When I first began martial arts it was in 1986. I was 6 years old and wanted to learn it because it looked fun and amazing. I trained at a school that did a little of everything….TKD, Kung-Fu, Ju-Jitsu, Kickboxing, etc. As I became older my motivations changed. I still thought it was fun and looked cool, but now I also wanted to be able to handle the bullies. As I got even older (my early teens) I decided the best way to beat the bullies was to bully the bullies. I got into (and instigated) lots of scuffles with the local hoods. I won some and lost some but got enough “rep” to not be messed with “on da regular”. At this time I talked to my grandfather and my father (who both served my country and grew up in the ghettoes of Baltimore and Virginia) about fighting, war and combat. They both mentioned to me “the principles of war”, but it never really stuck. Probably because I like details and they just mentioned them…they didn’t explain what they were…..they left it for me to find out. I started Kenpo Karate in 1998 (about a year or two after my grandfather passed) and saw an article in Black Belt magazine on applying the principles of war to martial arts. Again, the principles of war came up. It didn’t fully hit me though until I put it together with MMA. I’d lived in the ghettoes of the city with the nations worst murder rate, been in countless fights, been shot, been stabbed and seen countless fights, assaults, muggings and a few mur…you get the idea. But most of these were by untrained people. MMA gave me regular exposure to trained people fighting it out with techniques I was familiar with and it just opened my eyes so to speak. Something flipped in my head and it all made sense combined with what my dad and grandpa told me. A “little voice” told me…. “Fighting/Self-Defense is a war. Your life or the life/lives of those you care about are the spoils of this war. If these spoils are valuable to you then follow the principles of war like you follow the principles of martial arts. So my motivations changed again…looking good wasn’t even a factor now so out went some of the more outlandish stuff I did in TKD and Kung-Fu. Those 540 degree spin kicks I used to do? Forgotten. Kenpo and Ju-Jitsu became my moniker to reflect the path and arts I was choosing to carry me through the wars ahead. But what about those principles of war? Well I applied them and continue to do so. This is my personal journey ….may you find benefit in my sharing part of it with you….
MASS – Applying sufficient force to achieve the objective.
Well, mass involves force. Force, as in sufficient force, is often determined by the size of the object relative to its acceleration from a physics standpoint. When I was ranked to 1st Black in Kenpo in 2000 I weighed 138lbs. I had difficulty with guys over 200lbs who were also skilled. Why? Because they had more mass to use to achieve the “sufficient force” they needed for their objectives. A mere 200lb man had 60lbs on me. That was 43% of my body weight. This didn’t account for the strength that often accompanies that extra bulk. I applied this principle by changing my workout routines, my lifestyle and my diet. I now hover at about 190lbs (I’m only 5’7”) instead of 138lbs. It’s not all muscle (if I “cut up” again I’ll drop to about 180lbs) but much of it is. Now the 200lb guys that gave me trouble only have a 10lb advantage. That’s only 5% of my body weight. I managed to increase my speed, instead of decrease it, with the increase in weight as it took me a while to get to this weight (about 6-7 years of slow growth). So for striking I have more mass for that F=MA formula that is quoted so often. The increased weight has also increased my inertia which makes my base more stable and makes me harder to move around (not even counting the leg strength increase). Also for the Ju-Jitsu side of things all of the locks, chokes and holds are based on leverage. Leverage is nothing but a force/weight multiplier on the physics side of things. The more force you can put in the more you can get out….exponentially. I’m heavier and stronger so I have more force to apply to the levers my Ju-Jitsu technique creates. I can now better utilize the MASS principle of war for sufficient force by using the increased mass of my body to make it easier to generate sufficient force as well as increase the maximum amount of force I can generate. There is another added benefit as well. When I was growing up there was a joke that went around about loving thick women because there was “more cushion for the pushin’”. Well, “more cushion” applies to combat as well. I have more durability due to the increased natural armor (muscle and the accompanying increase in bone density to support the extra muscle weight and tensile strength). Blows that hurt like hell back in 2000 don’t even register as much now. A 38% increase in body mass will do that for you. That’s why pro fights have weight classes. Size and strength matters. Think of techniques as the vehicle…you’ve got to have the fuel or in our case attributes….things like size, speed, strength, agility, flexibility, coordination, timing, etc. In short I started actually conditioning my body besides just toughening my striking surfaces.
OBJECTIVE – Define a decisive and attainable objective for every military operation.
I talk about this when I teach constantly. When I ask people what their desired objective is in a fight/self-defense scenario they always answer in the same ways: “I want to defend myself”, “I want to prevent him from hurting me”, “I want to finish the fight”. I tell them this is akin to saying “I want to win the war”. This just states the obvious and doesn’t cover the important aspect of HOW they are going to win the war. HOW is the objective. For my personal Kenpo (personal in the sense that it’s what I do not necessarily what I teach) my attainable objective is to get to the opponent’s neck/spine. The reason for this objective is that it offers varying levels of finality as well as a nearly unmatched point of access to and control of the opponent’s body, position and reactions. My personal Kenpo is trained to be able to get to this target from any position against any attack. This is the objective for me. This is my roadmap to finish the war. I don’t merely want to defend myself. I want to defend myself by getting to his spine/neck. I don’t want to prevent him from hurting me. I want to prevent him from hurting me by getting to the control point his spine/neck offers. I don’t want to finish fight. I want to finish the fight by getting to his spine/neck. My objective has two prime components; Finality and Specificity. I know exactly what I want to do and I know that when I do it. the war is almost certainly over. Also, like any military objective there are secondary objectives that lead to the primary objective. These objectives can lead the way or be bonuses depending on how the battle goes. My preferred secondary objective is to gain control of an arm. The reason being is that the arm is 1) a control point in and of itself, 2) is also a weapon and 3) is almost always presented by being utilized to strike, grab or employ a WMD (Weapon of Man-made Design). By seizing it I have seized a major weapon and a major control point. This control point also just happens to serve as a nice path to the final objective...the neck. This is how I train to win the war and I train it constantly and consistently. As long as I live my attackers will be human, they will have necks and their necks will provide varying ways of ending the war. My road for every war is specific and final to increase my probability of surviving and winning the war.
OFFENSIVE – Seize, retain and exploit the initiative.
Offensive. Defense is great; it will delay the enemy from achieving his objective(s). However, offense is final. Offense is what allows us to use the mass we have worked on to achieve the objective we have set. For my personal Kenpo I am offensive minded, and NO I don’t mean I always strike first or intend to. My defensive movements are adjusted with an offensive purpose in mind. I don’t block much in my personal Kenpo. I parry a lot to lead the opponent into positions I find favorable while increasing the extension of his weapons. This increases his reload time while at the same time extending his defensive capabilities beyond the effective range of defending my final objective…his spine. When I do block, I block on angles that inflict damage and/or maneuver the opponent into positions of advantage. My blocks are almost always “striking parries”. I favor parries because of their yielding nature (Ju-Jitsu). It factors into another principle that will be discussed later…actually a few. Now that we’ve covered offensive defense let’s step into the realm of offense. When I strike, I strike decisively. When I grab and manipulate I do it decisively. Decisively in the sense that none of it is arbitrary or based on mere target availability, it’s target availability with a purpose. All offensive strikes, holds, locks, etc. serve the purpose of either A) advancing me towards my final objective or B) completing my secondary objective en route to my final objective. Also each offensive maneuver is trained to lead into the next so as to press the advantage I’ve gained. Each move I make should not only advance me closer to my objective but it should also make it increasingly difficult for my opponent to regain his initiative. This is where the manipulation aspects come into play. The “Strike! Strike! Strike!” mentality or the “Always use Kenpo’s Kinetic Impact” mentality allows the opponent too much maneuverability to regain the initiative and restart his offensive should our blows not have the desired effect due to missing the target or not generating enough force. If he is free to move, he is free to recover. When I grab, I prefer not to let go. It’s a constant grab-hit-grab-hit….and each grab is not a mere grab, it’s a grab with a purpose. It’s a lock, a choke, a manipulation, a push, a pull. If I check it’s with an ACTIVE check. My checking hand is doing something. There is no room for mere “positional” checks in my personal Kenpo or at my level. Cancelling a zone to prevent his maneuverability is only momentary, especially with strikes. Manipulations have a much greater duration of effect and offer more options for regulating and escalating the force as well as changing to a new option should one fail.
SURPRISE – Strike the enemy at a time and/or place and in a manner for which he is unprepared.
Surprise is getting the opponent with something he is not ready for. The way I personally approach this is by having a variety of tactics and angles for acquiring my primary and secondary objectives. Therefore, I have a myriad of techniques. I have the Kenpo, the Ju-Jitsu, The Kickboxing, etc. I believe in having as many tools on my belt as possible so that I am more likely to have the tool I need. I also train to have my tools interchangeable and inter-connectable so as to be able switch to them as the situation dictates. I train to strike from a variety of positions and postures. I train to grapple and manipulate off of positions where many people just strike from. I work on creating obscure zones to strike from to prevent the opponent from fortifying target zones. I work on creating damage from seemingly innocuous grabs. I work on transitioning to my preferred “key positions” from all other positions on the map (map being the opponent’s body and immediate environmental area) and all conceivable angles. In this way I have a path of least resistance available in most situations as well as the option to “brute force” it up the path of most resistance since many aren’t prepared for that. Throughout history there is always an arms race going on with countries developing new weapons and trying to conceal their capabilities from the enemy. In my personal war plan my arms race is learning as much technique as possible. My method of concealing my capabilities is by doing that which I have little intention of repeating. I strike to get to a grab. I grab to get to a strike. Pure Ju Jitsu guys often grab, to grab, to grab and pure Kenpo guys often strike, to strike, to strike. Part of the surprise is that I switch methods constantly on the way to the objective.
ECONOMY OF FORCE – Focus the right amount of force on the key objective, without wasting force on secondary objectives.
Remember what I mentioned about my primary objective and PREFERRED secondary objective? Remember where I mentioned that secondary objectives are bonuses? My objective is the neck/spine. I don’t try to get the arm to get there. I want to get to the neck. The arm is destroyed if it is presented. I don’t have to destroy every weapon on the map to complete my objective. If I can circumvent them to reach the objective then I will do that. But that’s only part of it. My system of “parries over blocks” ties into this. I need the opponent to be in certain positions for me to do certain things. There are three ways to achieve this. He can move, I can move or both. Now of these three ways there are two ways it can occur…on my initiative or his. To stick with the offensive principle I would have to move him, move myself or both. The parries work on both. As I parry, I place him in the position I need to advance to the objective. At the same time I move myself to an advantageous position and load one or preferably several weapons. By parrying I allow him to discharge his weapon, increase his reload time, move his defenses away from my objective, improve my position on the map and load my weapon(s)….all while conserving the energy I need to actually apply the mass principle en route to my objective.
MANEUVER – Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
Remember the sections on parries? Then there is no need to repeat them as they were heavy on maneuvering. Another aspect of this is my own maneuvers. When I step, hop, jump, leap, shuffle, twist, turn, bob, weave, flip, duck, dive, etc. I do it with a purpose. The purpose needs to be offensive in nature. When I take evasive action it is still with the intent of improving my position on the battlefield (environment). When I back-step it is not merely to evade. It is to evade AND draw the opponent in AND get him to extend his defensive capabilities AND get him to create targets. This is all offensive as opposed to dodging solely for the sake of not getting hit. All maneuvers are trained with this in mind. Yet another aspect of this is manipulation via strikes or other methods. As mentioned previously each weapon/attack I expend has a purpose for achieving the objective. Often times the weapon deployed cannot end the war on its own. Therefore, it is used to maneuver the opponent the opponent into position for another weapon that is even more effective than the one before it. Weapons ARE NOT to be deployed to maneuver the opponent into position for a weaker weapon. Kenpo example: people using major blows to set up eye slices and flicks. It should be the other way around.
UNITY OF COMMAND – For every objective, there must be a unified effort and one person responsible for command decisions.
Simply put….focus. There is only one objective for me and I am the only soldier in this battle. I have to remain resolute in my obtaining of the objective and once the objective is seized it must be utilized by me immediately. There can be no waiting for backup to arrive, or allowing other thought process to intrude on my combat mindset. It’s me, the war, the objective, period. When the threat is neutralized I must then look for a path of extraction that is again dependant on and decided by me. No other persons or thoughts are allowed to interfere. The targets are marked, the battlefield is examined, the objective noted, and the war plan is already designed. This is a solo mission, carry it out according to the plan, finish it, and go home to the spoils of war I mentioned earlier. Everyone has a plan until they get hit. Plans change, but the objective in this war remains the same…it is the surest way to a final, achievable and desirable outcome. It is the best way home for me.
SECURITY – Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage.
We’ve discussed this before. Each movement, maneuver and/or attack made is to get closer to the objective WHILE AT THE SAME TIME increasing the difficulty for the opposition to regain the initiative for their objective. All preferred checks are active, “positional” checks are only in-between points of reloading. Zones are cancelled by manipulation wherever possible. Manipulations can transition to other areas with greater speed and efficiency than ballistic strikes can. The opponent is to be attacked in such a way that each attack 1) leads the way to the next attack, 2) clears the way for the next attack and 3) disarms or redirects the opponents attack options. Each attack should have a higher degree of success than the one before it. And by each attack I don’t mean each strike or each lock. I mean each BEAT. There are often times where multiple strikes/holds occur on a single beat. Each beat is to make things tighter than the one before. The attack should be an ever tightening vice until the opposition is crushed. This is also why I prefer not to let go once a viable grab is secured. There is a reason why it is called SECURING a hold on something in the first place.
SIMPLICITY – Prepare clear, uncomplicated planes and clear, concise orders.
My plans and objectives have been clearly outlined. My tactics have been clearly outlined as well. For a recap the tactics are: Parry whenever possible, Manipulate to strike, Strike to manipulate, achieve “key positions” and control points, disarm/disable weapons ONLY when possible, disarm/disable weapons ONLY en route to the primary objective. My orders are simple: secure the primary objective by means of the trained tactics. My actions are all trained to create an intermeshing series of maneuvers all of which are multi-function. Therefore my movements, my objectives and my plans are as simple as possible. This is my Kenpo Ju Jitsu, this is the path I’m on today…tomorrow may be different….
James Hawkins III, SI
Hawkins Kenpo Ju Jitsu