History of Kenpo
The Origins of Kenpo
Kenpo is considered by many to be the first eclectic martial art. Its origin evolved from Karate which; according to legend, began over a thousand years ago in China.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century two families, Kumamoto and Nagasaki brought knowledge of Kenpo from China to Kyushu in Japan. Modified throughout many years into its current form, it is referred to as Kosho-Ryu Kenpo, or Old Pine Tree school. It is from here that most modern forms of Kenpo are derived.
According to modern legend, in 1916 at the age of five, James Mitose was sent from his homeland in Hawaii to Kyushu for schooling in his ancestors' art of self-defense called Kosho-Ryu Kenpo. After completing his training in Japan, Mitose returned to Hawaii. Near the beginning of World War II in 1936, Mitose opened the "Official Self-Defense" club in Honolulu. It was from here that the five major Kenpo influences; Thomas Young, William K. S. Chow, Edmund Howe, Arthur Keawe and Paul Yamaguchi would study and bring Kenpo to the rest of the world.
William K.S. Chow adapted Mitose's approach and "Americanized" the art. He is perhaps responsible for the largest leap of Kenpo to the general public. In 1949, Chow opened a school of his own at a local YMCA and referred to his art as Kenpo Karate.
Edmund K. Parker, who is probably the most famous of Chow's practitioners, began studying Kenpo with Chow at the age of 16. Parker further adapted the methods so that they would prove practical in an actual fight and opened the first commercial Karate studio in 1954. He created a logical organization for the basic Kenpo techniques, dividing them into eight categories, such as stances, blocks, punches and so on. Parker graduated from Brigham Young and moved to California where he opened his second school in 1956 and also founded the International Kenpo Karate Association the same year. Parker taught the martial arts to many actors and celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen. He also appeared in movies and television shows like "I Love Lucy." Grand Master Edmund Parker is the undisputed "Father" of American Kenpo Karate.
When Mr. Parker died in December of 1990, the International Kenpo Karate Association went through some major restructuring due in part to political differences, as well as other reasons. Many of the senior students went off to create their own associations and promote their own style of the American Kenpo system. Today Kenpo remains very strong in the martial arts industry.