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Style descriptions: K

Some styles of martial arts that begin with the letter K.

Karate connection (United States)

An American Kenpo based school created by Chuck Sullivan and Vic LeRoux. It includes techniques from many different styles, a "use what works" mentality.

Kalaripayattu (India)

Kalaripayattu "the art of wielding weapons in the arena" is an ancient form of combat from southern India. According to its tradition, this martial art was founded by the Sage Parasurama around the 4th century CE. It was promoted heavily by the warrior Chieftain Thacholi Othenan of North Malabar, reaching its peak of popularity in the 16th Century.

This art was historically practiced by both men and women. One of the most famous practitioners of this art was the legendary heroine Unniyarcha who won many battles through her great skill. Kalaripayattu includes both armed and unarmed techniques "verumkai" in which punches, kicks, and strikes are directed toward 108 marmas, or vital points. Movements are further taught to be in coordination with breathing (pranayama). Body exercises known as "maipayattu" include body twisting and turning combined with leaps and jumps.

The kalaripayattu student learns the efficient use of such weapons as the "modi" (a double gazelle horned dagger), and the "otta" (an "s" shaped stick made from a type of hardwood from the tamarind tree) that is approximately two feet in length and usually has a knobbed end for use in digging into various nerve centers. Metal weapons called "anga thari" are also used in training. In combat, these weapons consist of swords, sword and shield combinations, knives, daggers, spear, and the "urumi" a type of very flexible double-edged sword.

Kajukenbo (Hawaii)

An eclectic martial art that is a blend of karate (tangsoodo), judo, jujutsu, kempo, and chu'an fa gung fu (Chinese boxing), from which it takes its name. It began in the Palomas settlements of Hawaii from 1949-1952. Five practitioners of their respective martial arts developed kajukenbo to complement each other's styles. Siju Adriano D. Emperado, who practiced kempo and escrima, is credited with the founding of kajukenbo, so kempo forms its base. Other founders were P.Y.Y. Choo, Frank Ordonez, J. Holck, and Professor C. Chang.

To test the effectiveness of their original techniques, the five founders would get into fights around the Palomas settlements (the worst slum in Hawaii at the time). If a technique succeeded consistently in street fighting it was kept as part of the system. From these field tests came quins, known as the palomas sets (patterns), natural laws (self-defense), tricks (close-quarters fighting), and grab arts (escapes).

Kajukenbo is effective at all ranges of fighting: kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling. It stresses self-defense street fighting techniques and uses few patterns. The reason for only a few patterns is the belief that a practitioner must be capable in street-defense situations before turning inward to perfect the "art" of kajukenbo.

At higher levels, there is meditative and chi training. Kajukenbo stresses follow-up techniques based on an opponent's reactions, not stopping with just one hit, to end a fight with the fewest techniques necessary, so it is important to know how an opponent will respond to attacks and how best to take advantage of the reactions.

The training is physically intense and very demanding. Emphasis is placed on bag work (kick, punching, elbows, and knees) as well as sparring and grappling (contact with control). After a certain amount of time training, students begin to throw real punches at each other and their partner is expected to react appropriately or face the consequences. Learning to absorb and soften an impact is also a major facet of training. Quins (patterns) are performed to fine-tune movements while working with partners on self-defense techniques teaches how to manipulate an opponent and follow up on his or her reactions.

Some variations are: pajukenpo, formed in 1970 by Algene Caraulia, kenpo karate is considered to be a sub-style of kajukenbo and is very close to the original kajukenbo; tum pai, created in part by Sifu Al Dacascos, is administered by Sifu Jon Loren, and incorporates more of the soft, internal Chinese arts; kajukenbo chuan-fa was created by Dela Cruz and Professor Emperado and has been taken over by Leonard Endrizzi and Bill Owens. It includes more Chinese martial arts than kenpo karate and is softer, but no less rigorous; and wunhopkuendo, the newest sub-style, created by Sifu Dacascos, it contains the original syllabus but with more Chinese and Filipino influence.

Kalarippayat (India)

Kalarippayat is an ancient Indian martial art that uses pressure ­point strikes, yoga stretching, and venous strangely shaped weapons. Its name literally means "battlefield training." Many researchers theorize that it was the basis upon which the Chinese martial arts developed because they contend that Bodhidharma, the Chinese Buddhist monk Kalarippayat taught at Shaolin temple, would have learned Kalarippayat in India and transplanted it, along with his religion, to China. Few Kalarippayat practitioners teach anywhere in the world—even in India. Much of the art is said to have degenerated into a martial dance.


Keichu-do (total devotion to the way) is a scientifically-based, realistic American street fighting art. It was founded in 1960 in the bayou of Louisiana by Dr. Karl William Marx Sr. It teaches that, in self-defense situations, it is best to use simple, no-nonsense techniques to strike the attacker in areas that cause a cascading, destructive crumbling effect to stop the attack before it becomes deadly. Since many attacks begin without warning and the victim is knocked down, keichu-do teaches grappling and self-defense from vulnerable positions that are useful for small people and women. The basic fighting philosophy is to "fight smarter, not harder" and to end any confrontation as quickly as possible.

Keichu-do uses 53 self-defense katas that demonstrate techniques used to disable attackers who use commonly encountered types of attack. Keichu-do uses efficiency of movement and inherent weaknesses in the design of the human anatomy to disable opponents by significantly damaging their anatomy, even when they are larger/stronger than you are.

This "unique" "American" martial art is based upon, and uses, the techniques of traditional Japanese martial arts, such as karate, jujutsu, and judo, and it uses kata, karate weapons, karate uniforms and color belts, Japanese terminology. What is supposedly unique in keichu-do is the way the traditional arts are combined with the experiences of Soke Marx, who states that he has had no formal training in the traditional martial arts.

Traditional martial arts are based upon the Eastern philosophies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions. Keichu-Do is based upon the Western philosophy of Christianity. Instruction concentrates on physical, mental, and spiritual training and students are held to a high level of moral and ethical standards.

Kempo (China)

Kempo "way of the fist" (also known as quan-fa, chuan-fa, jiao deishu, kaiki, and kenyu) is a Chinese martial art. Its techniques are similar to karate with a focus on Buddhist philosophy. Other arts, such as archery and swordsmanship are also taught in kempo schools.

Kempo (Ryukyu) (Okinawa)

Ryukyu kempo (which roughly translates into Okinawan kung-fu, or Chinese boxing science) is the original style of martial arts learned and taught by Gichin Funakoshi on Okinawa, an island in the Ryukyu island chain. It stresses the existence of body points within your opponent that can be struck or grappled for more effective fighting.

Funakoshi's first edition book "Ryukyu kempo" shows him clearly grappling and touching an opponent. Later editions and current karate books only show a practitioner with a retracted punch, where the original shows him actively grappling an enemy. It is felt that Funakoshi was the last of the purists, wanting all to learn the art.

Okinawans, who have a culture and history of their own, became disenchanted with the Japanese and were less inclined to teach them the "secret techniques" of self-defense. When American military soldiers occupied Japan after WWII, they were fascinated with the martial arts. It is theorized that the Japanese and Okinawans were reluctant to teach the secrets of their national art to the occupiers, and so taught a "watered down" version of karate-do usually reserved for children.

Contemporary kempo practitioners practice "pressure point fighting" or kyushu-jitsu and grappling, called tuite. It is an exact art of striking small targets on the body, such as nerve centers, and grappling body points in manners like jujitsu or aikido. There are three physical differences in kempo and many other styles:
  • One is a three-quarter punch, rather than a full twist. 
  • Second is a fist whereby the thumb stops at the first finger, rather than the first two fingers. 
  • Third is the sword hand, which has the little finger placed as parallel as possible to the third finger and the thumb straight and on the inside rather than bent.

Kendo (Japan)

Kendo "way of the sword" is a sport and competitive derivative of kenjutsu. It is a very formal art; linear, hard, and external. Kenjutsu, a general term referring to various sword arts, originated in the 7th or 8th century and became a focus of training for the professional warrior beginning in the 16th century until the modern era, which began in 1868.

Practitioners wear samurai clothing and protective armor and use simulated swords (split bamboo called a "shinai" or wood sword called a "bokken") to spar against one another. Strike areas are limited (head, throat, wrists, and sides of the body) and movements are limited. Most techniques are attacks, very little defense is used. Since skill and technique are more important than size and strength, men and women compete against each other.

Training mostly consists of two-person drills, basics, and some patterns that have been retained from kenjutsu. Today, kendo it is one of the most popular martial disciplines in Japan and is taught as part of the public school curriculum. Although a competitive sport, it emphasizes practice as a discipline to develop personal, moral, ethical, and spiritual values.

Kenjutsu (Japanese)

The Japanese combative use of a sword. The origins of this art are lost in history. It probably has its origins in 11th or 12th century Japan. It is famous in myth and stories from people like Miyamoto Mushashi in the 15th century.

There are 4 root systems, cujo-ryu, nen-ryu, kage-ryu, and shinto-ryu. These probably all have roots prior to the beginning of the 16th century. In the 16th century, there was an explosion of styles, with many being formed between then and the present. Modern kenjutsu schools trace their history from either the monk Jion (Nen-ryu or Cujo-ryu) or from Iiosai, the founder of the tenshin-shoden-katori shinto-ryu. It was outlawed in 1876 when the wearing of swords was outlawed.

Modern kenjutsu uses a large amount of two-person work, mostly with wooden swords. It involves powerful, high commitment strikes to selected targets to kill the opponent. Some schools use the fukuro shinai, an ancestor of today's weapon. It requires strong spiritual and philosophical study, like that of aikido.

Kenpo (Kosho Ryu) (Japan)

A Japanese based, philosophical art much like jeet-kune-do but with a Zen influence, meaning lots of mind science material and healing arts. It is not a style of compiled patterns or specific techniques; it is a study of all motion and therefore cannot be stylized to look like a specific teacher or animal movement.

Kenpo is the family style of Grandmaster James Mitose. It was first taught to non-family members in Hawaii during the 1940's and 1950's. Mitose called his family style kyusho-ryu kenpo (old pine tree school fist law). According to Mitose, during the invasion of Genghis Khan, the head monk of the shaolin temple fled China and found refuge with the Mitose family. In appreciation for the kindness of the Mitose's, he taught them shaolin-chuan-fa (shorinji kempo in Japanese). In 1235, a Shinto priest, whom James Mitose calls his first ancestor, became enlightened to what we call kempo.

According to Mitose, this man was a martial arts master and a Buddhist monk studying at shaka, who found it difficult to be both. His religion taught him pacifism; his martial art taught him destruction. He pondered this dilemma under an old pine tree, meaning kosho in Japanese. He became enlightened and was from then on known as, Kosho Bosatsu, the old pine tree enlightened one. He discovered the relationship between man and nature and also the secret of the escaping arts. He founded the Kosho Shorei Temple of Peace True Self Defense and the Kosho Shorei Yoga School.

One of James Mitose's students, William Chow, mixed kenpo with elements of his father’s Chinese style to produce his own style, called kara-ho kenpo. Kenpo's techniques were influenced by those of various Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian martial arts. Kenpo training emphasizes a scientific approach to combat. Many patterns, rapid-fire hand techniques, and combinations are taught. Ed Parker popularized the style on the mainland by organizing the style and orienting it toward practical street self-defense. Although it is often categorized as an American martial art, the style's name is written with the same Chinese characters as chuan-fa, a generic Chinese term for martial arts. The art received a popularity boost after Jeff Speakman, a student of Parker's, showcased it in the movie "Perfect Weapon."

Kiai jitsu (Japan)

The esoteric art of using a loud shout (kiai) as a weapon, or as a tool to compliment a technique.

Kickboxing (United States)

Kickboxing is a modern martial sport that combines the hand techniques of Western boxing with the kicks of the Asian martial arts. Although it can be used for self-defense, it is primarily a ring sport. Legends of kickboxing, most of whom rose to star status in the 1970s and 1980s, include Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Kathy Long, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, and Dennis Alexio. Kickboxing techniques have been adapted for use in various exercise programs that have nothing to do with fighting.

Kobujutsu (Okinawa)

Kobo-jutsu is an Okinawan style of karate characterized by the large array of weapons it uses. The style makes extensive use of forms to perfect techniques.
Kobudo (Okinawan)
Kobudo literally means "ancient martial ways." It generally refers to those traditional Okinawan weapons whose history and practice has been linked to Karate. Most Okinawan styles have at least some kobudo/kobujutsu curriculum. In addition, there are at least two major Okinawan organizations whose primary focus is these weapons arts: the ryukyu kobudo hozon shinko-kai and the Okinawa kobudo renmei.

The most common kobudo weapons (and the ones most often taught by Okinawan karate systems) are:
  • Bo. A staff, usually a rokushakubo or "six-foot staff," although 4, 9, and 12-foot staffs are also used.
  • Sai. Three-tined iron clubs, usually carried as a set of 3.
  • Nunchaku. Two short tapered wooden clubs connected at the narrow ends by a short rope or chain.
  • Kama. A sickle, used singly or in pairs.
  • Tonfa. A club with a hand-length perpendicular handle, the ancestor to the police PR-24, usually used in pairs. Koa. A hoe.
  • Eku. A boat oar
  • Tekko. Essentially brass knuckles.
  • Shuchu. A small stick about 5" long.
  • Sansetsukon. A 3-section staff.
  • Surujin/suruchin. A weighted chain with a spike or blade on one end, like the Chinese chain whip or the Japanese manrikigusari.
  • Tinbe. This is two weapons, the tinbe itself, which is a small shield traditionally made of the shell of a sea tortoise, and the "rochin," which is a short spear with a cutting blade.
  • Kusarigama. A kama on the end of a rope or chain; and "nunti" a short spear.

Krav-maga (Israel)

Krav-maga "contact fight/battle" was developed in Israel in the early forties when the underground liberation organizations were fighting for the independence of the State of Israel. At that time, it was illegal to possess weapons. The founder was Emrich "Imi" Lichtenfeld, a champion heavyweight boxer, a judo champion, an expert in jujitsu, a trapeze acrobat, and a well-known dancer.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, krav-maga was adopted as the official martial art taught in the defense forces, especially in elite police and army units. It was integrated into army training by Lichtenfeld, a career IDF officer and chief instructor at the army's physical training facility at the Wingate Institute. Over the years, the krav-maga has become an integrated part of training in many disciplines such as educational institutes. Today, it is taught in many Israeli public schools.

Krav-maga was developed with the perception that classic martial arts were developed to combat weapons different than those of today. Therefore, new unique defensive techniques against weapons as pistols, guns, and hand grenades were developed. It has no patterns or specific sequences that must be followed. Students use the basic moves in conjunction with any one of a number of other moves to fend off an attack, the key idea being adaptability to new situations through improvisation.

Training is for practical usage and no contests are used. Emphasis is on speed, endurance, strength, accuracy, and coordination. Since krav-maga is for self-defense, it does not have any constitution and judicial rules; therefore, there are no contests and exhibitions. The training is for practical usage in the everyday reality. There is a color belt system with a black belt typically granted after 8 to 10 years of practice. Spiritual and philosophical aspects are studied only at the black belt level.

Kuk-Sool (Korea)

Kuk-sool is a Korean martial art founded in 1958 by Suh In­hyuk. Suh claims to have traveled around Korea as a youth to learn traditional arts from various masters. Those styles included koong-joong-mu-sool (royal palace martial arts) and sado-mu-sool (tribal martial arts). Suh then combined all the techniques into the art he named kuk-sool, which means "national skills." Kuk-sool is one of the most comprehensive systems in the world. It includes numerous kicks, punches, palm strikes, throws, joint locks, pressure ­point strikes, breaking, ki (internal energy) development, and breathing exercises. Instruction often focuses on weapons, including the long sword, short sword, staff, short stick, fan, and rope.

Kung-Sool (Korea)

Kung-sool is the Korean art of archery. Koreans have always preferred archery (both afoot and mounted) to the sword. The training is arduous; students often perform 300 dry pulls and shooting 1000 arrows daily.

Kumdo (Korea)

Kumdo is a Korean martial art of the sword, similarly to Japanese kendo.

Kyokushin-Kai (Japan)

Kyokushinkai is a Japanese style of karate founded by Oyama Masutatsu in the 1950s. The style was influenced by kempo, goju-ryu, and Zen. It is powerful art that emphasized breaking, breathing, multiple attacks in quick succession, and kill techniques.

Kyudo (Japan)

Kyudo "way of the bow" is Japanese classical target archery. It is the oldest of Japan's traditional martial arts; the bow has been used in Japan since prehistoric times. From the 4th to 9th centuries, close contacts between China and Japan had a great influence on Japanese archery, especially the Confucian belief that through a person's archery his true character could be determined.

Over hundreds of years, archery was influenced by the Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions along with the pressing practical requirements of warriors. Court nobles concentrated on ceremonial archery, while the warrior class emphasized kyujutsu, the martial art of using the bow in actual warfare.

With the introduction of firearms, the bow as a weapon was neglected and almost died out until Honda Toshizane, a kyudo instructor at Tokyo Imperial University, combined elements of the warrior style and the court ceremonial style into a hybrid style which ultimately became known as honda-ryu. This style found great favor with the public and Honda is generally credited with saving Japanese archery from oblivion.

With the American occupation banning all martial art instruction, traditional kyujutsu schools declined further, and when the ban was lifted, kyudo, as opposed to kyujutsu, became widely practiced. The Zen Nihon Kyudo Federation was established in 1953, publishing the standard kyudo textbook called the Kyohon, and overseeing kyudo development, both in Japan and internationally.

Kyudo is a highly meditative martial art whose ultimate goals are shin (truth, the ultimate reality), zen (goodness), and bi (beauty). By diligent practice, Confucian theory teaches that the archer will become morally good (Zen), and this sincerity of personality will excite the aesthetic sense of anyone watching, giving the performance a beauty derived not only from the technical skill of the archer but also from the archer's emotional maturity and spiritual sincerity.

All students, no matter which instructor or school, will shoot the same design of Japanese bow that is changed very little from the 12th century. Shooting the bow is difficult since the kyudo bow is asymmetrical and over 7 feet long with arrows over 3 feet long. Traditionally made of hardwoods, laminated front and back with bamboo, the Japanese bow is one of the longest in the world. It is a natural double recurve bow with the arrow nocked one-third of the way from the bottom and the bow rotating about 270 degrees in the hand at release. The unique design of the bow requires that the bow be twisted in full draw to make the arrow fly straight.

Much attention is paid to the ritual of shooting the arrow. The way an arrow is shot is more important than its accuracy. Students typically begin by practicing visualization: performing the shooting motions with no equipment and then perhaps using the gomuyumi (rubber bow), a short stick with a length of rubber tube attached, to acquire the feel of real bow resistance. The first actual shots are fired into a straw bundle, called a makiwara, from a short distance of about three feet. The student then progresses to target shooting at a fixed regulation distance of 28 meters.

Styles may be divided into two broad categories, shamen-uchikoshi and the modern shomen-uchikoshi style, developed by Honda Toshizane. Shamen archers pre-draw the bow at an angle to the body and fix their grip on the bow before raising it. Shomen archers raise the bow straight over the head and fix their final grip on the bow in a pre-draw above the head.

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