The Art of Kenpo has been in a state of constant transformation since it introduction to the American community in 1941. From the earliest days in the Official Self-Defense Club in Hawaii to present day American Kenpo schools, you would be hard pressed to find any similarities from one school to the next.
One of the main reasons for this desparity is the lack of a unified style head (The United States Karate Association (USKA) refers to the originating founders of recognized karate styles as the style head) Kenpo is recognized by the USKA under its first style name Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo. This form of Kempo is not mainstream nor is it American Kenpo.
The biggest problem surrounding Kenpo--and this is the main reason it fails to gain worldwide respect from traditionalists--is that for every variation of Kenpo there is a 10th degree black belt to lead it. In recent issues of Inside Karate Magazine articles demonstrated the legacy of Kenpo, and the ridiculous number of offshoot styles it has spawned.
What can be gained by an instructor claiming that he is a 10th degree black belt? It is the prestige of saying he is the best in his art? Let's equate this concept to the military's concept of awarding of rank to Generals during peacetime versus wartime.
Very rarely will find more than one five star General at any one time and they are usually the most battle hardened combat veterans. The military will not soil its name by fabricating rank for undeserving officers. They understand that in order to provide a uniform structured order the best people have to lead not just the ones who have been around longest.
Let's all agree on one fact. Unless you have been involved in a particular art for thirty to forty years, and you are the only senior ranking black belt, then you alone are qualified to hold the rank of Judan.
If on the other hand your instructor is still among the living and you have been practicing for ten to twenty years then let's not kid ourselves into believing that you're deserving of the highest rank possible. Not until you have demonstrated a lifetime worth of work, dedication, and contribution to your particular art.
Who are the candidates for the rank of Judan in the Kenpo Style? Who has been practicing the longest? These are questions that can be answered simply by checking official certificates and documentation. If one person can prove to the rest of the community by way of first occurence promotion then by all means let's honor this rank and unify our style behind this one individual.
This would ensure all of the offshoot systems would be recognized by the USKA and Kenpo could finally take its place in the world martial arts community. This would allow Kenpo to receive the much-needed recognition from the Chinese and/or Japanese people.
As time goes on this page will be updated with new topics of discussion. Please feel free to e-mail our school if you have comments regarding this editorial.