(This photo's copyright belongs to Jesse and Gina Brown)
Understanding the uniqueness of each person's martial arts training and experience is important. My instructor, Chuck Epperson, stresses that Kenpo Karate is made to fit each person's individual style and preference. That is not to say we make up our own rules as we go. That would be erroneous, to say the least. It is more approrpiate to say that Kenpo is flexible enough to fit each person's unique style and personality and philosophy while strong enough to maintain a strong system of learning and application for each practitioner.
I read in an article where Richard 'Huk' Planas was asked about Kenpo and he said something to the effect that Kenpo was best described as a set of rules and principles and a set of ideas to be learned. It was up to each person to make the art their own. As long as the rules and principles were followed, the Kenpo being practiced would be sound. Here is the big question, how often do we follow the rules and principles. It sounds easy to just follow the principles and everything will be good. It takes a lot of time to just understand what the basic principles are and practice them right!
All of us follow principles and guidelines for our day-to-day life, whether we realize it or not. If we use our principles to live by, we might make a lot more progress. I think a lot of people just move from moment to moment and obstacle -to-obstacle. Many people do not think things through or have a plan. Kenpo, and any other martial art for that matter, asks us to practice and make it a way of life. Why else would we engage in the practice of something.
Lee Wedlake pointed out in his book, Kenpo Karate 101, that many people do not stick with what they start, whehter it be the gym or martial arts. It is a sprint and they burn out. Something like martial arts is about the journey more than the goal. The most meaniful experience you will get out of your martial arts training will be if you take it as a journey and understand how it shapes you and your perspective. That perspective will also change over time. So, be prepared to see and understand Kenpo in different ways as you progress through your journey. This is also true for anything you do. It changes for you over time. I remember I stopped making art for a time after graduate school. When I started making art again, I realized I had a whole new understanding of art because so much time had passed. Lee Wedlake talks about this in Kenpo training and in other things.
When training in martial arts, you have to understand yourself and what you want. It is important to know what you want. Martial arts styles are like clothes, you have to try them and see if they fit you. Each style has a different fit and is meant for a certain type of personality and goal, depending on the person.
When training with my instructor, Chuck Epperson, he tells me a lot of things. One thing he told me was to look at the self defense techniques and figure out how I would finish them. The techniques are just ideas teaching principles, but it may not represent the ideal move for you. If you follow the principles, then you can make a variation that respresents your own style better. He talked about adding and deleting moves to make something more direct for him, because he likes to be direct. I have to agree that being direct is the best policy, but even with that, there are different ways to be dircet. If you are a martial artist, what is your direct way of approaching a situation? I like to look at techniques and ask myself how will this work for me.
One last thing I like to do for my own personal training is I like to focus on basics and basic combinations. I also like to practice both sides of a technique, literally. I know their are opposites and reverses of everything and we have category completions everywhere that we are supposed to think about. Those are outstanding, for certain, and they are truly an academic challenge to apply and understand. However, I just like the literal nature of doing both sides, opposite sides, of the same technique. It is a challenge that suits me. Will I ever want to use my weak side? Not really, but you never know when you are boxed into a corner and only your weak side is available, or the weak side of a certain move might only be available. In addition to that, I just like to the physical challenge when working out of doing the weak side. It gives me that much more to practice, and I really enjoy the journey of practicing the art of Kenpo.
Find your unique style in whatever you do, understand it, and let it help guide you to what you like to do most and enhance your training at the same time.