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  1. #1
    Member Hack Foo Doe's Avatar
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    Ken G Wylson
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    Default Kenpo (Kempo) is it Karate or Jujitsu?

    I have a burning question and it seems to be unanswerable

    I know there are many Kenpo (Kempo) schools out there in many different Countries but what is it?

    I have seen one school I know of change its "badge" from Kenpo Karate to Kenpo Jujitsu and I am sure others have done the same both ways round. Is it due to where the roots of the style is from, because I believed ALL Western Kenpo originates from Grandmaster Ed Parker and if that is the case it should be called Karate (although it was originally known as Jujitsu - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Kenpo).

    Although we do have other orgs like this one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaolin_Kempo_Karate)

    When searching for Kenpo Jujitsu the only sites I can find are Club sites or NGB's like this one (http://www.bkjjf.co.uk/)

    It makes me think why did the Kenpo Jujitsu Instructors change it from Karate as GM Ed Parker / GM Fredrick J. Villari still keep/kept to the Karate "Label"

    Note, this is in now way a means to discredit an awesome and effective style of martial arts, it is just a way of finding understanding.

    Looking forward to some enlightening discussions and explainations
    The beat of your heart is the rhythm of your soul

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Cliff Hargrave's Avatar
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    My two cents, take it for what it's worth. My only real exposure to it was through my Shorin Ryu instructor who happen to have a 1st dan in a Parker version of Kenpo he obtained many years prior. He didn't teach it and actually talked bad about it so it probably skewed my opinion at an early age.

    Kempo/Kenpo is just a generic term. Everything you see today with the terms is just a modern, made up, system. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not a "traditional" art. Mitose was a weird guy that taught basic karate stuff and called it Kempo. My understanding is he called it jiujitsu sometimes and karate sometimes. His background is questionable, and his lifestyle was criminal. The history is varied and changes depending on who you talk to. So with Kempo/Kenpo you never know what you are actually going to get. They are known for lots of high ranking grandmasters that have branched off and started their own groups. I have met guys that range from super tough to absolutely pathetic. But then again, that could describe most martial arts.

    Parker claimed to have created the first commercial martial arts school in the US and the Tracey brothers created the first chain of schools. Again, not really bad or good, depending on your perspective.

    So you can probably get ten responses to this thread with eleven different answers.
    Jiu-Jitsu - like chess, except you get to choke people.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Tripitaka of AA's Avatar
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    There are many different ways to describe a motor vehicle; some terms will be used to mean different things when used by different people. An SUV, or a Roadster, a truck or a saloon car... they will all have some things in common and others that make them unique. A Ford GTi is not necessarily anything much like a Volkswagen GTi, or a TDi, but they will all presumably have four wheels and be capable of carrying at least one person at speed over a long distance.

    The word "Kempo", which is also sometimes written as "Kenpo", is a Japanese word. It is written as "拳法" in Kanji. Kanji are the characters used in the Japanese language which have come from Chinese (there are other characters used in Japanese, called Hiragana and Katakana, which are a bit like an alphabet, and which are used to explain pronunciation and/or for foreign words). Kanji are whole words, or can be used in combination to make compound words. "拳法" is made of "拳", prounced "ken", meaning "fist"... and "法", pronounced "ho", meaning "method". Stick either of those kanji into the Bing microsoft translator and it will show you a load of other dictionary definitions and possible uses when combined with other kanji. In Chinese, Mandarin (as used in Peoples Republic of China), or Cantonese (as used in Hong Kong), the characters will be pronounced "Chu'an fa" ("Quan Fa"). Again, stick the characters into Bing and you'll see some of the various uses.

    I have come across this information after enjoying a load of online discussions over the years that usually started off with references to the "Kempo" that populates the US martial arts world. I know very little about those systems and most of what I do know has been picked up from these discussions. I learned about them in order to understand how they differ from the "Kempo" that I have been interested in. As I now understand it, the word "Kempo" as used in the name of an art found in USA will usually indicate some connection direct or indirect to the Mitose lineage and the Hawaiian connection. As I understand it, the word "Kempo" can be found in several long-established Japanese arts that have absolutely no connection at all to that Mitose/Parker/et al lineage. In Japan, the use of the term "kempo" can indicate a connection to Chinese origins of an art (but not necessarily so). In the USA, a lot of meaning is drawn out of the difference in spelling between "Kempo" and "Kenpo", simply because of who used which spelling in their version. From a linguistics point of view, there is no difference, they are just variances in the way the Japanese word is romanised.

    I dust off this explanation now and again, but I usually write it fresh each time. If I've missed abit or got something truly twisted, please let me know. In the meantime, it is someone ele's turn .
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  4. #4
    Member Hack Foo Doe's Avatar
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    So from the responses so far, Kempo is just Kempo and that the "label" of "Karate" or "Jujitsu" are just extra labels for marketing purposes?

    I think I understand that now. I suppose its the same as "KaraTe" being know as "KodeTe" prior to its introduction to Japan
    The beat of your heart is the rhythm of your soul

  5. #5
    Super Moderator jjaje's Avatar
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    As David pointed out, Kenpo/Kempo and Chuan Fa use the same kanji, where one may translate more as "fist law" the other translates to "Chinese Boxing".

    We do know James Mitose taught William Chow, and that Chow taught the people that would popularize Kenpo in North America. Of course the largest branch of the Kenpo tree is Ed Parkers, with many styles branching off of that. Chow also taught George Pesare who spread Kenpo in the U.S. via Nick Cerio and Fred Villari.

    I believe Mitose named his early schools Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu, and some schools have come full circle to using that name again. But it's just a name, not necessarily pointing to any specific or unified curriculum. There are many who believe Chow added some Chinese movements into what he taught Parker, and this is where the "Chinese Kenpo" name comes from, thought that is not substantiated. However, many Kenpo styles have both a decidedly Japanese and Chinese flavor.

    Parker changed Kenpo a lot throughout the years. Many changes were to make commercialization easier, some were to simplify, and he had been working on "Momentum Kenpo" concepts. Through the years, Parker Black Belts left to start their own schools, and added/removed stuff to their kenpo. So basically, Kenpo schools can be all over the map, depending on what they were teaching when they left Parker to start their own schools and what changes they made to that particular branch after leaving.

    Just like all other names/styles - you must look at the individual school and not the name.

    Although people associate keNpo/keMpo with Mitose/Chow/Parker I think the term had been used more generically with other styles too. The term Kempo is used on some Hank Slomanski stuff, and he never trained in the Mitose lineage.
    The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly. - Theodore Roosevelt

  6. #6
    Corripe Cervisiam Mekugi's Avatar
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    Jeff... they are the same kanji, same meaning. Different pronunciation.
    Russ Ebert
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  7. #7
    Corripe Cervisiam Mekugi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hack Foo Doe View Post
    So from the responses so far, Kempo is just Kempo and that the "label" of "Karate" or "Jujitsu" are just extra labels for marketing purposes?

    I think I understand that now. I suppose its the same as "KaraTe" being know as "KodeTe" prior to its introduction to Japan
    Actually, that may be true in the USA. In the East, maybe not. There are a few schools that honestly use this term without a marketing hinge. In other words it doesn't have to be a marketing ploy.

    This is true: Kempo does not necessarily mean striking. It can also mean grappling. Furthermore nothing in the name implies that had to come came from China...because to be honest the Japanese writing system was entirely imported, as well as a few of the pronunciations. It can apply to grappling as well as striking, or anything in between!
    Last edited by Mekugi; 12-24-2011 at 11:11.
    Russ Ebert
    The narcissism of small differences is especially true in the martial arts.


  8. #8
    Super Moderator jjaje's Avatar
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    To add to my earlier response, I think you start to see the name "Kenpo Jiu Jitsu" come back now as differentiators to other kenpo styles.

    I have seen some Kenpo styles that have removed all joint locks and throws from the system. I have seen others that have removed most kicks, along with the joint locks and throws. There are some that have really made speed a priority, and they practice their "fast hands" even to the detriment of power delivery.

    So to differentiate, and with the popularity of BJJ, I can see why some schools would come full circle and start using the name Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu again.

    What's funny, is I can tell all of these Kenpo styles are of the Parker lineage. Originally, there were no kata in Kenpo when Parker taught. Just a plethora of short self defense "techniques". The kata's Short3, Long 3, Long 4, Long 5, Long 6, Long 7 and Mass Attack are all pretty much technique kata's. That is Parker (and his early students) invented these kata and they are mostly made up of multiple individual self defense techniques with transitional footwork in between.

    Still the kata has the original technique in it, yet the student may not practice that technique because it was removed from the system. In a Kenpo only forum I visit occasionally, people will post a video of a kata, and they don't know what some moves are for, because they aren't taught that as part of their curriculum anymore. (just to give you an idea of how really messed up things can be)
    Last edited by jjaje; 12-24-2011 at 10:46. Reason: spelling
    The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly. - Theodore Roosevelt

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