ANCIENT KENPO HISTORY:
Kenpo is a Japanese unarmed fighting art that was brought from China to Japan about 700 years ago by the Yoshida Clan and was quickly adopted by the Komatsu Clan. The word Kenpo means literally, "Fist Law," and also refers to its Chinese origin. The Japanese adaptation of this Chinese style was well suited to defend against the various unarmed Japanese martial arts of the 12th century. Few modifications were required for Kenpo to overcome the new unarmed systems that developed over the next 7 centuries that came to be known as Karate (Japanese of "Empty Hand"). But for the Yoshida and Komatsu Clans who developed their art into a truly Japanese style, the term was simply Kenpo. During this same period the Chinese system from which Kenpo was derived underwent so many changes that, while most of the Kenpo techniques can be found scattered among the hundreds of Chinese fighting systems, there is no single system in China today that resembles Kenpo.
"Chinese Kenpo" is a term coined by Ed Parker in 1960, when he found there was no kung fu style that resembled Kenpo. But adding Chinese forms and Chinese terms did not change the nature or Japanese origin of Kenpo. It has, however, imbued the "Chinese connection" with an "ignorance is bliss" mentality. One of Ed Parkers students at the time was Jerry Meyers who went on to train with Bruce Lee and Danny Inosanto, and combined their style with Kenpo to make it a true Chinese Kenpo style.
KENPO IN THE 20TH CENTURY:
Kenpo Karate was once known as the Ed Parker system because many of the Kenpo instructors trained directly under that great martial artists. However, the founder of Kenpo Karate was not Ed Parker but rather his instructor, Professor William (Willie) K. S. Chow, who began calling his system "Kenpo Karate" in 1949. Chow trained in "Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu" under Great Grand Master James Mitose who had learned the Kenpo art in Japan from his grandfather Sakuhi Yoshida. (See A Brief History of Kenpo).
Kenpo Karate is, therefore, a distinct form of Kenpo, although its techniques are virtually indistinguishable from Mitose's Kenpo Jui-Jitsu. The difference is mostly in Katas. There were no Katas in Chow's Kenpo Karate while Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu has 4 Katas, Nihanchi 1 & 2, the Bear Kata and Old Man Kata.
Professor Chow's "Kenpo Karate" would have become as obscure as James Mitose's Kenpo Jui-Jitsu, had it not been for Edmund K. Parker (1931-1990) who (while not the first to have a commercial Kenpo school on the Mainland) opened the first "Kenpo Karate" Studio in Pasadena in 1956 and founded the "Kenpo Karate Association of America"