What is American Kenpo?

What is American Kenpo?
The American Kenpo system is an all inclusive, highly practical martial art developed by Senior Grandmaster Edmund Parker. It offers far more in content, technical understanding, mental awareness, and street survival than other systems of the martial arts.

How was American Kenpo developed?
Edmund Parker, the founder of American Kenpo, began his study of the martial arts as a teenager in Honolulu, Hawaii. Growing up in a rough section of town, he was already aware of the need for effective self defense. He would always evaluate what he was learning in martial arts class within the context of his street fighting experience. He found that his training did indeed contain many practical techniques that would be effective in a street confrontation as well as some that he knew simply would not work in real self defense. Many techniques were outdated and designed for situations that did not occur in the American lifestyle. Eventually Mr. Parker set about the task of developing a system of martial arts that would teach a person how to defend themselves in today's environment.

Why is American Kenpo described as "all inclusive"?
The system addresses all types of attacks:

  • 1. Grabs and Tackles
  • 2. Pushes
  • 3. Punches
  • 4. Kicks
  • 5. Hugs and Holds
  • 6. Locks and Chokes
  • 7. Weapons
  • 8. Multiple Attackers
  • 9. Combinations of the above
    Kenpo also addresses attacks from all angles such as:
  • 1. Front
  • 2. Rear
  • 3. Flanks (right side and left side)
  • 4. Above
  • 5. Below

    Training also includes mental and physical preparedness and a strong emphasis on the underlying principles and concepts of combat as well as technical understanding of the movements involved.

    Why do I need to know all this if I just want to learn self defense?
    The principles and concepts allow you to evaluate the techniques you learn in a variety of situations. This enables you to become "self correcting." If a movement violates one of the principles you have learned, you know it will not be as effective. Knowing "how" to perform a movement is good but knowing "why" you perform it allows you to maximize the effectiveness of your actions in any given situation.

    What is the history of Kenpo?
    Kenpo traces its roots to the Chinese martial arts. Mr. Parker's instructor was a Chinese man named William K. S. Chow. He learned from his father a Shaolin based martial art that had been passed down generation to generation through his family. Mr. Chow also added to his martial arts knowledge by cross training with a Japanese man named James Mitose. He also had learned a family art called Koshoryu Kempo. So the art Mr. Parker learned was primarily Chinese with some Japanese influences. (For a more detailed history of Kenpo refer to "Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 1" by Ed Parker Sr.)

    What is the difference between the Chinese and Japanese aspects?
    Mr. Chow's Shaolin based family art was very circular in its movements. Circular movements are referred to in the martial arts as "soft" style moves. The Koshoryu Kempo moves were "hard" or linear in nature. Mr. Parker credited Mr. Chow with the effective combining of linear and circular movements.

    What type of movements does American Kenpo use?
    American Kenpo, as a fighting art, is characterized by the use of close range weapons delivered with speed and power. As well as striking with the hands and feet, the use of knees, elbows, forearms, leg checks and buckles, and take downs are commonly employed. The effective blend of straight line movements of Japanese karate and circular techniques of Chinese kung fu, used with a multiple strike response to an attack, comprises much of the system. Multiple strikes are used not so much to annihilate an opponent as to give the defender an opportunity to cover a mistake or if a target is not available to go on to another strike without interrupting the flow of the response.

    "When circular moves end, linear begin; when linear moves end, circular reoccur."
    from "The Zen of Kenpo" by Ed Parker

    Kenpo's philosophy is non-violent in nature and only the amount of force necessary to stop an attack would actually be used.

    "Whatever the attitude, so the response."
    from "The Zen of Kenpo" by Ed Parker

    Where is Mr. Parker today?
    Unfortunately Mr. Parker died from a heart attack on Dec. 15, 1990. But the system he developed - American Kenpo - is still alive and well. Mr. Parker left us a large body of knowledge, the product of his 40 plus years of martial arts training and innovating. Perhaps the most significant thing Ed Parker did to preserve what he spent his life creating was to base the American Kenpo system on logical and scientific principles and concepts. He observed while living how many martial arts became watered down as more knowledge was lost with each successive generation of students. He conversely noted how the sciences such as medicine, chemistry, aeronautics, etc., continued to add to the existing body of knowledge with each successive generation. This is why the American Kenpo system is based on principles and concepts...so each generation of students can benefit from their predecessors as well as add contributions of their own for future students to experience and learn from.

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    Copyright 1998 Brian Duffy's Kenpo Karate.

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