Kenpō (拳法?) is the name of several Japanese martial arts. The word kenpō is a Japanese translation of the Chinese word "quán fǎ". This term is often informally transliterated as "kempo", as a result of
applying Traditional Hepburn romanization, but failing to use a macron to indicate the long
vowel. The generic nature of the term combined with its widespread, cross-cultural adoption in the
martial arts community has led to many divergent definitions.
Kenpo has also been used as a modern term: a name for multiple martial arts that developed in Hawaii
due to cross-cultural exchange between practitioners of Okinawan martial arts, Chinese martial arts,
Filipino martial arts, Japanese martial arts and multiple additional influences. In the United
States, kenpo is often referred to as Kenpo Karate. The most widespread styles have their origin in
the teachings of James Mitose and William Kwai Sun Chow. Mitose spent most of his early years
training in Japan learning his family style, Kosho-Ryu (Old pine tree school). James Mitose would
later bring that style to Hawaii where he would teach Chow, who would go on to instruct Ed Parker
and Bobby Lowe. The system of kenpo taught by Mitose employed hard linear strikes and kicks,
pressure point manipulation, circular movement patterns, and joint locking and breaking.
Parker is the most prominent name in the Mitose lineage. A student of Chow in Hawaii for nearly six
years, Parker moved to the US mainland to attend Brigham Young University. In 1957, he began
teaching the kenpo that he had learned from Chow, and throughout his life modified and refined the
art until it became Ed Parker's American Kenpo. It employs a blend of circular movements and hard
linear movements. Parker created techniques with names such as Thundering Hammers, Five Swords,
Prance Of The Tiger, and Flashing Mace to provide a memorisation tool to the student.
These arts have spread around the world through multiple lineages, not all of which agree on a
common historical narrative.