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What Is American Kenpo Karate? A Basic Guide To American Kenpo

American Kenpo Karate, which is also known as Kenpo Karate, is not a martial art that many people are familiar with, and it is not as widely taught as more traditional martial art forms. This fighting form is relatively modern and is taught internationally in various styles, but what exactly is American Kenpo Karate?

American Kenpo Karate is a hybrid form of martial art originating in the 1940s, based on Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, and Judo. American Kenpo has been refined to a highly effective and unique form of martial arts focusing on defense and immobilizing an attacker efficiently.

American Kenpo Karate may not be as well-known as other forms of martial arts, but this is a legitimate fighting style and self-defense combat science that is recognized internationally. Let’s take the time to better understand this martial art, where it came from, and answer some of the more important questions surrounding American Kenpo Karate.

What Is American Kenpo Karate?

American Kenpo Karate is an updated modern martial arts system that is focused on self-defense. American Kenpo Karate is based on several versions of Japanese martial arts known simply as Kenpo.

The main focus of American Kenpo Karate is self-defense, particularly in street fighting. This martial art applies logic and practicality to effective, powerful movements and is mainly categorized by strikes performed by the entire body. This makes American Keno Karate a hybrid form of martial art.

American Kenpo Karate uses physical coordination and continuity combined with linear and circular motions to perform powerful strikes and defenses designed to disable an attacker as quickly as possible.

This martial art is divided into four sections, the basics, forms, self-defense, and sparring. Students of American Kenpo Karate work their way through these sections, beginning with the basics, up to sparring.

Each American Kenpo technique is taught in three phases: the ideal phase, the “what if” phase, and the formulation phase

The ideal phase teaches students the fundamentals of every technique and how to use them in an ideal situation. The “what if” phase teaches them to react in an unforeseen situation, and the formulation phase teaches students the free form of American Kenpo that allows them to combine any technique and move to adapt to any situation.

American Kenpo Karate is a popular form of martial art in America, as this martial art is a well-crafted form of self-defense and form of physical training and exercise.

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The History Of American Kenpo Karate

The history of American Kenpo Karate is somewhat contentious in the world of martial arts. Most martial art forms and systems are ancient techniques that teach unique fighting styles and have deep spiritual teachings at their core. 

American Kenpo Karate is, by all standards, a very young form of martial art. American Kenpo originated in the 1950s and was refined and completely developed by American Ed Parker

Ed Parker was a well-studied and well-trained martial artist who achieved a black belt in Judo and trained in several other forms of martial arts as well. Parker began his form of Kenpo Karate after studying under William K.S Chow, who was a student of the founder of Kenpo Karate, James Mitose.

After his studies under Chow, Parker observed techniques from other forms of martial arts during an international tournament and incorporated these into a hybrid martial art form that he dubbed American Kenpo Karate.

After the inception of American Kenpo, Parker continued to refine the martial art and distill the techniques into more defined movements with greater control. Parker shifted from Eastern martial art influence and tailored his new hybrid style for the American student specifically.

Thus, modern American Kenpo Karate was born and is still studied and taught throughout the world today in various forms.

What Does American Kenpo Karate Teach?

American Kenpo Karate is unlike other martial art forms. It is based on several kinds of martial art and combat forms, but the fighting style and philosophy of American Kenpo are truly unique.

American Kenpo is thought of more as a combat science than a strict form of martial art. This style teaches its students to learn and adapt from basic principles and techniques learned through the art. 

These skills can be developed by students into their own unique style of combat and self-defense according to their skills, capabilities, and environment.

Students of American Kenpo Karate are taught to develop environmental awareness, structural stability and balance, coordination, movement flow and speed, power, and timing

The characteristics of American Kenpo Karate include a series of kicks, open hand, punches, knee and elbow strikes, throwing techniques, joint locking techniques, finger strikes, and even training with clubs and knives.

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American Kenpo Karate vs. Japanese Kenpo Karate – What Is The Key Difference?

The word Kenpo is used to define several various forms of martial arts. The two main forms of the word are used in Japanese Kenpo, also known as Shorinji Kempo, and American Kenpo.

Both of these forms are hybrid forms of martial arts that borrow from other forms to construct strikes, throws, locks, and grapples. 

Japanese Kenpo is heavily based on Japanese Jujutsu and follows Buddhist beliefs very closely. Traditional Karate is also a heavy influence in this form of Kenpo.

American Kenpo Karate is heavily based on Karate, as well as other forms such as Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. This martial art adapts techniques from many martial arts into Kenpo techniques. American Kenpo Karate does not follow a religion and is tailored to American students, and rather emphasizes environmental awareness over spiritual awareness.

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Is American Kenpo Karate Effective?

American Kenpo Karate is often thought to be an ineffective martial art form, especially by students of other, more traditional forms of martial arts.

However, American Kenpo is very effective if used correctly. This martial art teaches students to adapt to any combat situation and encourages them to use all the forms and techniques that they understand in combination with one another to form the best defense and offense in any given situation.

American Kenpo requires years of training to be effective in a combat situation, but masters of this martial art are very effective fighters.

Does Kenpo Karate Use Weapons?

American Kenpo Karate is mainly focused on using the entire body for strikes and defenses but does teach and make use of techniques designed for two particular weapons.

This style of Kenpo uses short staffs and daggers known as Kenpo Knives. The Kenpo Knife I is also known as the Parker Fighting Knife, as Ed Parker developed the Kenpo Long Form 7 using this specially crafted knife.

The Kenpo Long Form 7 is a double-dagger fighting form that Ed Parker developed for his black belt thesis and has become an integral form in the martial art.

American Kenpo Karate also teaches the use of double short staffs that are used for club strikes. Single staff versions of the forms are also taught, along with single knife forms of the Kenpo Long Form 7.


American Kenpo Karate is a highly effective modern martial art form that is derived from techniques used in various fighting styles and combat sciences. This martial art is taught in various forms all over the world but originated from one man’s passion for the study of martial arts.

Earning a black belt in American Kenpo Karate takes approximately five years to achieve, but this martial art takes a lifetime to master. American Kenpo is highly effective in the hands of a master and is an ideal martial art to study for those interested in self-defense.

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