and shoulder will be extended, the torso twists and becomes exposed, the head tilts slightly backwards, the attacker becomes unbalanced and their other weapons become ineffective.

Strike the elbow: In conjunction with rotation and body momentum and delivered at the correct angle all of the attackers reactions become exaggerated plus the force exerted may damage thier joint.
The result at this point is that the defender has used at least the 3 ways of generating power and has taken control of the attackers height, width and depth making the attacker vulnerable and new targets will have been presented by the attackers reactions.


SGM Parker’s insight has made the Martial Art of American Kenpo Karate, with his extensive study of the human body and it’s capabilities, the principles of motion and with scientific fact to back up his theories, an all encompassing art. It is obvious to see that even a basic understanding of the combination of the subjects listed above in conjunction with the acceptance that physiological differences require a flexible approach by the instructor, can provide an insight into the potential power that can be generated by the human body and when properly trained the body is capable of generating tremendous force.


I would like to thank my friends and family for their continued support, my training partners for their patience and sense of humour and the many instructors whose classes I have had the privilege of attending.
In particular I am grateful to Mr. Roy Macdonald for his constant guidance and Mr. Ray Molloy for his perseverance, patience and willingness to share his vast knowledge with me since I first joined his class as a white belt.


Infinite Insights, Volumes 1-5, Ed Parker Ed Parker’s Encyclopaedia of Kenpo IKKA Belt Journals, Yellow to 1st Brown

Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee

I hold that my time and my skill are the assets of my profession, assets which grow in value as I progress in the Art until, as a Third Degree Black Belt, I stand as a fully qualified instructor. It shall also be my responsibility to protect any student from ravenous individuals who would try to take advantage of personal weaknesses to divest the gullible into unprofitable paths, to preserve the sacred things, God, family, country and Association, I pledge my all.

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Napoleon Bonaparte

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