Thursday, 12 April 2012

Background information

Modern kenpo karate jutsu (China hand fist method fighting art) is a fast powerful martial art with an emphasis on realistic street applications. Although coming from traditional roots the style has been updated for the needs of the modern world. Sharing common ground with Chinese Gung fu and Japanese Ju jutsu which are two of its most prominent contributors there are over 100 different versions of the art with each style and teacher emphasizing and teaching their own preferred methods.

Modern Kenpo was originally born from the older Ryukyu Kenpo of Okinawa, this was the system that originally came from China and was mixed with indigenous methods of Okinawan martial arts known until then by various names such as Tuite; Okinawa Te; Bushi no Te. The Okinawans had shown great ingenuity by taking their original fighting arts and mixing them with the combat styles of their neighbouring countries from around the Southeast Asian archipelago, travellers; monks; warriors and adventures from countries such as China; Japan; Korea; Indonesia; Thailand and the Philippines all ended up on the island of Okinawa where their fighting styles where carefully analysed before being added to the melting pot of Okinawan fighting systems.
China and Japan as well as the Philippines where probably the biggest contributors to the art of Kenpo, due to the long term agreement between China and Okinawa an agreement which placed the Okinawans under the direct rulership of the middle kingdom many Okinawans had the chance to travel to China and actually study Chinese Kenpo (better known as Gung fu/Wu shu) in its birthplace, these students then brought that knowledge back home with them to Okinawa.
Japan too played a great role in the shaping of Kenpo. When the Japanese Shimazu Samurai clan invaded and conquered the island in 1609 they banned the ownership of all weapons.  Although this ban did not overly effect the common people who were already prohibited to bear arms by their own rulers, it greatly affected the noblemen who up until then had been exempt from the sword ban. This led to a new development - the emphasis of unarmed fighting techniques (Ryukyu Kenpo) and the use of everyday items which could be used as covert weapons (Ryukyu Kobujutsu).  It would be fair to say that whilst the covert weapons techniques may have been practiced by some of the nobility, the Ryukyu Kobujutsu found itself the practice of the common people - the farmers, fishermen and merchants, whilst the unarmed fighting styles became the domain of the nobles who had more time and money to throw in to their practice. Some Okinawan nobles where given permission to study the martial arts of their Samurai overlords collectively known as Bujutsu.   This incorporated the use of the sword, spear, glaive, and long bow as well as hand to hand combat (Jujutsu/Aikijutsu).  As time went by these styles to where added to the mix of systems which were becoming the fledgling art of Ryukyu Kenpo karate jutsu – the Okinawan peoples Chinese fist method martial art – a fighting style which may have been one of the first true mixed martial arts.
It would be naive to imagine that as well as China and Japan the Okinawans would not have taken on board the techniques of other fighting peoples, and with Okinawa being one of the greatest ports in the Southeast Asian sea they had ample opportunity to study those styles. Mariners from Indonesia and the Philippines regularly put in to dock at the ports of Tomari and with sailors being what they are fights and brawls where often inevitable.  The Okinawans took on board all they could and mixed it together with information taken from other sources and tied it all together with a set of basic principles which made the art of Kenpo more than just a collection of unrelated techniques.  Instead it became a complete fighting system based on instinctive natural reactions to aggressive stimuli (which modern self defence experts refer to as BAR or body alarm reaction) and a core set of fighting techniques with which to combat nearly any form of attack.
The Modern Kenpo Karate jutsu style was created by Sensei Ted Clare after 26 years in the martial arts.  It is not a reproduction of any original Ryukyu Kenpo style as such, rather it is a fighting system which takes as its inspiration the martial arts of Okinawa.
Just as the ancient Okinawan warriors showed their ingenuity in blending together the fighting styles of many countries to create their own system, so too is modern Kenpo a synthesis of different martial arts studied by its founder and then linked together with a set of universal principles, hence the name Modern kenpo.  This denotes that whilst this is based upon older practices it is very much a martial art for today.  This does not mean that it is a made up style.  Far from it, indeed its fighting base is to be found set upon a firm base of Ryukyu kenpo.   What has been added or subtracted has been done to keep the art up to date with modern needs.                                                   

The international Modern Kenpo Karate Union

The first Modern Kenpo karate jutsu Dojo was opened in 2002 in Crewe, Cheshire, in England by Clare Sensei which he named the Tenchi Ryu - a name which is still used to describe his Dojo to this day although now it has been moved to Winsford in Cheshire instead of Crewe. The name Tenchi Ryu translates as the heaven and earth school and denotes that its intention is as much spiritual as it is physical. In 2004 a Dojo was opened on the Maltese island of Gozo under the instruction of Joseph Portelli Sensei and the International Ryukyu Nippon Bukai was born (Okinawan/Japanese fighting arts society) however in 2011 Clare Sensei formally joined the All Styles Martial Arts Association and the Self Defence Federation under the directorship of master Dave Turton, regarded as the UKs foremost expert in the field of realistic self protection, and in a bid to grow the style of Modern Kenpo he registered his organisation under the new title of the International Modern Kenpo Karate Union (IMKKU).

The IMKKU is headed by Clare Sensei who is the union’s Chief instructor; he is supported by Portelli Sensei who is the official Director for IMKKU in Malta and the Mediterranean.
The IMKKU is open to either individual students or groups who wish to learn the principles and tactics of this powerful system of self protection.          

What to expect from a common class

All Modern kenpo classes start with a set of warm up exercises which are intended to prepare the students body for training.  These will include a series of pulse raising drills alongside conventional stretching exercises, after which the students will progress to practicing training drills intended to teach such things as reactions, speed, dexterity, power and coordination.  This will entail practicing such things as body conditioning, limb trapping drills, adhesion movements, practicing power strikes on pads/bags, and speed training drills, as well as learning how to fall safely (break-falling) and  internal energy training (Chi/Ki) .

Unlike many other forms of Karate Modern kenpo, has very little fresh air practice other than Kata (formal pre set forms) of which the style has 10, so the majority of all class training is done with a partner.
After drills have been practiced the students will either go on to work on their own individual training required for their rank or will work as part of a group session with everyone practicing a certain principle or technique together. In this part of the class it is not uncommon to see students practicing two man fighting sets; weapons training; ground fighting; grappling; self-defence/protection movements; pressure point techniques (Kyusho jutsu).  Generally Kata is practiced as a group at the end of classes before concluding with a warm down to protect the body from after training stiffness or damage. Also included at the end of a class may be a group talk where topics covered range from the nights training to formal explanations of the arts philosophies.              

Training format of Modern Kenpo

         Checking the clock – 1st level training in how to utilize body alarm reaction to the benefit of the individual, comprising techniques preformed from 12 angles of attack mimicking a clock face, utilising a simple counter offence from numerous attacks.
         20 basic techniques – used to combat the most common habitual acts of aggression which one will face in a live attack. No martial arts techniques are used by the attackers, instead attacks are hook punches, jabs, low kicks, grapples and head butts, which are countered with 20 basic Kenpo responses.
         Pre emptive strikes from passive and aggressive attitudes – the ability to read an opponent whist being aware of one’s surroundings, combined with the need to act either passively to diffuse the situation or aggressively to dominate the situation, leading in to first strike fight stopper options often called the sniper option.
         Kata and Bunkai – 2nd level training, the 10 set forms and their realistic applications.  The Kata practiced are Tiekokyu (body and breath) Pinan 1-5 (peaceful mind) Annanku (light from the south) Nisaishi (24 actions) Sanchin (3 battles) and Tensho (rolling hands).   Each kata is then broken down in to its fighting combinations, each of which is given a name in the Chinese fashion e.g. Two Tigers Seek Pearl, Destructive Hammer, Obscure Sword etc.
         Stick and knife fighting – this combines movements from the Phillipino and Indonesian fighting arts with Kenpo principles and logic.   Techniques are practiced for both counter attacks with the weapon and defence against the weapon with empty hands.
         Ground fighting – a set of 10 techniques for fighting from a prone position.  This is not the same as modern sport grappling, as the aim is not to submit the opponent but to do enough damage to regain a standing position.  Accordingly, the techniques utilise not only holds, locks, and chokes but also gouges, biting and clawing actions.      
         Bar training – training to overcome body alarm reaction, the impulse of adrenalin and how it affects us in the moments of combat, i.e. increased heart beat, tunnel vision, impaired hearing capability, limb reflex action etc.  Special drills are used to simulate these effects then the student is taught to overcome them whilst in full flow. 

Where and When We Train

Location – Knights Grange Sports Complex, Winsford, Cheshire

Cadet class times – Tuesday & Thursday evenings 6.30PM till 7.30PM £3.50 per hour. 
Adult class times – Tuesday & Thursday evenings 7.30PM till 9.00PM £5.00 per hour.

Edward in Action!

Origins of Kenpo Karate

Kenpo originally began in China over 3ooo years ago when two bodies of religious thought influenced the fighting styles of that country.  The first was Taoism which is a belief in the order of the universe through the understanding of nature and each things place within the natural order.  This belief gave rise to such martial arts as Tai chi chuan (grand ultimate fist) Hising I chuan (mind intention fist) and Baugwa chang (nine trigram palm boxing).  These arts are based on the belief that universal energy called Chi (Ki in Japanese) permeates the whole world and through its manipulation it is possible for one to subdue even the most aggressive of opponents.
Taoist fighting styles where originally practiced by the monks and hermits on the spiritual heights of mount Wudang.  
The second belief was Buddhism which was introduced much later in Chinas history and was brought from India by a monk named Bodhirama (Damo in Japanese) who came to preach his religion at the Shaolin temple (Shorinji in Japanese) but he found the monks there where unfit and not capable of the discipline necessary for the long hours of meditation required in Chan (Zen in Japanese).  So he set about creating a set of exercises in order to both toughen the monks bodies as well as increase their internal energy. It is said that these and later drills were the origins of the animal styles for which Shaolin Chuan is now so famous.
Long after Bodhirama had passed his legacy continued and the monks at Shaolin became famous for their fighting abilities coupled with their command of internal energy. Shaolin temple boxing is based upon 5 main styles: Hung; Mock; Choi; Lou; and Hop.  These are broken in to Northern and Southern styles.  Northern styles tend to use higher stances and appear on the outside to utilise more jumps and kicks than the Southern styles, however this is misleading as many southern systems also contain high kicks and jumping attacks. The Southern styles are characterised by very low stable stances and hard powerful fist and palm attacks.  A common saying in China is Northern leg and Southern fist.  This proverb aptly describes the differences between the two styles. Not only are the Chinese systems broken in to Northern and Southern styles they are further denoted by what techniques they are most famous for, be that the 5 animal styles (Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard, Dragon) or the 5 element techniques (Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, Wood).
Shaolin temple boxing is a very hard form of martial arts and on the outside would seem to have very little connection to its softer Taoist brothers such as Tai chi chuan, however they are more alike than is seen at first glance.  For instance, although the internal arts begin very soft, after one has been training for many years the body will become as hard as any external style practitioners coupled with a great command of internal energy, whilst the Shaolin stylist begins hard, building his body up powerfully he will after many years of training find that his body has become not only extremely powerful but also that his training has now become softer and with a greater utilisation of Chi energy.  So as you can see Chinese Chuan Fa may appear on the outside to be the Yin and Yang of each other, however over time one will find that as with the symbol for Yin and Yang each will find a little of the other within themselves.    
From China the art then spread to the Pacific island of Okinawa, the largest in a chain of islands which make up a stepping stone bridge between Japan and southern China called the Ryukyus.
The Okinawans had always been a pacifist people with a great love of scholarly pursuits and a adherence to the law, so it would seem a unlikely place for one of the most powerful fighting arts ever invented to surface.  Yet surface it did with the appearance of Chinese officials who explained to the King of Okinawa that the middle kingdom (China) were now the strongest power in the East and that they (the Okinawans) would do well to place themselves at the disposal of the Emperor by becoming a part of the Empire. Although it would appear the Okinawans had very little choice in this matter, in truth they were overjoyed.  Not only would the Empire keep them safe from external enemies (although this would prove to be false in due time) becoming a client kingdom would also give the Okinawans access to all the modern delights of China: such things as textiles, medicine, education and most importantly as far as Kenpo is concerned martial arts.
So in time a Chinese community sprung up in Kume village as a home for Chinese immigrants wishing to make a new start for themselves, the so called 36 families. The Chinese families at Kume soon began to attract interest from the Okinawans who came to them for instruction in the above mentioned industries. However it was in martial arts that the Okinawans were to excel.  They diligently practiced the Chinese Chuan Fa and learnt all their masters could teach, however true to their nature they set about changing some of the movements in order to suit themselves and their environment.  This then was the beginning of true Okinawan Kenpo.
Other than the families at Kume other influences in martial arts came from China usually by way of visitors from that land.  One such visitor was a man named Kushanku (this is the Japanese rendering of his name).  He was a adviser and military attaché to the King and was also a very strong martial artist in his own right. He took as his student the bodyguard of the Okinawan King, a warrior named Matsumura who latter because of his martial prowess would be known by the name of Bushi Matsumura meaning warrior Matsumura.
When his teacher had returned to China, Matsumura created a Kata in order to preserve his masters teachings which he called Kushanku in honour of his teacher.  This form contained all of the techniques and tactics that he had learnt in snapshots as an aid to memory.
Another visitor to Okinawa who influenced the native fighting art was the Pirate Chinto.  After be shipwrecked on Okinawa he set about stealing food and clothing from the islanders.  So bothersome did he become that the King dispatched Matsumura to deal with him.  After cornering him on a beach the two men set to battle but after hours of unrelenting combat neither could gain the upper hand so Matsumura offered his opponent a truce and a bargain - he would keep Chinto at his home and supply for his needs if he would agree to teach him his martial arts.  Chinto agreed and in time the two men became firm friends with Matsumura mastering much of Chinto’s fighting style.  After Chinto left again for China his style was also recorded in a Kata, so these two examples show how the formal transmission of martial arts techniques and tactics were recorded and passed down in Okinawa at the beginning of the Kenpo movement.  In those days, Kata were not some dusty relic to be practiced before real training could be undertaken as is so often seen nowadays. Rather they were the tools in which the masters could instruct their students for generations.
Eventually the Okinawans merged their own traditions with that of their Chinese masters as well as with the techniques gleaned from other sources from around the South East Asian archipelago.  This art they termed Ryukyu Kenpo, Kenpo being their word for the Chinese Chuan Fa, meaning law of the fist.
In 1609 after being defeated alongside the Toyotomi forces at the battle of Sekigahara which unified Japan under the rule of the Shogun Tokugur Ieyasu, the Lord Shimazu needed to win favour with his new master and only a military victory would suffice.  China was out of the question so he set his sights instead upon Okinawa.  On paper the invasion was to be a war of retribution to punish the Okinawans for not supplying the Japanese with goods for a earlier attack on Korea years before.
The campaign for Okinawa began badly for the islanders. After having advance warning of the attack they had petitioned their Chinese masters for aid, however the promised help never arrived leaving the Okinawans to fight alone.  Although acquitting themselves well in the early battles, the native army was pushed further and further south until eventually the capital city of Okinawa Shuri itself was besieged and after months of brave and fierce battle the Okinawans were forced to surrender.  Okinawa now belonged to the Samurai.      
The first thing the Japanese did upon conquering the island was to re enforce an earlier ban on the ownership of weapons and the massing of soldiers, as well as requiring all nobles to move to Shuri for closer observance. With these edicts the Japanese felt confident that the island was now subdued under their rule, however, they quickly learnt of the existence of the Okinawan civilian fighting art of Kenpo.  This also they thought too deadly and accordingly banned it out of hand.  But such was the Okinawan fondness for their art that they continued to practice it in secret.
After the hostilities had cooled and the Okinawans true to their live and let live views had come to accept their new Japanese overlords, they began to start building relations with the Samurai who for their part realised that as long as the Okinawans were peaceful then Okinawa would be a safer place.  To this end they began to cultivate the Okinawan nobles, giving them instruction in their own martial arts which was called Jigan Ryu Bujutsu and included practice of Ken jutsu (sword fencing) So jutsu (spear fighting) Kyu jutsu (archery) and Ju jutsu/Aiki jutsu (hand to hand combat).  Some Okinawans even went to Japan on scholarships in order to study Jigan Ryu at its source. As they had done with the Chinese before them, the Okinawans began to add the Jigan Ryu teachings to their own art.  It was in Jigan Ryu that Bushi Matsumura actually received his formal teaching certificate, and it was he who is generally given credit for gathering together all of the individual streams that made up Ryukyu Kenpo and uniting them into a single art which he called Shorin Ryu meaning small pine tree style after the Shaolin temple in China where he had gone to study years before.  
Eventually Kenpo emerged into the open once more and became accepted by the Japanese, who in time under the direction of a Okinawan school teacher named Gichin Funikoshi remodelled the art into the modern sport of KarateDo (way of the empty hand).  So although there is a common ancestry between KarateDo and Kenpo, the division between them is more than simply name or stylistic difference.  Kenpo is an art of combat.  Its primary use is for defeating an opponent in battle, whilst KarateDo is a fantastic sport and mental discipline with some combat use, although this is not its first function.                        
During the mid to late 19th century, a combination of overcrowding and little work led many Chinese, Japanese and Okinawans to leave for foreign climes in order to start afresh, and of course they took with them their ancestral fighting arts.
Many came to reside in Hawaii where work in the bamboo and sugar cane fields was plentiful.  They would work hard in the day then in the evening they would practice their fighting arts in order to preserve their heritage in these new lands.  Of course many natives came to see these fighting arts and wished to study them themselves, and although in many cases they were refused (most Chinese still thought of their arts as secret and not for outsiders at this time) some teachers permitted foreign students to study with them. One such teacher was William Kwai Sun Chow whose nickname in the Palma district of Honolulu was Lightning Chow! He took many students and taught them his family style of Chuan Fa which was based in the Southern Hung Gar style.
At this point in time Hawaii was becoming a melting pot of the martial arts and unlike at any other time in history individual teachers where begining to combine their knowledge to create new forms of the arts.  William Chow met and enlisted the aid of a Japanese martial arts master named James Masayoshi Mitose, an expert in Japanese Ju jutsu.  Together the two men combined their arts to create the art of Kempo Jujutsu, finding that the straight line movements of Mitose’s techniques blended perfectly with the more circular strikes of Chows Chuan Fa. After the two men parted company Chow changed the name of his art to Kara Ho Kenpo karate.  This was a statement that what he now did was different from that of Mitose.
Chow's Kara Ho Kenpo attracted many talented students, many of whom were already accomplished fighters in other arts.  This was in the mid 1920s – 1930s and some of the names of those who trained with Chow at this time would go on to represent martial excellence in to the current times: men such as Paul Yamaguchi of Kokuyushinkai karate; Adriano Emperado founder of the Kajukenbo style of Kenpo; and Edmund K Parker founder of American Kenpo.
Of all of Chow's students it is probably Ed Parker who is now the most famous. Originally beginning his martial arts study in Boxing and Judo he came to practice with Chow after hearing from his brother how he had subdued a local tough who Parker knew, he was amazed that such a small man had been able to defeat such a larger more aggressive opponent and because of this he took to Kenpo with a rare passion. He eventually moved from Hawaii to the mainland and California where he began to teach his own version of the art which he dubbed American Kenpo, so saying because it was the first true form of modern Kenpo - not Chinese, not Okinawan, but American.  Parker introduced logic to the art as he was an expert in science and other academic arts having gained a degree whilst at university and he added his findings to his Kenpo with explosive results.  The movements became faster and more direct with an economy of motion that made the practitioner seem almost stationary.  He also introduced new forms and movements, increasing the technique base from 55 to over a hundred actions; he also introduced a sports element to the art and is the first man to publish a rule pamphlet on competitive fighting.
Kenpo has come a long way since its introduction in to China thousands of years ago; it now covers the globe with over a hundred different styles and systems available with countless variations open to the new student, it is from these fertile grounds that Modern Kenpo karate jutsu has been born and is now like its older brother/sister styles, becoming known as a true fighting art with no time for wasted effort or obsolete traditions that even the original masters have long forgotten the need for.  It is a style as much about enjoying life as it is about combat and welcomes all those who come in the spirit of combat whilst keeping peace within their hearts, this is KENPO!