The Things That Went Wrong With American Kenpo Karate
I sauntered into my first American Kenpo Karate dojo over 4 decades ago. This was the Rod Martin offshoot of Tracys Kenpo, which had broken from Ed Parker Kenpo Karate. Therein lies the first problem with the art of American Kenpo.
It grew too fast. In the orient teachers didn’t teach until they had a minimum of a decade of experience, had studied under a variety of teachers and had learned a variety of martial arts styles. We were borning senseis every three years, which is how long it took to make a black belt back then.
Of course, there is also the problem of which kenpo is the true kenpo? Ed Parker, you see, developed five different kenpos. If you learned an earlier version, is it now considered…less than kenpo?
And, this bring us to the fact that there are variations on the variations. There are people who have evolved combat kenpo and tournament kenpo and MMA kenpo, and so on. It seems there are as many kenpos as there are people studying it.
I first became aware of this interesting occurrence, too many versions, while putting together Monkey Boxing, which, in one sense, is my variation of kenpo, or at least as close as I can come to a kenpo. I had studied a variation of the version of the art way back when, then I picked up Larry Tatum Kenpo, and I had come in contact with some of the kenpo connection material, then I came across rather hefty instruction books on Olympic kenpo, and I believe I had two other variations of the art.
As I went through the endless techniques I saw how the changes were sometimes small, and sometimes large, but always unique to the person making the changes. Now, to be sure, every art should be an expression of the individual, and kenpo does seem suited to this. Still, it would be nice to have a specific set of concepts, and maybe a list of techniques that would standardize the kenpo field before individual martial arts masters expanded it with their own variations.
In response to this overwhelming amount of data, I boiled the techniques of five complete arts, with a couple or three partial arts, down to 40 specific techniques. I am sure there will be some students of the art who shake their heads at this. After all, how can one condense over 500 techniques, and all the evolutions thereof, into just forty techniques?
Well, I offer no excuse, I merely advise the reader to try his own hand at collecting sufficient versions that you might have a complete viewpoint of the art. Then, start organizing the information. It will be hard, a number nine headache, but you might find yourself a true master of American Kenpo Karate.
Find More Black American Articles