The similarities and differences between Kenpo Karate and Okinawan Karate

Discussion in 'Kenpo' started by Manila-X, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. Manila-X

    Manila-X OSU!

    If there is one thing I noticed during my trip to The US particularly in LA are the numerous dojos that taught Kenpo Karate.

    In fact, there are plenty of dojos in The US or Canada that are labeled Karate but does not mention what system of Karate it teaches.

    Another is seeing images and videos of American rock & roll legend, Elvis Presley practicing Karate, specifically American Kenpo due to the fact he trained under it's Grandmaster Ed Parker and that Parker himself also served as his bodyguard.

    Anyway before I continue further, there are many types of Kenpo from Shorinji Kenpo, Shaolin Kenpo and so on. The system that I'll be discussing here is the American Kenpo Karate system developed by Grandmaster Ed Parker in which it was also called Kenpo-Jitsu and comparing it with the various systems of Okinawan Karate (Shotokan, Goji-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu, Kyokushinkai, etc.) that descended from the traditional fighting arts of Shuri-Te, Naha-Te, etc.

    Both American Kenpo and Okinawan Karate have it's similarities and differences. And to some extent, it is easy to distinguish the differences between the two.

    Historical-wise, American Kenpo and many systems of Okinawan Karate, particularly Shorin-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu had it's roots in various Chinese martial arts which developed to it's own system.

    A combination of hard and soft techniques are present in both martial arts though American Kenpo have primarily soft, circular techniques.

    American Kenpo and Okinawan Karate have similar attack and defense techniques though the former has much emphasis on hand strikes and low kicks. Plus many striking techniques in American Kenpo focus on a chain of attacks unlike the single strikes of many systems of Okinawan Karate.

    Thus many different styles of techniques taught in American Kenpo such as 5 Swords or Snapping Twigs.

    Kata is one of the most important aspects of Okinawan Karate and many of it's systems share similar forms. American Kenpo does not practice nor use these katas and instead have it's own forms.

    Another key difference between American Kenpo and Okinawan Karate are the use of symbols and presentation. Black Gis are common with American Kenpo especially those with higher rank. The black gi was popularized by Ed Parker to symbolize authority. Both American Kenpo and Okinawan Karate share similar belt systems in which white and yellow are the lowest while brown and black are the highest.

    The Dragon is a very important symbol with American Kenpo but it is rarely used in Okinawan Karate. Though American Kenpo and many systems of Okinawan Karate use The Tiger especially Shotokan.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  2. Grass hopper

    Grass hopper Valued Member

    I've always wanted to spar a kenpo practitioner out of curiosity.
  3. Okinawanbudo

    Okinawanbudo New Member

    Hi Manilla-X
    This is an interesting topic I am particularly interested in how the American Kenpo Karate you observed compares to Okinawan Karate, given the formers claim, at least historically, to have had some influence from Okinawan Karate. The line as I recall goes James Mitose (possibly influenced by Motobu, Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higaonna) to William Chow (first use of the term Kempo Karate in this line) to Ed Parker, one of Chow's students. Some differences that I am aware of are: No Makiwara training in American Kenpo but this is usually seen in many systems Okinawan Karate, this is particularly interesting given that Mitose advocated it. Whilst American Kempo does do paired work with drills I am not aware of any Kata Bunkai in American Kenpo, something that is pretty usual in Okinawan Karate systems. Did you see any exceptions to this?

    Chris Norman

Share This Page