Kenpō is the name of several Japanese martial arts. The word kenpō is a Japanese translation of the Chinese word “quán fǎ“. This term is also sometimes transliterated as “kempo“, as a result of applying Traditional Hepburn romanization, but failing to use a macron to indicate the long vowel. The generic nature of the term combined with its widespread, cross-cultural adoption in the martial arts community has led to many divergent definitions.
Kenpo is firmly undogmatic, and as such its techniques vary depending upon the preference of the practitioner and the instructor. However, certain characteristics are common to nearly all forms of kenpo.
- Kenpo is a system of self-defense. Its techniques are almost entirely counters; a typical kenpo school does not teach its students how to attack people.
- Kenpo is not about fighting. A Kenpo practitioner does not “feel out” his opponent. Once the kenpoka is attacked, his aim is to end the fight however he can as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Kenpo is set apart from many other martial arts by the sheer size of its curriculum. This varies, of course, from school to school, but several forms and defenses against strikes, weapons, and grabs, are required to advance in rank.
- Kenpo employs a belt ranking system, similar to those of Karate, Judo, or Jiu-Jitsu.
- Kenpo is almost exclusively a stand-up martial art, using various hand strikes, kicks, elbows, knees, throws, and in some cases joint locks.