Kendo vs. Kenpō: Key Differences

Kendo vs Kenpo lg

Both Kendo and Kenpō are martial arts that can be easily confused because of the similarity in the names. But they are very different. So let’s explore the differences between Kendo vs. Kenpo.

Here’s what I found out:

Kendo is Japanese fencing, while Kenpō, sometimes called Kempo in the United States, is a refined form of modern Karate with a focus on intense practicality. Kenpō is superb for self-defense, whereas Kendo is primarily for sport and not defending oneself.

But there’s a lot more to know.

So, in this article, we’ll explore whether Kendo is a fighting style and the difference between Kendo and Kempo. But, we’ll also explore the benefits of Kendo.

Let the fun begin.

Is Kendo a fighting style?

Strictly speaking, Kendo is not a fighting style. It is Japanese fencing and is not used for fighting or self-defense. Rather, Kendo is a sport that is beautiful to watch and that requires years of devotion before one can be adept at it. 

Kendo is believed to have been one of the ways the samurai practice sword fighting in a manner that’s unlikely to cause injuries seeing as wooden mock swords are used.

That being said, officially, Kendo was born long after the samurai were gone.

But Kendo was born from the ancient art of Kenjutsu, which was employed by the samurai. But Kendo is a sport and not a self-defense system.

There’s no possibility of an actual fight taking place, and it does not translate to an actual street fight. It’s a sport and an alluring art form. It’s not a fighting style.

You’ve probably wondered whether martial arts are even worth the hassle? 

I bet you’ll enjoy reading a recent article where I shared the reasons why it’s important to learn martial arts. I looked at whether they make you violent and if they teach you discipline. But I also shared some of the downsides.

Just click the link to read it on my side.

What is the difference between Kenpō and Kempo?

Kenpō and Kempo are the same as the “n” and “m” often get used for one another in translations. Both words refer to a Japanese translation of the Chinese expression: “Chuan Fa”, which is an umbrella term for self-defense systems with a Chinese origin.

“Chuan Fa” to the Chinese would mean “boxing” or “fighting technique”, but would be a collective term for “Chinese boxing” or “Chinese fighting techniques” to the Japanese.

And the reason why one is spelled with N while the other is spelled with M is simply a romanization error. Romanization is when Latin script is employed to write the Japanese language.

So what’s the difference between the two words as they are often used today? In the 1940s in Hawaii, Reverend James Mitose taught Kosho-Ryu Kenpo Jujutsu.

The difference occurred in Hawaii and consequently spread into other places.

It is due to Professor William Chow’s desire to separate himself from Mitose’s style and even his own students’ style to distinguish the style he taught. So, he opted for keMpo, instead of keNpo. Kenpo refers to the style popularized by Chow’s student Ed Parker (an American), while Kempo refers to the variant by Professor Chow.

Kenpō, you’ve gathered, can be brutal. 

But you couldn’t help but wonder how it compares to Krav Maga. You don’t have to wonder anymore because a recent article of mine is a deep dive into the issue.

In it, I looked at how Kenpo compares to Krav Maga and whether Kenpo is good for self-defense. But I also explored which one’s more effective in a street fight.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What are the benefits of Kendo?

The benefits of Kendo include physical fitness, strength, and endurance. It teaches Kendokas the skill of performing with calmness, concentration, and mental clarity even when faced with difficult situations. And they get to master a host of techniques.

But what they gain is how to face challenges even when the odds are against us.

Another huge benefit that comes with practicing Kendo is that it relieves stress. Modern life is super stressful, and the truth is that most of us can do nothing about the stress.

Kendo offers a way to learn how to cope with it.

It’s strange, I admit, how two adults fencing with wooden swords can gradually forget the challenges they have to contend with in their personal and professional lives and how they become more “in control” from a simple art like Kendo.

The truth is that it’s incredibly refreshing.

Kendo is budo, as shown in the “do” in the name. So, it’s not just about fencing but rather about the development of one’s character. Focus, the right attitude, concentration, and respect for others are some of the benefits.

Such is the physical demands the sport makes on the practitioner’s body. Of course, it’s not real sword fighting, but it still offers physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.

Kendo is essentially Japanese fencing. 

You’ve probably wondered about how it differs from Western fencing. A recent article of mine is an exploration of the crucial differences between Kendo and fencing. In it, I looked at whether fencing is like sword fighting and if Kendo is good for self-defense. I even offered advice on whether to choose fencing or Kendo.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Are Kenpō and Kung Fu the same?

Kenpō and Kung Fu are not the same. Kenpō is a Japanese term for martial arts that are of Chinese origin, while Kung Fu is a Chinese term that refers to the study, learning, or pursuit that requires energy and time to complete. And several martial arts fall under the umbrella of Kung Fu.

In a nutshell, it means “skill.”

But in terms of how they’re often used in practice, Kenpō is a style of and an extension of Karate, while Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art.

In point of fact, there are a lot of fighting styles of Chinese origin that qualify as Kung Fu. Kung Fu includes a wide range of arts, including Tai Chi and Bruce Lee’s original art of Wing Chun.

So, Kenpō Karate is a distinct martial art, while Kung fu is a collective term.

Kenpō and Kung Fu are similar because Karate, the basis of Kenpō, is an offshoot of Shaolin Kung Fu. Kenpo is a mix of striking and grappling, a 75% to 25% ratio.

And it’s about efficiency. Kenpō fighters are taught to focus on the weak parts of their opponent’s body and to ensure that their blocks are also strikes!

So, it’s a lethal fighting style.

At one point, Kung Fu was arguably the most popular martial art form in the world. It was popularized by the iconic and beloved Bruce Lee. A name that was known everywhere. It’s defined by swiftness and trickery. It’s mainly a striking art, but there are styles where joint locks are also taught.

Kung Fu is believed to be based on the movement of some animals. This probably explains the plethora of animal references in the art. “The snake in the monkey’s shadow.”

“Enter the Dragon” readily comes to mind.

Is Kempo the same as Karate?

Kempo is a derivative of Karate, but not exactly the same. It’s been modified to make it focused on self-defense. Karate is more traditional and includes a lot of work on katas and stances, which are less focused on self-defense.

In a sense, Kempo is Karate 2.0.

It’s an American variant that’s been redesigned to be intensely practical. Gone are the usual dancelike moves that are common to most Asian martial arts.

Kempo is designed for the street. Kempo students are encouraged to personalize what they are learning.

So, it’s not about the repetition of Katas. It would enable you to win fights swiftly. In addition to a focus on the opponent’s vulnerable parts, there’s also a dynamic stance shifting that’s taught, which makes it easier for you to defend yourself effectively.

Karate means “empty hand.” It’s a martial art form in which Karatekas fight without any weapons (empty hand). They employ almost every part of the body to attack and defend themselves in a highly calculated manner.

For example, an adept Karateka would only strike when they are positive of its intended impact. But it’s also a budo. It’s a “way.” A path of self-discipline that’s focused on character development.

Different Types of Kempo | ART OF ONE DOJO


In the article, we explored whether Kenpō is a fighting style and what is the difference between Kenpō and Kempo.

But we also explored the benefits of Kendo. Then, we checked out whether Kenpō and Kung Fu are the same. Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering whether Kempo is the same as Karate.

Image by Dance Yokoo from Pixabay

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