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A Brief History of Kenpo Karate

Dragon Mural Kenpo is a mixture of five cultures; First and most important, Chinese; second Japanese, followed by Okinawan, Hawaiian (before Hawaii became a state) and American. The Kenpo Karate we teach reflects the original Chinese Martial Arts passed down from one generation to another for hundreds of years.

The greatest confusion regarding "Kenpo" is the origin and meaning of its name. Despite its birth in China, the art we call "Kenpo" was passed down through the Mitose family, who studied the original art in China in the 1600's and brought it back to Japan.

Since the Mitose family was Japanese, they naturally used the Japanese language rather than the Chinese to describe their family system, which they later named "Kosho-ryu" (Old Pine Tree Style): "Ko" (old) "Sho" (pine tree) "Ryu" (school/style).

Kenpo has been described in many ways, but the term "Kenpo Karate" using the original Chinese characters, is the most authentic and clear description of our style. This distinguishes it as completely different from the Japanese and Okinawan written characters (kanji) that define Karate as "empty hand".

The Origins of the "Belt" System

The original colors of the belts of the kenpo style was white to brown then black.

The theory to this was, while wearing a white belt over time it would discolor to brown from rolling and tumbling on the ground, from flips and throws while training.

In addition, as you continue to train and over heat; causing you to perspire, your brown belt would eventually turn to black from the water of your body being absorbed by the gi and belt.

To suit modern day curiosity about level of seniority a colored belt system was put into place so that each individual could see and express the level of skill attained.

The revised belt structure was orange, purple, green, brown, and then black.

Over time a yellow belt was introduced due to the amount of time it took to achieve a orange belt, furthermore; all belts below black (shodan) are considered a grade were as the black belt level (dans) are regarded as rank.