Courtesy and Respect

To treat someone with courtesy is to use polished manners combined with kindness towards him or her. To treat someone with respect is to hold them in high esteem or honor.

Time and Place

There is such a thing as the wrong time to do something. We must be aware that there are specific times for practicing and applying martial arts. We must also realize that there are places and times in which practicing or applying martial arts would be inappropriate. For example, using martial arts on a friend during a play fight is the wrong time to use martial arts. And equally, using martial arts in the school yard during recess is the wrong place to be practicing martial arts.

Talk, Walk, Defend

In any confrontation, our first means of defense it to try and reason our way out of conflict by using our verbal skills. Always try to talk your way out of a fight first. If that fails, remind yourself that you have nothing to prove and that it is best to just walk away.

If you unable to leave or are prevented from doing so, then as a last and final resort, you will implement all that you have learned to defend yourself. Remember that your goal is not necessarily to harm the other person, but to keep them from harming you. However, we must use equal or greater force to counter any attack. Never start a fight, but always finish one and always fight to win.

The Scholar and the Warrior

The Scholar is symbolized by the open hand, which means the passive or mental side of the martial arts. A Scholar is a peacemaker, who does his best to avoid conflict with other to prevent conflict between those in dispute. A Scholar is a superior student who treats his studies and his schoolwork with seriousness, and importance. A Scholar is civic minded and understands the importance of treating other fairly and without prejudice as well as looking out for the environment. A Scholar acts with personal responsibility, thinks before acting, and having made a decision, is prepared to accept the consequences of his actions.

The Warrior is symbolized by the closed fist which represents the active or physical side of the martial arts. A Warrior works hard to be in top physical condition and trains hard to be proficient and efficient in his defensive skills. A Warrior has the confidence and courage to stand up for himself or those in need of his protection (family, women and children), if forced to do so. A Warrior has the commitment to follow through on what he starts and will not quit until his final goal is achieved. A Warrior has the quiet confidence, self-discipline, and skill to behave with humility, courtesy and calm in tense situations, but is always ready to act as necessary.

When you combine the “Scholar and Warrior” as we do in the martial arts, you work at achieving a balance of mental and physical togetherness which promotes inner peace and allows you to become a better person.

Circle / Line

There are certain expressions that describe how Kenpo functions as a martial art. One of these expressions is: “Where a circle ends, a line begins and where a line ends, a circle begins”. This particular expression has three related meanings. First, if you look at the self defense, “Delayed Sword” you will notice that the strikes used in this defense follow this pattern: Pin (line), Inward Block (Circle), Front Kick (Line), Sword Hand (Circle). Look for this type of patterning throughout your training. Second, if your opponent attacks on a straight line, you can quickly step out of the way by moving up the circle in a circular motion. Or if your opponent attacks with a straight linear punch, you respond with a circular check. Finally, if your opponent blocks your straight line response, you can shift to a circular attack later in the defense simply by shifting the order of the defense.

Line / Path

A line of action requires that you first aim your weapon, and then strike in a straight line (example, a straight punch)

A path of action is most often a curved path where the action is limited by the path available (example, a elbow strike)

Eight Angles of Attack

On the traditional Kenpo uniform, there is a patch called the Universal Pattern like the one illustrated below. Notice that there is plus sign (+) overlaid with a multiplication sign (x). These represent the possible lines of attack that may be used by an opponent. They also represent your possible lines of defense. There is still more information in this crest but that will be explained later.

Eight Types of Attack

Kenpo as structured by Grand Master Edmund Parker, classifies techniques into eight categories. These techniques are prioritized according to the degree of difficulty in handling an attack.

  1. Pushes - You still have the option to not engage at this point – try to put distance between you and your attacker.
  2. Grabs and Tackles – Immediate and decisive response is required once you are engaged.
  3. Punches – Blocking is required due to the speed and force of a punch.
  4. Kicks – Not only do kicks require better timing, but they have potentially greater power (6X more) than punches – thus making them more dangerous.
  5. Holds and Hugs – The restriction of body movement makes these defenses difficult as well as the danger of being taken to the ground.
  6. Chokes and Locks – Dangerous because they may result in broken limbs and even instant death.
  7. Weapons – Weapons are really a class all to themselves, and the best advice is get out of there. The timing and power associated with weapons easily rates them as being the most difficult to handle. There is a high possibility of serious injury or death.
  8. Multiple attacks – Defense against multiple attackers requires great skill and timing.
  9. Combinations of the Above – Other combinations should also be considered, such as a grab with a punch, a choke with a knife pressed against you, being grabbed by one opponent and attacked by another with a weapon, etc.

From: Parker, Ed. Infinite Insights into Kenpo; Volume 5 “Mental & Physical Applications”, Los Angeles, CA: Delsby Publications, 1987.

Economy of Motion

In Kenpo, a basic principle is that since all fighting takes place in time and space, it is an objective to perform any defensive maneuver in the minimum time, and with the minimum motion. Another way of expressing this is to remove the word “and” between actions so that they flow without stopping from one point to the next point. A further extension of this principle comes in the idea of grafting—taking previously separate actions in differing self defense and sequencing them seamlessly.

Centrifugal Force

Centrifugal force is, in physics, an imaginary force pulling a body in revolution around a fixed point away from its center. The real force holding the body in place is a centripetal force, and is usually represented by a cable, rope, or some other restraint holding the body in revolution in orbit. The underlying physical force being described is in fact torque. An example of torque can be found in Crossing Talon when you counter-grab your opponent’s wrist and rotate it in a clockwise direction, applying an inward block to the tricep at the same time.

Frictional Pull

An example of a frictional pull can be seen in the Yellow Belt self defense, Intellectual Departure. When your opponent kicks towards you with his right leg, you step back with the left leg across your center line, and turn to left neutral bow facing 6:00. As you turn, your right fist drags along the inside of the extended leg, performing a frictional pull, dragging the opponent’s leg forward with you, and extending your opponent’s base.


The principle of rebounding is using an inelastic collision with one’s opponent or one’s self to change direction. It is reasoned that the rebound is quicker than trying to stop the mass of the body and then restarting the motion in another direction.

Marriage of Gravity

This term refers to the physics principle of momentum. If the body’s natural momentum is used, in particular, the momentum gained from allowing the body to relax and fall naturally, a greater force will be experienced in the strike than by merely using the muscles to accelerate the body. It also conserves energy for other strikes.

Backup Mass

Backup mass refers to using the entire body to add extra momentum to a kick, or strike. This principle only works if the bodily member is retained in close proximity to the trunk of the body, hence the emphasis on keeping the elbows in contact with the trunk for blocks and strikes.

Checking the Depth, Width and Height

All motion occurs in three dimensions. The more dimensions involved in the block, or strike, the more effective it becomes. As checking, the thwarting of an opponent’s attack and maintaining contact with the opponent by controlling their movement, is critical to Kenpo, utilizing as many of the three dimensions as possible is essential. It also makes an action more difficult to defend against - an attack in one dimension becomes easily predictable.