What is Kenpo Karate
Although the terms KENPO and KARATE are often used synonymously, it is the Chinese who have been credited with developing these pugilistic forms of self-defense over the centuries.
Its popularity however, did not reach the Western World until the late forties, early fifties and well into the sixties. Acknowledgment has been given to the Japanese for its introduction into the Western World. As a result, the Japanese term, Karate, meaning empty hand, is known worldwide.
Karate, which strikes with various natural weapons (side of the hand, elbow, heel of the foot, etc), is not to be confused with Judo, Jiu Jitsu, or Aikido which are Oriental forms of wrestling. Karate is the Japanese term describing their art form which originally stemmed from Chinese Kenpo (law of the fist), their mother art. Today, the American version of Kenpo developed by Ed Parker is rapidly becoming the more acceptable school of thought in the United States.
Ironically, historical examination of the Martial Arts has made a startling discovery – there has never been a pure system of Karate. There may be specific styles that adhere to traditional protocol – styles that are specifically outlined to follow a precise format. Styles, however, are isolated segments that are extracted from a Martial Art system that encompasses a more total picture of what lies within the realm of self-defense. A good system takes into account strikes, strike downs, contact manipulation (throws, locks, twists, dislocations, etc), ground techniques, multiple attacks, use of weapons as extensions to natural weapons, etc. Consequently, it is difficult to establish an accurate family tree for many of the self-defense styles that are now spreading to the West. Because many of these styles were founded by individuals who apparently borrowed, specialized, and contributed ideas of their own, historical accuracy has been difficult to ascertain. Therefore, since the system of American Kenpo, engineered by Ed Parker, is based on logic rather than tradition it can be said that it is neither Japanese nor Chinese, Oriental nor Western. It is, what it is.
Kenpo Karate are dual terms used by Ed Parker to describe his creation of American Kenpo. Since the inception of his system into the United States MR. Parker has produced a number of first generation students and countless numbers of second, third, fourth, and fifth generation offsprings, who have opened schools of their own, have been teaching impractical versions Mr. Parker is saddened by the lack of wholesome principles and technical knowhow void of logic and practicality. He feels that their teachings are perpetuating false confidence among their students. Granted, they are adopting worthwhile principles embraced by Zen, and other like disciplines, but such “philosophy” or “way of life” is often fancy trimming used to cover up their inadequate approach to self-defense. Greater still are their claims of being Masters. They often boast of their humility in avoiding a fight and well they had better.
It is Mr. Parker’s wish to produce students free form brain washing that can get students killed. His Kenpo demands that fighting be considered realistically, a feature frequently lacking in the self-defense arts today. Movements are to be measured against the yardstick of modern street fighting and are not to be passed off as self-defense techniques if originally intended to be exercises. It is one thing to play quick draw with blanks and quite another to use real bullets. Another item often not taken into account is physiological differences. The art must be made to fit the individual, not the individual to fit the art.
Karate styles are sometimes criticized for not making contact when sparring. It is true that pulling one’s strike(s) is comparable to playing flag football, but the experience when hitting or being hit is not the worth the loss of practice sessions that may result from injuries. Working on a heavy bag is a great substitute. It affords you the opportunity to make actual contact. If this is not enough there is no adherent treason why two colleagues cannot make contact if they agree on specialized rules. Some styles attempt to solve the problem of making actual contact by outfitting themselves in armor. The drawback here is that armor are often cumbersome and therefore, may hamper the execution of effective technique. On the other hand there are styles who only prefer the shadow box.
Considerable controversy exists among the fans of self-defense advocates as to which style is superior in actual combat. When pitted against several attackers the evaluation is not so difficult. There seems to be little chance of consecutively strangling five opponents, holding them down until they say “Uncle”, or boxing five times fifteen rounds. Instead it becomes highly desirable to be able to dispense with an attacker immediately. The Prescription: some from of hitting that emphasizes speed, power, and accuracy.
In Kenpo Karate speed is achieved by relaxing your body (muscles) and conserving motion. Body limbs (arms and legs) move much faster when relaxed rather than when tensed. Just prior to contact (when it will do the most good) is when you should tense your muscles so that proper force is exerted. (When skin kisses skin, tension begins.)
When properly trained the body is capable of generation tremendous force in a short span of space and time. Motion (time) is conserved in three ways, (1) when movements are direct (Unnecessary moves are eliminated. The first does not draw back to gain greater striking distance—it goes!) (2) During the advanced stage of your training the “ands” are eliminated from the response. Instead of blocking “and” hurting or grabbing “and” hurting, both defense and offense occur simultaneously. (3) By combining several moves into one basic motion, strikes combined with strikes, blocks combined with strikes (or vise versa), creates faster reaction and response. For instance the fingers might proceed to the eyes, after a chop to the neck, or an elbow might sequentially flow immediately, after a fist is delivered.
An important question often asked is what style offers a little guy the opportunity to survive. Certainly trading punches is not the answer. Even if a smaller individual can develop equal power he is certainly not capable of withstanding equal punishment. A suggested strategy in Kenpo is the use of checking. Checking helps prevent retaliation. It can be accomplished in several ways, (1) stepping on an opponent’s foot to prevent a kick, (2) preventing the shoulder, elbow, hip, etc from obtaining leverage, (3) becoming skilled in employing offensive moves as a means of preventing retaliation. This method of checking often forces an attacker into an awkward position and/or can effectively minimize his leverage.
Flexibility is highly stressed in Kenpo. It permits freedom to strike any portion of an attacker’s anatomy – from his skull to his toes. Conversely, the application of natural weapons must also be diverse. This includes the fingertips, side of the hand, knees, elbow, heel of the foot, etc. While some of these natural weapons are limited in terms of frequent us they are effective under special condition and situations. Kenpo training does attempt to develop your ability to learn all methods of executing your natural weapons. It becomes a matter of logic for example as to when and how to hit with what.
Something in the way of flexibility can be learned by watching he hands of the director of an orchestra. Observe the many rhythmic changes and gestures that his baton and hands go through when direction the orchestra. The timing, height, width, and depth of his hand gestures alternate accordingly. When he wants softness he lowers his baton. When he wishes for greater volume he raises it. When he wants a specific section to respond, he points. Synchronization is impeccable as the director and his baton becomes one with his musicians. In comparison a fight is harder to anticipate. It cannot be orchestrated, nor can it be compared to a sheet of music. You are not privileged to blend with the reactions of your opponent as an orchestra can do via practice. It requires spontaneity. It is your ability to respond extemporaneously with action and reaction that is the key. Therefore, the greater your chances are for survival. Fighting can be easy or it can be difficult. All elements pertaining thereto are important. While a good system can offer you effective and practical variables, it all comes down to you—you are the only one who can make it work.
To get the levels of spontaneity considerable practice is given to pre-set sequences. This helps a beginning student to develop coordination before advancing to higher levels of conditioned response. The more he practices the better he is able to express himself extemporaneously. As his levels of spontaneity increases he learns to alter his moves without hesitation. He soon learns that the Kenpo system that Ed Parker teachers is not based on untried theories, but proven theories that come with practice. In the words of Ed Parker, “an opponent can be struck four or five times within a second so that he will be unable to “hold” all of the targets that hurt.”