The American Kenpo
"Excerpts from the Diary of a 'Mad' Kenpo Scientist"
by Dr. Ron Chapél
The American Kenpo Salutation is a combination of the "old and the new.” The initial part of our salute honors the originators of the art, the Chinese. Prior to the establishment of what was called "Shao-lin," an open left hand resting on a clenched right fist was used as a salutation or salute just before the commencement of a set or form. There were several meanings to this gesture:
(1) Respect to the originator of the particular system, including
all who had studied before him, with him, and presently study under him.
(2) Respect to those who would spectate and observe the movements.
(3) Respect to both scholars and warriors who were practitioners alike, since the left hand (open) of this salutation represented the scholar and the right hand (clenched), the man who actually executed the science.
During the period of the Shao-lin in the Ch'ing Dynasty, the meaning of the gesture changed when two additional movements were added. The change was that the left hand represented the sun, the right hand the moon. With this change, the combination of sun and moon represented the Chinese character Ming, thus meaning "revolutionary defenders for the cause of the Ming restoration." The two additional movements which were added to the sun and the moon were formed by placing the back of the hands together with both palms out. The fingers at this point were in a claw-like-fashion and raised to the chest and heart. This gesture meant,
"We are against foreign invasion and our hearts are for China." The last movement was to clench both hands and draw them to the sides of the waist. This pulling gesture meant, "By pulling and working together we can take our country back." The Hungs, who were secret triad societies in China, perpetuated these movements. In short, "Scholar and warrior, united together, back to back, pulling together, to defend against the foreign intruders.”
The execution of this can be seen in and is explained in the book, "Ed Parker's Secrets of Chinese Karate" still available from the Parker family.
The first part of the salutation was preserved in recognition and respect to the traditions set forth by the Chinese. The concluding portion of the salutation was added to tie in the heritage of the "old" with the logic of the "new" and innovative fighting science. There is a misconception this came from Mitose. These movements have always existed in one form or another in the Chinese, and were not new. Although Mitose did come to use the hand gestures, they were usually used independent of each other, and not in the inclusive pattern those of American kenpo are familiar with.
The second part of the saluatation interprets as an explanation of the original Kenpo Creed by Ed Parker which does not use the word "karate" which was inadvertently recited later.
I come to you with empty hands; (I am friendly and unarmed)
I have no weapons. (Both hands are place together as they form the shape of a triangle.)
I now cover my weapon, my fist which is my treasure, for I do not wish to use it. (Your left open hand is used to conceal your right clenched fist.)
Now that I am being forced to use my weapon, to momentarily become an animal, I pray for forgiveness for what I may do. (Both hands are placed together as if praying.)
The salutation ends by outwardly circling the clawing hands and arms in an outward clawing movement coming to attention. (Warding away all evil in my presence and letting nothing deter me from my goal and moral convictions)
The reasons for the Scholar/Warrior anaology are important. Within the Chinese Culture there was a very strong caste system in place. The truly educated were priviledged and considered too "valuable" to fight in wars and conflict. Therefore it was the "warrior" who fought but he was directed by the "scholar" in the ways of Martial Science. That is, the warrior didn't always understand the methods of his fighting, all he knew was that it "worked." The scholars devised the methods and manner of the execution of the training and the implimentation of the "fighting sciences," while the "warriors" went forth and performed as instructed.
The combination of the "warrior and scholar" in a singular person was rare. Not because the scholar couldn't fight, (after all they had first hand knowledge,) but simply because the knowledge was so valuable, the chance could not be taken that they would be killed or injured in battle or conflict. So it is today. The truly scholarly teacher directs his students in the methods that will cause him to be successful, however because it is a true science, the student may not always understand "why" things work, only that they do. Some students will come to understand more than others based on simple things as intellect and personal coviction. The scholar and warrior insure the co-existence of each other. The warrior would not exist without the directions of the scholar, and without the warrior to train, the scholar would have no purpose.