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
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
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
One of the best-known students of Ed Parker was Elvis Presley
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.
American Kenpo develops strength, speed, balance, and stamina.
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
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.