is a combat sport
practiced in Japan
During a match, the object of both contestants is to be the first one to reach a predetermined amount of points by hitting the head and body of his opponent. In order to score a point, the contact must be solid, i.e. full-contact,(glancing blows/light contact are not considered to be a point)- there are a number of acceptible ways to hit someone to score a point including:
- punching- no elbowing allowed, however.
- kicking- above the waist only.
- throwing- after which one must use a kick, knee or punch on a prone opponent to score a point- this is also one instance when light contact is sufficient to score a point. Furthermore, when on the ground, grappling, including armbars and choking is also acceptible(but made difficult by the use of boxing gloves).
When contact is made, the contestant must also call out to the judge that a point has been scored. At the beginning of a match, participants bow to each other as they take the floor, then squat facing each other (like in the beginning of a sumo
by touching their right fist to the ground, and then begin the match.
The standard uniform in kenpo is a gi, like in karate, judo or many other japanese martial arts. Also, due to the fact that the hitting in kenpo is full-contact, contestants wear a chestplate, helmet, and boxing gloves. In reality, two chestplates are worn, one a softer padding-type chestplate and the other a harder, 2-segmented outer chestplate. They offer very good protection- strikes to the stomach are basically painless. The helmet, on the other hand, is made of metal piping about 1 cm in diameter and is tied onto the head- it is fairly tight, particularly around the chin, and not particularly well-padded, so that being hit is still somewhat painful and can even result in being knocked out. The gloves are fairly standard boxing gloves, although many practicioners wear wrist supporters or tape underneath the gloves in order to protect their hands further. Knee and shin guards are also worn by some.
Generally, the main bulk of the fighting in kenpo is done with punching. The main reason for this is the no-low kick rule and the hard helmet (shoes are not worn, so kicks and knees to the head are painful, though legal)- without kicks to the legs or head, it becomes very difficult to kick to the body because the opponent knows the target already. The kicks that are used are generally push-type kicks used either to move an opponent away or to score a point on the chest under the opponent's guard as he advances. Infighting is done mostly with the knees (directed at the chest) and with throwing- a punch around a clinch in close quarters, while painful, does not count as a point, whereas a knee does. Generally in an uneven height situation, the taller man will knee while the shorter will attempt to throw- as styles and strengths of different contestants vary, some people will look to tie up while others will throw off the tie and go back to fighting at a distance. When throwing does occur, whoever ends up on top must try to stand in order to strike, while the person on the ground tries to escape or reverse in order to get on top. Generally the throws that are used are variants on the arm throw/ bear hug, as the boxing gloves limit one's grip severely. Wrestling-type shooting has a lot against it due to the partly to the use of knee strikes and more to do with the boxing gloves. Also matches are held between members of the same rank (the ranking system is white belt-brown belt- 1st degree black belt- 2nd degree black belt etc.) rather than the same weight class, so sometimes throwing becomes difficult when facing a heavier opponent.
Pros and Cons of Nihon Kempo as training for Street Fighting
- Full contact- trains participants to be accustomed to being hit full-force
- Strenuous training- Practices generally last 1-2 hours, with basically all of the practice being devoted to sparring.
- Diversity of techniques- Includes punching, grappling, and kicking techniques as well as groundfighting.
- Lack of low kicks-unrealistic
- Boxing gloves limit grappling
- Point system makes practicioners accustomed to stop fighting after a hit has been scored, furthermore participants are accustomed to hitting/being hit only on the head and chest.