Structure and development of the Kenpo system, Part 2

The system from 1970: s had 32 techniques from orange to green up until 1981. The original yellow belt course had three techniques that were replaced for the second version of the manual. The techniques that were taken out were the following ”Intellectual departure”, ”Aggressive Twins” and Spreading branch”. The technique ”The Pincher” changed name to ”The grasp of death”. Some schools have kept the original techniques and not made these changes as they felt this was unnecessary, deleted valuable information, and these techniques did not violate rules of motion.

The system’s curriculum was changed by decreasing the amount of material the student learned for each belt level. It was felt by many instructors to be more material then necessary for the coloured belt ranks. By doing 16 techniques in each level, the student would work more quality and not so much quantity. Some others would rather expand the system with more material to be able to keep the students at each level longer.

It all ended with going to 24 techniques instead of keeping the 32. That meant 8 techniques less instead of 16 less. The system was almost completed in 1981. Rearrangements of the techniques were done in the different levels for a newer version of the manual.

According to Mr Lee Wedlake, he was contacted by Mr Parker in the end of the -70: s to add and rearrange material for the new manual. Mr Wedlake declined because he did not feel knowledgeable enough in Mr Parker’s art to make such changes, however, many changes were made by other instructors during this time period. Many of the new techniques were put together or created from the hand isolation moves found in the upper forms.

To make the system even more commercialized many invented more extensions. Today you will find extensions for orange, purple, blue and green. These extensions were designed for the last level of brown, first, second and third black belt. After this they were called extensions and the name green-orange disappeared.

After Mr Parker’s death there were discussions of cutting down to 16 techniques in each level, again trying to eliminate the quantity thinking and focus more on quality. (An idea that Mr Parker had earlier). Many instructors and schools revised their requirements to the 16 techniques per belt curriculum.

When the 24 techniques manual came into being there were new techniques introduced in the brown belt level. The material then covered all the way up to second brown.


Ingmar Johansson
Athletics consultant
5:th degree black belt
Head instructor for Ed Parker´s Kenpo Karate in Sweden.