Mr. Ed Parker, the Founder and Grandmaster of Kenpo Karate
Kenpo in Mr. Parkers Own Words
In recent years, the Japanese have popularized an approach to self-defense developed over the Centuries by the Chinese. Today only, the Japanese name has become widely known-Karate, meaning empty hand. Karate, which strikes with the various natural weapons (side of the hand, elbow, heel of the foot, etc.) should not be confused with Judo or Jiu-jitsu, which are roughly speaking Oriental forms of wrestling, Kenpo (law of the fist) Karate is one of the rapidly expanding schools of thought in the United States.
There is not nor was there ever a pure art of Karate. It is difficult to establish an accurate family tree for the many self-defense styles that are now spreading to the West because there styles were founded by individuals who quite naturally borrowed, specialized, and contributed ideas of their own. To the extent, a style is based on logic rather than tradition it is neither Japanese nor Chinese, Oriental nor Western. It is what it is.
Kenpo Karate strives to produce students free from mass brainwashing. These individuals often start schools of their own. Much of the knowledge in Kenpo Karate such as the weapons (such as the tiger's claw and the leopard punch), the movements, etc. comes from the Chinese. This is not because we wish to fight like a Chinese but because the ideas are good.
Many worthwhile principles are found in Zen but contrary to current propaganda, becoming interested in Zen is not the logical result of proficiency in self-defense. The current theme of the "philosophy" or the "way of life" of Karate is too often fancy trimming covering up an inadequate approach to self-defense. The publicized humility of many so-called masters is sometimes only a boast of their intention to avoid a fight and well they had better.
Kenpo Karate demands that fighting be considered realistically, a feature frequently lacking in the self-defense arts today. The movements must be considered against the yardstick of modern day street fighting. Some styles are trying to pass off, as self-defense techniques, movements originally intended as exercises. It is one thing to play quick draw with blanks and quite another to use real bullets. Another item often not taken into account is physiological differences. The art must be made to fit the individual, not the individual to fit the art.
Karate styles are sometimes criticized for not making contact in their sparring. It is true that pulling one's blows is somewhat like playing flag football but the experience of hitting and being hit is not worth the loss of practice time that would surely result from the increased injuries. Working on a heavy bag can partially offset the lack of making contact and if it is not enough, there is no inherent reason why two colleagues cannot make contact if they agree on the rules. Some styles attempt to solve the problem by outfitting themselves in armor. The drawback here is that the armor is so cumbersome that their technique suffers. Again, other styles do not even play the game at all preferring only to shadow box.
Considerable controversy exists among the fans of the various arts of self-defense as to which is superior in an actual crisis. When faced with several attackers the analysis is not difficult. There seems to be little chance of consecutively strangling 5 opponents, holding them down until they yell, "UNCLE" or boxing 5 times 15 rounds. Instead, it becomes highly desirable to be able to dispense with an attacker immediately. The prescription: some form of hitting emphasizing speed, power, and accuracy.
In Kenpo Karate, speed is achieved by relaxing the muscles and conserving motion. The arms and legs move much faster relaxed than tense. Just before contact, (when it will do the most good) the muscles will exert their entire force. When properly trained the body is capable of tremendous force over a short period. Motion (time) is conserved in three ways. First, movements are direct, that is, unnecessary cocking or winding up motion is eliminated, for example the fist does not draw back to gain greater striking distance it goes (from the point of origin)! Second, at the advanced stage the "ands" are eliminated from the response. Instead of blocking "and" hitting or grabbing "and" hitting, the defense and offense occur simultaneously. Third, by combining several strikes into one basic motion combinations become much faster. For instance, the fingers might proceed to the eyes after a chop to the neck or an elbow might follow right behind the fist.
An important question is, which style offers a chance to the little guy? Certainly trading blows is not the answer since if he develops equivalent power he cannot withstand equal punishment. A superior strategy is to anticipate the possible use of a weapon and prevent it from being thrown. This is known as checking. Checking is accomplished in many ways such as stepping on an opponent's foot to prevent a kick, stopping the motion at the shoulder, elbow, hip etc. Frequently our offense is our check often forcing the attacker into an awkward position and/of minimizing his leverage.
Kenpo Karate constantly stresses flexibility. We require the freedom to hit any portion of the attacker's anatomy from his skull to his toes. At the same time, our own weapons must be just as diverse. The natural weapons include the fingertips, side of the hands, knees, elbow, heel of the foot, etc. Some are more limited than others are but it must be remembered that special situations sometimes call for special tools. A regular part of Kenpo Karate training attempts to develop the ability to use each weapon in all its motions. It becomes a matter of logic, for example, as to how many ways there are to hit with an elbow. Something in the way of flexibility can be learned by watching the hands of an orchestra director. The rhythm changes, while the movements alternate between hard and soft. In a fight, a change of pace is harder to anticipate and allows one to blend with the opponent's reactions. To avoid wasted effort and maintain poise soft movements should be combined with hard ones. By varying the amount of force, the weapon, and the target, it is possible to vary the degree of damage. It is not necessary to kill to defend against the grab of some drunk.
In Kenpo Karate considerable practice is given to pre-set sequences. This carries the student through the beginning stage and develops his coordination. At the advanced level, the student becomes able to express himself extemporaneously, that is, to alter his sequence at will. Combinations may be two moves or more than ten. They may be sequences of kicks, and punches, high and low strikes, or minor blows setting up for major ones. Combinations are taught in class as counters to grabs, punches, kicks, etc. They also become useful to penetrate an attacker's defenses or follow up a stunning blow and finish him off. The targets are generally spaced so that the aggressor is unable to "hold" all the places that hurt.
These are not just untried theories since Kenpo Karate has proven itself in practice.