American Kenpo

Kenpo Self Defense.

A lot has been said about Kenpo and its origins. Some true and some not-so-true statements are everywhere. Seems the truth is many different things to many different people, AS WITH ALL MARTIAL ARTS SYSTEMS THAT HAVE SURVIVED MANY, MANY YEARS OF EVOLUTION.


Shaolin Temple, Yes? YES.

Ed Parker is given credit for developing the art of American Kenpo Karate.

Whatever Mr. Parker’s path was to get to HIS KENPO, the truth is… the Self Defense SYSTEM he developed and re-developed became, and is still becoming, the most common sense self-defense street fighting art to date. That is, in my circle of the world. I do notice (out there) the existence of a few Kenpoist who would stagger the perpetuation and growth in the name of “Tradition”, and the simple fact some of them don’t know how to grow it for themselves. Bless their hearts, it is still a very effective art, even in their hands. There are also those who are trying to jump on every new fad and “add” it to the Kenpo they love. They will soon discover there is, was, and will be foundations for the battle sense of the “latest discovery” hidden in the growth that would be Their Kenpo anyway. always room for new Ideas and Growth. A TRUE MIX OF MARTIAL ARTS.

Today with my travels and through the Internet, I have been able to witness Many Great Kenpoists in the world. The Kenpo Movement is not only in Kenpo schools, but MANY other martial art styles are trying to keep up by adding what looks like Kenpo techniques to their curriculum. Even when someone only has it partially right and they honestly keep moving forward, they will soon discover Kenpo’s AWESOME Scientific Alphabet of Motion. With the guidance of a qualified master of Kenpo, of course.

My path was laid out by GM Ed Parker, Lonny Coots, George Mosson, and Dave Devault. Each one had a profound effect on my life and my Kenpo.

In the early 1990’s I reached out to Grand Master Larry Tatum to see if he would accept me as his student. I never realized the Magic and Mastery that awaited me in his guidance through the higher ranks. He has blessed me with an understanding of the True Perpetuation of Kenpo that I am sure only a few are privileged to understand, but ALL are welcome to chase.

I only hope to stand strong in my teachings and growth so my students will have steady shoulders to stand on and grow their own Kenpo from there.


Jim Adkins


The History of American Kenpo

The modern history of American Kenpo began in the 1940s, when Great Grandmaster James M. Mitose (1916-1981) started teaching his ancestral Japanese Martial Art, Kosho-Ryu Kenpo, in Hawaii.[2] Mitose’s art, later called Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu, traditionally traces its origin to Shaolin Kung Fu and Bodhidharma.[3] Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes punching, striking, kicking, locking, and throwing.[3] Mitose’s art was very linear, lacking the circular motions in American Kenpo.[4]


William K.S. Chow & Kenpo Karate

William K. S. Chow studied Kenpo under James Mitose, eventually earning a first-degree black belt.[3] He had also studied Chinese Kung Fu from his father.[5] Chow began teaching an art, which he called Kenpo Karate, that blended the circular movements he had learned from his father with the system he had learned from Mitose.[4][6] Chow experimented and modified his art, adapting it to meet the needs of American students.[4]


Ed Parker & Kenpo Karate

Ed Parker learned Kenpo Karate from William Chow, eventually earning a black belt, though Chow was later to claim Parker had only earned a purple belt. Others have claimed Parker had only earned a brown belt from Chow, possibly because this was his rank when he started teaching in Utah in 1955. Al Tracy claims that Chow promoted Parker to sandan (3rd-degree black belt) in December 1961.

Grand Master Ed Parker


The Current American Kenpo System

The system known as American Kenpo was developed by Ed Parker as a successor to Chow’s art. Parker revised older methods to work in modern-day fighting scenarios.[10] He heavily restructured American Kenpo’s forms and techniques during this period. He moved away from methods that were recognizably descended from other arts (such as forms that were familiar within Hung Gar) and established a more definitive relationship between forms and the self-defense technique curriculum of American Kenpo. Parker also eschewed esoteric Eastern concepts (e.g. qi) and sought to express the art in terms of scientific principles and western metaphors.