History of American Kenpo Karate

American Kenpo Karate originated with Grand Master Ed Parker. Beginning in the late 1950’s and over the course of almost four decades, GM Parker developed and refined a style of self-defense oriented combat that has its roots in Kung Fu and Karate but, ultimately, extends beyond either art form. More than a set of techniques, American Kenpo Karate was designed as a set of principles and concepts. The system was designed to be adapted and evolved so long as the new techniques adhered to principles and concepts. Parker also believed that students should personalize the techniques to fit their own personal style.

When GM Parker died in 1990, he left no successor and the art fragmented into a number of different schools. One of the major American Kenpo Karate schools was the Tracy school, founded in 1962. A number of our senior instructors started in the Tracy system at Evergreen Park Karate which later became Downers Grove Karate under Shihan Bob Wainwright.

In 1982, Shihan Bob Wainwright founded his “Way of Kenpo” system. This marked a permanent departure from the Tracy system and openness to learning from different organizations and art forms. The late 1990’s saw a return to the original Parker concepts and principles. At the same time, Shihan Wheeler began evolving the art form into the current system. This new system is informed directly by real world experiences and blends techniques from other art forms including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, and Krav Maga. Throughout the evolution, however, all techniques have stayed true to the principles and concepts set forth by GM Parker.

One of the key features of the Way of Kenpo as taught at Warrior Kenpo Karate is the integrated teaching of principles and techniques. As students learn new techniques, they also learn why the techniques work and how to adapt them to different situations. More than a series of movements, the student should learn power concepts and combat principles underlying the techniques.