Master Key Techniques

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Jul 28th, 2013

I’ve responded to a number of questions since publishing Talking Kenpo --- Best Practices in Martial Arts Training. Many practitioners have queries concerning the Master Key Techniques in Ed Parker’s Kenpo. Here’s my favorite response.
Thank you for reading Talking Kenpo and for your intriguing question. Your question concerning THE master key techniques is a challenging one. This idea of master key techniques comes from the larger principle of Associated Moves. Associated moves are movements that are identical in principle but may have multiple definitions(uses). It can be a single basic --- a hammering inward that blocks, or rakes the bridge of the opponent’s nose, or hammerfists his kidney. It may be a series of movements that you associate or connect in some way. Master key movements are a series of actions that can be used in more than one situation with equal effect. For example, a long arm bar (Crossing Talon) can be used against a hair grab, an overhead club attack, or a lapel grab with equal effectiveness.
Consider a real life example; learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. A person may already be comfortable driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission. However, learning to coordinate maintaining the proper engine speed, engaging the clutch, and placing the gear shift in the right position in the required sequence without having the car stall out is, at first, quite challenging. This needs training and with much practice, you internalize the proper sequence of movements. Now you can drive a car with a manual transmission! Even better, you can apply this learned sequence, not just in the vehicle on which you learned, but on nearly any vehicle with a manual transmission. In the case of a master key technique in Mr. Parker’s Kenpo, a particular sequence of movements (technique) that you have internalized becomes the base or reference point, with which, you better understand similar sequences.
You sent me a list that some other Kenpo instructor developed as a master key technique list and asked me if it was correct. You also expressed that the list confused you a great deal. My answer is that you are confused by his list because you did not develop it for yourself. The only way for you to be comfortable with any list of items you’d like to use as master key techniques isto spend time training and developing the technique associations for yourself. Your mind, physical skills, and knowledge base are unique to you and certainly different than those of any other Kenpo instructor. His list or my list, may not fit the way you experience the techniques. The process of associating and integrating the ideas of Kenpo in your personal art is up to you as a martial artist. Just possessing a list is not the same as having done the training and practice necessary to incorporate it into neuro-muscular memory.
Here are some Master Key technique lists unique to other Kenpoists. My friend from Ireland, Professor John Ward, associates Gift of Destruction, Thrusting Prongs, Glancing Salute, Leaping Crane, and Glancing Lance together --- because of the similarity of their footwork! My friend, Mr. Paul Christ, from the Netherlands, associates Mace of Aggression with Escape from Doom. This association is made because for both predicaments, in defending yourself, one hand pins his hands to your chest and the other hand hammers. The association comes from having similar physical experiences whether you’re standing or whether your opponent is pinning you to the ground and sitting on top of you.
Finally, you also asked if this list of Master Key Techniqueswas the foundation of Kenpo. Once when Mr. Parker was asked what makes an Ed Parker Black Belt, he replied --- LOGIC and after a pause (for emphasis) BASICS. I believe logic and basics are the foundation of Kenpo.
Wishing you the best in all your endeavors,

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

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