The Okinawan Influence

The Okinawans had always termed the Martial Arts as "Te" which means hand. During this period (1609-1903) "Karate" meaning "hands of China" replaced the word "Te" (during the latter part of the 19th century) until the Chinese character which denoted "hands of China" or "China Hand" (the latter being more correct) was changed by the Japanese to their character which meant "empty hand". This change (officially dated to 1923) angered many of the Okinawan masters who were proud of the term designating their fighting style, they did not wish to change to the new character.

However, there was great pressure by the Japanese, and the masters very reluctantly accepted the new character change. The change was spearheaded by a student of Chogun Miyagi named Nagashi Hanage of the Goju-Ryu style of karate. It was Chogun Miyagi himself who desired to make the change and compelled his disciple Nagashi Hanage to pursue the change with great vigor. This change gave a much greater meaning to the art in that the spiritual overcame the physical application of technique.

For further clarification, if the reader will observe the last two oriental characters on the right-hand side of the Parker System patch, you will note that these are the true Chinese characters referring to "empty" and "hand" respectively. This was done intentionally by Mr. Parker to honor the Chinese from which our system descends. It is not a mixture of Japanese and Chinese. This has always been a primary mistake of many students of the Kenpo system and others. It is due primarily to the fact that both the Chinese and Japanese character for "te" meaning hand, are identical.

This is the last character on the right-hand side of the Parker patch. Consequently, it is easy to mix the two or rather to think they are mixed when you look at both the Chinese and Japanese characters, the character for "kara" is different in both languages.

What's The Difference Between Kempo And Kenpo? Nothing.

The only difference is in the translation of the Kanji to its English form. The rules of Kanji hold, that when a character (written word) ends in an "n," the "n" is pronounced when spoken; with the exception, that when the "n" is followed by another character (word), which begins with a "p," the two characters are unchanged in the written form and the "n" is pronounced "m". Ken-po follows this rule. So, if following the correct Kanji translation, it is spelled "Kenpo" and pronounced "Kempo". It is only in transliteration that Kenpo is written Kempo. Thanks to Mr. Will Tracy for the Kanji translation lesson.

The words Kenpo and Kempo are both pronounced the same and both mean "Law of the Fist." It's sort of like saying "Qi" or "Chi", "Gung" or "Kung".

Generally, though, the more "traditional" (lightly used) forms of Kempo use the "Kempo" form, while the more non-traditional modern or contemporary versions use the term "Kenpo". 


Available books on Kenpo

Kenpo 21: Priority Principles

Kenpo - Eye of the Storm: Club Techniques A Beginners Guide

Kenpo - How to Survive Life: Concepts and Principles

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