Learning To Think...

By Richard Matthews
Published on May 28th, 2009

The brain's function of “thinking”, consciously or subconsciously, is a constant human activity, just like breathing.

As Kenpo practitioners we know the benefits that can be gained from analysing and developing one of our most natural functions, breathing, the system also encourages practitioners of all levels to develop their ability to "Think", (it is or "should be" especially addressed at brown belt level).

Earlier in this blog I made a bold statement," like the tradesman who couldn't read the instructions I had to think", maybe there was something or someone that could help me to develop a method to improve my thinking.I decided to have a look around and see if there was anything that could help me.By accident at an airport bookstore I found a book, “De Bono's Thinking Course".

I found that the concepts and formulas presented in his text compliment Kenpo's analytical approach to the Martial Arts.I have applied a few (by no means all) of his formulas for "thinking" to all areas of my personal Kenpo training.

The Five Minute Think

The first time I really applied De Bono's "Five Minute Think" method, was to the self defence technique "Twisted Twig" (defence against a (or attempted) wrist lock), it gave me a whole new way of looking at and analysing techniques.By using De Bono's ideas I found it allowed me to use Mr. Parker's ideas such as:-
“The Equation Formula,
The Three Points of View,
The Ideal / What if / Formulation concept,
Analogies and Quotes” with a greater degree of flexibility.

Other people may already have the ability to look at Kenpo this way, but for me it was just what I needed at that stage of development.

De Bono’s book and Ed Parker's referential materials helped switch on the little cartoon light bulb above my head.............. DING!

Here are a few of De Bono's thinking guidelines, later on there is a section on the "Five Minute Think" as adapted for Kenpo.

Consider All Factors.

Alternatives, Possibilities, Choices.

Examine Both Sides.

Aims, Goals, Objectives.

and one of my favourites.

Plus (points), Minus (points), Interesting (points).

Abbreviated as ...C.A.F., A.P.C., E.B.S., A.G.O., P.M.I..

All the above work hand in glove with the analytical aspect of the system these simple formulas can add a little bit of "juice" to your Kenpo,”to improve your Kenpo training don't just be a "doer" or a "thinker" but be "a doer and a thinker”.

"Improving your thinking skill is actually much, much simpler than most people believe”. De Bono

"not until the brain shifts into gear with the body, will the intangible become tangible” Ed Parker.

Telling people to learn to think, may seem like pointing out the obvious, but if you assume that just like breathing you can already "do that” it may be a useful exercise to look a some of the things, martial or other that you assume you can already do adequately!


When using the "5min Think” stick to rigidly to the time frame.
The 5 min Think is there to enrich your Kenpo practice, not to encroach on it.
The De Bono, formula is as follows
1st minute Target and Task.
2nd & 3rd minute Expand and Explore.
4th & 5th minute Contract and Conclude.

For Kenpo,
Pick a Target, i.e. An inward strike with a club (you could pick a single basic move all the way up to a Set or Form or a Principle of Motion).What's the Task, i.e. developing the strike, to maximise your effort.

2nd & 3rd MINUTE
Expand, you could look at the connection between the club and the pivotal points of the body, i.e. the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hips or even the balls of the feet.Explore how timing the twists, turns and drops of various body parts can directly effect your ability to strike with the club.

4th & 5th MINUTE
Contract, pull all of your ideas together and pick a couple to focus on,
i.e. the rotation of the wrist and the anchoring of the elbow
Conclude, the need to do some heavy bag work, to get the feel of what it is like to strike some thing with maximum effort, which is "at real speed, in real time and with full power".
The above exercise should lead you towards examining the differences and similarities of maximising your efforts and exerting maximum effort.
This simple formula can be applied by a group or an individual, in a class situation, a dead time situation like waiting for a bus, or periods of rest and relaxation.
Parts of it can be targeted for longer periods of thought, such as Expand and Explore.
Take the principle of Balance and Expand on it from a Kenpo point of view.
A starting point could be does Balance simply mean being able to stand on one leg while kicking? or is there more!!.

Explore the possibilities of conceptualising Balance to see where it may lead you in an unrestricted thinking process, you cannot be "wrong" because it’s your thoughts nothing more or nothing less.This may seem strange but, unique ideas whether good or bad, have to come from somewhere, you never know it might be an idea of yours that can be the innovation that triggers a positive change.

Note: I believe that the majority of Kenpoists at various times in their training will apply this formula whether they are aware of or not.This formula was applied to every section of the club set.

"A true martial artist is not one who fears change, but one who causes it to happen"
Ed Parker

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Richard Matthews

Richard Matthews is currently a 7th Degree black belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo. Richard is Director of Operations for Europe for The Martial Arts Learning Community. Mr. Matthews can be contacted at

Other Articles by Richard Matthews

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