Katsu-Ryu Kempo is a martial arts system that incorporates 12 animals into its fighting techniques, forms and bunkai. Although considered a Japanese Martial Art system Katsu-Ryu Kempo derives its roots from ancient Chinese Gung-Fu. This Japanese martial arts system more closely ties to traditional Chinese systems than any other Japanese system available today.
There isn’t much-written history about Katsu-Ryu Kempo but what we do know is that it was originally a Chinese martial arts system that eventually made its way to Japan. During his time in the U.S. Army, Ruiz would travel via air from Korea to Japan and train at the main school of Zen ShotoKai Karate-Do. Ruiz learned Katsu-Ryu Kempo during his time at the Zen ShotoKai from Kanki Izumikawa in the 1960’s. Soke Joseph Ruiz is now considered the foremost expert of Katsu-Ryu Kempo in the United States.
Katsu-Ryu Kempo isn’t a widespread studied art and its knowledge is only given out to a trusted few practitioners in the IKKU – International Karate Kobudo Union. Katsu-Ryu is considered an advanced art form and you must earn the right to learn this art and associated techniques after proving your knowledge and expertise in Kotosu-Ha Shito-Ryu. Progression in the system will include training from Basic Charts, Basic Kata, Advanced Kata and Bunkai.
“Kempo” or “Kenpo”
There has been speculation about the derivatives between the terms Kempo and Kenpo. After researching this anomaly it appears that there is really no difference between the two other than a slight phonetic difference. The term Kenpo generally comes from the Chinese side of thought and training while Kempo generally comes from the Japanese side of thought and training. In the end, they both translate to essentially the same meaning, “The Law of the Fist” or “Fist Way”.
The term Katsu in this Kempo system, in context, translates to “Energy”. So altogether Energy from the Law of the Fist or Energy of the Way of the Fist. When looking at the Katsu-Ryu emblem you see an open hand over a fist which can symbolically be translated into Peace over War.
Each of the 12 Animals (shown below) have their own specific stances, defenses and striking techniques which makes them all unique in their own way. At a basic level of knowledge, a practitioner may only utilize one animal form individually against an opponent. At advanced levels, students are able to string multiple animal forms together which allows for unique approaches towards bunkai.
- Praying Mantis
Kempo charts follow a natural progression from beginner to master level much like the traditional Karate belt system. The Kempo charts utilize colors to represent each step towards mastery of the system. They begin with White aka Beginner Level and progress all the way through White Silk aka Master Level. Each chart series includes 5 combinations which add up to a total of 40 combinations for all the colors. All chart series bunkai are performed against live attackers. Each combination itself includes Blocks, Strikes, Kicks, Pressure Points, Joint Locks and Take Downs. As mentioned above, these charts are not beginner level techniques to a typical Karateka, but instead considered advanced techniques. As a student in the IKKU – International Karate Kobudo Union progresses along their path in Karate-Do they will also be introduced to the appropriate Katsu-Ryu Kempo Chart and Techniques as a requirement for their appropriate level of knowledge.
- White Silk