Kenpo is an interesting style of Martial Arts in that it shows how cultures can merge and benefit with learning from one another.
Kenpo is a Japanese Martial Arts form. However, unlike Karate, its origins are linked back to China and still have very strong influences from Chinese systems. The name, "kenpo", also sometimes spelled "kempo", is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character "chuan" and "fa". Literally translates, it means "the method of the fist/hand." This seems to be a very close translation into Chinese of what "karate-te-do" means and might have come about as a means to bridge a language divide between the two countries.
It is not uncommon for a Kenpo artist to both use traditional Japanese and Chinese style techniques. The difference lies in that because of the Chinese influence, the Japanese moves tend to emphasize more fluidity than most of the other Japanese styles. And because of the Japanese influence, there is a stronger focus for shorter stances and movements than other Chinese styles.
For the same reason that many other styles are sometimes simply listed as "karate", Kenpo has long been strongly linked under the general banner of "karate". However, recognition for it being a different style of martial arts is emerging quickly. And in many ways, this art is finally getting the notice it should. Kenpo is known for its near explosive, short-ranged attacks that often move faster than the opponent can see.
Within Kenpo, there are many variations to the art. Of the more well-known systems include: Kosho-ryu, Shaolin Kenpo, Kajukenbo, Chinese Kara-Ho Kempo, and Ed Parker's American Kenpo Karate.
Kenpo has a very strong presence in Hawaii, the home base for many of the systems under Kenpo that exist today in the United States. Throughout each of the histories of the different groups there are strong signs of the continued merging of both Chinese and Japanese influences.
Many people have studied Kenpo, one of the most famous is Elvis Presley, the King. Presley became acquainted with Ed Parker in 1960 and formed a friendship that lasted his lifetime. This was not Presley's first exposure to Martial Arts, nor would it be his last.