Thoughts on Kenpo 5.0?

SPX

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First off, I did do a search for this, but the most recent thread I found on the subject was from 2007. . .

But what are everyone's thoughts on Kenpo 5.0? I should point out that I have no Kenpo background, so I am asking both for general info regarding Kenpo and, in your opinion, what it's benefits are over other forms of Karate, as well what you think about Jeff Speakman's system in particular.

I ask because we have a 5.0 school here in Utah and I'm looking to get back into martial arts. In the past I've studied TKD and I'm considering getting back into TKD or possibly going the Wado-Ryu karate route. But I figured I would get some info/opinions on Kenpo 5.0 as well.

Also, to get it out of the way, I know some people are going to want to respond with "Just go check out a class . . . that's the best way to evaluate the style." I agree, but the problem is that I don't have a car and it is quite a ways away, so that's not an immediate option.
 

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Check out Mr. Speakman's website ( https://www.jeffspeakman.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=20&Itemid=36 ) or go to youtube and watch some clips of his techniques and approach.

To sum it up, Mr. Speakman realized that the semi-boxing trained fighter that used to be common in America was being replaced by people who grew up watching MMA and that MMA type attacks would become more common. With that in mind, Mr. Speakman started training in BJJ and brought those lessons of how to defend common grappling attacks into his kenpo. He also revamped the punching attacks to take into account a more skilled boxer that may throw jabs and crosses.

The problem with "everyone's thoughts" is that they will either like it because that is what they are looking for, or they won't like it because that is not their cup of tea. Most of the kenpo 5.0 schools do alot of hard sparring like you would find in many MMA style gyms, but geared towards self-defense and not sport style tournaments. If you are looking for a more traditional school with roots, then you would be better served with the Wado-Ryu school. It all depends on what you are looking for overall.
 

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Also, to get it out of the way, I know some people are going to want to respond with "Just go check out a class . . . that's the best way to evaluate the style." I agree, but the problem is that I don't have a car and it is quite a ways away, so that's not an immediate option.

If you can't easily get to the school to check it out, don't worry about it, you won't be attending regularly enough to make it worthwhile. Find the schools that you can get to regularly and make your choices from there.
 
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Most of the kenpo 5.0 schools do alot of hard sparring like you would find in many MMA style gyms, but geared towards self-defense and not sport style tournaments. If you are looking for a more traditional school with roots, then you would be better served with the Wado-Ryu school. It all depends on what you are looking for overall.

Thanks for the info. All in all, from your description as well as some of the vids I've seen online, that sounds like an approach that I can appreciate, though a "traditional approach with roots" is appealing, too.

My biggest problem with the traditional schools that I've run into is the sparring. They don't do enough of it, and often when they do, it's light contact. That just doesn't work for me. I'm not saying that I'm looking for full-contact, but it needs to be harder than tip-tap stuff and there needs to be face punches, even if headgear or face masks comes along with that.

One issue I've had with Kenpo though--and maybe you guys can help clear it up--is that from much of what I've seen in the past, it doesn't always look realistic. Too often it seems like there's one guy who punches and then stands motionless while another guy spends the next 3 seconds dancing around his body landing like a hundred slap strikes. That may be an unfair assessment, but my thought is always that it just wouldn't work against a moving, resisting human being.
 
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If you can't easily get to the school to check it out, don't worry about it, you won't be attending regularly enough to make it worthwhile. Find the schools that you can get to regularly and make your choices from there.

Well my hope is that in the not-too-distant future that I'll have a car. Even then, the Kenpo school would be about 30ish or more minutes away, whereas the Wado school would be about 10. But if I like the training that much more then it would be worth it to make the extra drive.
 

Blindside

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One issue I've had with Kenpo though--and maybe you guys can help clear it up--is that from much of what I've seen in the past, it doesn't always look realistic. Too often it seems like there's one guy who punches and then stands motionless while another guy spends the next 3 seconds dancing around his body landing like a hundred slap strikes. That may be an unfair assessment, but my thought is always that it just wouldn't work against a moving, resisting human being.

You certainly aren't the first to say that. Some (maybe many) kenpo schools get too caught up in the choreography of the techs and forget it is just a way of ingraining patterns of entries to striking or grappling. Remember that all martial arts training is artificial, it isn't reality, a kata isn't, a kenpo SD tech isn't reality, two boxers sparring isn't. Somewhere in your training you have to address both likely scenario (untrained attacker) and unlikely scenario (highly skilled renegade ninja), and if you are trying to keep a school/studio open, do it in a way that is accessible to a wide variety of clientele. When I look for a school, I look for a combination of fundamentals, good training drills, and hard sparring (with a range of um, ranges), something solid should come out of that mix. But most Kenpo instructors I know don't think you will land 800 shots on the guy and he will still be standing there, they recognize that is a training drill as well.
 
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Indeed, that makes some sense.

So is the underlying principle of Kenpo to learn to chain techniques together? That seems to be the case from what I've observed, and almost has a sort of Wing Chun vibe in that sense.

Also, how did the style get started? Did Parker come from some other karate background? And if so, how did Kenpo end up looking so much different from other styles of karate?

BTW, LOL at "highly skilled renegade ninja." Where can I learn to become one of those?
 

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Indeed, that makes some sense.

So is the underlying principle of Kenpo to learn to chain techniques together? That seems to be the case from what I've observed, and almost has a sort of Wing Chun vibe in that sense.

Also, how did the style get started? Did Parker come from some other karate background? And if so, how did Kenpo end up looking so much different from other styles of karate?

BTW, LOL at "highly skilled renegade ninja." Where can I learn to become one of those?

Oh boy, kenpo history, that is a can of worms. :D The simple answer is the Kenpo was developed in the melting pot of Hawaii, but prior to the 1940s it is open to argument. It definately had sources in Okinawan Karate and Jujutsu and then it was filtered through a viewpoint of an instructor who was a fighter with an eye for practicality, stripping many of the traditional traits (like Kata). Many of that guy's students went on to popularize their own systems, Mr. Parker was one of those. Eventually forms/kata were redeveloped for the system but weren't based on the historical lineages, so they definately look different. If you look at really early Kenpo footage is looks very karate-like, but that changed over time with different influences (primarily Chinese), most Kenpoists (and probably Karateka) would argue that Kenpo isn't actually a Karate style at all.
 
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I see. Thanks for that.

From what I've been able to tell, "American Kenpo," or Ed Parker's style, seems to be the most prevalent and what most people mean when they say "Kenpo." How does it differ from other styles of Kenpo? And did he call it Kenpo KARATE only because Karate was such a recognized general term for martial arts at the time?

I find historical discussions to be very interesting.
 

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As Blindside pointed out. Ed Parker's main teacher was Prof. William Chow, who was known to be a tough streetfighter, his focus was on training basics over and over and over. Ed Parker brought that training and approach with him to the US when he first started teaching. Ed Parker, after moving to California became exposed to the chinese arts and spoke with several masters of them. The main two masters were James Woo (NOT Jimmy Woo of San Soo) and Ark Wong. Ark Wong's student "Tiny" Lefiti, was a VERY big Hawaiian and Ed Parker trained alot with him and this had a big impact on Ed Parker's development. One of the subsets of Ark Wong's art was called Mok Gar, and Mr. Lefiti excelled and specialized in it. This branch of the art is what most people would recognize as kenpo, the rapid fire striking techniques to overwhelm an opponent. Ed Parker, also worked with Mr. Woo to develop forms for his version of kenpo and his next book, "Secrets of Chinese Karate". Mr. Woo, would show his ideas and Ed Parker would take them and alter/refine them to reflect his own ideas of kenpo. Some of these forms were replaced as time went on and are not a part of many kenpo schools now as more kenpo material was added, forms like Tiger/Crane and Book Set (also called Panther Set) are examples of these forms.

The Tracy brothers were students of Ed Parker's and broke away and kept their kenpo as they learned it back in the 60's (They still have those older kung fu forms in their material). If you look at theirs you can still see the karate influence, but starting to get that more "chinese flavor". Jeff Speakman's Kenpo 5.0 is his name for the revisions that Ed Parker went through from his study and art that he brought to the US in the late 50's to his last revision before his death in the early 90's.

Ed Parker's early expression of his art was very karate-like and reflected his training with Prof. Chow. If you look through his book "Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist", you will see examples of this. It was also a more limited curriculum in terms of the number of techniques. His later expressions added more of these chinese influences and added to the material and more self-defense techniques. The techniques are meant to be trained as drills to instill the concepts and principles of kenpo, as Ed Parker's teacher used to say "If it isn't over in three moves, you need to step back and see what you are doing wrong". The techniques are NOT meant to be performed all the way through in a self-defense situation. Jeff Speakman's view on training is one closer to "old school" or "new school MMA" if you want, where lots of sparring is used to drill the techniques on unresisting opponent's.

As to the last question. Yes, I believe that earlier names of Kenpo Karate were used to associate it with something that was known. Most lineages that spell it "keNpo" trace their art through Ed Parker. Those who spell it "keMpo" are a different branch altogether and usually trace it through the east coast and George Pesare's branches.
 
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Wow! Thanks for that detailed explanation. I appreciate you taking the time to type that up.

So it sounds like Parker never stopped modifying--or evolving, some might say--his art and that the version of Kenpo an instructor might teach would depend upon when exactly he learned it (as well, of course, upon his own modifications).
 

punisher73

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Wow! Thanks for that detailed explanation. I appreciate you taking the time to type that up.

So it sounds like Parker never stopped modifying--or evolving, some might say--his art and that the version of Kenpo an instructor might teach would depend upon when exactly he learned it (as well, of course, upon his own modifications).

Exactly, most of the politics of American Kenpo are due to when that person studied with Mr. Parker. Along the line, there were branches that didn't like his evolution and refinement and stayed with what they already knew (Tracy brothers for example). Everyone, wants to think that what they do is the "best" or what SGM Parker really taught. Add to the confusion, Ed Parker was more concerned with an individual's development so he would show and demonstrate techniques differently to those people, and each one would walk away and say that they had the correct version, and they were right FOR THEM.

Just like Kenpo 5.0, so people see the changes and as something better than the previous and love what they do. Other people don't see it as an improvement and bad mouth it. Find what you like best and do that.
 
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So how much different was what Parker was teaching in the 60s from what he was teaching in the 90s? And out of curiosity, what were some of the more significant changes/modifications that was he implementing near the end?
 

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A great reference is Ed Parker's first book "Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist". That is very close to what he had learned from Prof. Chow and was teaching when he first came to the US. It is alot harder and more linear in it's approach and would look more like "karate". Also, when Ed Parker first started teaching their were only about 60 techniques total in the whole system.

Ed Parker, then started teaching variations on a theme and had techniques for each of those because students wanted more and also as students had altercations and talked about them, Ed Parker would create techniques and responses to fit those. The techniques then expanded to 32 techniques a belt plus variations (This is what the Tracy's currently have) and the names were given. So you might have a technique called Crash of the Eagle ABCD for the base and it's other variations. This also would have been the start of his investigation of the chinese arts so they had more circles and circular motion incorporated into the movements. It was also at this time that the first forms were added to his kenpo. The technique number at this time was about 250 not including variations.

As Ed Parker really started in with the idea of making an "american version of kung fu" he revamped his material again and made it even more "kung fu like" in it's approach. Ed Parker rearranged the material down to 24 techniques a belt and the material stopped at 2nd Degree Brown Belt, the 10 technique yellow belt material was also created and inserted. After that, you learned "extensions" of the techniques to go from 1st degree brown up to 3rd black. This brought the amount of techniques down to 154 total. Most lineages follow this set up. This is the material that is "frozen in time" with his five volume book series "Infinite Insights into Kenpo".

An example of the differences would be a technique called "Kimono Grab". It is featured in the first Ed Parker book, although not named this. In the 32 technique system (orange belt)it is against a two handed lapel grab and you strike up to break the arm and then cirlce around to strike down and clear the arms. In the 24 technique system (orange belt) it is called "Lone Kimono" and is for a one handed lapel grab and follows the same strikes. Later, at purple belt, you learn "Twin Kimono" which is for a two hand grab. But, there is one addition, after the upward strike you strike the attacker in the midsection with a back knuckle as you continue your circle around to strike down and clear the arms. This back knuckle strike was a part of the original techniques from Prof. Chow and shown in the book. So, as you can see most of the material is/was the same just altered to illustrate and highlight certain concepts and make things easier for beginners and then progress to harder and more complex attacks as the student moved on (illustrated with his Web of Knowledge).

Shortly, before his death. Ed Parker rearranged the material again (although I don't think the techniques themselves changed, just the order and when you learned them) and came up with a 16 technique per belt system. There are some schools that follow this approach, but it is not widespread.

You will also notice that those are the 4 revisions of kenpo and where Jeff Speakman came up with his 5.0 version idea.
 
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An "American version of Kung Fu." Interesting.

It all sounds a bit complicated and I wonder what the purpose of all the re-arranging was. Did Parker really feel like it was important or did he just need something to do?

Did Kenpoists ever compete in the competition karate scene of the 60s, 70s and 80s? Or was that frowned upon because the style is more self-defense oriented?
 

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Did Kenpoists ever compete in the competition karate scene of the 60s, 70s and 80s? Or was that frowned upon because the style is more self-defense oriented?

Benny "the Jet" Urquidez, Steve Sanders (now Steve Muhammad), Donnie Williams, Cecil Peoples, just to name a few.
 

punisher73

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An "American version of Kung Fu." Interesting.

It all sounds a bit complicated and I wonder what the purpose of all the re-arranging was. Did Parker really feel like it was important or did he just need something to do?

Did Kenpoists ever compete in the competition karate scene of the 60s, 70s and 80s? Or was that frowned upon because the style is more self-defense oriented?

Yes, Kenpoists competed in the karate scene back then. In fact, Ed Parker created and ran one of the largest tournaments in the country and introduced Bruce Lee to the world at his tournament. It was called the International Karate Championships (IKC as most referred to it). Ed Parker had several students that competed succesfully in the tournaments (Bob White comes to mind and is STILL a top team for those he teaches), but that wasn't the focus of many of them. Ed Parker's own view of tournaments etc. was not good, but he realized also that this is what many people wanted so he gave it to them.

As to the revisions, everyone who starts their own art will have evolutions as they go on. I think it is a natural process as they learn and grow. Bruce Lee's students learned different things depending on when they learned from him. Tatsuo Shimabuku's students all learned Isshin-Ryu in different ways depending on when they learned from him and so on. We don't see it as much with older TMA's like Shotokan or Wado-Ryu because their founder passed and the material was set in place. But, go back far enough and you will find that Gichin Funakoshi altered what and how he taught as well from okinawa to japan.
 

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One issue I've had with Kenpo though--and maybe you guys can help clear it up--is that from much of what I've seen in the past, it doesn't always look realistic. Too often it seems like there's one guy who punches and then stands motionless while another guy spends the next 3 seconds dancing around his body landing like a hundred slap strikes. That may be an unfair assessment, but my thought is always that it just wouldn't work against a moving, resisting human being.

That's supposed to be only one part of a larger training method, including basics, kata, techniques, sparring, static and dynamic drills, and spontaneous response activities. Some schools leave a lot of that out and only practice the techniques and kata, or even only the techniques. Some only practice static movements against unresisting opponents. Some don't practice any kind of spontaneous or sparring activities at all.

You are probably not going to run in to that in a 5.0 school. They'll probably have a solid emphasis on spontaneous training and sparring, although that's a general comment that I can't specifically make about the school you are looking at because I don't know them. I have met Mr. Speakman, and I was impressed at the depth of his kenpo knowledge and skill. He may be doing something different from what a lot of other people are doing, but he's the real deal, and so were his students. At least that was my experience.

Personally, I like his 5.0. It's not what I practice, but the kenpo world is filled with guys going off in different directions. He's trying to evolve and push and learn and grow, and I think that's to be commended. I don't think you'd regret training under that style.

Good luck.


-Rob
 

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First off, I did do a search for this, but the most recent thread I found on the subject was from 2007. . .

But what are everyone's thoughts on Kenpo 5.0? I should point out that I have no Kenpo background, so I am asking both for general info regarding Kenpo and, in your opinion, what it's benefits are over other forms of Karate, as well what you think about Jeff Speakman's system in particular.

I ask because we have a 5.0 school here in Utah and I'm looking to get back into martial arts. In the past I've studied TKD and I'm considering getting back into TKD or possibly going the Wado-Ryu karate route. But I figured I would get some info/opinions on Kenpo 5.0 as well.

Also, to get it out of the way, I know some people are going to want to respond with "Just go check out a class . . . that's the best way to evaluate the style." I agree, but the problem is that I don't have a car and it is quite a ways away, so that's not an immediate option.

Looks like you've received some good advice. :) I'm not a 5.0 student, however, I do Kenpo, and have seen Jeffs stuff on the net. Personally, I like what I see. IMHO, he's doing what alot of people in Kenpo should be doing....adapting to the current times. Yes, I know, people will say thats not necessary, things are fine the way they are, blah, blah, blah. I disagree. He's revamping the techs. to deal better with boxers and someone that does MMA. Given the popularity of these things, it'd be a good idea to know what you're facing.

Once you're able to make it to a class, I'd definately check it out, and take 1 or 2 trial classes. :)
 

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