Kenpo Taiji in North London
By Athos Antoniades (1995)
In this article, Athos explains the essence or 'Tao' of Kenpo Taiji, and how it differes from the majority of other martial arts.
Kenpo Taiji is not based purely on physical strength as obviously if that were the case the stronger, bigger person would always win. Kenpo Taiji is 50% physical and 50% mind. In other words not only do we learn how to punch and kick but must learn how to change our mindset to that of a wild animal in a fight or if attacked.
We need to do this because unlike wild animals, humans are not natural fighters. Our most natural instinct is to attack, or to freeze or to cower in fear. We must therefore learn how to release the wild animal within, and we do this by entering the reptilian part of our brain.
Science now knows that we do not have one but three brains inside our heads. As well as the logical/intellectual/thinking brain, which does not like or understand fighting, we also have two other brains.
The paleomammalian or old mammalian brain, is our artistic body-mind, responsible for subconscious reflex action and comprises 5% of our overall brain. The remaining 5% is the reptilian brain, situated in the brain stem, a purely reflex brain with no emotions. For this reason reptiles can never be trained as pets as they only have the survival instinct and are therefore always in survival mode.
Humans have all three brains, animals have two, the paleomammalian and the reptilian, but reptiles only have the reptile brain and are therefore always in survival mode since they only have the survival instinct.
It is easier for animals to enter the reptilian brain and go into survival mode as they only have to go back one brain and they do this instinctively should the situation warrant it. Humans on the other hand must go back two brains and must learn how to do this, which is what we teach in our Kenpo Taiji classes.
Most martial arts are not useful or effective in a realistic self defence or fight situation as they use the logical brain in an attempt to formalise fighting, using logical prearranged techniques instead of the survival instinct of the reptilian brain. This will never work as you cannot apply logic to an illogical situation and fighting is most definitely illogical. Prearranged techniques also deprive us of the ability to react/adapt to the situation, attempting instead to impose our own logical prearranged technique to it but the only way to defeat any attacker would be to coordinate our energy with his, thus pre-emptying and intercepting any attack effectively and becoming masters of adaptability.
We must eliminate thinking and fight at a No-Mind subconscious level for if we stop to think chances are we will get hit. This adheres to the Zen concept of No-Mind, where the subconscious takes over and controls the logical brain and therefore physical movement. The only way we can achieve this is by entering the reptile brain, because as well as placing us in survival mode it is also the doorway to the subconscious, allowing it to take control. Our intention is to the subconscious what thought is to the logical mind (sometimes referred to as the Ego) therefore if our intention is to defeat any attack, the subconscious will take over and direct our energy (Chi) which will in turn direct our physical moves to always do the right thing, countering any attack with maximum aggression, power, speed and perfect timing, just like any wild animal doing whatever it takes to survive at a subconscious reflex level.
In reptile brain mode we will not use focus vision, which is directly linked to the logical mind, and therefore, too slow, but an advanced form of peripheral vision known as “Eagle Vision”, as used by eagles, other birds and reptiles to seek out their prey by locking onto their energy. Similarly eagle vision will tune in and lock onto our attacker’s energy pre-emptying and intercepting his every move. As he attacks, we will attack first, using the element of surprise (an important fighting ingredient) by doing what he does not expect us to do, going forward and attacking instead of retreating and defending. This is in line with what the TAO teaches us, not to interfere with the way he is moving but instead use his energy by going with the flow, therefore gaining maximum power with minimum effort.
The reptile brain is a purely reflex brain, which will act in accordance with how the other two brains are programmed. The paleomammalian which is our body mind, responsible for subconscious body movement, when programmed with fighting principles, they will become a reflex action in reptile brain mode. Wild animals programme their body mind by play-fighting with family and friends from a very early age. Humans on the other hand, are pampered and protected as babies at the expense of the development of their survival instinct.
We train the body mind by using body movement methods and not language or text which is how the neomalian is programmed. There are two ways in which we do this, either by using ABSTRACT TRAINING METHODS or by using NATURAL BODY MOVEMENTS (which do not need thought) with moves which will become a reflex action when in reptile brain mode.
Abstract training methods are abstract body moves based on internal energy flow, which are not understood by the logical brain, and therefore filter through and programme or re-programme the paleomammalian brain with movements that are more useful for fighting, i.e. attack instead of defence. Persistent practice in natural body movement methods will also programme the paleomammalian brain with moves which will become a reflex action in reptile brain mode. Unnatural body moves such as those in some traditional Karate will never become reflex as they cannot be used to programme the subconscious.
Fighting principles will be programmed into the subconscious, using “Techniques/Training Methods” which are based on abstract training moves and natural body moves in order to make it more interesting for the student. By the time the technique is learnt as a self defence method to be applied in a real situation the fighting principles will be embedded in the subconscious, never to be unlearnt. The more we train in these methods, the greater our ability will be to fight at a subconscious reflex level, becoming masters of adaptability and adhering to the way of the Tao, by going with the flow, not opposing it.
Fighting principles will subconsciously change us from being reflexively defensive to becoming reflexively offensive. We therefore use the physical to train the internal and the internal (or subconscious) will the direct the physical, therefore eliminating thinking, which takes time, something we do not have the luxury of in a fight. I must stress that although the techniques/training methods, which are based on natural body movement and abstract training methods are essential to programme the subconscious with fighting principles, such as body balance, coordination and movement, they cannot be used for fighting as we can never simulate a real fight.
For ultimate street survival skills, as well as using the reptilian brain, eagle vision and no-mind fighting at a subconscious reflex level, we must also learn the following:
DIM MAK or pressure point fighting which is the opposite to acupuncture. Chinese medicine is based on a healthy flow of chi, throughout the body's meridians, however, by using Dim Mak we cause a KO by striking these points in a given direction, destructing his chi and causing the KO or worse.
EXPLOSIVE SPEED if we can hit someone once, we can hit them a dozen times, therefore go for it, always striking from the point of origin. Why go East if we want to go West. We attack him at the very moment he initiates his attack, attacking him when he attacks is the best time to do so, each of our strikes being aimed at Dim Mak points. We will gain power not by using distance but body mechanics, combining physical muscle strength with internal energy or chi. This will give us explosive penetrating power ka Fa-jing, which translates to explosive energy. We will learn how to use Fa-jing which is the engine of Dim Mak, in order to transfer adverse energy into the opponent.
CHI-KUNG and other training methods will be used in order to achieve internal stillness, which is the crux to the whole system. It is the very essence of who we are, consciousness itself before it manifests into any form, whether it be physical, thought, emotion or perception.
In its unmanifested state consciousness is the full awareness which becomes the space for what is happening in the present moment “HERE & NOW” enabling us to always react to any situation by responding out of our conscious presence, a spiritual awareness and not our conditioned mind.
We gain internal stillness by being sung, (loose, heavy, relaxed) centering our energy down to the Dan Tien, which is our energy centre, and by also being physically centred by placing our weight on the centre of gravity point on our feet, we will be perfectly balanced.
As we centre ourselves in this way, we will unite with the Universe which is balance itself, we will therefore not be too yin and cowering in fear, or too yang and anxiously aggressive. We will instead stay calm in all circumstances like any wild animal, if attacked we will be violent aggressive on the outside but calm within.
Our mind will always be free from concepts, including the concept of non violence, therefore, if the situation warrants it, sudden violence will become a spontaneous subconscious reflex action. We will never resist the situation but adapt accordingly, as any resistance will cut us off from BEING the only place of true power. Resistance is weakness and fear masquerading as strength.
By accepting surrendering and adapting to the situation we find ourselves in, we stay present, therefore, allowing the light of consciousness to transcend the person and guide us to maximum efficiency. Deep slow breathing is also essential as it relaxes the logical mind and physical body allowing the subconscious to take control.
We learn to disrupt the energy of the opponent and enhance ours gaining perfect health in the process. The style is suitable for all, irrespective of size, age or gender.
In our classes some of the greatest martial arts secrets of all time are revealed to the general public.