Kempo Glossary of Terms

What do all those strange words mean? The other day while writing my next entry for the blog, I realized that someone might say that very thing. I was using jargon in my blog without ever explaining what the terms mean. Hopefully this will answer questions and help to identify what I mean. If I use other terms that aren’t listed here, let me know and I’ll add the definitions to the blog.

Keep notes to enhance your memory

Keep notes to enhance your memory

Kempo (or Kenpo) – Law of the fist. But I like to understand it as Principles of the Fist. Law speaks to rules of people while principles speak to the cause and effect of actions. Ed Parker understood this as the physics of Kenpo.

Kata – Kata is a prearranged pattern of movements that link various moves together. It develops timing, breathing, stances, movements and techniques. It is also a way for illiterate societies to pass down martial arts knowledge to other generations.

Monkey Dance (or Palama) – Monkey Dance is the name of the core Karazenpo kata. It is a set of 14 kata (or 22 in the 60s). Many of them are similar to Kajukenbo’s Pinans. These kata are also called Palama, after the first YMCA Kajukenbo school in Hawai’i.

Kata (or Kamuki) – Kata is the name of a set of katas. Since this is like calling a brand of automobiles “car”, I try to refer to them with another name – Kamuki. Kamuki is the name of the second YMCA Kajukenbo school in Hawai’i. There are 14 kata in this set. Most students will recognize them as 1 Kata, 2 Kata and so on.

Pinan (or Pinion) – The correct term is Pinan and it means “Peaceful mind”. These are based on five Okinawan katas called Pinan One through Five. In Karate, they are called Heinan. They are taught in the Shaolin Kempo track.

Kumite – Kumite is practice fighting in a free form method or manner. Though it can be structured with pre-arranged attacks and defenses, it usually refers to each fighter doing their best to strike the other. It comes in two main flavors. “Point sparring” awards points to touching vital targets and is very controlled. That means no one gets knocked out on purpose. The other version allows for more contact with the kicks and punches. It also allows takedowns and ground submissions. We just called this version “Sparring.”

One-Step Kumite – As mentioned above, kumite can be structured. In this version, each student takes turns striking. The left student attacks, the right student blocks. Then the right student attacks and the left student blocks. Attacks can be punches, chops, or kicks. This drill exercise is designed to get the student comfortable with defending against an unknown attack. Though it seems simple, it is very difficult to do without training.

Two-Step Kumite – The next step from One-Step is Two-Step. As one can surmise, each student takes turns striking twice. The left student attacks twice, the right student blocks twice. Likewise, the right student attacks twice and the left student defends twice. The trick is to go slow enough so that each student can defend properly. This builds the attackers ability to link attacks together in an effective manner. This also builds the defenders ability to block and defend multiple attacks. Usually at this point, the students begin Point Sparring kumite.

Waza – Waza is a Japanese term for technique such as a combination or “kempo”. These are series of blocks, punches, kicks and locks used against a particular attack.

Bunkai – Bunkai is often called applications of kata moves. Each move in a kata should have an application, if not two or three.

Combination – Combinations are also called Defense Maneuvers. They are techniques (see waza above) designed to defend against an attack. Additionally, Combinations represent required techniques needed for advancement in belt rank. They are the core techniques that impart key Kempo concepts.

Kempo Technique – Kempo Techniques are Combinations or waza that are not from the core set. The name is unoriginal and easily confuses students with the name of the art. Some schools of Shaolin Kempo Karate name these techniques. Others do not name them, number them, or assign letters to identify them.

Ukemi – Ukemi represents the floor work (mat work) a student needs to be an effective Kempo artist. It involves rolling, slapping out and brake falls.

Roll – Sometimes called the Judo Roll, it is forward or backward roll that protects the head by using the back.

Slap Out – A slap out is a technique to fall to the ground safely.

Crane Stance – Crane Stance is lifting a single leg up so the knee is parallel to the floor and the foot under the hips.

Front Position – Front position is the attention stance for Kempo. Feet are together, knees bent and hands in a Kempo salute.

Bow – The bow is an Asian handshake, salute or acknowledgement of someone’s rank. It is not a form of worship or submission.

What terms do you need defined? Let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Kempo Glossary of Terms

  1. This detailed listing is great. I always thought free fighting was just called free fighting, I never knew that it was called Kumite. Are students required to learn the correct term and meaning of all these?

  2. The students are not required to know the terms exactly. These are the terms we use in class by the instructor. So the list is a way to decode what he or she is saying. ;)

    Usually we just call kumite sparring and then get a detailed explanation after that. Thanks for the comment. By the way, I like your web site.

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