History of Kenpo

By: Anthony Coladangelo
Kenpo is a Chinese Kung-Fu based martial art that is mixed with Kempo Karate from Okinawa. In Japanese, Kempo is a general term for Martial Arts. In China, Kenpo means “Fist Law”. Master Chow combined principals of these two arts into one art he called Kenpo Karate.


Ed Parker, creator of American Kenpo

Edmond K. Parker first learned Jujitsu in the early 1940’s in Hawaii. He then trained in American boxing. As a teenager, he trained with William K.S. Chow in Kenpo. Mr. Parker enlisted in the Coastguard in 1953, and continued his training until he moved to California in 1956.

Master Parker, while filming himself performing techniques on a student, noticed holes in the coverage of his body. Using his skills in math and physics, he solved this problem and eventually created American Kenpo. He closed the gaps in his coverage and gave the practitioner another point of view from which to train – that of the bystander.

Karate and Kung-Fu up to that point mainly trained from two points of view – that of the attacker and that of the defender. Mr. Parker added the point of view of the bystander, someone watching from the outside.

Mr. Parker then created or redesigned techniques to fill the holes or gaps left by his former system of Kenpo. He established new concepts and philosophies to this system. One of the most important transformations is the concept he called “The rules of motion”. In his new system there was to be no “wasted motion” in any movement.

Mr. Parker’s system is taught in three graduated levels of training and understanding. The first level is the “embryonic” stage. This stage is basic movements of motion to introduce the student to basic concepts and philosophies of his art.

The second stage is the “what-if” stage. The moves and techniques now take on more sophistication and begin to show the student what to do when something doesn’t work. This stage also introduces some new concepts the student should be thinking about, such as position recognition. The concepts of opposites and reversals are taught at this stage. Every move has an opposite movement and the reversed movement.


Elvis & Ed Parker

The last stage is the “formulization” stage. This is the stage where you take some of the basic techniques and add to them using the concepts that you learned in the first two stages. A proficient student can do this without hesitation. This is the stage where reaction becomes instantaneous.

Unlike many other styles of Martial Arts, American Kenpo is meant to be practiced on another person. Most other styles show you techniques that are performed in katas. Katas are a kind of floor routine where moves are done in consecutive order in the air. The practical application is taught but very rarely every practiced on another person.

Mr. Parker said that if you’re not practicing on another person, you’re not practicing Kenpo. This is because you will not learn self-control, your muscles will never get full range of motion into muscle memory, and most importantly you will not get your body used to making and receiving contact. These extremely important.

If you think that Kenpo Karate is for you, try a free class at Emeth!

By | 2016-11-08T20:22:09+00:00 February 6th, 2014|Kenpo|0 Comments