The fast-punch teaching method also teaches them to breathe, keep the shoulders down and back and use a straight line for the punch as shown above by a white belt student.

For the side kick, I place a pole in front of the student and an obstruction on the passive side of the body so the kick will originate on the passive side, with the initial knee raise being done with the counter-rotation, and the obstruction forcing a more horizontal kick and causing the kick to come straight out from the center of gravity for maximum impact and penetration with the foot sword (edge of foot) concentrating force in a small, hard area

Training in the snow, 1972.


    Roundhouse kick is taught the same way as the straight punch without initially distinguishing between snap and thrust techniques.  I mention, but do not initially teach, this distinction because it is too much information for beginners to process but I want them to realize that learning the basics is not the end of learning or refinement.  With due respect for those who say basic technique can be learned in a few months and the rest is just repetition to develop muscle memory, I believe technique can be refined throughout one’s life and that the progression of learning generally involves two elements: first, one learns the basic movement and second one refines the movement by (1) increasing the use of balance, leverage, angle, force concentration and muscle power while (2) eliminating the unnecessary parts of the movement.  The practice of learning consists of daily accumulation (learning what to do to make the technique effective) and the practice of the Tao (“Way”) consists of daily diminishing (eliminating the inefficiencies). In Martial Arts terms, we learn how to move and the parts of the movement that can be eliminated so that perfect technique is one that leaves nothing out and has nothing extra.   Those who skip the second part of my formula will not reach a high level and my personal experience is that many experienced practitioners who have not focused on the second element begin their techniques with a preliminary weight shift, upper body lean or premature hip rotation which gives an advance warning to one’s opponent that often results in twice as much time before the technique starts as the technique itself takes.  
    The punching target drill mentioned above helps the students naturally eliminate the “set” position before the technique because I move the target away at the first sign of movement which is generally a wind-up (fist pulled away before going forward), weight shift (generally accompanied by knee or foot movement), or movement in the hips or shoulders.  By emphasizing these preliminary movements, I also teach my students to recognize and capitalize on an adversary’s preliminary motion (see the Action Photos section of this posting).    
    To correct the counter-rotation/rotation of the roundhouse and side kicks, the two must first be distinguished and beginners often do not see a difference.  I explain and demonstrate that the side kick drives straight away from the kicker's center line to hit with the foot sword (side kick) or straight into a side-facing target to hit with the ball of the foot(roundhouse).  Both kicks should strike on a horizontal plane, with exceptions I mention but do not initially teach) and beginners tend to mush the two kicks together with the kicking foot starting on the kicking side of the body and moving upward (error #1) and across the body (error #2) in a stiff-legged fashion (error #3).  With these three errors, it is not possible to develop correct hip motion.

Roundhouse kick over obstruction shows proper technique.


​                           Billings----Livingston

Side kick over obstruction and around pole.


Flying side thrust kick, 1973.

As a brown belt, the same student  kicks around a pole to practice then applies the counter-rotate/rotate sequence to the side thrust kick to easily break a 1" pine board.  Breaking the board is not enough.  Breaking it with ease, as she did here, is the object.  Perhaps it is a test of power, but more importantly it is a test of spirit.


My white belts learn the basic double hip twist punch, using the “counter-rotate/rotate” sequence with a short, quick forward and upward motion of the passive hip followed by a more powerful (but slower) thrust of the punching hip.  Beginners tend to skip the counter-rotation and, to change the timing so the main rotation drives the punch forward (rather than following it), I get them to punch faster.  I do this by holding a punching pad in front of them and telling them to punch it before I can move it out of the way.  This works nearly every time and they feel the power and speed generated by the hip driving behind the punch rather than exhausting its power before the punch.  Adding the counter-rotation is relatively easy and, as long as the punch begins its movement before the counter-rotation, all timing issues are fixed.

Close-up shows leg between two obstructions with foot-sword position.

    Learning Martial Arts requires both repetition and instruction.  The “train hard enough and you will understand” philosophy, failure to instruct on basics and teaching small children have resulted in a loss of technical knowledge and the result has been generations of unqualified teachers.  Because the teachers often lack sufficient understanding to reach a high level, they miss the essence of Traditional Martial Arts in their practice and in their teaching.  Many systems are now more dance than self-defense and more show than substance, lacking the sincerity which lies at the essence of Traditional Martial Arts.
    Young children who are not truly capable of understanding the essence of the technique are often awarded high ranks anyway, apparently based on time and perhaps the instructor’s need for revenue.  These young students are much more likely to be doomed to mediocrity than to achieve mastery or even competence yet they will become the high-ranked teachers of future generations.  
    The striking arts are really quite simple.  The essence lies in speed, power and precision.  Every training session must do two things: First, it must ad to the student’s knowledge and skill by pointing toward this essence.  Second, it must eliminate unnecessary or superfluous movements.  The teacher who tells a student to kick a bag 50 times or do other repetitive drills without instruction is more a trainer than a teacher.  The student will become very good at doing the technique wrong and rank advancement reinforces the student’s belief that the technique is correct even though it is totally ineffective for self-defense.  I recall the national champion who was attacked by a man with a knife and was then regarded as being highly skilled because she received only a few cuts before she was able to run away.  I also recall Masutatsu Oyama, a traditional Karate practitioner, who was attacked by a knife-wielding gangster and was neither injured nor forced to run away.  The attacker died immediately when the straight punch split his head.   It would, of course, be an even higher level of skill to defend oneself without resorting to such violence. 

For roundhouse kick, I place an obstruction beside the student so the kicking knee must be raised by the counter-rotation at the beginning of the motion.  This places the kick on a horizontal plane to strike with the ball of the foot (small, hard striking point) at a ninety degree angle for maximum penetration.

    I am not opposed to those who teach techniques that resemble Martial Arts techniques for purposes such as socialization, fitness and discipline but I am opposed to teachers who represent their teaching as being effective for self-defense when it is not.  If, for example, a 120# woman has completed a weekend self-defense seminar and was attacked by a 200# man with evil intent, could she actually defend herself? The course only produced money for the teacher and instilled a false sense of confidence in the woman while providing nothing of value.  For a smaller, weaker person to overcome a substantially larger, stronger attacker requires speed, power and precision.  Timing and leverage are critical and cannot be learned in a weekend.  Ancient wisdom and modern science converge to declare that muscle memory and conditioned reflexes can only result from serious training over time and the statement that after 1,000 hours of practice you are a beginner and after 10,000, an expert, may not be mathematically accurate (considering the many unaccounted-for variables) but it certainly emphasizes the need for practice. 
    Repetitive practice is critical but, without instruction, insufficient for the development of real skill.  Each of my students from white belt to black belt can tell of numerous break-through moments when they suddenly realized they had just done something they thought impossible----the speed, power, balance or the application of leverage.  This results from instruction designed to give the image the technique followed by repetition and instruction.