Kempo Karate: Studying the Shaolin Arts

kempo karateTo some people, the idea of learning a martial art seems downright nuts. Spending a couple of hours a day getting beat up and pushed to your limits just isn’t their cup of tea. For others though, the martial art is just that — an art. Enthusiasts of any fighting style willingly take the time, money, and pain, not only because they appreciate the benefits of their sacrifices, but also because they find beauty in what they do. There is grace, form, and strength behind the movements, and they often have a long and storied history to boot.

Martial arts have many benefits, too. Like any sport, they teach you self-discipline, focus, and help keep your body fit. Amongst the numerous styles out there, Kempo Karate is one of the few that gives you those benefits equally.

Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran martial artist, this article will give you a good bit of background on the popular art of Kempo Karate. For all you know, it might just be your cup of tea. Check out this course if you want to learn about the basics of martial arts training.

The Wandering Art

Kempo is an unarmed martial art that was brought from China to Japan around 700 years ago. It literally means “Fist Law”, and was used as self-defense against other martial arts styles. Through the years, it eventually developed into Kempo Karate (Karate means empty hand).
In a way, you could say that this was a wandering art. It reached even further than Japan, going as far as Hawaii through the Chinese who immigrated there. Edmund K. Parker, a Kempo practitioner from Honolulu, developed an offshoot that reached the shores of America. The style’s spread caused so many different styles to develop, that even in it’s birthplace, China, there’s no exact way of teaching it.

War and Peace

If you’re looking to learn a martial art because you want to beat someone to a pulp, Kempo isn’t for you. As a self-defense art, almost all the techniques are counterattacks. It isn’t about fighting, but about defending yourself once threatened. In fact, the main goal of anything you’re taught as a Kempo student is to end the fight with as little effort and chaos as possible. This course describes ways to defend yourself without even fighting.

The Four Study Areas of Kempo Karate

  • The Basics

Like any martial art, Kempo requires a foundational system. The basics involve all the stances, footwork, blocks, punches, and kicks. As a beginner, you will usually be made to practice these over and over until you can do them without thinking.

Just like driving, these basics are your clutch, brake, and accelerator. These are your ABCs, and you can only move on once you’ve got them down pat.

  • Forms

“Kata” is the other word for form. These are systems of moves that, when linked, make up the different fighting themes in Kempo. They help you implement your basics when moving around, or when facing different situations.

The katas are where you develop your timing and the flow of using different moves, especially when you’re faced with several attackers, from different directions. Your moves would be virtually useless if you can only use them when the attacker is perfectly still.

  • Self-Defense

At the very core of Kempo Karate are the self-defense techniques. This is where the fun begins— you get to mess around on a mat with a partner. One of you performs a specific attack type, whether a strike or a grab, and the other has to defend against it.

Instructors must always be present at this stage to avoid injury and to help polish your technique. These self-defense techniques are movements that’ve got to be practiced again and again under safe conditions. Whereas the previous study areas were all foundational, the self defense techniques really build your instinct.

To learn about some other great self-defense focused martial arts, give this awesome blog post a read.

  • Freestyle Sparring

You can only get to this stage if you’ve mastered the three stages before it. Freestyle sparring helps you practice your skills in a much more realistic way. There’s no instructor to tell you what to do, they’re all on the sidelines. Of course, practitioners still use safety gear when sparring freestyle, so it’s still very safe.

This is one of the most challenging stages because you must apply everything you’ve learned in a pretty competitive atmosphere. If you remove the mat and the instructors keeping a sharp eye out, this could mirror a very dangerous combat situation. Talk about an adrenalin rush.

Unique Benefits of Kenpo

With all the other sports and workouts out there, what sets Kempo Karate apart? From the get go, Kempo isn’t like any other sport because it’s a martial art. Not only does it get you lean and fit, it gives you the mental discipline and instinct for combat. You learn to defend yourself against threats while getting that awesome body you’ve always wanted.

Unlike workouts that focus on giving you well-developed arms or washboard abs, Kempo teaches you to use your whole body in harmony. The problem with non-holistic workouts is that they disregard the fact that your body was made to work as a whole. You either get big biceps and chicken legs or huge pectorals and a weak back.

Kenpo’s goal is to help you understand your whole body, so that in a fight, you’re not striking wildly and blindly. Simple things like maintaining your center of gravity and using your opponent’s balance against him are learned in Kempo. Instead of just overwhelming someone with power and exhausting yourself in the process, your body works as a unit, defending yourself with zero wasted effort.

If you’re an athlete looking to add to your current routine, Kempo works as a great supplement. Agility is critical to every sport, but your typical gym workouts don’t cover that as well as Kempo does. It’s not so heavy that you might be in danger of injury, but its also a great dynamic stretching activity to keep you on your toes.

For a great workout with less chance of getting punched in the face, you might want to give this course on Tai Chi a try.

Do What Works for You

Whether you’re a practicing Kempo martial artist or still deciding whether to get into it, there’s one thing to remember. There’s no “best martial art”. The only right martial art is the one you’ll be happy continuing. Do what works for you. Choose the right thing to pick up, enjoy yourself, and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to try it out, whether you’re an athlete, a beginner, or just looking around. Kenpo might be just the thing for you!

If you’re already a karate master and want to teach others, this course on starting a dojo is a great resource.