A short history of Kenpo Karate

Kenpo is the first true American karate. Kenpo has a long history and draws from both Japanese and Chinese martial arts dating back 800 years. It began with “Empty Hands” – a series of 18 hand movements taught to the Shaolin monks in the Hunan Province in China. These hand movements are still relevant and taught today.

In the 1940s, Kenpo came to America through Hawaii. That's where William Chow synthesized the Japanese kosho-ryu jui-jitsu of his teacher James Mitose with the Chinese fighting style of his father. Chow taught Kenpo karate to many students. One of his students was Ed Parker, who is credited with bringing Kenpo to the US mainland. In 1963, Mr. Parker published a book titled The Secrets of Chinese Karate. The book, along with Mr. Parker’s exhibition of Kenpo martial arts, fueled interest and popularity.

Kenpo is a very practical martial art based on real-world application. It provides a very thorough and readily applied system for self-defense by targeting the body’s vital areas through kicks, punches, and grappling. Additionally it greatly aids in personal development for everyday life.

Much time has been spent determining the most effective ways to teach and learn Kenpo. There are three primary areas of study, which each student must master as he or she progresses through the ranks. These areas include forms or katas (prearranged series of basic movements), self-defense techniques, and freestyle sparring. Learned and practiced together, these three areas of study lead to a comprehensive martial art.

In addition to the physical and practical aspects of Kenpo, emphasis is also placed on personal development. Kenpo practice requires persistence, meditation and spiritual development. Time during every training is spent on these elements as well.

800 years later, the fundamental principles are the same as when the Shaolin monks were taught the benefits of combining the physical and spiritual – known today as “Martial Arts.” The students of Los Gatos Kenpo Karate apply their martial arts knowledge in business, school and in life.