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What is Kenpo? A Complete Beginners Overview & Guide! (2023)

Did you know that Kenpo, a martial arts discipline, can not only teach you self-defense techniques but also provide a great way to stay fit and disciplined?

In this article, we will explore the world of Kenpo and its various aspects, from training and sparring to its cultural significance.

Whether you’re a beginner or someone looking to expand their martial arts knowledge, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and tips to get started.

Let’s explore what Kenpo is and why it’s next hobby breakdown on our extensive list of hobbies!

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What is Kenpo?

Kenpo, also known as Kenpo Karate, originated in China and was later brought to Japan and the United States.

Kenpo was developed as a practical self-defense system that focuses on quick and efficient strikes, kicks, and grappling techniques.

Over time, Kenpo has evolved to incorporate elements from other martial arts styles, making it a versatile and effective discipline.

Today, Kenpo is practiced by individuals of all ages and backgrounds, both as a means of self-defense and as a way to improve physical fitness and mental discipline.

It has gained popularity worldwide and has become an integral part of many martial arts communities.

Current Trends

In recent years, Kenpo has seen a resurgence in popularity, with more people recognizing its effectiveness as a self-defense system.

Many martial arts schools and studios now offer Kenpo classes, catering to both beginners and advanced practitioners.

Additionally, there are various Kenpo tournaments and events held globally, providing opportunities for practitioners to showcase their skills and connect with other enthusiasts.

Cultural Significance

Kenpo holds cultural significance in different regions and communities. In Japan, it is considered a traditional martial art and is often practiced as a way to preserve cultural heritage.

In the United States, Kenpo has become a popular martial arts discipline, with many schools and organizations dedicated to its practice and promotion.

A person in a white martial arts outfit

Kenpo Equipment Needed

To fully enjoy and participate in Kenpo, it is important to have the right equipment. Here are the essential items you will need:

  • Kenpo Uniform: A lightweight and comfortable uniform specifically designed for Kenpo practice.
  • Hand Wraps: These provide support and protection for your hands and wrists during training and sparring.
  • Mouthguard: To protect your teeth and jaw during sparring sessions.
  • Gloves: Boxing gloves or sparring gloves are necessary for safe and effective training.
  • Protective Gear: Depending on your training level, you may need additional protective gear such as shin guards, headgear, and groin protection.

While these items are essential, there are also additional accessories that can enhance your Kenpo experience, such as training pads, focus mitts, and a punching bag.

However, these are not mandatory for beginners and can be gradually added as you progress in your training.

When it comes to budget considerations, it’s important to invest in quality equipment that ensures your safety and comfort. However, there are affordable options available, especially for beginners.

Online retailers and martial arts supply stores are great places to find a wide range of Kenpo equipment.

A man in martial arts gear, white robe, black belt, is posing on a dark background

Why Kenpo is Good Hobby to Try

Kenpo offers a range of personal benefits that make it a worthwhile hobby to try:

  • Self-Defense: Learning Kenpo equips you with practical self-defense techniques that can help you feel more confident and secure in various situations.
  • Physical Fitness: Kenpo training involves cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises, providing a comprehensive workout for your body.
  • Mental Discipline: Kenpo requires focus, concentration, and discipline, helping to improve mental clarity and self-control.
  • Community: Kenpo has a strong community aspect, with opportunities to connect with fellow practitioners, attend seminars, and participate in events.
  • Stress Relief: Engaging in Kenpo can be a great way to relieve stress and channel your energy in a positive and productive manner.

These are just a glimpse of the different reasons you should give this traditional martial arts class a try as your next hobby!

How to Get Started

If you’re interested in getting started with Kenpo, here are some steps to help you begin your journey:

  1. Research: Start by researching Kenpo to gain a better understanding of its principles, techniques, and training methods. Reliable sources include books, websites, and online forums dedicated to martial arts.
  2. Basic Training: Look for local martial arts schools or studios that offer Kenpo classes for beginners. Enrolling in a beginner’s course will provide you with a solid foundation and proper guidance.
  3. Joining Communities: Connect with other Kenpo enthusiasts by joining online forums or local communities. This will allow you to learn from experienced practitioners, share experiences, and find training partners.
  4. Setting Up: Acquire the necessary equipment mentioned earlier and set up a dedicated space for your Kenpo practice. Ensure that the area is safe and free from any obstacles.
  5. Practical Tips: As a beginner, it’s important to start slowly and focus on mastering the basics. Listen to your instructor, practice regularly, and be patient with your progress.
  6. Seeking Help: If you encounter any challenges or have specific questions, don’t hesitate to seek help from your instructor or fellow practitioners. They can provide valuable guidance and support.
Two friends honing their martial arts skills during a picturesque sunset.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

As a beginner in Kenpo, you may encounter some challenges along the way.

Here are a few common challenges and tips to overcome them:

Learning Complex Techniques

Kenpo techniques can be intricate and require practice to master. Break down the techniques into smaller components, practice them slowly, and gradually increase your speed and accuracy.

Regular repetition and guidance from your instructor will help you overcome this challenge.

Building Stamina and Endurance

Kenpo training can be physically demanding, especially for beginners.

Focus on improving your cardiovascular fitness through regular aerobic exercises and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your training sessions.

Consistency and perseverance will help you build stamina and endurance over time.

Overcoming Fear or Apprehension

Some beginners may feel nervous or apprehensive about sparring or performing techniques in front of others. Remember that everyone starts as a beginner, and it’s natural to feel a bit uncomfortable initially.

Trust in your training, listen to your instructor’s guidance, and gradually push yourself out of your comfort zone. With time and practice, your confidence will grow.

Balancing Training with Other Commitments

Many individuals have busy schedules and find it challenging to dedicate enough time to their Kenpo training. Prioritize your training by setting aside specific times for practice and making it a part of your routine. Even short, focused training sessions can be beneficial.

Communicate your commitment to your instructor and seek their guidance on how to balance your training with other responsibilities.

Plateaus and Lack of Progress

At times, you may feel like you’re not progressing as quickly as you’d like. Plateaus are a natural part of any learning process.

Stay patient, trust in your training, and focus on the small improvements you make along the way. Seek feedback from your instructor, set realistic goals, and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.

several people in white robes practicing martial arts outside, green lawn

DIY Tips and Tricks

If you’re looking to enhance your Kenpo experience, here are some DIY tips and tricks:

  • Cost-Saving Tips: Consider making your own training equipment, such as focus mitts or a punching bag, using household items or affordable materials.
  • Creative Ideas: Experiment with different training drills and combinations to keep your practice sessions engaging and challenging.
  • Tutorial Resources: Look for online tutorials or guides that provide step-by-step instructions for DIY projects related to Kenpo, such as making your own training dummy or practicing techniques at home.

Kenpo Belt Order

In the world of Kenpo, the journey from a novice to a master is marked by the progression through various belt ranks.

These belts not only signify a student’s rank but also represent their growth, dedication, and expertise in the art.

Belt ColorSymbolismFocusGoal
White BeltPurity and BeginningBasic techniques and stancesBuilding a strong foundation in Kenpo fundamentals
Yellow BeltAwakening and First Beam of LightIntroduction to more complex techniquesDeveloping a deeper understanding and building upon basics
Blue BeltGrowth and ExpansionEnhancing skills and learning new combinationsGrowing in skill and mastering more complex techniques
Green BeltBlossoming and DevelopmentAdvanced techniques and beginning of sparringBlossoming into a proficient practitioner, ready for sparring
Brown BeltRefinement and Maturing SkillsMastery of techniques and preparation for black beltRefining skills and preparing for the black belt journey
Black BeltMastery and Beginning of a New JourneyContinuous improvement and teaching othersBecoming a beacon of mastery and guiding others
A group of children in martial arts uniforms, red belt, black belt, yellow belts (2), green belt

White Belt: The Beginning

  • Symbolism: Purity and Beginning
  • Focus: Basic techniques and stances
  • Goal: To grasp the fundamentals of Kenpo and build a strong foundation

The white belt is where every Kenpo practitioner starts. It symbolizes the beginning of a new journey. At this stage, students focus on learning the basic techniques and stances, laying a solid foundation for more advanced studies.

Yellow Belt: The Awakening

  • Symbolism: Awakening and First Beam of Light
  • Focus: Introduction to more complex techniques
  • Goal: To develop a deeper understanding and start building upon the basics

As students progress to the yellow belt, they are introduced to more complex techniques. This stage represents an awakening, where students begin to develop a deeper understanding of Kenpo, building upon the basics learned as white belts.

Blue Belt: The Growth

  • Symbolism: Growth and Expansion
  • Focus: Enhancing skills and learning new combinations
  • Goal: To grow in skill and start mastering more complex techniques

The blue belt stage signifies growth. Students at this level work on enhancing their skills, learning new combinations, and growing in their understanding and execution of Kenpo techniques.

Green Belt: The Blossoming

  • Symbolism: Blossoming and Development
  • Focus: Advanced techniques and beginning of sparring
  • Goal: To blossom into a proficient practitioner, ready to spar with peers

At the green belt level, students are blossoming into proficient practitioners. They start learning advanced techniques and begin sparring, applying what they have learned in real scenarios.

Brown Belt: The Refinement

  • Symbolism: Refinement and Maturing Skills
  • Focus: Mastery of techniques and preparation for black belt
  • Goal: To refine skills and prepare for the journey to becoming a black belt

The brown belt stage is about refinement. Students at this level are nearing the end of their kyu rank (colored belt) journey, mastering techniques and preparing to step into the world of dan ranks, starting with the black belt.

Black Belt: The Mastery

  • Symbolism: Mastery and Beginning of a New Journey
  • Focus: Continuous improvement and teaching others
  • Goal: To be a beacon of mastery, continuously improving and guiding others

Achieving a black belt is both an end and a beginning. It signifies mastery of Kenpo techniques and the beginning of a new journey, where practitioners focus on continuous improvement and start guiding others on their Kenpo journey.


The belt order in Kenpo is a representation of a student’s journey from a beginner to a master. Each belt is a milestone, marking the growth, learning, and achievements of a practitioner. It’s a pathway that fosters not just physical growth, but also personal development and mastery over oneself.

Comparisons to Other Similar Hobbies and Activities

While Kenpo is a unique martial arts discipline, it can be helpful to compare it with other similar hobbies and activities to make an informed choice.

Here are a few comparisons:

A group of martial arts students standing in a line, practicing karate

Kenpo vs. Karate

  • Kenpo: A martial art blending Chinese and Japanese techniques, known for:
    • Fluid movements
    • Versatile techniques: strikes, kicks, and grappling
    • Adapting well to modern combat scenarios
  • Karate: Originating from Okinawa, Japan, it is characterized by:
    • Powerful and precise strikes
    • Emphasis on form and discipline
    • Training includes choreographed patterns (kata) to develop technique and body mechanics

Choosing between them depends on your personal preferences and goals in martial arts training.

Kenpo vs. Kickboxing

  • Kenpo: Offers a comprehensive approach to martial arts with features like:
    • Wide range of techniques including grappling
    • Focus on self-defense and practical application
  • Kickboxing: A high-intensity workout focusing on:
    • Punches and kicks
    • Cardiovascular workout

Kenpo leans more towards self-defense, making it a versatile choice for comprehensive self-defense techniques.

Two people practicing Aikido in a park at sunset to experience its benefits.

Kenpo vs. Aikido

  • Kenpo: A martial art known for its aggressive techniques, it focuses on:
    • A wide range of strikes, kicks, and grappling techniques
    • Practical application and self-defense strategies
    • Adapting to various combat situations with fluid movements
  • Aikido: A Japanese martial art that emphasizes harmony and fluidity, it is characterized by:
    • Redirecting attacks and utilizing joint locks and throws
    • Neutralizing aggressors without causing unnecessary harm
    • Fostering a deep connection between mind, body, and spirit

While Kenpo offers a comprehensive approach to self-defense, Aikido teaches practitioners to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

Two women in blue judo uniforms fighting on a blue background

Kenpo vs. Judo

  • Kenpo: A striking art that offers a diverse range of techniques, it focuses on:
    • Punches, kicks, and grappling techniques
    • Self-defense strategies that incorporate various methods of attack
    • A comprehensive approach to martial arts training
  • Judo: A grappling art that originated in Japan, it is known for:
    • Focusing on throws and joint locks
    • Using an opponent’s energy against them through leverage and technique
    • Often practiced as a sport, emphasizing skill and technique over strength

While Kenpo teaches students how to defend themselves using a variety of methods, Judo emphasizes on skillful techniques to use an opponent’s energy to their advantage.

Kenpo vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

  • Kenpo: Focuses on striking techniques and self-defense, offering:
    • A diverse range of striking techniques
    • Practical self-defense strategies
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ): A martial art emphasizing:
    • Ground fighting
    • Submission techniques

Both martial arts complement each other well in a rounded martial arts training program.

Kenpo vs. Taekwondo

  • Kenpo: A martial art with roots in Chinese and Japanese traditions, it offers:
    • Diverse techniques: strikes, kicks, and joint locks
    • Comprehensive approach to self-defense
  • Taekwondo: A Korean martial art known for:
    • High, fast kicks
    • Emphasis on sport competition and physical fitness

Your choice between the two depends on your personal goals and interests in martial arts.

Two men in muay thai shorts and gloves

Kenpo vs. Muay Thai

  • Kenpo: A hybrid martial art focusing on:
    • Self-defense and practical application
    • Incorporating a wide variety of techniques
  • Muay Thai: Also known as the “Art of Eight Limbs”, it is characterized by:
    • Aggressive and direct combat techniques
    • Utilization of punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes

Learn about the distinct approaches and choose based on your preference for combat style and technique.

Kenpo vs. Shotokan Karate

  • Kenpo: A martial art that integrates Chinese and Japanese techniques, it is known for:
    • Fluid and adaptable movements
    • A wide array of techniques including strikes, kicks, and grappling
    • A focus on practical self-defense strategies adaptable to modern combat scenarios
  • Shotokan Karate: A style of Karate developed from various martial arts, it emphasizes:
    • Linear movements and powerful strikes
    • A structured approach to training with a focus on kata (choreographed patterns)
    • Developing strength, coordination, and focus through the perfection of form

Both martial arts have their roots in traditional practices, but they offer different approaches to training and combat. Your choice depends on your personal preferences and what you aim to achieve through martial arts training.

Legal and Safety Considerations

When practicing Kenpo, it’s important to be aware of legal and safety considerations:

  • Legal Aspects: Familiarize yourself with any local laws or regulations regarding self-defense techniques and training. Some areas may have specific rules or permits required for certain martial arts practices.
  • Safety Tips: Always prioritize safety during training sessions. Warm up properly, use protective gear, and practice under the guidance of a qualified instructor. If you have any underlying health conditions, consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new physical activity.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep emergency contact information readily available in case of any accidents or injuries during training. Additionally, familiarize yourself with local emergency services and resources.
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Here are some frequently asked questions about Kenpo:

Is Kenpo suitable for all ages?

Yes, Kenpo can be practiced by individuals of all ages. However, it’s important to consult with your instructor to determine the appropriate training intensity and techniques based on your age and physical condition.

How long does it take to become proficient in Kenpo?

The time it takes to become proficient in Kenpo varies depending on individual dedication, practice frequency, and natural ability. With consistent training and commitment, you can expect to see progress within a few months to a year.

Can I practice Kenpo at home?

While it’s beneficial to practice Kenpo in a dedicated training environment with an instructor, you can also practice certain techniques and drills at home. However, it’s important to prioritize safety and ensure that you have enough space to perform the movements correctly.

Can Kenpo be used for self-defense?

Yes, Kenpo is an effective self-defense system that focuses on practical techniques for real-life situations. However, it’s important to remember that self-defense should always be used responsibly and as a last resort.

Can I compete in Kenpo tournaments?

Yes, there are various Kenpo tournaments and competitions held globally. Participating in tournaments can provide valuable experience and an opportunity to showcase your skills. Your instructor can guide you on how to prepare for and participate in these events.

If you have more questions or want to connect with other Kenpo enthusiasts, consider joining online forums or visiting dedicated martial arts communities.


Kenpo is a fascinating martial arts discipline that offers a range of benefits, from self-defense skills to physical fitness and mental discipline.

By exploring its history, understanding the equipment needed, and learning how to get started, you can embark on a fulfilling journey in the world of Kenpo.

Remember to practice regularly, seek guidance from experienced practitioners, and enjoy the process of learning and growing in this exciting hobby.

Resources and Further Reading

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"what is kenpo?" "Beginners guide" Featured image, close up background of a black belt