Thousands of people the world over have studied various forms of Kenpo or Kempo Karate. I remember when I first started learning karate lessons from an actual instructor, he told me about some of the styles of Okinawan karate. Later when I started learning kenpo karate, I was told that there were Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan, and Hawaiian styles of Kenpo. Well let me tell you that I was confused then and while searching through the internet for kenpo history – I am still a little fuzzy.
In this post I will discuss the difficulty discerning history because of bias, poor records, frame of reference, and other research challenges. I will also speak of Kempo/Kenpo’s recent history since James Mitose in Hawaii and the Hawaii Karate Museum’s online records. Here is a video of some of Kenpo’s early history including its spread from China, Okinawa, and Japan.
You’ve started to take karate lessons from your local school for some reason. Perhaps you have had a run in at the local pub or you have been mugged. Whatever the reason you have decided to learn how to defend yourself. You want to become the next Ninja Warrior! You do not want to be a MMA star but you just want that highly respected Black Belt.
You went with a reputable school that has been recommended by one of your buddies and have had your introductory lessons. The school is one of many that teach basics, self-defense techniques, katas and sparring. If you are really motivated you can do some semi or full contact sport karate tournaments later.
In this post I will focus on self-defense techniques, what they are, how long it takes to learn them well and do they work. I will also speak about beginning students with the goal of self defense and how realistic that is learning a traditional martial art. Here is a demonstration of some American Kenpo and Tracy’s Kenpo Karate techniques.
1 Jul 2008
[Forward: My good friend, David Hays is contributing this article. David is a 4th degree Kenpo black belt from Dick Willett. Dave has been a fierce tournament competitor, studio owner and now he mentors the upcoming generations of karate students. The photo credits go to Barbara Steinberg. Welcome David! John W. Zimmer]
On June 14th, 2008 Dick Willett’s senior Black Belts hosted a seminar in San Diego Ca. with the legendary Joe Lewis and world champion grappler Dean Lister.
Joe Lewis was the best of the best in the golden age of Sport Karate. During the early years of martial arts in America, he stood out as the best in the sport. There was no one more feared and/or respected than the legendary Joe Lewis.
When I was starting out in karate I was told about the Tracy’s system (most styles are similar), basics, 240 self-defense techniques, 17 katas, and kumite (sparring/fighting). My first thought I asked my instructor was why I could not just learn how to fight. Why did I need to memorize so many techniques to attain each belt rank? My instructor (Dick Willett) told my that forms and techniques helped us learn how to learn the martial art. I thought about that and it made some sense… If I had just wanted to learn how to fight, I would have taken wrestling or boxing.
Lets explore the components that make up a martial art and then look at katas in more depth. First look at this video of two karate/kung fu champions doing a funny skit. George Chung was one of the top kata competitors in my day (late 70’s/early 80’s). Cynthia Rothrock was from the same era, also winning lots of kata championships.
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Many of you may be wondering what is the best style or martial art for self-defense? There are many good martial arts schools that teach adaptive self-defense moves that also teach the traditional martial arts. People often ask me what is the best way to learn self-defense. The short answer is to find something you like for the time commitment you want to make, and then follow through.
Almost any martial art will work in self-defense if one practices but it must be suited for the student. For instance if a woman wanted to learn how to fight in two weeks, I would not suggest a formal Kung Fu or Karate school (unless they also taught self-defense courses), but rather a self-defense course. If a woman wanted to learn an art form as well as some practical self-defense then almost any martial art will be good (Kung Fu, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Aikido and so on). Here is a short video of a Kung Fu school with a self-defense offering.
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