THE CHINESE PERIOD
The most circulated account of the origin of Chinese Kenpo is credited to the 28th East Indian Patriarch of the Buddhist faith named Tamo. He was also called Bodhidharma and was known to the Japanese as Daruma Daishi. He arrived in China about 515-530 AD. He began teaching in seclusion at the Shaolin Temple in Hunan Province. Tamo tried to teach the monks but found that many of them would fall asleep during meditation. To improve their fitness he introduced the 18 Lo Han exercise to them.
During the Sui Period, approximately 40 years after to death of Tamo, it is told that soldiers assaulted the Shaolin Temple, one of the many attacks that would continue until the 20th century. During this first invasion the monk’s attempt at defending their temple was futile. Their skills were not fine-tuned to fighting and it looked as if the temple would fall. A monk of the temple, who was called “the begging monk” during this siege, attacked several of the soldiers with an array of aggressive hand and foot techniques, killing some and driving the remaining attackers away. The other monks were so inspired by this display of this single monk they requested that he teach them this martial art style. In later scripts this fighting art was recorded as Chuan-Fa or Fist Method. This became the basis for the modern martial arts systems including Kenpo.
Several decades after the fight of the begging monk, a master of Chuan-Fa called Ch’ueh Taun Shang-jen was said to have rediscovered the original Shih Pa Lo Han Sho which had been lost for many years. Ch’ueh over a period of time integrated his art of Chuan-Fa with the 18 Lo Han increasing the total number of techniques from the original to 72. Ch’ueh came upon a man named Li in the province of Shansi. Li, a master of Chuan-Fa as well as other martial arts including Chin Na, traveled and trained with Ch’ueh for some time developing a curriculum of Chuan-Fa to form a total of 170 techniques. They also categorized these techniques into five distinctive groups distinguished by various animals who instinctive reactions best reflected the movements of this new Chuan-Fa. They then returned to Shaolin, of which both Li and Ch’ueh belonged, and presented their art to the other monks and ushered in a new stage in martial arts evolution.
THE JAPANESE PERIOD
A little over 700 years later the art of Chuan-fa (Kenpo) found its way to Japan and to the first Kenpo Grand Master of note, Zenko Yoshida, of the famous warrior Yoshida Clan. Zenko Yoshida would be the first prominent Yoshida to embrace the Rinzai sect of Zen. Eventually, the Yoshida Clan would build a family (Zen) temple on Mt. Kinkai.
The Yoshida’s were an ancient royal Japanese Warrior family that goes back as far as recorded Japanese history. Originally, the Yoshida family name was Urabe. They took the name Yoshida from the famous castle by that name they once owned. Not only were the Yoshida’s a powerful Samurai warrior family but they exercised great control over the “Shinto Religion”. Shinto was the official and ancient religion of Japan. It literally means “way of the Gods” The Yoshida’s were warlords (bushi) and were part of the Japanese culture and civilization for over 800 years. So along with embracing the Rinzai sect the Yoshida’s would embrace the Martial Arts of the Shaolin Temple: Kenpo/Kempo/Kosho.
I come to you with only open hands,
other weapons, I have not.
But should Right or Honor require it
My hands will bear me out.
YOSHIDA Creed 1232 AD
The Japanese lineage of Kenpo starts with Zenko Yoshida.
1st Kosho/Kenpo/Kempo Great Grand Master-Zenko Yoshida (1232-1297) approx.
Followed by 18 more generations of Yoshida (Rinzai) Great Grand Masters. Female blood members of the Yoshida Clan were also taught the family art of Kosho/Kenpo. The Yoshida children started studying at the age of 5.
Continue to our modern history of Kenpo