Category Completion


Black Belt
Feb 27, 2002
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Plymouth, MA
After reading a few replies on Doc's post (Are You Supposed To Finish Self-Defense Techniques?) regarding Category Completion, I figured I' d throw this out there too. Just another view regarding Category Completion.

Category Completion
By Lee Wedlake

I first heard this term from Huk Planas. I had never heard it from any other senior instructor, and never did afterward. I have to speculate that it was something he put into the system. He's still alive, so you can ask him.​

In my humble opinion, it has become a catch-all phrase. It's being used as an escape valve, an answer to be thrown out when you just don't know what to say when asked about a term or relationship.​

The motivation for this article is that I was asked to do a seminar, in two parts, on the subject of Category Completion. Now, I realize why they asked me to do this, since I know who is working with this group and what their emphasis du jour is. I believe they wanted me to run down the list of techniques and point out which move was the opposite or reverse of that, etc.​

Big red light and a buzzer. Wrong. I can do that, but it's not my job. My job is to help you understand the system from the inside (you) at this point, not from the outside (your teacher). That's why Parker Kenpo is taught the way it is. Sure, it can be spoon-fed to you, and it is, mostly. But if you want to "get it", you have to think. Ed Parker felt the lessons were better learned when you had to "pull teeth" to get the reasons and answers. He said "It makes it your own". I fully agree. We can give you the roadmap, provide direction and hints, keep you from making wrong turns, but you have to get in and drive.​

They essentially asked me to hand them the answers. I don't believe they meant it to be that way. What I do think is that they really didn't understand what the idea of category completion really is, and that's what I want to explain from my point of view.​

I complied with their request to teach two classes on Category Completion. But I don't think they expected what they got; based on the French fried brains and realizations they told me they had after the classes. So, hang on, here it comes.​

What's a category?
I first asked the group what a category is. That got some people thinking and only one was willing to take a stab at the answer. Here's the dictionary definition.​

cat繚e繚go繚ry [k獺ttə gwree]
(plural cat繚e繚go繚ries)
n division: a group or set of things, people, or actions that are classified together because of common characteristics
Encarta 簧 World English Dictionary 穢 & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.​

All right, then. Now we know what a category is. In my mind, you now have to exhaust the chosen category. You'll have to take all the related stuff and list it, even the stuff that doesn't work. If you don't, how do you know what's valid? I used an example of downward blocks (excluding forearms and elbows). We teach outside downward, inside downward palm-up and palm-down. We don't teach an outside downward palm-up. Why not? That would complete a category, right? We don't because it is not efficient and, more likely, detrimental. Power delivery is not good because the alignment is poor. The body just doesn't want to work like that. Therefore we don't teach it. Astute students think about it and ask. I suspect they're just getting confirmation they're on the right track.​

Predecessors have completed this category and discarded the useless move, paring down the information to pass on. In effect the work has been done for the student. If you reverse engineer the movements you can learn a lot. And this, Grasshopper, is what Ed Parker was getting at when he said "Every move, concept, principle, and definition has an opposite and a reverse."​

Now when I told my class that we should look at not only reverse and opposite in motion but in concept, principle, and definition, you could see the lights going on.
I started with building a basic category, that of ways to handle an attack. The basic four are inside the attack, outside, over, and under. Depending on the attack, some of the ways may not be available.​

Let's say we are going to go outside the attack. We'd have to consider techniques that go forward, back, or sideways, and whether they move inside, outside, over, or on the entry line. Then we have to see which block or parry we use, those being inward or outward, etc. Once we have settled on that we can examine the category more specifically.​

I used a left inward block, stepping forward, that made contact outside a right straight punch, to start my category. I asked them to give me the names of a few techniques that started in this manner and to categorize the rear hand positions found in this analysis. There are basically four. They are chambered, covering, hanging, or up by your head.​

As an aside, the one up by your head is used in Flashing Mace. But in the standard technique it comes from the low point of origin. Ed Parker's idea, as he explained it to me, was to show you how to react from the rear hand up position, as if you had been leaning against a wall, supported by your hand, and had to strike downward. The argument was made and acknowledged, and the student was absolutely right when considering the standard technique, but the intention was different, and that's why we have to keep it as one of the four.
Now the question becomes; which one of the four rear hand positions is not used when executing a defense with that left inward block?​

Looking at your examples contained in the standard techniques you will find that the right rear hand cover or check position is the one not shown.​

Now the question is; why? It looks to me that the reason is that he felt that due to angle of cancellation, line of sight, and travel considerations, the cover position was not needed or wanted, and that the others were better suited. The General Rule that "Always means 99% of the time" would now apply. I think that techniques such as Circling the Horizon teach us how to come off the centerline from the cover-type position while illustrating the mitigating factors needed to do so, such as the side-step with a parry and a hard pull down. But as far as using the rear hand off the cover position, it's not there.​

But wait, you say! It's there. It's on the other side! Yes, Weed whacker, it is. But the other three are not. Why is that?​

There are a few reasons why. One is that now we're using our strong hand to block instead of the weak hand. Think of Aggressive Twins (or Alternating Maces), which steps back and blocks outside the arm with the rear hand covering. But if you were to miss, or if the hand were a right hand instead of left, you'd have Delayed Sword. Or maybe Five Swords (if you went forward – but it works stepping back), and then applying the rule of blocking below the elbow. Now you see that you can't use the other three hand positions inside the punch. Why? Because you'd get nailed with the back-up weapon. I'd refer to the "What-if" idea we teach as a guide.​

I think you've gotten the idea. This is very much related to my basic technique analysis breakdowns and probably looked at as just another way to figure out the relations hips between movements. Mr. Parker used such terms as associated moves, family groupings, and related techniques to describe the idea of looking at the similarities in sequence and method of motion.​

Now let's talk about that idea of reversing concept or principle. This allows us to look at the mental aspects versus the physical we seem to focus a bit too much on. I look at this in various ways but here I'll just mention a few ideas to get you started on your own path.
One idea is in the empty space concept. Look at how movement may be applied in ways other than what you were taught. I see the hammerlock position we do in Short Three as an example. In Locked Wing, you are locked by the opponent. In Crossed Twigs you lock yourself. If you take that arm position and move it to the side, it's a headlock. That's a way to fill empty space.​

Another is transition, moves between moves. Often there is as much information or more than what you got in the technique. The old saying about what's first is last and what's last is first applies.
Let's take a look at a response matrix, a form of force progression as a model of category completion. There are basically four ways to deal with an attack;​


Hard/Hard. Think hard attack, hard response. An example is a full-on punch countered with Flashing Wings. Force vs. force.
Hard/Soft. Hard attack, soft response. For this example, think about parrying.​

Soft/Soft. Soft does not have to be physical movement, such as when we typically think of parries or minor moves, etc. Soft is use of the voice or on-verbal communication. Talking your way out of a situation would be an example of soft/soft.​

Soft/Hard. There are times when you have to "get physical". He may have been running his mouth, saying what he'd like to do with your wife and you may have run out of alternatives and decide that a laying on of hands is appropriate. There are such things as offensive techniques in the Parker system. They're not on the lists, but I learned some way back when and he confirmed that when I asked him. And that makes sense, too because if you want to complete a category you have to consider offense as well as defense.​

These are just some ideas I thought were interesting enough to put on paper and I hope they give you something to think about in increasing your understanding of the martial arts, which then applies to life in general.​

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