The Origins of Kenpo
Kenpo is considered by many to be the first eclectic martial art. Its origin evolved from Karate which; according to legend, began over a thousand years ago in China.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century two families, Kumamoto and Nagasaki brought knowledge of Kenpo from China to Kyushu in Japan. Modified throughout many years into its current form, it is referred to as Kosho-Ryu Kenpo, or Old Pine Tree school. It is from here that most modern forms of Kenpo are derived.
According to modern legend, in 1916 at the age of five, James Mitose was sent from his homeland in Hawaii to Kyushu for schooling in his ancestors' art of self-defense called Kosho-Ryu Kenpo. After completing his training in Japan, Mitose returned to Hawaii. Near the beginning of World War II in 1936, Mitose opened the "Official Self-Defense" club in Honolulu. It was from here that the five major Kenpo influences; Thomas Young, William K. S. Chow, Edmund Howe, Arthur Keawe and Paul Yamaguchi would study and bring Kenpo to the rest of the world.
William K.S. Chow adapted Mitose's approach and "Americanized" the art. He is perhaps responsible for the largest leap of Kenpo to the general public. In 1949, Chow opened a school of his own at a local YMCA and referred to his art as Kenpo Karate.
Ed Parker Edmund K. Parker, who is probably the most famous of Chow's practitioners, began studying Kenpo with Chow at the age of 16. Parker further adapted the methods so that they would prove practical in an actual fight and opened the first commercial Karate studio in 1954. He created a logical organization for the basic Kenpo techniques, dividing them into eight categories, such as stances, blocks, punches and so on. Parker graduated from Brigham Young and moved to California where he opened his second school in 1956 and also founded the International Kenpo Karate Association the same year. Parker taught the martial arts to many actors and celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen. He also appeared in movies and television shows like "I Love Lucy." Grand Master Edmund Parker is the undisputed "Father" of American Kenpo Karate.
At this school we are not involved in the disputes of the Kenpo societies. Kenpo as taught by Ed Parker or any of Ed Parkers students who ever they and their down lines are, is still Ed Parkers Kenpo. It really makes no difference if its Tracy Kenpo, TRACO, Tatum Kenpo, or EPAK (Ed Parkers American Kenpo) it still came from the same source, Senior Grandmaster Ed Parker. Kenpo is a sofisticated system of pure self defense and is easy to learn. However, it takes a lifetime to master.
As mentioned earlier Kenpo today is splintered at best. The biggest problems involve egos. Many believe their style of Kenpo is the superior to the next guys. This is not really correct. The Kenpo systems today have simply moved on, just as SGM Parker continued to change his system. The masters and grandmasters of Kenpo today continue to grow and adopt. This is a good thing unless you are in the ego crowd and consider everyone else wrong. Tradition has a place in all martial arts but so does change. For instance, the flying side kick was originally designed to remove horsemen from their saddles, this is not important today. Is it? For traditions sake, maybe, but not really practical.
For the student to really understand Kenpo they need to visit the different styles and draw their own conclusions. If they look hard they will see there are only slight differences in the techniques and the way they are taught. They will also notice some technique adopted from other styles that have been "kenpoized". This simply means adopted to there style of Kenpo. The real question is how many ego-maniacs are willing to try and prove Masters Larry Tatum, Al Tracy, Paul Mills, or Huk Planas, just to name a small few that they are even slightly off in what they teach. The point is in Kenpo and all martial arts "leave your ego at the door and try to learn". No one knows it all and we all have room for growth!