Kempo Karate is regarded as a beautiful and highly skilled
martial art. The beginning of Kempo Karate is somewhat obscure; some say it
began in China, some say it began in India, and others indicate elsewhere. It
seems that Kempo Karate is as old as man.
The formal beginning of Kempo Karate is attributed to the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma
(Tamo in Mandarin Chinese or Daruma in Japanese). Bodhidharma journeyed over
sea from India to China where he remained at a monastery called Shaolin and
taught Buddhism to the Chinese monks there. This was approximately in the year
525 A.D., when Bodidharma combined Kempo Karate and Zen Buddhism into a workable
method of physical and spiritual fitness.
In the year 525 A.D., China was split into many kingdoms and bandit baronies,
and the Canton War Lords had disarmed the civilian population. Bandits were
raiding the villages for food, molesting people, burning houses, and robbing
the Buddhist temples. The Canton War Lords failed to protect the people and
they turned to the priest Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma fasted, prayed, and meditated
to God for many days. Then, he conveyed the message that war and killing is
wrong, but is also wrong not to be prepared to defend oneself against evil tyrants.
Bodhidharma encouraged the people that although they didn't have weapons, to
make every finger a dagger, every fist a mace, every arm a spear, and every
open hand a sword.
As time went on, the monks at Shaolin won the reputation of being the most formidable
fighters in China. Since that time, Kempo Karate has gradually developed into
powerful and skillful techniques. Shaolin Chuan Fa is considered by most martial
arts historians to be the forerunner of karate and kung fu. Chuan Fa means “law
of the fist.” Kempo is commonly used in Okinawa to describe karate systems that
have Chuan Fa roots. These are not associated with the Kenpo/Kempo systems from
Kenpo/Kempo systems have evolved in Hawaii since their beginnings. When Professor
Buell began his training, the schools in Hawaii used the “Kenpo” spelling. Professor
Buell's research revealed that his martial arts were roots profoundly influenced
by Chinese Kempo. Subsequently, Professor Buell changed the “Kenpo” spelling
to “Kempo” in 1974. Some of the other schools followed suit and some stayed