The Two Stages of Movement and Three Types of Motion

February 13, 2013
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As American Kenpo martial artists we all learn three major types of movement: solid, liquid and gaseous. These three types of movement are what we use in our Kenpo, each unique and utilized in different ways. Throughout this paper their differences, uses, and weaknesses will be explained. This paper will also explain the two major stages of movement in Kenpo: static movement, the beginning stage, and dynamic movement, a more complex second stage.

Three Types of Motion

In Kenpo there are three major types of motion, Solid, Liquid and Gaseous. This is a commonly used analogy which focuses on how movement can be similar to the three states of water, solid (ice), liquid (water), and gaseous (steam or vapor). Solid movement is very powerful and firm when being used by itself. Liquid movement is more fluid and leads one move into the next. Gaseous movement is expansive, using moves that go in different directions to open up the opponent’s targets. Each of these has their advantages and disadvantages, but can only be optimized when used with the other two.

Solid Movement

Solid movement is used for power moves, often ending or beginning a sequence of moves. Solid moves are optimal stopping moves. Similar to ice, solid moves are rigid but require a larger amount of pressure to get through. These moves wedge into an attack, like a push, and stop it by putting up an amount of stopping force. This stopping force can be increased by having a solid stance and using principles like back up mass, putting your weight behind your strikes, and bracing angles.

Solid movement, being strong and definitive, is good at penetrating your opponent. In a fight, once you get on the inside of your opponents space, close to their center of gravity, there are areas that need to be penetrated to cause any serious damage, examples being the abs or the ribcage. The strikes required for this effect need to be powerful, direct and firm. For instance, if you look at the three states of matter, solid objects are the only thing that can cut or pierce substances. Liquids and gases can only erode a substance. In the case of Kenpo, while a liquid or a gaseous move can penetrate, solid moves are best suited for the job.

While solid movement is good at penetrating and stopping movement, it lacks good transitional abilities. Being “solid” like a rock, it does not move on its own, it stays firm and secure. For getting to one point or another solid movement requires another force, like a river or the wind, or in Kenpo, liquid or gaseous movement.

Liquid Movement

For flowing from move to move liquid movement is optimal. Liquid movement is fluid and continuous, which increases your speed. Solid and liquid movement differ the same way water does to ice. Ice is rigid and water is fluid; while ice is definitive about how it moves and what its shape is, it has no give. Water on the other hand flows and forms to its container, allowing itself to be moved while also moving whatever is pushing it; it redirects without the use of brute force. A parry is a good example of a liquid move, using a slight circular push to redirect an attack just outside your outer rim. In an essay, if solid moves are the stopping points, commas and periods; liquid moves would be the transitions between paragraphs.

Now while liquid movement is a great transitional style of movement, it isn’t a complete one. For one to optimize liquid motion they would also have to use the other kinds of motion where they are most capable. As an example, a liquid move, being a fluid kind of move, is not the kind of move you would want to use to stop a push. You could use the liquid move to open a pathway for a better equipped kind of motion, such as solid, to stop your opponent’s momentum. This kind of interchanging between kinds of motion is vital to utilizing your Kenpo.

Gaseous Movement

Last but not least, there is gaseous movement. Gaseous movement is comparable to steam, the gaseous form of water. Steam is expansive, since it has no set form or mass the particles spread in every direction; gaseous movement is based on the same idea. Gaseous movement is used when using multiple moves to spread apart an opponent’s defense; like on the first move of Flashing Cranes, when two parries spread the opponent’s arms out so you can get enough room to strike the body directly.

Gaseous, like liquid and solid
movement, has its perks but cannot be utilized without also using the other two kinds of movement. Just as gas expands and moves around other objects, so gaseous movement in karate goes around an attacker to get to a position to hit them. In the case of an attack where you are blocked off, on the floor, or against a wall, etc. and you can’t bypass the attack, liquid movement could redirect it or solid movement can stop it. As another point, even if a gaseous move is good for getting behind an attacker’s defenses, once there is has little power. Being a gaseous type of movement, its impact power isn’t enough when hitting areas like the ribs or abs. Therefore, once on the inside, the best course of action is using a solid move to penetrate the body.

To sum up the three kinds of movement, while each has its perks, solid hits hard, liquid redirects, and gaseous movement expands and bypasses—they have significant weaknesses that can only be mitigated by using the other two kinds of movement. This important connection between the three also allows you to open up your capabilities and future possibilities in Kenpo if you ever need to use it on the street.

Dynamic Vs. Static Movement—Their Differences and Uses.

Dynamic and static are ways we move that change as we get better with our techniques. For example, when you start as a Kenpo student you move monotone, with a slow and constant pace, and very choppy. This kind of movement is Static, very simple and without much variance. After practicing and working with a technique more the student’s movement will evolve into more dynamic movement, flowing from move to move, emphasizing certain movements, and adding more variety in how they move. Both dynamic and static movement have separate uses for different situations.

Static Movement
You would use static movement in a teaching environment. For example, let’s say there is a brand new student in our Kenpo School. This person has no previous knowledge of martial arts. To teach them their first technique it is shown step-by-step, slowly, stopping after every movement. Moving statically is the way we show and teach our techniques to the next generation of students. Also static movement is a stage in the learning process for the student. As mentioned before, when one starts as a Kenpo student they move statically, because they haven’t become familiar enough with the movement.
Not being used to specific kinds of movement isn’t the only reason a student may move statically; static movement is also a good practice tool. Moving statically, helps reaffirm the movement sequence in our mind. For example, if a student hasn’t done the technique Flashing Wings in a long period of time, they may have trouble remembering parts of the technique. When going through the technique they will move statically to ensure they have every part of it.
Static movement may not be good for the streets, but it is a key part of learning Kenpo. It initiates the learning sequence when you are taught something new, and helps you retain the information you learn when you practice. This kind of movement is the starting stage of learning Kenpo and overtime fades into the next stage in Kenpo, Dynamic Movement.

Dynamic Movement

Dynamic movement can be considered the next stage of development in learning Kenpo. As a student becomes more advanced they seek to sophisticate to their techniques. A good way to do this is to start using principles like Timing for Emphasis. This principle utilizes timing to add power and brings attention to certain moves. For example, in the technique Intercepting Devastation, when you do the five count, there are certain moves you may want to have more power, so you emphasize them. You give a slight pause on the moves before and “wind up” in more of a metaphorical sense than a physical one. This pause helps you put yourself in a position that creates tension that when released creates a powerful strike.
This adding of variance into Kenpo is the center of using dynamic movements versus static movements. It makes your movement less predictable and more powerful. For example, if you only used solid moves you would be using pretty much only power moves, and they can be easily read. But if you also use liquid and gaseous moves then suddenly the amount of moves you can use increases, making it harder for somebody to predict your next move.
Dynamic movement isn’t something that students learn immediately. It is something that a student discovers after becomes well acquainted with Kenpo. It’s the way they will move for their techniques when they showcase them, defend with them, and use them in general.


To say in the least, all the forms and stages of movement are essential in using Kenpo. Yet the most important thing about all of them is that they are not complete, needing the others to be fully used. Dynamic movement can’t be obtained without static movement, and static movement isn’t good enough in a fight. Solid movement isn’t good for moving from place to place, and liquid movement doesn’t have a strong enough base to stop the momentum of certain attacks. These weaknesses show that you need to use all types of movement, and go through both stages of movement, to get ahead in Kenpo.

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mikayla.afusia said...
Feb. 12, 2016 at 3:26 pm
I love this! I also am in American Kenpo, and remember having to do my thesis, but looking back on my thesis, it's nothing compared to yours(Maybe that's because I wrote it when I was barely 12.) I love how you related different aspects of Kenpo to the three states of matter! Great job!
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