American Kenpo

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American Kenpo
American Kenpo Double Punch.jpg
Focus Hybrid[1]
Country of origin United States United States of America
Creator Ed Parker
Famous practitioners Zane Frazier, Keith Hackney, Chuck Liddell, Frank Mir, K.J. Noons, Elvis Presley, Patrick Smith, Jeff Speakman, Don Jeffcoat, Gil Hibben, Sami Ibrahim, Mike Pick, Larry Tatum, Paul Mills, Richard Huk Planas, Frank Trejo
Parenthood Kara-ho Kenpo, Shaolin Chu'an Fa, Judo
Olympic sport No

American Kenpo /ˈkɛmp/, pronounced KeMpo, is a martial art characterized by the use of quick hand strikes in rapid succession. The purpose of training in this manner is to increase coordination and continuity with linear and circular motion, each basic movement when executed correctly sets up the next move, keeping the adversaries dimensional zones in check, limiting their ability to retaliate. If the adversary does not react as the technique sequence anticipates, the Kenpo practitioner is able to seamlessly transition into an appropriate sequence pattern akin to a never-ending striking combination.[2][3][4][5]

Founded and codified by Ed Parker, American Kenpo is primarily a self-defense combat system. Senior Grand Master Parker made significant modifications to the original art of Kenpo that he learned in Hawaii, throughout his life, introducing or changing principles, theories, and concepts of motion, as well as terminology. By the time of his passing in December 1990 He had created the forms: Short Form 1, Long Form 1, Short Form 2, Long Form 2, Short Form 3, Long Form 3, Form 4, Form 5, Form 6, Form 7 (Twin Clubs), Form 8 (Twin Knives), 154 named technique sequences with 96 extensions, taught in three phases (Ideal, What-if and Formulation Phases) and He left behind a large number of instructors who teach many different versions of American Kenpo, as Senior Grand Master Parker decided not to name a single successor to his art, leaving each of his senior students to carry on his teachings in their own way.[4]

Etymology and nomenclature[edit]

The word kenpō is a Japanese translation of the Chinese word "quán fǎ". Its widespread, cross-cultural adaptation has led to many divergent definitions of its exact meaning.[6]

American Kenpo is often seen written as "American KeNpo", leading to some confusion over the term's pronunciation. However, it is 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,[7] but failing to use a macron to indicate the long vowel.

History[edit]

The modern history of American Kenpo began in the 1940s, when James Mitose (1916–1981) started teaching his kenpo for self-defense, Kosho-Ryu Kempo, in Hawaii.[8] Mitose's art, later called Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu, traditionally traces its origin to Shaolin kung fu and Bodhidharma.[9] Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu emphasized punching, striking, kicking, locking, and throwing.[9] Mitose's art was very linear, refraining from the circular motions common in American Kenpo.[10]

William K. S. Chow studied multiple Martial Arts in Hawaii to include, eventually earning a first-degree black belt under Thomas Young.,[9] and also studied Chinese kung fu from his father.[11] 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.[10][12] Chow experimented and modified his art, adapting it to meet the needs of American students.[10]

The legendary Ed Parker dubbed "The Magician of Motion" started his martial arts training in Judo earning a black belt. He then studied western boxing from his father, a boxing commissioner in Hawaii, before eventually training and earning a black belt from William Chow in Kenpo Karate, he was eventually promoted to 3rd degree black belt in Kenpo Karate by Chow while teaching in the United States. After Ed Parker moved to California he cross referenced his Martial Arts knowledge with Chinese Martial Arts Masters in the China towns and hosted the largest Martial Arts Tournament the Long Beach Internationals, where he used his analytical mind to study the attending Martial Artists and improved his own system, eventually founding American Kenpo. Ed Parker founded his own Kenpo association after his students started teaching his art in other countries, The International Kenpo Karate Association (IKKA) [13][14] Al Tracy claims that Chow promoted Parker to sandan (3rd-degree black belt) in December 1961.[15]

Senior Grand Master Ed Parker called his art Kenpo. He started teaching other Hawaiian Islanders attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah in 1954. By 1956, he was teaching commercially in Provo.[14] Late in 1956, he opened a studio in Pasadena, California.[16] He published a book about his early system in 1960.[13] 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 Parker increased the Chinese arts content of his system, he began to refer to his art as "Chinese Kenpo". Based on this influence he wrote Secrets of Chinese Karate,[17] published in 1963, only very shortly after Kenpo Karate.

The system which came to be known as American Kenpo was developed by Parker as his Specific System, and featured Parker's revisions of older methods to work in more modern fighting scenarios.[18] He developed new or 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 ki, and sought instead to express the art in terms of Western scientific principles and metaphors. During this time Parker also dropped most Asian language elements and altered traditions in favor of American English.

Because Parker continually developed his art, students learned different curriculum interpretations and arrangements depending on the time period in which they studied with him. Since many instructors had gone their own ways but didn't continue with his continual "updating", consequently Kenpo today has several differing "versions" of technique examples or arrangements.

One of the best-known students of Ed Parker was Elvis Presley.[19]

A famous UFC fighter of the name Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson has implemented Kenpo Karate into the world of MMA with great success. He fought for the UFC Welterweight title on November 12th, 2016 in UFC 205 and drew with the champion Tyron Woodley using his Kenpo Karate style of fighting.

Features[edit]

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 environmental awareness, structural stability, balance, coordination, flow, speed, power and timing in that order as the student progresses through a step by step curriculum. Memorization of the system is not necessary to gain functional skill and is primarily for future instructors but all American Kenpo students are taught not only how to execute each basic in the system but also when and when not to execute each basic and why. Senior Grand Master Ed Parker placed emphasis on concepts and principles over sequences of motion. He did not want his students to mimic him but rather to tailor his American Kenpo system to their own circumstances and needs. Thus American Kenpo is not a traditional art but a combat science that is designed to evolve as the practitioners understanding improves. This also placed the burden of effectiveness on the individual practitioner, it was up to them to make their American Kenpo applications effective by correctly applying the taught concepts and principles to the instructor's ideal phase techniques. To examine all possible what-ifs that could occur while examining how to survive an initial attack during the what-if phase and formulating a logical sequence of action that removed the dangers of those what-ifs, effectively turning a what-if problem to an even-if solution. Every American Kenpo black belt will have their own unique and tailored style but when teaching American Kenpo Ed Parker published minimum requirements for each belt rank that instructors in his association the IKKA were to follow. However, if a Kenpo Instructor starts his own association he or she is free to select his or her student's base curriculum as they see fit.

Although each American Kenpo school will differ somewhat, some common elements are:

  • Basic Principles, concepts and theories such as "Marriage of Gravity" — settling one's body weight in order to increase striking force, and many others out lined in his Infinite Insights Books (5).
  • 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. This helps to eliminate telegraphing of moves.
  • Economy of Motion — Choose the best available target, Choose the best available weapon, Choose the best available angle, in the least amount of time, to get the desired result.
  • 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.

Crest[edit]

International Kenpo Karate Association crest

The design of the International Kenpo Karate Association 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.[20]

Tiger
Represents bravery, power, and physical strength. It is the early stage of a martial artist's learning. It is important to work on the basics (e.g., to have a good horse stance) to prepare the body for later advancement. Also, the Tiger in Chinese culture represent the celestial guardian of the West cardinal direction. The yin aspect of individual.
Dragon
Represents quintessence, fluidity, and agility, but also 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 have a good moral to guide their physical action. Also, the Dragon in Chinese culture represent the celestial guardian of the East cardinal direction. The yang aspect of individual.
Circle
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.
Colors
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, "Tang/Chinese Hand (唐手)" or "Empty Hand"(空手)" a.k.a. "Kenpo Karate". The characters on the left translate to "Spirit of the Dragon and the Tiger."
Shape
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.[21]

Belt rankings[edit]

American Kenpo Belts[22]
White
Ceinture blanche.png
Yellow
Ceinture jaune.png
Orange
Ceinture orange.png
Purple
Ceinture violette.png
Blue
Ceinture bleue.png
Green
Ceinture verte.png
Brown
(3 degrees)
Ceinture marron.png
Black
(10 degrees)
Ceinture noire.png

American Kenpo has a graded colored belt system consisting of white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, 3rd degree brown, 2nd degree brown, 1st degree brown and 1st through 10th degree black.[22] Different Kenpo organizations and schools may have different belt systems. 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. In some styles, an increasing number of stripes on both sides of the belt can indicate black belt ranks.

Syllabus[edit]

There are different requirements per belt depending on the school. Parker's IKKA schools stayed with the 24 techniques-per-belt syllabus, though some schools today have adopted a 16-20-24 technique syllabus as their standard. The 24 and the 16-20-24 technique syllabuses contain exactly the same techniques, but the latter groups them differently so fewer techniques are found at lower belt levels, and there are more belt levels to be found. In addition to self-defense techniques, 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 as well as the much neglected Specialized Moves and Methods category which includes joint dislocations, chokes, take-downs, throws and other grappling components. Beyond proficiency, a student's character and attitude can also be analyzed as a major consideration in the promotion to a new rank. Promotion after 3rd degree black belt had more to do with contributions made back to the art such as teaching or other great works of exploration. For example, a third degree black belt who further explores knife violence and brings that knowledge back to the benefit of other practitioners may be promoted for his excellent contributions. [21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Black Belt - Google Books". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  2. ^ "Black Belt". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  3. ^ "Black Belt". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  4. ^ a b "Black Belt". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  5. ^ "Black Belt". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  6. ^ "Kempo's Tai Chi Connection". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  7. ^ Hepburn romanization provides for the use of the letter "m" when precedes a labial consonant such as "p".
  8. ^ Corcoran, J.; Farkas, E (1988). Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People. New York City: Gallery Books. ISBN 0-8317-5805-8. 
  9. ^ a b c Mitose, James M. (1981). What Is Self Defense? (Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu) (2nd ed.). Sacramento, California: Kosho-Shorei Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939556-00-6. 
  10. ^ a b c Parker, Ed (1982). Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Volume 1: Mental Stimulation. Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications. ISBN 0-910293-00-7. 
  11. ^ Perkins, Jim (July 2005). "William Chow: The Lost Interview". Black Belt Magazine. Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-02-01. 
  12. ^ Wedlake, Lee Jr. (April 1991). "The Life and Times of Ed Parker". Black Belt Magazine. Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. 
  13. ^ a b Parker, Ed 1960, Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist and the Empty Hand, Delsby Publications, Los Angeles, CA
  14. ^ a b "Setting History Right 1954-1956". Kenpo Karate. Retrieved 2014-02-17. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Parker, Ed (1963). Secrets of Chinese Karate. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-797845-6. 
  18. ^ Parker, Ed (1975). Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Accumulative Journal. Pasadena, California: International Kenpo Karate Association. 
  19. ^ Pollard, Edward; Young, Robert W. (2007). "Kenpo 5.0". Black Belt Magazine. Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. 45 (1): 76. 
  20. ^ Parker, Ed (1982). Infinite Insights Into Kenpo vol.1. Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications. p. 122. ISBN 0-910293-00-7. 
  21. ^ a b Parker, Ed (1982). Infinite Insights into Kenpo Vol.1. Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications. p. 122. ISBN 0-910293-00-7. 
  22. ^ a b http://www.kenpotech.net/ed-parkers-american-kenpo/ed-parkers-american-kenpo-belt-ranks-and-titles/

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]

  • KenpoTech.Net—A site dedicated to the preservation of Ed Parker's American Kenpo Karate. Includes full details on techniques, forms, sets & more.