“Traditional Kenpo”

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Sep 20th, 2016

During a recent consultation, a studio owner was grumbling about his issues with teaching traditional kenpo. I’ve dealt with this question of what traditional kenpo might be, if it exists at all; in a previous article (see article listing under my name at ( ). However, this black belt’s arguments reminded me of something W. Edwards Deming, the “Grandmaster” of Total Quality Management, said, “We will never transform our prevailing system of management without transforming our prevailing system of education. They are the same system.” Substitute teaching for management and you’ll have the essence of this article. 

Logic and Basics vs. the curriculum or syllabus 

 While studying Kenpo for more than 4 decades, I’ve experienced many changes in the teaching format. I’ve seen any number of versions of the Kenpo curriculum taught in various studios (32 techniques, 24 techniques, 10 techniques, etc.). All of these variations of the teaching syllabus miss the essential point; building skills and competency in the student. Our challenge as teachers is to create a learning environment that enhances our student’s abilities to move effectively (Basics) and understand the essential combat logic behind a particular exercise. Training outside of class

 How many contemporary students spend the necessary hours training away from the studio in order to memorize the required curriculum for their next belt rank? Our lives are busy. We have plenty of reasons, or excuses, for not training. Does a busy adult or a child in school benefit from the karate instructor giving her more “homework”? How can we, as instructors, get students to spend the necessary time to develop their skills? Does your studio feel like just another job or class at school? Perhaps we need to focus less on memorization and create studio environments that promote discovery through problem solving exercises which foster commitment. If students enjoy the studio experience, they’ll train outside the studio because they’ve learned the joy of training!Future focus vs. training in the Now

Often we teach a specific studio curriculum to certify our students rank under some organization. Can we let the requirements of any process of standardization outweigh the needs of the individual student? In the 21st century, we can no longer view our student’s training through “black belt eyes”. Statements like, “In our organization, you need to know such and such for this belt rank…” begs the question, what does this particular student need to experience, know, and understand NOW - to maximize their learning? Are we busy “teaching to the test” instead of tailoring our lessons to the needs of the individual student? What changes are you willing to make in your approach to teaching to enhance your student’s passion and satisfaction for their training? 




Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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