2nd Degree Material


Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Jun 21, 2003
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Found this old thread over at the SJ Kenpo forum. Thought it looked pretty interesting, but noticed the handful of replies, so I thought I'd repost here, in hopes that it'll spark some discussion. :)

So, what exactly is the advanced ground defense and the other advanced material?

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Sep 21, 2005
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San Francisco
Hi Mike,

I'll add some comments here, since I'm the Michael that Ted referenced in the post you've linked to.

I cannot speak with absolute authority, since I've not finished with the nidan curriculum. I've managed to work my way thru partway, and that's it.

My wife and I have been studying with Ted Sumner for going on four years now. I had earned my Shodan in Tracy kenpo back in 1986 or 1987, something like that, while I was still in high school in a small town in Wisconsin. A couple years after that I found myself without a kenpo teacher, and life took me to college and eventually San Francisco. For years, I was away from kenpo, studying other methods. I dedicated a number of years obsessively studying capoeira before drifting away from that and into the Chinese arts which I continue to study to this day.

A few years ago I found myself on discussion forums like Martialtalk and Kenpotalk, engaging in discussions and debates often with other kenpoists. I realized my own separation from kenpo, and rekindled my interest in it. Honestly, I often had felt that I was finished with kenpo, yet something kept pulling me back to it. So I sought out instruction in this area and found Mr. Sumner in San Jose.

The distance between the two cities had been a challenge to deal with. My wife and I would both need to leave work early twice a week, in order to make the hour drive in rush hour traffic to San Jose to attend class. Training with Ted has been wonderful. He is one of the best of the best. I started over in the system, relearning everything. Much of it came quickly as I still remembered it. Some of it was completely new to me. All of it needed a tremendous amount of polishing. After a year and a half or two years or so I re-tested for Shodan under Ted. Since then I've been working on the Nidan requirements, which I've learned part of.

Unfortunately my future with Ted is sort of in question. Since the beginning of 2010 it has been extremely difficult for both my wife and myself to be able to leave work in time to make it to class. We have both been dealing with extremely challenging workloads and it has been difficult to get any relief from it. We've been able to attend a bare handful of times so far in all of 2010. Needless to say our progress has been very slow and we need to stay motivated to practice together at home instead.

In addition to that, we recently lost the space in which we held class. Ted is willing to meet with people in a local park, but that's not a long-term solution when the days get shorter and the weather turns rainy in the winter. When a new location is secured, our ability to attend will largely depend on where that is. If it is further from our home then the old location was, it may well prove impossible for us to attend. We'll see. At any rate we intend to maintain our connection to Ted's group, even if we are there more in spirit than in person. I need to take responsibility for my wife's further progression in the system, and we are making efforts to that end. Hopefully when she is ready to test again, I can get her back to San Jose to test in front of Ted and the rest of the group. I guess I'm sort of the San Francisco representative now, by default.

Getting back to your question about the groundwork. What we do for groundwork is basic, with one purpose: to keep the bad guy off me, until I get the opportunity to get back on my feet to continue the fight or run to safety. This is definitely NOT something that a BJJ person would be impressed with. We do not develop a ground fight like they do, we do not seek to remain on the ground. We seek to avoid a prolonged ground engagement and do what is necessary to get back up.

From the beginning levels onward, we practice falling. From there, we practice a method of scrambling on the ground to keep our feet between ourselves and our enemy, kicking at him when he attempts to rush and attack. At the first chance we get, we utilize a specific method of getting back on our feet, all the while defending with our kicks from the ground as needed. This is something that is very difficult to explain in writing, without being able to show it. But this training is introduced to the beginners, and we practice it thru all levels. This is our basic ground strategy.

In the Nidan curriculum, we have a number of formalized techniques that are based on finding yourself on the ground. But like what I've described above, these are also designed to get us back on our feet quickly while defending from the attack. Once again, we do not seek to remain on the ground and make it a prolonged engagement. We hit to injure and disrupt the attack, we get on our feet, and deal with things from there. We feel this is an appropriate approach for self defense.

Ted has explained to me that when he was a student under Al and Jim Tracy in the 1960s, they did a lot of this kind of training. They practiced falling, rolling, kicking and other strikes from the ground as a way of regaining one's feet. Back then, this stuff wasn't formalized into named self defense techniques. It was just sort of "basic" stuff that they practiced, along with kicking and punching drills and whatnot. They got creative with it and practiced the basic themes with a lot of variations. Eventually Al started to formalize the material into named self defense techniques. Those got dumped into the Nidan curriculum. I don't know why they were placed there, and I suspect Ted might feel they ought to have been part of the earlier curriculum as well. But Ted certainly makes sure to at least teach the basic falling, rolling, scrambling and kicking from the ground to get up strategy beginning with the beginners.

The other material is rather varied. Material had been brought into the system from other systems in the form of kata, and some of that is taught at Nidan. Ted also teaches the Kosho material, which was brought in from James Mitose's teachings. I have a very imperfect understanding of this, but it is essentially a way of looking at your material that you already have, and being able to see other options with it. You can focus more deliberately on aspects like joint striking, joint manipulations, stuff like that. It's really kind of just tweaking how you look at your material and recognizing other possibilities. At least that's my imperfect understanding of it.

Like I said, I'm only part way thru the Nidan curriculum, I cannot speak with absolute authority on this.

Hope this helps.
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