6 Best Kenpo Karate Techniques For Self-Defense

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There are numerous great Kenpo Karate techniques for self-defense, but here, let’s talk about six of the best.

These six techniques cover self-defense against a variety of attacks. Everything from a right punch to an attack from an overhead club. Here, you’ll have a good idea of the types of attacks Kenpo Karate specializes in, why they’re effective, and how they’re executed.

The techniques listed will cover the named techniques found in the Tracy System of Kenpo. The technique names sound a little odd with exotic names, but remember, it really does help in recognizing and differentiating them while mastering them.

Let’s get into the techniques!

Kimono Grab (Two-Hand Grab)

An example self-defense scenario of a person being grabbed by the collar with two hands

This is not a defense against a kimono grabbing you. Instead, it’s a defense against someone holding your shirt up high with two hands. 

Being grabbed by the shirt is one of the first aggressive postures a person deals with in life. Especially any child who has had to deal with a bully. Pretty much every teenager and young adult have had this happen to them at some time in the past, too.

And if you’ve had one too many, you’ve probably had a bouncer grab you by the shirt as well.

This technique is very effective for breaking that hold. And leaving your attacker or bully second-guessing their actions.

It involves a chop to the throat, an elbow sandwich to the head, a hammer fist to the crotch, and a back kick. Yeah, they’ll second guess their actions.

The Technique Explained

You’re going to start by pinning your attacker’s hands against your chest with your left hand.

From there, bring your right forearm down on their elbows to break their hold, shuttle into them and chop their throat, elbow smash their head, pivot and hammer fist their testicles, back kick their gut, and then walk away.

Fast, fast, fast.

Darkness (Sucker Punch from the Right)

A business man taking a sucker punch from the right

This one is a defense against a right sucker punch from the right side. This is good to know because no one likes a sucker punch.

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And this is another attack most people have experienced at some point in their lives. Although the one doing the punching always seems to be the most petite person with the loudest mouth. But that’s just an observation.

It’s an excellent technique to know, as well, because it teaches not just how to defend the punch but also finish the attacker off so that they can’t get another strike in.

Seriously, it does. An eye rake, a heel palm to the kidney, a back fist to the head, and a head sandwich.

Yeah, they’re not coming back at you after all that.

The Technique Explained

You’re going to step away from the punch and parry it away, then step around behind your attacker while raking their eye and striking their kidneys with a heel palm at the same time.

From there, your right-hand forms and back fist and hits the back of their head. Kick the back of their knee with a side thrust kick to bring them to the ground.

Lastly, finish them off with an elbow smash to the head.

Windmill Guard (Punch from the Front)

A man on the street taking a punch to the face

If you’ve never dealt with a sucker punch from the side, you may have dealt with a punch from the front, whether you knew it was coming or not.

This technique offers a simple defense against such a punch, but, as was the case with Darkness, it also teaches how to render the attacker unable to fight back before you’re away.

It’s a fast technique that demonstrates the quick, circular motions that Kenpo is known for (hence the Windmill in the name) and the simple but powerful finish.

The defense described here is against a right punch. The technique is just as effective against a left-handed punch. You just mirror the motions, i.e., parry with your right hand instead of the left, etc.

The Technique Explained

You step forward to the left as your attacker punches, parrying the blow at the same time with your left hand.

From there, use your right forearm to further block the punch with an extended outward block in a circular motion and transition to grabbing their wrist.

Then, right roundhouse-kick them in the body and cover away.

Flowing Hands (Two Person Attack from Sides)

A woman struggling to defend herself against two attackers

Two people are attacking you, one on each side. Yikes!

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Now here is a situation you’ve hopefully never had to deal with. But if you have, it would have been good to know this. If you haven’t, that’s good for you because no one ever should.

However, if you do face such a situation, this technique is excellent, although more complex than most, to know. Then again, fighting off two attackers from each side is complex enough already.

It teaches you how to neutralize the first attacker before disabling the second and finally disabling the first. It is very fluid and fast. And again, you’ll see throat chops, eye rakes, and a series of kicks.

That all aside, this technique is beneficial not just for disabling your attackers but for getting yourself out of a dangerous situation quickly before either one can get their arms around you.

The Technique Explained

Step to the right and deliver a right chop to the throat of the attacker to the right.

While they’re coughing and grabbing their throat, swing around to your left and slash the attacker’s eye on the left with your right fingers, following quickly with a left chop to the throat.

Sweep your left foot behind you, plant and right front kick the attacker on your original right, and then right back kick the other attacker.

Spinning from the Sun (Overhand Club Attack)

A person using self-defense against an attacker wielding a baseball bat as a weapon

If you ever have to deal with an overhanded club attack, sorry. That’s a horrible day.

It’s hard to imagine the situation you must be in at that time.

But the one thing to remember about modern Kenpo Karate is that it was updated to be more and more of a street style of self-defense. It’s meant to teach you to defend yourself in dangerous situations that you might find yourself in, like a back alley where a mugger may use a club.

This technique is an excellent example of defending against such a situation. What’s also great is it takes the attack to the attacker by disarming them and then using their own club against them.

You literally take their own club, take out their knee with it, take out their elbow, then smack them in the face with it, and then roundhouse-kick them in the head for good measure.

The Technique Explained

Step forward with your left foot and intercept the club hand with your hands crossed right over the left.

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From there, grab the wrist with your left hand and the attacker’s hand and club with your right. With both your hands still maintaining control of the wrist, hand and club, swing the attacker’s right arm and club into the attacker’s knee.

Now take the club with your right hand while still holding the wrist with your left while swinging under the attacker’s arm and pulling it down until the attacker is pretty much bent over.

Smash the club through his elbow and then bring it up through his face. Finish the attacker off with a roundhouse to the head.

Leap of Death (Right punch)

A boxer taking a punch to the face

In the introduction, I said that some of the titles of these techniques sound exotic. This one’s a bit more on the nose.

It’s a defense against a right punch from the front. But where Windmill Guard was an effective and quick defense against a punch, this one literally eliminates the punch’s danger and takes the attack to your attacker rather than giving you an escape route.

The Technique Explained

You step forward toward the punch, block and grab the wrist with your right hand, smash the elbow with your left hand, back fist to the ribs, palm strike to the shoulder, and take your attacker to the ground.

You then jump and come down, raking both heels across their kidney, drop your knees into their spine between their shoulder blades, lift their head backward, twisting their neck to the side.

Twisting the head to the side makes it easier to chop the bridge of the nose, breaking it.

From there, jump up and roundhouse-kick them in the face.

Why is it so violent for just a right punch?

Remember, Kenpo Karate aims to disable an attacker who’s coming after you in a street environment. That punch could easily be a hand with a knife in it, aiming to stab you.

Well, now you’ve got six out of hundreds of different Kenpo Karate techniques for self-defense against a variety of attacks, why they’re effective, and how they’re executed.

About the Author

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Erik is a former naval officer and defense contractor (but he's not allowed to talk about it). He is also the author of Demon, Guardian, Bigfoot Crank Stomp, and numerous small press works and short stories. He's also a certified Kenpo instructor in the Tracy Kenpo Karate system. You can find out more about him and his drivel at his blog.

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