What is Kenpo?
While Kenpo traces its roots to Chinese Martial Arts, Grandmaster Ed Parker’s
system is predominantly his own creation.
Consequently, Kenpo is the most comprehensive martial arts system in the world today. It is practical, realistic, and can readily be applied in today’s environment. Mr. Parker’s Kenpo system encompasses logical principles, and concepts along with kinetic science not yet employed by other Martial Art systems. Mr. Parker had over four decades of experience and contributed much to the martial arts community.
What Parker had to say about his system of Kenpo
“Although the terms Kenpo and Karate are often used synonymously, it is the Chinese who have been credited with developing these pugilistic forms of Self-defense over the centuries. It’s popularity did not reach the Western World until the Late 1950′s and well into the 1960′s. Acknowledgment has been given to the Japanese for its introduction into the Western World. As a result, the Japanese term Karate, meaning “Empty Hands” is known world-wide.
Karate, which strikes with various natural weapons: (side of the hand, elbow, heel of the foot, etc.), is not to be confused with Judo, Jiu-Jitsu or Aikido which are Oriental Forms of Wrestling. Karate is the Japanese term describing their Art Form which originally stemmed from Chinese Kenpo (Law of The Fist). Today, the American Version of Kenpo, is rapidly becoming the more acceptable school of thought in the United States.
There has never been a pure system of Karate. There may be specific styles that adhere to traditional protocol — styles that are specifically outlined to follow a precise format. A good system takes into account strikes, strike downs, contact manipulation ( Throws, Locks, Twists, Dislocations, etc.), Ground Techniques, Multiple Attacks, Use of Weapons as extensions to natural weapons, etc. . Since the system of American Kenpo is based on logic rather than tradition, it can be said that it is neither Japanese nor Chinese, Oriental nor Western. It is what it is.
Kenpo Karate is a dual term used by Senior Grandmaster Parker to describe his creation of American Kenpo. Since the inception of his system into the United States, he had produced a number of second, third, fourth and fifth generation students and countless numbers of second, third, fourth and fifth generation offspring. Unfortunately, some of them have opened schools of their own and have been teaching impractical versions. Master Parker was saddened by the lack of wholesome principles and technical know-how void of logic and practicality.
Granted, they are adopting worthwhile principals embraced by Zen and other like disciplines, but such “Philosophy” or ‘Way of Life” is often a fancy trimming used to cover up their inadequate approach to Self-Defense. Greater still, are their claims of being masters. They often boast of their humility in avoiding a fight, and well, they had better.
It was Senior Grandmaster Parker’s wish to produce students free from Brain Washing that can get them killed. His Kenpo demands that fighting be considered realistically, a feature frequently lacking in the self-defense arts today. Movements are to be measured against the yardstick of modern street fighting and are not to be passed off as self-defense techniques if originally intended to be exercises. It is one thing to play quick-draw with blanks and quite another to use real bullets. Another item often not taken into account is physiological differences.
The art must be made to fit the individual, not the individual to fit the art.
Karate styles are sometimes criticized for not making contact when sparring. It is true that pulling one’s strike comparable to playing Tag Football, it affords you the opportunity to make actual contact.
Considerable controversy exits among the fans of self-defense as to which style is superior in actual combat. When pitted against several attackers, the evaluation is not so difficult. There seems to be little chance of consecutively strangling five opponents. Instead, some form of hitting that emphasizes speed, power and accuracy.
Speed is achieved by relaxing your body muscles and conserving motion. Body limbs (arms and legs) move much faster when relaxed rather than when tensed. Just prior to contact is when you should tense your muscles so that proper force is exerted. (When skin kissed skin, tension begins).
When properly trained, the body is capable of generating tremendous force in a short span of space and time. During the advanced stage of your training, the “Ands” are eliminated from the response. Instead of blocking “and” hurting or grabbing “and” hurting, both defense and offense occur simultaneously. By combining several moves into one basic motion.
An important question often asked is : “What style offers a little guy the opportunity to survive?” Certainly trading punches is not the answer. Even if a smaller individual can develop equal power, he is certainly not capable of withstanding equal punishment. A strategy in Kenpo is the use of checking. Checking helps prevent retaliation. checking often forces an attacker into an awkward position and/or can effectively minimize his leverage.
Flexibility is highly stressed in Kenpo. It permits freedom to strike any portion of an attacker’s anatomy — from his skull to his toes it becomes a matter of logic, for example, as to when and how to hit what.
It requires spontaneity. It is your ability to respond extemporaneously with action and reaction that is the key. The greater your knowledge of offense and defense, along with your skill to apply it, the greater your chances are for survival. You are the only one who can make it work.
To get to levels of spontaneity, considerable practice is given to preset sequences. That helps a beginning student to develop coordination before advancing to higher levels of Conditioned Response. The more he practices, the better he is able to express himself extemporaneously. As his levels of spontaneity increases, he learns to alter his moves without hesitation. Kenpo system is not based on untried theories, but proven theories that come with practice. An opponent can be struck four or five times within a second so that he will be unable to “Hold” all of the targets that hurt.”
Senior Grandmaster ED Parker