Retreating Pendulum (Blue #11)

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Retreating Pendulum is the 11th technique required to obtain your Blue Belt in Ed Parker’s American Kenpo.  Retreating Pendulum is a defense against a right thrusting rear kick from the front, placing it in the Kicks Category of the Web of Knowledge as well as the Kicks Family Group in the Striking division.

In Retreating Pendulum you learn the tactical use of subliminal retreat where your depth of action is not as pronounced as when shuffling.  There is a finer margin for error but you will remain close enough to your opponent to give you greater spring when retaliating where you will employ the concept of bumping your opponent’s leverage points to unbalance him and hinder his ability to continue his attack. Special emphasis is placed upon relayed power through the use of a short circle of the right arm.

The Technique


In the ideal phase you are in a right neutral bow and your opponent is directly in front of you (12:00).  He proceeds to deliver a right thrusting heel kick toward your body.   It is assumed that your opponent is also in a right neutral bow and delivers the kick with a left rear crossover.

This kick can be delivered one of several ways and come from either a left or right neutral bow stance.   It is therefore vital to learn to identify kicks as they approach you to react accordingly.


Retreating Pendulum –  defense for a right back kick.

  • Step 1
    • Slide your right foot back toward 6:00, executing a right rear crossover, to form a left front twist stance,
    • Deliver a right downward diagonal block to the outside of your opponent’s right leg,
    • Your left hand checks near your right shoulder.
  • Step 2
    • Deliver a right snapping knife edge kick to your opponent’s left inner knee.
  • Step 3
    • Plant your right foot toward 12:00, forming a right neutral bow stance,
    • Deliver a right inward overheard hammerfist strike to your opponent’s neck,
    • Your left hand should check near your right arm pit.
  • Step 4
    • Pivot into a right reverse bow stance,
    • Deliver a right rear scoop kick to your opponent’s groin.
  • Step 5
    • Plant your right foot back between your opponent’s legs, approximately toward 1:30,
    • Shift into a right reverse bow stance to buckle the inside of your opponent’s right leg.
  • Step 6
    • Execute a right front crossover
    • Cover out twice toward 7:30.


  • What if…
    • your opponent  starts in a left neutral bow and steps through executing a right thrusting knife edge kick?
    • your opponent starts in a left neutral bow and executes a right spinning heel kick?
    • your opponent starts in a right neutral bow and shuffles with a right thrusting heel kick?
    • your opponent aims his kick toward your leg?
    • your opponent executes a left spinning rear kick after his right kick
    • your opponent executes a right punch after his right kick?
    • your opponent fakes a rear thrusting heel kick and then executes a right outward hooking heel kick?


  • In some schools a rear heel kick delivered via a left rear crossover is called a crossing rear kick.
  • Practice differentiating between a rear kicks, back kicks and angled side kicks.
  • Notice how distance is maintained by executing a right rear crossover while your opponent executes a left rear crossover.
  • Your right foot should immediately spring back into the knife edge kick after retreating toward 6:00
  • Be sure to take full advantage of gravitational marriage when delivering the hammerfist strike by timing the delivery with the planting of your right foot.
  • Your hammerfist strike should be the result of one continuous motion from your block, again being sure to emphasis fluidity of motion.
  • When delivering the scoop kick to your opponent’s groin, it is important that you properly gauge distance as you deliver the kick therefore you may have to drag your left foot toward your right foot to ensure proper distance.
  • Examine how this technique as well as its family related techniques, Deflecting Hammer and Hugging Pendulum make use of the Zones of Attack.


  • This is another one of those techniques where schools vary on the attack itself.  Officially the attack in the ideal phase is a right thrusting heel kick delivered from a left rear crossover in which both you and your opponent begin in a right neutral bow stance.  Some schools will have your opponent in a left neutral bow delivering the kick with a right step through and others outright change the kick to a knife edge kick.  It goes without saying that this technique works great for more than one kick delivered more than one way.  It is vital, however, to learn the technique as it was designed in order to gain the full education experience and understand this technique’s place in the system.
  • A strike may be inserted so that it occurs simultaneously with the buckle at the end.  Two variants that come to mind are a right rear elbow strike to the back of the head/neck and a  right downward rear heel palm strike usually to the spine.

Additional Information


In American Kenpo, the term pendulum is used to refer to a downward block as it describes the manner in which your blocking arm deflects your opponent’s kick.  In this technique your blocking arm swings like a pendulum as your right leg is retreating from your opponent’s attacking leg. Thus we have the name Retreating Pendulum.

Basics & Maneuvers

  • Right Neutral Bow Stance
  • Right Rear Cross Step
  • Left Front Twist Stance
  • Right Downward Diagonal Block
  • Right Snapping Knife Edge Kick
  • Right Inward Overhead Hammerfist Strike
  • Right Reverse Bow Stance
  • Right Back Scoop Kick
  • Right Front Crossover
  • Cover Out


  • Outside of Right Leg
  • Inside of  The Left Knee
  • The Neck (5th Cervical Vertebrae)
  • Groin

Concepts & Principles

  • Anchoring
  • Angle of Cancellation
  • Angle of Contact
  • Angle of Deflection
  • Angle of Departure
  • Angle of Deviation
  • Angle of Disturbance

Concepts & Principles (Con’t)

  • Angle of Entry
  • Angle of Execution
  • Angle of Incidence
  • Angle of No Return
  • Body Momentum
  • Borrowed Force
  • Buckling
  • Bumping
  • Continuity of Motion
  • Counter Balance
  • Depth of Penetration
  • Detaining Check
  • Directional Harmony
  • Distance Matching
  • Gauging
  • Marriage of Gravity
  • Obscure Zones
  • Orbiting
  • Pendulum
  • Positional Check
  • Relayed Power
  • Shortened Circle of Motion
  • Threading
  • Timing (1/4 Beat)
  • Top of Circle/Bottom of Circle
  • With

Related Techniques

Historical Notes

  • In the 1975 Accumulative Journal, Retreating Pendulum was Blue Belt Technique #20
  • The 1975 Accumulative Journal calls the initial strike a right outside downward block.
  • The 1975 Accumulative Journal indicates an 8:00 angle of departure.

Historical Versions

1975 Accumulative Journal

RETREATING PENDULUM (front right rear kick)

  1. While in a right neutral bow, drop back with your right foot into a left font twist stance. Simultaneously deliver a right outside downward block to opponent’s kicking leg and check with your left hand by your right shoulder.
  2. Immediately deliver a right knife-edge kick to opponent’s left leg, to inner knee.
  3. Plant your right foot forward toward 12 o’clock and have your left hand check high (close to your right armpit).
  4. As your block circles counter clockwise and without losing any motion follow-up with a right overhead downward hammerfist to opponent’s neck as you plant your right foot toward 12 o’clock.
  5. Pivot to your left (into a right reverse bow) and deliver a right rear scoop kick to opponent’s groin (your right leg is between your opponent’s leg at this point).  You may have to drag your left foot toward your right foot to assure proper distance for your rear scoop kick.
  6. After planting your right foot back into a right reverse bow right front crossover and cover out twice toward 8 o’clock. (Use the right reverse bow to buckle your opponent’s left leg if and whenever possible.)