Kenpo Budokan Karate: White Belt: Lessons: 5 – Front Choke (Parting Wings)

Front Choke (Parting Wings)

The first time I broached this subject with other Kenpoists I was looked at as if I was crazy. I get screaming all the time about this one – parting wings, originally in the Kenpo System is designed as a defense against a two handed push. In the CMATOS system, however, this is modified to be a defense against a front choke.

Self-defense is all about reaction. If you see someone coming towards you to choke you, your first reaction should be to do something other than stand there and let them choke you. Refer back to lesson 2 Rule 0. There you are, in your martial arts lesson, standing there and waiting for your partner to come up and choke you to practice your front choke. What happens in a self-defense situation? You stand there and wait for the attacker to get you in a front choke. How you practice is how you will perform.

It is for this reason, that in the CMATOS system, we teach Parting Wings as the basis for a front choke attack. You should react before the person actually gets a hold of you, and should have started your self-defense long before you are actually grabbed. Now what happens if you do end up being grabbed? Well, there are 1,001 ways to react and several hundred variations on techniques that you can do to get out of the situation. You can browse through our library of techniques for ones that best fit your situation. But if you never allow yourself to get in the situation in the first place…


  1. Step forward with your left foot, or step back with your right (judge for distance) foot as you perform a double extended outward block.
  2. Bring your left hand across the attackers Jaw (chop or hammer fist) as you twist forward to slam your right hand palm into the attacker’s ribs.
  3. Twist outward again as you bring your left hand forward to chop into the attacker’s neck as your right hand performs an outward block to check.
  4. Preform a thrusting reverse punch into the attackers solar plexus
  5. Cover and cross out


The first thing you should notice that in the description you are either step forward or step backwards. When performing this movement for testing purposes you should be stepping back with the right leg. But in practical situations, you will need to judge the distance you have against your attacker to ensure the technique is properly executed. If they are coming towards you with arms outstretched, you should step forward to meet the attacker and close the distance between you and them. If you are shorter and the person has a longer reach than you, you will want to be stepping forward as well. If the attacker is already too close and is already about to be choking you, then you will want to step back and allow the attacker to fall into your strikes. You want to use the attacker’s momentum against them, either meeting them force on force (amplification), or fading back and letting them walk into your trap.

Depending on the situation, you can use either an open handed or closed handed double outward block. When starting out it might be best to practice with closed fists as the transition between open hand and closed strikes may be a bit confusing at first. The next step of the movement is a chop with a palm strike. Again, if the attacker’s head or jaw is too far away, don’t try and overextend your movements just to include this strike, your main focus is to drive the palm of your hand into the side of the attacker’s ribs causing them to buckle forward.

As they start to collapse forward, you use this momentum to your advantage to drive your left hand chop into the side of the attackers neck or to their windpipe, whichever target presents the best opportunity for striking. Your right hand comes up in an outward block motion, to ensure that your right side is covered in the case the attacker tries to bring their left hand around and strike you.

You finish off the move by driving a punch into the attackers solar plexus and crossing out to cover. In a self-defense situation, you would then try and evacuate the area and get yourself to safety, not just stand there and see if the move was effective or not.

Some considerations

One of the many criticisms leveled against Kenpo is that to many it appears to be a slap-happy self-defense system with lots of hand waving and “magick”. The reality of the situation is that Kenpo uses the principles of shock and awe to overcome attackers in many situations. The classic Five Swords comes to mind – where experienced Kenpoists are executing 7 strikes in less than a second. What happens if a person comes up and starts to slap fight with you. The strike to your left. You block. They strike to your right. You block. If they are fast enough and aren’t going in any appreciable pattern and they are constantly moving, you are going to end up getting hit. What the Kenpoist knows is that each of the strikes, independently executed could cause some serious harm to the individual, but because most individuals aren’t going to just stand there and let you hit them, they are going to be reacting to what you are doing. What the Kenpoist does differently is throw the strikes out there, and the ones that land are emphasized to ensure maximum effectiveness.

A second key to the Kenpoist’s shock and awe arsenal is the kenpo voice – other styles might call this karate breathing, kiup, or the kia (and many other names). The idea is that as you are executing these strikes, especially on the ones where you are making the most impact, you are loudly and forcibly using your shout to add power and shockage to the strikes. A good exercise you can do to see the difference is during a practice session while you are punching, do your punches, but do them without breathing, or if you are breathing, very quietly. Then do the same exercise as you shout during the impact. You should notice a very large difference in both power and perception of power during the motions.

We have a saying in kenpo – that kenpo has no blocks. Everything you do in kenpo should be considered a strike. When you are doing an outward block, you aren’t just blocking, you are striking the inside area of the attacker’s arm to add pain and effectiveness to the technique. Just “blocking” does us no good, we want the person to react to each of our strikes, and use their reaction to have them fall into our next strike or trap. You’ll start to notice as you develop your techniques that the principle of “alternating zones” comes into more and more focus, one strike leads to a reaction which is a set up for another strike, until, ultimately, your attacker is subdued.

Things to Work On

As with all techniques you should be focusing on performing the technique in various modes. The first mode is shadow boxing mode, where you are performing the technique in the air. This level is just to get you confident enough with the movements that you can start practicing with a partner. When you are doing this, watch how your hands are moving and practice the fundamental motion that the hands are following – focus on the movements rather than the strikes.

Next comes practice and proficiency with a partner. Don’t just be attacked, but also be the attacker and let your partner defend. You do this to ensure that you are able to see how your body is reacting and you can adjust your strikes accordingly.

After you get comfortable working the move through the standard motions, do the mirror image of the move. In this case, you will be stepping forward with your right or back with your left and executing the movement using the opposite side. What this does is train yourself to be able to adapt to different situations. In a self-defense situation, you may not be able to step back (you may be backed against a wall), or you have to move to the side, by working the technique on both sides you gain considerable proficiency with the fundamental movements behind the technique.

Finally, you should practice the movement using slow tension movements. Slow tension practice is when you perform the movements with all your muscles tensed as tight as you can and as slow as you can. The purpose of this is to really drill into your muscle memory the necessary movements of the technique. When practicing at this level you should be paying intimate attention to where your hands are going, how they are moving, where your feet are, etc…. to get as close to a picture perfect move as possible. Imagine someone taking a time lapse video of you performing in slow tension. When they speed the camera back up to full speed, you should look like a master with the technique.

Concluding Thoughts

If this is the first time you are studying a martial art, I would suggest not trying to rush ahead and learn the other self-defense techniques right away, but focus on getting this movement down perfectly until moving on. It should take you a week or two of practice before you should feel comfortable enough to move on. In the interim, you can always review the previous lessons, or take some of the later lessons on the fundamental concepts and techniques.

As with everything, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us for any clarifications you need or a review of what you are doing. Keep up the great work and we’ll see you in the next lesson.


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