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About Kenpo

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 maintenance.

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 techniques.

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 position.

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.

Kenpo Facts:

  1. 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 the circle.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. If you had to punch a hole through a wall, would you rather hit a half-inch of sheet rock or a 24 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 attacker’s throat.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7.  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 your opponent.
  8. 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 effective.

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.


About Cathy: She and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy, write to Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.

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