Students in American Kenpo are exposed to three different phases of training for each technique they learn. In essence, the ideas is that there is no one way to do any given technique but rather many ways each can be understood and executed.
First practitioners learn and experience certain situations, principles, mechanics and maneuvers from a very sheltered standpoint. Second, they move to an exploration phase to see the options and alterations that can occur. Last, but not least, they progress to a more dynamic training methodology whereby they spontaneously adapt to an unrestricted and ever changing environment.
One thing to note is that these phases are not mutually exclusive training concepts. Think of them as interrelated levels or steps. The end goal of this tiered approach is spontaneous reaction.
In more technical terms, here are the distinctions:
Phase 1 – Ideal. This is the most basic method where a set technique sequence is executed against a predetermined attack and the reaction of the opponent is known. The attacker does not deviate from the primary attack nor does the defender deviate from the sequential strikes or targets. Targets align and weapons are strategically placed according to plan. In short, there is no variation in this phase and all of the variables are known ahead of time.
Phase 2 – What If. This phase allows you greater flexibility where you explore variations of attack and possible reactions. The list of options to consider is infinite and staggering. The attacker may deviate from the original attack sequence and the defender’s sequence and targeting may or may not adjust given that change. It’s easy to get lost in this phase as there is no end point. It is not a spontaneous exchange as both the attacker and defender know the changes before performing the sequence.
Phase 3 – Formulation. In this phase, anything goes and could very well be called the “adaptation phase.” The defender may or may not know what the attacker will do and need not follow the ideal technique sequence on any level. This is most like “real life” than the previous phases whereby students must adapt to changes on the fly. In this phase, you really begin to see the value of the rearrangement concept. In short, there rearrangement concept allows you to add, delete, rearrange, insert, adjust target or weapon, or regulate the speed, power or timing of your technique sequence or move for the desired effect.
Some instructors throw their students into phase 3 too early as a means to “help” their students become spontaneous with their motion at an earlier stage. I liken this approach to throwing a kid into water telling them that’s the best way for them to learn to swim. Students must first have a good foundation before progressing to this level and explore options before “magically” having to make the connections between what they have learned and what an attacker is doing.
There are always “what if’s” that can occur. I wouldn’t recommend getting too caught up in this as, in most cases, the technique sequences already have built in checks and balances to cover probable what if’s. I say probable as there is a huge gap between what is probable and what is possible. We can’t possibly train for every variation and combination and therefore it is a far better use of time to train against the most likely counters that can occur.
Have fun with these ideas and challenge what you know about the techniques you have learned. Dig deep and often, pushing the very boundaries of your knowledge and understanding. But always remember to keep in mind what it was you were originally trying to accomplish with this concept – spontaneous reaction.