By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor
For an individual to be truly accomplished in martial arts requires more than
just basic self-defense. It is about having the ability to take command of the
situations in our daily lives. Acquiring the ability to train aerobic,
flexibility and muscle tone exercises without the use of a gym or special
equipment is a personal asset that you will always appreciate.
Your greatest self-confidence will come from knowing that you have the
ability to take care of yourself and loved ones by way of sound physical health
Most people are totally oblivious to danger. Others disregard danger,
convinced that threats will never be a part of their life. Increasingly,
individuals who are considering a disciplined study of self-defense have
accepted that impending dangers do exist. Once you accept that the potential
exists for physical threats and realize that logical measures of prevention can
help avoid harm for yourself or loved ones, then you have armed yourself with a
prime defense against attack.
The study of Kenpo Karate has many benefits including: Increased self
confidence, Improved physical conditioning, and a knowledge of self-defense
Mr. Ed Parker is credited with establishing American Kenpo Karate. He trained
in Karate for many years. Mr. Parker revolutionized the Kenpo style of Martial
Arts. He recognized the importance of logic and reason in the acquisition and
application of Kenpo techniques. Kenpo Karate is based upon certain forms of the
Martial Arts that have been practiced in Asia for over five thousand years. In
Kenpo, the emphasis is upon defense and preservation of self, through maneuvers
intended to protect yourself and to place your opponent into a vulnerable
In Kenpo Karate, you learn basic movements which are considered to be
fundamental to offense or defensive motion. These basics are then combined in a
variety of ways to form techniques. Techniques are developed as a specialized
series of movements in response to an aggressive action (e.g. a person throws a
punch and the Kenpo student responds with a well honed sequence of movements to
defend and, if necessary, respond with force.
- The first law of kenpo states that when your opponent charges straight
in and attacks, you should use your feet to move your body along a circular
path. You should also consider moving your arms in a circular pattern to
deflect the oncoming force.
When your opponent attacks you in a circular fashion, however, you should
respond with a fast linear attack —along a straight line from your weapon to
his target. Just as the circle can overcome the line, the line can overcome
- Strike First. This principle has several meanings. First, it indicates
that kenpo is primarily a striking art. Seventy percent hands and 30 percent
feet is the classical breakdown, but you can change the proportion according
to the circumstances or your body build.
The second meaning is that if a confrontation is inevitable—a thug is
climbing through your bathroom window at 2 o’clock in the morning and he
starts swinging a baseball bat—you should not wait for the aggressor to
attack first. You need to hit him first with a foot, a fist, an elbow or a
knee. You also need to hit hard and hit continuously until he is subdued.
- Kenpo is different from many karate styles in that it teaches you to
strike first and strike often in rapid succession— high, low, straight in,
and along a circular path. While unleashing such rapidfire strikes, it
becomes difficult to kiai (shout) in conjunction with each one.
Therefore, you should forget about shouting with each blow; in fact, doing
so means you are expending excess energy.
- If you had to punch a hole through a wall, would you rather hit a half-inch of sheet rock or a 2×4 stud? The answer is obvious, and it’s also
why kenpo advocates striking “soft” targets. No one ever broke his knuckle
punching an attacker’s temple, no one ever fractured his instep kicking an
attacker’s groin and no one ever injured his knifehand striking an
- Kenpo’s mandate to kick low is based on logic. A roundhouse kick and
spinning reverse crescent kick to the head may be flashy and impressive, but
such maneuvers take longer to execute because your leg has to travel
farther. They also expose your groin to your opponent’s kick. Because
kicking high requires superior balance and focus, you should practice your
leg techniques high. But deliver them low for self-defense. Furthermore,
kicking low to the legs—executing a “pillar attack”—can break your
opponent’s balance and his leg.
- Mobility may be the easiest kenpo principle to understand. It holds that
a moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one. As basic as that
sounds, many martial artists fail to implement it.
- Kenpo teaches that there are three types of fighters: the statue,
who has little mobility and will not retreat; the runner, who has to be
chased around the ring; and the steamroller, who just keeps coming at you.
If you are any one of these, be careful because you are predictable and
could be defeated. To transcend mediocrity, you must mix things up and, no
matter what, keep moving. If your stance is upright and your movement is
good, you will be able to put yourself in a superior position relative to
- The law of flexibility is the law of survival. Kenpo is unique in that
it adapts to your build, personality, and spirit. If you stand 4 feet 10
inches tall, it makes little sense for you to focus on kicking when your
greatest strengths may be mobility and quickness. If you are a 110-pound
woman, you should not grapple with a 230- pound assailant. The old kenpo
masters showed their wisdom when they proclaimed that in a fight for your
life, you should use what you know best and forget about the sanctity of the
style. Every practitioner has different attributes that can make him or her
Your shout, facial expressions, stance, and on-guard position should all work
in unison. Following the principle of yin and yang, (soft and hard) you should
be hard on the outside and soft on the inside. When used in this way, your
"warrior spirit" can be just as important as physical skill.