Bluegrass Martial Arts 

American Kenpo Karate

The curriculum that makes up Kenpo as we study it at Bluegrass Martial Arts is drawn in full from both the Ed Parker American Kenpo system as well as the Tracy Traditional Kenpo system. If someone is interested in studying just the American or Traditional systems we are fully certified to teach both. Our usual classes would still be available for training the basics, but instruction for Belt promotion would have to come in the form of private instruction. See our tab labeled :price?: for details.

American Kenpo Karate is a martial art characterized by the use of quick hand strikes in rapid succession. The multitude of fast strikes has a dual purpose, overwhelming an opponent, while attempting to ensure that at least some strikes effectively hit their target, akin to a striking combination.

Originally codified by Ed Parker, American Kenpo is largely viewed and marketed as a self-defense system. Parker made significant modifications to the art throughout his life, introducing or changing principles, theories, and concepts of motion, as well as terminology.

The modern history of American Kenpo began in the 1940s, when James Mitose (1916–1981) started teaching his ancestral Japanese martial art, Kosho-Ryu Kenpo, in Hawaii. Kosho-Ryu Kenpo emphasized punching, striking, kicking, locking, and throwing. Mitose's art was very linear, refraining from the circular motions common in American Kenpo.

William K. S. Chow studied Kenpo under James Mitose, eventually earning a first-degree black belt, and also studied Chinese kung fu from his father. 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. Chow experimented and modified his art, adapting it to meet the needs of American students.

Ed Parker learned Kenpo Karate from Chow, eventually promoted to sandan (3rd-degree black belt) in December 1961.

Parker initially called his art Kenpo Jujitsu. He started teaching other Hawaiian Islanders attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah in 1954. By 1956, he was teaching commercially in Provo. Late in 1956, he opened a studio in Pasadena, California. He published a book about his early system in 1960. 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, published in 1963

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. He developed new or heavily restructured forms and self-defense techniques during this period. He moved away from methods that were recognizably descended from other arts (such as forms that were familiar within Okinawan Karate and Hung Gar systems) and established a more definitive relationship between forms and the technique curriculum of American Kenpo. Parker also eschewed esoteric Eastern concepts, such as ki/chi, 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.

One of the best-known students of Ed Parker was Elvis Presley

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 strength, speed, balance, and stamina.

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 — make sure every move counts and is efficient.

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.


Bluegrass Martial Arts

2506 Plantside Dr, Louisville, KY 40299

(502) 499-4050