Geoff Johnson's American Kenpo Karate
This site is intended for instructors and students of American Kenpo Karate, or anyone interested in reality based self defense. The art I have created is a tailored version of Ed Parker's American Kenpo. You can read more about my background and my art by following the links in the sidebar.
I have recently finished uploading all of the material for Yellow belt from my Kenpo Karate Home Study Course. You can study this material and submit a video test for free. I will politely critique your video test, and, if you demonstrate adequate proficiency, I will promote you to the rank of Yellow Belt. Follow this link to read more about how to submit your video test. You can email me when you begin studying the material, and I will be happy to coach you along.
This is 100% free. There are no gimmicks. There is no sales pitch. Just Kenpo. So get started today. Earn your Yellow belt. Begin feeling more confident in defending yourself.
Check out the independent review of my home study course at Black Belt Distance Learning.
Check out the independent review of my home study course at Black Belt Distance Learning.
- 2/19/2013 - I have decided to eliminate all testing fees for belt promotions. Submitting your video test for promotion is now free for all belt levels. My original intention for the testing fee was two fold:
1.) As compensation for my time spent reviewing and critiquing belt tests
2.) To ensure that students were fully prepared before submitting their test
My concern was that some students might have been discouraged from testing because of the financial burden of the testing fees. It is more important for me that you progress in your training and receive feedback.
You can view the updated Video Test Protocol page that reflects these changes. I am also offering an electronic certificate as a .pdf for every successful belt promotion.
- 8/9/12 - A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Black Belt Distance Learning (www.BlackBeltDL.com), an independent website that offers impartial information for the prospective student on martial arts home study courses.
The site offers a thorough examination of the pros and cons of distance learning in general, and provides a checklist of questions for you to ask before getting started in any course.
Currently, the site offers 29 reviews on programs including Kenpo, Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, Kung Fu, Aikido, Wing Chun, Shorin-Ryu, Goju, and others. There are good and bad programs listed, and none are singled out or endorsed. Each review includes a total estimated cost to achieving 1st degree black belt, including testing fees.
You can read the review of my system to see how it compares to others.
I highly recommend visiting this site before beginning my home study course or any other distance learning martial arts program.
- 7/23/12 - Here is my response to a question from Rick, who writes:
As a part of my exercise training I use a treadmill. While this helps to a degree with stamina I wonder what your thoughts are
regarding the use of a filled duffle bag suspended from floor joist as part of my martial arts training.
I envision building up stamina by combining punches and kick on the bag starting with individual strikes and kick
and then combinations . I would like to increase my time on the bag to condition my body.
Would you please comment and provide some guidance and thoughts. Have you used this type of a setup and
if so any suggestions.
This is a great idea for increasing stamina and conditioning your body for striking. The best advice I can give you is start off easy and listen to your body. It is tempting to generate maximum force when doing any form of exercise, including bag work. When you imagine a bigger, stronger opponent you might feel the need to strike as hard as possible. Remember that your weapons (hands, wrists, feet, ankles) have to withstand this stress.
I think it's best to put emphasis on pressure instead of force. Force is mass*acceleration. The more we accelerate into a kick or punch, the more forceful it will be. Since our wrists and ankles can only take so much force, we should only generate a safe amount of force and then maximize pressure, which is force/surface area. We should make our strikes like bullets or daggers, using as small a surface area as possible to make them sharp.
Most of the time my practice partners are much bigger and stronger than I am. When they practice the techniques on me with a little gusto, they can safely generate a lot of force, and I go flying across the room. When I practice the techniques on them, my force generation is considerably less, but my strikes are very sharp, so they crumple to the ground.
If your bag will be supported from the ground, make sure you have plenty of foot room. If you are practicing short range weapons like knees or elbows you will want to stand comfortably near the bag in a strong stance. I have used floor supported bags that have wide bases filled with sand. They are great for practicing kicks and punches, but terrible for anything short ranged.
Hanging bags remedy this, but can have a tendency to swing and spin. If the bag is heavy enough, the swinging motion isn't too bad. If it's hanging from several chains or ropes at different angles, then the spinning should be mitigated. These hanging bags are usually cylindrical in shape, and some strikes (like back kicks) tend to deflect off the bag. I prefer a bag that is closer in shape to a human torso - wider than it is thicker.
I also recommend using a light weight glove to spare the skin on your knuckles. I wouldn't use gloves with a lot of padding, nor would I wrap the wrists or ankles, because you want to learn how much force you can generate safely.
- 5/30/12 - I received a great question from Jesse, who writes:
I like your kenpo series but I am sort of concerned with all the kicks I see. Seems like over 100 something kicks in kenpo and a lot of them seem flashy/acrobatic. Why did you choose to keep all the kicks in your system? Why are there so many kicks?
JesseI understand you must be focused on training instinctive responses for attacks you are likely to encounter. I agree that some of the kicking requirements in the advanced belt levels are not practical for self defense. I'd like you to look at them as plyometric exercises instead of self defense techniques. The number one reason I included all of the kicking requirements is because they are phenomenal for strengthening and conditioning the abdominals, lower back, and legs - not to mention improving balance and proprioception. I used to work as a personal trainer, and had clients from ages 14 to 70. Many trainers give plyometric exercises for athletes looking to develop power and balance.
The kicking requirements from Yellow through Green belt focus on the fundamental kicks, nothing I would call acrobatic or flashy. They may be combination kicks, they might include a foot maneuver, or involve a spinning motion. From Brown through 5th Black the jumping kicks are introduced. Even these I would not consider flashy. I agree they are not the most practical; however, after you have mastered these kicks, firing a front snap kick to the groin will be no challenge.The degree of difficulty is increased slowly across the belt levels, so you shouldn't feel overwhelmed by any of the kicks. If you have an injury or limitation that prevents you from performing a particular kick, you can tailor the kick to your body type and ability.If you download the family grouping .pdf from my website, you will see how I structure my practices. I use the kicking requirements as a warm up and exercise routine before training the techniques. You can devote as much or as little time to the kicks as you want. When I practice these kicks I perform each kick 4 to 8 times on each leg. The first few repetitions are as slow as possible, holding the kick in full extension to strengthen the core. The remaining repetitions are executed at full speed to develope power and timing.Let me know if you have any more questions.
- 5/5/12 - I am always updating and editing my Home Study Course. While working on 4th Degree Black Belt, I came across some of my favorite extensions, and decided to share Gripping Talon. It has a very interesting way of canceling the opponent's height and width before using a neck twist take down. It is the perfect complement to the take down I presented at the end of Glancing Spear, and is very much related to the half nelson throw in Destructive Twins. You can compare this take down to similar extensions in my Extensions (Outside) Playlist.
- 4/30/12 - I've added two new links - one for the Belt Requirements.pdf and another for my Family Groupings Practice Guide.pdf. If you're a prospective student, you can view these documents to get a better understanding of what my system entails. If you're a current student, these are great resources to help guide your training. The layout for the Family Groupings document may seem a little confusing at first. I arranged the material the way I keep it in my mind. Although I have made three major groups: sets, kicks, and techniques, each training session has you working on a little bit of all three.
- 2/1/12 - Congratulations to Richard Kaufman, who successfully tested to Yellow Belt for free via my youtube channel! I look forward to receiving his future tests. After reviewing his test, I sent him a detailed and polite critique of his strengths and weaknesses. You, too, can submit a video test for Yellow Belt after studying the material on my youtube channel.
- 12/12/11 - Today I received a terrific email from Ron, who asks,
"I have a question for you...upon review of the yellow belt segment I did not see a set of
'drills' like in a class setting. Can you please advise me on what particular flow the drills
I begin my own practices by warming up with jumping jacks, push ups, and deep knee bends. I follow this with a series of step-through front kicks, step-through roundhouse kicks, and step-through side kicks (alternating legs as I travel across the room) to warm up my knees and hips. To further warm up my elbows, I execute horizontal and vertical punches from a horse stance, and from a neutral bow. All the while I am beginning gently, and focusing on form, timing, and power generation. All of this material is found in the Basics playlist. Simply repeat the strikes, blocks, and stances that feel the most foreign or awkward.
In my Family Groupings outline I have divided all of the sets, kicking requirements, and techniques into 14 different groups, and I focus on one of these groups during my practice. I begin with a set (like blocking set 1) and repeat it two to three times, or as much as is necessary. The first couple of repetitions I am thinking about my stances, blocks, and strikes, using proper form moving at a slow to moderate pace. The last one or two repetitions, I focus on generating speed and power while maintaining that good form.
I then move to the kicking requirements for that day, followed by the techniques, and utilize the same format - two or three slow repetitions focusing on form and balance. Then another few repetitions with speed and power. Remember to practice both the right and left side of every kick and technique, doing a few extra repetitions on your non-dominant side. I am right handed, and sometimes I will exclusively practice the left side only of the kicks and techniques to feel more ambidexterous.
At this stage, you can follow the format I described above using the Yellow belt requirements. As you progress through the belt levels and acquire more techniques, you can begin identifying the techniques in the Family Groupings outline, and use this outline to guide your practices. I will send you this outline when you are working on Orange belt.
This was a great question, and I hope this helps.
I am planning a video series that explains the Family Grouping outline in detail, and follows a typical practice of mine from start to finish.
- 10/26/11 - I recently received some great questions via email from a viewer interested in my Home Study Course. Below are his questions and my response.
"I will be ordering but need to ask a few questions. I can only devote 2 days about 1 hour to this.Will I still benefit in self-defense skill? Is practicing the moves at a slow to moderate pace stillgood to develop skill also? Thanks!"Hello John,Do you mean 2 days per week, for an hour each day? If so, I think that would be adequate. As you progress through the intermediate and advanced levels and acquire many techniques, you may want to practice 3 days per week.Many kenpo practitioners are famous for their blindingly fast sequences. I prefer to put an emphasis on "quickness", instead of speed. Rather than performing a technique from start to finish as fast as I possibly can, I will logically sub-divide the techinque into smaller pieces, executing each piece/strike with reasonable speed and power, and pausing briefly between pieces. These pauses allow me to account and correct for the opponent's reactions and retaliations. When practitioners complete techniques as fast as possible, they are focused entirely on their own movements, and forgeting they have a difficult-to-predict opponent in front of them. So, yes, one can develop good skill by practicing at a slow to moderate pace, so long as they develop quickness and power in their strikes.If you haven't already, visit my youtube channel at www.youtube.com/KenpoGeoff. I have all of the Yellow belt material available for free. When you have mastered the material you can send me a video test for free, and I will politely critique your performance. This way you can get a good sense of the system and feel good about purchasing the Home Study Course.
- 8/30/11 - Congratulations to Logan Gabriel, who successfully tested to Yellow Belt for free via my youtube channel! I look forward to receiving his future tests. After reviewing his test, I sent him a detailed and polite critique of his strengths and weaknesses. You, too, can submit a video test for Yellow Belt after studying the material on my youtube channel.
- 6/24/11 - When I was studying EPAK, Flashing Mace was always a technique that I felt uncomfortable about. It was very instructive for how I might check and strike the opponent if we are standing almost back-to-back. It also has you striking over the opponent's punching arm, which is a nice complement to techniques like Dance of Death, Thundering Hammers, Sleeper, Leaping Crane, Flashing Wing, etc. However, the spinning and lack of powerful strikes made the original version less than practical. This is why I chose to upload my version of Flashing Mace from my Home Study Course. It is simple and effective. I also show how the original version might make more sense against multiple opponents, and mention that it is contained in a later technique called The Ram and the Eagle.
- 6/12/11 - This morning I met with Gloria Boldizar, a renowned instructor of the Tracy Kenpo system. We met for breakfast and discussed her experiences as an instructor and school owner, and the success of my Home Study Course. Afterward, we drove to Penn Hills park and practiced for an hour or two, comparing techniques from Tracy's and Ed Parker's Kenpo.
If you are in Pittsburgh and would like to meet, please contact me.
- 6/9/11 - I cleaned and updated the EPAK vs GJAK webpage. It's easier to read, and includes more detail about the extensions that I reworked. It also includes a section of techniques from EPAK that remain unchanged in GJAK.
- 6/7/11 - Over the months I have received many emails about the specific differences between Ed Parker's American Kenpo (EPAK) and Geoff Johnson's American Kenpo (GJAK). Today I created a new web page, EPAK vs GJAK, where I show exactly the differences between the two arts, and what remains unchanged.
- 5/31/11 - I've added a webpage in the side bar called Belt Promotions listing the current rank of my most recent students. I didn't realize how many students I have taught!
- 5/30/11 - I have started including links from each technique, kick, and set in my Belt Requirements page to the corresponding video in my youtube channel. I may ultimately have a similar webpage linking my Family Groupings outline to the corresponding techniques. That will take some time.
- 5/28/11 - My 1st Degree Black Belt playlist was looking a little skimpy, so I uploaded Entwined Maces and Dance of Darkness. I purposefully shared these videos because I don't see many other Kenpoists teaching these technique online. There are countless videos on the early, more practical material like Delayed Sword or Triggered Salute. I'm guessing there aren't many people who feel comfortable with these techniques, and I'd like to encourage people to adapt them and make them better - especially Dance of Darkness. I felt so little control over the opponent, and such little confidence in myself, when performing the original version. The original has you using a front cross-over sweep, followed by a spinning reap to the back of the opponent's leg. I say pick ONE and make it work, rather than trying to do both on the same bad guy. So, for Dance of Darkness I chose the front cross-over sweep (and included a more effective face claw and arm grab to guarantee the take-down). Glancing Spear was in the same boat, and for that technique I chose to focus on the reap, instead of the sweep.
I chose to upload Entwined Maces to further complement Snaking Talon and Destructive Wing. You'll notice that I prefer to redirect the opponent's jab,punch combination with the Snaking Talon parries, instead of using an inward and outward block. If the opponent skips the jab and only fires the pivot punch, then Entwined Maces offers a nice alternative to Snaking Talon. If he jabs and then fires a step-through punch, you can begin like Entwined Maces and finish like Destructive Wing.
- 5/21/11 - Today I added Snaking Talon and Knee to Elbow to my blue belt playlist. I uploaded Snaking Talon because it is a great technique not only against a push, but also against a punch. This technique inspired my creation of Destructive Wing - a hybrid of Snaking Talon and Evading the Storm (or Attacking Mace). I wanted to have one method of maneuvering to the outside of the opponent's punch, regardless if it was a step-through or pivot punch. Snaking Talon works perfectly against a pivot punch, and Destructive Wing is my solution for the step-through.
I also wanted to share my thoughts on the original version against a push. I feel the full snaking motion of the right arm is unnecessary, so I removed it.
- 5/14/11 - I want to include more videos from purple, blue, and green belt. Today I uploaded videos for Hooking Wings and Shield and Mace.
- 5/8/11 - I uploaded a revised version of Falling Falcon, in addition to Glancing Spear, and Thundering Hammers. I also uploaded videos describing my video test protocol and Family Groupings outline.