The Tradition of Chinese Kenpo Karate
Chinese Kenpo Karate (sometimes spelled Kempo) refers to a form of martial arts that has a mixture of Chinese and Japanese origins. The idea behind Chinese Kenpo Karate is to develop a person’s self-defense skills while also conditioning their inner thoughts. The exact origin of Chinese Kenpo Karate is somewhat confusing. This is because the Chinese claim that it has origins in their country while the Japanese claim that it can be traced by through their history. Various passages that you read might have slightly different perspectives. However, the exact facts around the origin are unimportant. What is important is that anyone can learn this technique to defend against an attack. Teachers of Chinese Kenpo Karate send the message that the athletic, non-athletic, young, and old can learn how to use it effectively.
The first person to coin the name “Kenpo Karate” was Professor William Kwai Sun Chow. He gave the fighting style its name in 1944. One of Chow’s students was Ed Parker who learned this technique and later began to mix it with Chinese arts and called it Chinese Kenpo Karate. Some of these Chinese martial arts include Li Fut, Choy, and Hung Gar.
The name Kenpo is actually not Chinese in origin. It came from Japan and the word kenpo is used as a generic name in that country to identify Chinese martial arts. But while the name is Japanese, the martial art itself can be traced to China in the year 520. A Buddhist monk from India taught other monks at the Shaolin Temple in Henan, China fighting skills to not only defend themselves in an attack but to also find the path to spiritual enlightenment. The Chinese call Kenpo Chuan Fa and both names can be translated loosely as fist law. Frequently, you will also see kenpo spelled as kempo but both refer to the same thing.
Chinese Kenpo Karate begins with the fighting stance known as the neutral bow. All other moves are executed from this stance. The stance is characterized by the inward positioning of the feet, slightly bending the knees outward at 45-degree angles, and head and back straight. The arms are placed in the position of lead arm and rear arm. The lead arm will be outstretched and placed at a 45-degree angle but not too far from the body. The rear arm will be placed in a cocked position with the palm of the hand up.
Kenpo can be classified into four categories for self-defense techniques. These categories are known as long, middle, close, and grappling. The long techniques deal with kicking movements, middle is for punching, close is knees and elbows, and grappling for grabbing, holds, and locks. Students in this art are taught to execute movements very quickly and with precision.
The art is often compared to street fighting. However, to use that term takes away from the fact that it is also a spiritual discipline. It has its original roots in Zen Buddhism which calls it a Do referring to a path to enlightenment. Kenpo focuses on getting the mind and body to join with each other so that defensive movements can be executed correctly while the student continues on a path to enlightenment.