The Kenpo Style

“I come to you with only Karate, my empty hands.
I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles, or my honor;
should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong;
then here are my weapons, Karate, my empty hands.”

—Ed Parker, March 1957

Martial arts systems are definitely not all the same. Like clothes, each has a unique designer, a specific appeal, and fits every “wearer” in a different way.

The choice of which to train in should be based upon an understanding of what differentiates it from the others.


Kenpo is arguably the most practical style of self-defense, in any situation. With stances and strikes based on strategic angles and the laws of physics, its “brain over brawn” mentality maximizes the effectiveness of every body movement.

Kenpo is an adaptable art that every person can benefit from both physically and mentally, regardless of age, sex, size, or athletic ability.

It has three distinguishing characteristics:

  • Efficient flow, as opposed to rigid stances.
  • Versatility, using all body parts as weapons.
  • Emphasis on realistic situations, as opposed to acrobatics or sporting contests.


Fighting and self-defense styles have been around as long as mankind, originating from virtually every society and region on Earth. Recently, arts like Brazil’s Capoeira and Israel’s Krav Maga have become popular. But overall, three main styles of martial arts prevail:

  • Japanese styles, such as Shotokan, are known for strong, rigid stances and movements.
  • Korean systems, such as Tae Kwon Do, tend to be sport-oriented and focus greatly on the legs/kicking.
  • Chinese arts, such as Kenpo and Kung-Fu, emphasize flowing movements and practicality.


Edmund Kealoha Parker, one of America’s foremost martial arts pioneers—often dubbed the “Father of American Karate”—brought Kenpo Karate from China to the U.S. via Hawaii in 1954. The art’s notoriety increased when it was embraced by Hollywood stuntmen and celebrities alike, most notably music legend Elvis Presley. Ed Parker’s International Karate Championships in Long Beach, California, became the launching pad for the careers of martial arts stars including Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. Learn more.

Today, Old School embraces the principles of Ed Parker’s teaching and the traditions around which the art of Kenpo Karate was formed.