|Country of origin||United States of America|
|Famous practitioners||Thomas Carroll, Graciela Casillas, Raymond Daniels, Zane Frazier, Keith Hackney, Chuck Liddell, Frank Mir, K.J. Noons, Elvis Presley, Patrick Smith, Jeff Speakman, Bart Vale, Jay T. Will, Ralph Castellanos, Attila Vegh|
|Parenthood||Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo, Chu'an Fa Kung-Fu|
American Kenpo // is a martial art characterized by the use of quick hand strikes in rapid succession. The multitude of fast strikes has a dual purpose, perhaps overwhelming an opponent, while attempting to ensure that at least some strikes effectively hit their target, akin to a striking combination.
Originally codified by Ed Parker, American Kenpo is largely viewed and marketed as a self-defense system. Parker made significant modifications to the art throughout his life, introducing or changing principles, theories, and concepts of motion, as well as terminology. He left behind a large number of instructors who teach many different versions of American Kenpo, as Parker died before he named a single successor to his art.
Etymology and nomenclature
American Kenpo is often seen written as ‘American Kempo’, leading to some confusion over the term's pronunciation. However, both are pronounced as if they had an 'm'. Kenpo is an example of romanization, while kempo results either because of straightforward anglicization or as a result of applying Traditional Hepburn romanization, but failing to use a macron to indicate the long vowel.
The modern history of American Kenpo began in the 1940s, when James Mitose (1916–1981) started teaching his ancestral Japanese martial art, Kosho-Ryu Kenpo, in Hawaii. Mitose's art, later called Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu, traditionally traces its origin to Shaolin Kung Fu and Bodhidharma. Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu emphasized punching, striking, kicking, locking, and throwing. Mitose's art was very linear, refraining from the circular motions common in American Kenpo.
William K. S. Chow studied kenpo under James Mitose, eventually earning a first-degree black belt., and also studied Chinese Kung Fu from his father. Chow eventually taught an art, which he called Kenpo Karate, that blended the circular movements he had learned from his father with the system he had learned from Mitose. Chow experimented and modified his art, adapting it to meet the needs of American students.
Ed Parker initially called his art Kenpo Jujitsu. He started teaching other Hawaiian Islanders attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah in 1954. By 1956, he was teaching commercially in Provo. Late in 1956, he opened a studio in Pasadena, California. He published a book about his early system in 1960. This has been characterized as having a very Japanese influence, including the use of linear and circular movements, "focused" techniques and jujutsu-style locks, holds, and throws.
When Ed Parker embraced the Chinese Arts he began to refer to his art as "Chinese Kenpo." Based on this influence he wrote Secrets of Chinese Karate, published in 1963, only very shortly after Kenpo Karate. The technical syllabus has recognizable similarities to Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut, and other Southern Chinese Martial Arts, including two forms, Tiger&Crane and Panther (or "Book Set"), and one training practice ("Star Block") that can be traced back to James Wing Woo.
The system which came to be known as American Kenpo was developed by Ed Parker as a successor to Chow's art due to Parker's attempts to revise older methods to work in more modern fighting scenarios. He heavily restructured American Kenpo's forms and techniques during this period. He moved away from methods that were recognizably descended from other arts (such as forms that were familiar within Hung Gar) and established a more definitive relationship between forms and the self-defense technique curriculum of American Kenpo. Parker also eschewed esoteric Eastern concepts, such as qi, and sought instead to express the art in terms of Western scientific principles and metaphors. During this time Parker also dropped Asian language elements and traditions in favor of American English.
Because Parker continually developed his art, students learned a different curriculum depending on the time period in which they studied with him.
American Kenpo emphasizes fast hand techniques used in rapid succession. Kicks are less common, and usually directed at the lower body because high kicks are slower to execute and potentially compromise the practitioner's balance.
Physically, American Kenpo develops strength, speed, balance, and stamina.
Although each American Kenpo school will differ somewhat, some common elements are:
- Marriage of Gravity — settling one's body weight in order to increase striking force.
- Every block is a strike, every strike is a block — a block should be hard and directed enough to injure an opponent, decreasing their ability to continue an attack. Every strike should counter an opponent's movement, decreasing their ability to mount an attack.
- Point of Origin — refers to moving any natural weapon from wherever it originates rather than cocking it before deploying it. Helps to eliminate telegraphing your moves.
- Economy of Motion — make sure every move counts and is efficient.
- Personalization — Parker always suggested that once a student learned the lesson embodied in the "ideal phase" of the technique, they should then search for some aspect that can be tailored to their own personal needs and strengths.
The design of the I.K.K.A Crest was completed in 1958 when the art of American Kenpo was gaining international notoriety. The crest design was meant to symbolically represent the art's modernized form while simultaneously acknowledging the roots of American Kenpo in traditional Chinese and Japanese martial arts.
- Represents physical strength and the early stage of a martial artist's learning.
- Represents spiritual strength and the later stage of a martial artist's training. The dragon is placed above the tiger in the crest to symbolize the importance of mental/spiritual strength over physical strength. This does not mean that physical strength is unimportant. What it does imply is that martial artists need to think first before acting physically.
- The circle represents continuity.
- Dividing Lines
- The lines within the circle represent the original methods of attack first learned by ancient practitioners of the Chinese martial arts. They also demonstrate the pathways which an object could travel by.
- The colors are representations of proficiency within the art alluding to the colored belt ranking system. The white represents the beginning stages and progresses through to black (expert level) and then red (professorship).
- Chinese Characters
- The writing acknowledges the art's Eastern roots. The characters on the right of the crest translate to "Law of the Fist" and "Empty Hand" a.k.a. "Kenpo Karate." The characters on the left translate to "Spirit of the Dragon and the Tiger."
- The shape of the crest represents the structure of a house. The walls and roof are curved to keep evil from intruding. The ax at the bottom of the crest is a solemn reminder that should a martial artist tarnish the reputation of the organization they will be "cut off" completely.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2012)|
American Kenpo has a graded colored belt system consisting of White, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Blue, Green, Third degree Brown, Second degree Brown, First degree Brown, and First through Tenth degree Black. Different Kenpo organizations and schools may have different belt systems. For example, the W.K.K.A (World Kenpo Karate Association) includes an "advanced" rank for each belt (except White), signified by a stripe of the next full belt's color worn on one end of the belt. They also include a 3 degree Red belt prior to first degree black. The black belt ranks are indicated by half-inch red 'strips' up to the 4th degree, then a 5 inch 'block' for 5th. Thereafter, additional half-inch stripes are added up to the 9th degree. For 10th degree black belt, two 5 inch 'blocks' separated by a half-inch space are used.
There are different requirements per belt depending on the school. Most popular are the 24 techniques per belt system, but it is rumored that a few months before his death, Ed Parker told those close to him that he planned to change to a 16 technique per belt system, with yellow having only ten techniques, 3 of which are originals that were replaced by other practitioners. Some schools stick by the new 16 technique per belt system. In addition to Self-Defense Techniques Ed Parker set specific criteria required for proficiency at each level. The criteria included basics categorized by stances, blocks, parries, punches, strikes, finger techniques, kicks, and foot maneuvers. Beyond proficiency, a student's character was also analyzed as a major consideration in the promotion to a new rank.
|Belt Ranks||Proficiency Level|
|Brown||Advanced or Semi-expert|
|Black||Highly Advanced or Expert|
|Black Belt Degree||Instructor Level|
|First Degree||Junior Instructor|
|Second Degree||Associate Instructor|
|Third Degree||Head Instructor|
|Fourth Degree||Senior Instructor|
|Fifth Degree||Associate Professor|
|Seventh Degree||Senior Professor|
|Eighth Degree||Associate Master|
|Tenth Degree||Grand Master|
|Tenth Degree and Founder||Senior Grand Master|
- "Kempo's Tai Chi Connection". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
- Hepburn romanization provides for the use of the letter "m" when ん precedes a labial consonant such as "p",
- Corcoran, J.; Farkas, E (1988,). Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People. New York City: Gallery Books. ISBN 0-8317-5805-8.
- Mitose, James M. (1981). What Is Self Defense? (Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu) (2nd ed.). Sacramento, California: Kosho-Shorei Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939556-00-6.
- Parker, Ed (1982). Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Volume 1: Mental Stimulation. Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications. ISBN 0-910293-00-7.
- Perkins, Jim (July 2005). "William Chow: The Lost Interview". Black Belt Magazine (Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc).
- Wedlake, Lee Jr. (April 1991). "The Life and Times of Ed Parker". Black Belt Magazine (Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc).
- Parker, Ed 1960, Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist and the Empty Hand, Delsby Publications, Los Angeles, CA
- Kenpo Karate - Setting History Right 1954-1956
- Tracy, Will (1999-08-08). "Kenpo Karate Setting History Right - The Blackbelted Mormon". A Brief History of Kenpo. Kenpo Karate. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Tracy, Will (1999-08-08). "Kenpo Karate Setting History Right 1956-1959". A Brief History of Kenpo. Kenpo Karate. Archived from the original on 1 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Parker, Ed (1963). Secrets of Chinese Karate. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-797845-6.
- Parker, Ed (1975). Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Accumulative Journal. Pasadena, California: International Kenpo Karate Association.
- Pollard, Edward; Young, Robert W. (2007). "Kenpo 5.0". Black Belt Magazine (Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc) 45 (1): 76.
- Parker, Ed (1982). Infinite Insights Into Kenpo vol.1. Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications. p. 122. ISBN 0-910293-00-7.
- Parker, Ed (1982). Infinite Insights into Kenpo Vol.1. Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications. p. 122. ISBN 0-910293-00-7.
- Parker, E. (1982). Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 1: Mental Stimulation. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-00-7
- Parker, E. (1983). Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 2: Physical Analyzation I. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-02-3
- Parker, E. (1985). Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 3: Physical Analyzation II. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-04-X
- Parker, E. (1986). Ed Parker's Infinite Insights Into Kenpo, Vol. 4: Mental and Physical Constituents. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-06-6
- Parker, E. (1987). Ed Parker's Infinite Insights Into Kenpo: Vol. 5: Mental and Physical Applications. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-08-2
- Parker, L. (1997). Memories of Ed Parker - Sr. Grandmaster of American Kenpo Karate. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-14-7