The Strange Lineage of Kenpo Karate
Maybe you remember that great scene in Enter the Dragon where the bad guy asks ‘What’s yer style’ of Bruce Lee? As over the top as that statement appears, it points up the differences of arts, and how confusing such a thing as lineage can be. In no art is this as true as in the art of Kenpo.
Many people think Ed Parker created the style of Kenpo, but he actually only popularized it. And, to be honest, he more than likely added to the confusion of the art. He created something like five different versions, and he drew from Karate and Kung Fu and whatever happened to be on his mind that day.
Kenpo got its start in Japan. There is some confusion as to the correct spelling, some people saying Kenpo, and some saying Kempo. Kenpo usually refers to martial arts stemming from China, and Kempo refers to the more Japanese oriented arts.
There is confusion on this point as there is not agreement. Further, there is not always common lineage. That said, Kenpo, although believed to mean ‘Fist Law,’ is actually ‘Quanfa,’ which means Kung Fu.
The main types of the Kenpo in the USA come from James Mitose. Master Mitose is sometimes a controversial teacher, for he was tried and convicted of murder and extortion. He served his time in Folsom Prison.
Mr. Mitose taught William Chow, who taught Ed Parker. Mr. Parker, as has been described, popularized the art of Kenpo. Students of Mr. Chow include Adriano Emperado, Ralph Castro, Sam Kuaho, and others.
Names of the arts taught by these people include Shaolin Kenpo, Kajukenpo, American Kenpo, Kara-Ho Kempo, and many other types of the art. There is an abundance of secondary students who were taught by these people. Kenpo has also continued to grow conceptually, drawing from many other arts for kata, self defense applications, and so on.
Though Kenpo grew at a tremendous pace, and though the lineage is sometimes difficult to follow, as is the art itself, there is much value in it. Many people ‘wet their feet’ in the convenient ‘Strip Mall Dojos,’ and then continue their studies elsewhere. Still, to define the true system of kenpo, and to list the roots and influences that resulted in that art can be a daunting task.
Matrix Kung Fu…Monkey Boxing, simplifies and condenses Chinese Kenpo Karate. Head on over over to Monster Martial Arts and make sure you pick up a free book while you’re there.