What is Kenpo Karate?

Founded in 1954, the first Karate School in the U.S., American Kenpo Karate is a system of practical Self-Defense based on logic and common sense. The student learns to defend oneself while developing conditioning, physical coordination, and mental concentration. Kenpo employs a wide variety of blocks, strikes, kicks, punches, and mental awareness exercises to avoid or subdue an attacker. Each student advances at his or her own pace in a fun and safe environment. Our highly qualified instructors will help you set and reach goals in the Martial Arts and in life.

The History of Kenpo

The exact history of Kenpo has been lost in the antiquity of time, and consequently no definite date can be established as to when it actually began. Many of the records that exist today are obscure and incorrect. We cannot tell how many writings have been destroyed or how many developments have never been recorded. Bits of information seem to indicate that Kenpo, as it is known today, may have been practiced in India and China as long as five thousand years ago. Writings on turtle shells tell us that the Chinese did in fact practice that art as far back as 21 B.C.

Although its true origin is obscure, a popular story that prevails gives credit the Indian priest, Daruma or Bodhidharma in about 535 A.D. However, other great men such as Hu’a To (190-265 A.D.) are considered the forefathers of modern-day Kenpo. Kenpo means “fist law” (a term used by the Okinawans to describe the Chinese systems). From China it crossed over to Okinawa were, known as “te”, it consisted primarily of blows, chops and rips with the hands and fingers. Thus originated the karate method of Kenpo.

In 1923 the Okinawans changed the character of Karate, which was then Chinese to that of a Japanese character. Thus the meaning changed from “hands of China” to “empty hand”. This change assuredly brought about a deeper meaning in which the spiritual overcame the physical.

From Okinawa two experts, Kenwa Mavuni and Gichen Funakoshi, lifted the veil of secrecy in 1915 to introduce their techniques to Japan. Their aim was not to promote Karate as a martial art, but as a sport throughout Japan.

Long before the Art was ever introduced to Okinawa many styles of the Art existed in China. Each style or system was noted for at least one distinct feat such as the development of the tiger claw, butterfly kick, panther punch, etc. In addition, many members of the various system guarded their secret ways of training. Among the systems of Southern China stemming from the Shaolin or Shorinji Temple the most well known were the following five: Hung, Liu, Ts’ai or Choy in Cantonese, Li, and Mo. There are other Cantonese as well as northern systems. The northern systems placed great emphasis on floor rolling, use of the foot, and jumping movements. Because of this not as much emphasis was placed on strong stances. The southern styles placed great emphasis on stance work as well as hand work.

There are basically five known styles of karate in Okinawa: Kobayashi-Ryu, Shoreiji-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, and Uechi-Ryu.

In the last five decades since the Japanese took it up, the techniques have been modified so that they too claim styles of their own such as :Shoto-Kan, Waddo-Ryu, Chito-Ryu, and others.

The Koreans have also modified their techniques claiming such styles as: Tae-kwon-do, Moo-do-kwon, Tang-soo-do, and others.

Regardless of national modifications that were developed and suited to their individual environment, we can say that four systems exist in the Orient today – Chinese, Okinawan, Korean, and Japanese. In comparison, the Chinese styles are graceful, flowing, circular, and are much more flexible than the Japanese styles (which utilize powerful punches and kicks), Okinawan styles (which stress breathing exercises), and Korean (which specialize in high kicks and breaking of boards and bricks) These other styles are basically rigid.

Unfortunately, many of the classical Chinese styles along with the Japanese, Okinawn, and these systems were originally designed for exercise. In addition, most of these styles today do not recognize the need for change, especially in our environment. While some offer excellent ideas on unarmed fighting, a number of their methods are outdated theories unfit for present day fighting in the United States or any part of the world for that matter.

These same arts, influenced by the Chinese, were brought to the Hawaiian Islands. It was here that Mr. Parker, a native of Hawaii, learned these arts under one of the world’s leading Black Belt holders and American innovators of the art, the late Professor William K.S. Chow.

In addition to Professor Chow’s modifications, Mr. Parker realized the need to revise the old methods to cope with modern day fighting. Thus the system is unique, practical, realistic, applicable, and encompasses sound logic, reasoning, and theoretical innovations not yet employed by other systems. Through Mr. Parker’s innovations a fifth system has emerged – the American System -- to be more specific “The Parker System of Kenpo”.

Although we should respect the various styles of Kenpo stemming from the Orient, we must not overlook their need for improvement. While Mr. Parker’s system still retains traditional flavor to enhance ethical behavior, it has been designed to fit the needs and ability of the individual concerned.