Glossary of Kempo terms


Glossary of Kempo Terms


Front Punch: The basic chambered karate punch where the hand is in a closed fist, palm up at the hip or ribs and pronates / rotates to palm down at the end of the strike. Often called a Front Two Knuckle punch, as that is the preferred striking surface. 


Thrust Punch: This punch starts like a front punch, but only rotates 90 degrees, so that the palm is facing inward at the end of the strike. This is also commonly called a vertical fist. Debate is ongoing on whether the first two knuckles or the second and third are the preferred surface. 


Back Two Knuckle Punch: This punch also starts from the same chamber as the front and thrust punch, but does not rotate at all, finishing the strike with the palm up. It is a linear strike using the same power generation as the first two, which distinguishes it from the uppercut. 


Uppercut: An upward punch with an arcing trajectory delivered with a bent arm, related to the hook punch. 


Jab: A quick, flicking punch delivered off the lead hand.


Cross: A boxing style ‘power punch’ delivered off the rear hand in which the body’s mass shifts to the front leg and the rear foot comes up onto the toe as the heel rotates outward. 


Reverse Punch: This is a punch delivered in a thrusting manner driving off the heel of the rear leg. This may look similar to the cross, but has very different power generation technique. 


Hook Punch: An arcing punch with a horizontal trajectory. It can be delivered off the lead or rear hand. 


Overhand Right (or left): Delivered somewhat like a cross, the overhand right takes a more arcing trajectory. 


Backfist: An outward whipping strike making contact with the top surface of the knuckles. 


Riken ( Ree-ken): A strike using the same striking surface as the backfist, using a relaxed wrist for more ‘whipping’ action. This strike is more dependent on the shoulder and forearm rotation for acceleration, and can be applied in a variety of directions. It is most commonly used as a downward strike to the bridge of the nose. 


Chamber: A preparatory position preceding a strike. For kicks, it is typically the raised knee ‘crane’ or ‘flamingo’ position; for hand strikes it is typically the the fist at hip or ribs. Some  downward hand strikes like hammers or knifehands chamber above the shoulder. 


Hammer (or hammer fist): A strike using the fleshy base of the fist as a contact area. They can be delivered in a variety of directions, and this is commonly attached to the name as a modifier, e.g. inward, outward, downward. 


Tiger Claw: A strike that starts in the same chamber as a front punch, and follows the same movement pattern, but at the end of the strike the hand opens into a claw shape. Often the palm heel is used for impact with the fingertips being used for secondary damage to targets like the eyes. 


Tiger’s Mouth: A strike with the hand position as if holding a beverage can using the thumb and fingers to grab in a pincer-like manner after impact. The initial impact area is often the webbed area between the thumb and forefinger. 


Eagles Claw: A strike nearly identical to the Tiger’s Mouth, but with more emphasis on the index and second finger, and more use of the fingertips in striking. 


Knifehand Strike: This strike uses the open hand as a weapon striking with the ‘pinky side’ edge of the palm. As with the hammer, the knifehand can be delivered in a variety of directions and the direction is often attached as a modifier, e.g.  downward, inward, outward, cross. 


Ridgehand Strike: This strike uses the outside of the knuckle at the base of the index finger as a striking surface and is delivered in a whipping fashion. 


Inverted: This is a modifier typically indicating that the strike is delivered with a hand position opposite of the standard position. 


Palm Heel: A strike using the base of the palm as a striking surface, typically as a thrusting strike using the mechanics of a punch. 


Willow Palm: A palm heel strike done in a whipping manner. 


Closed Tiger Mouth: A strike using the flat area at the top of the fist as a striking surface. This strike often looks like the movements of an underhand volleyball serve, and the striking area is mainly the outside of the knuckle at the base of the index finger. This strike is sometimes called a closed ridgehand. 

12 Responses to Glossary of Kempo terms

  1. Pingback: Glossary of Kempo Terms

  2. andyk says:

    I’ve been tweaking my combo #1 and have seen the initial block referred to as a “monkey” parry or “monkey” block.

    I’m working on blocking/parrying (similar to block #4 depending) as needed for the attack and sticking and clearing the strike down to set up for the wrap. Is there a definition of a “monkey” parry that fits this intent?


  3. Todd says:

    andyk……Huh?….. Say what?… What is your “intent”? Why would you want to “work on” a block similar to a 4 block in a downward manner, for #1 Combo? i.e. doing a downward forearm block, to bring opponent’s right arm down? How do you “intend” to get inside of his right arm to wrap your left arm around it at the tricep? I don’t understand your point, your “intent”?
    #1 Combo is designed the way that it is for a reason. The reason is to use distancing from his right punch by going back into a Cat Stance, and use a Left “monkey parry or block”, I prefer to use and call it a “monkey trap”, but that is semantics. By using this “monkey parry”, you are catching the inside of his fist, and “grabbing onto” the forward momentum of his punch, to draw him forward, into you, adn to pull him off his posture. You are pulling his fist, up high, at your chest level, to the outside of your left chest. Then lunging in w your left foot, to get inside his arm. Wrapping your left arm around his right arm, at the tricep tendon, and locking it out. Then what do we do? I guess either a right cross rake or a right cross willow palm to the left side of his face, followed by a right chicken wrist to his right temple. So I’m not understanding what you want to do. Why change what works?
    I personally love #1 Combo, and this technique, adn the “monkey trap”. “monkey traps” are great to use against a Boxer, or someone throwing straight jabs at you. You stand in a natural position, or in “less defined cat stance” or T Stance or Aikido stance, keep your elbows tight to you, forearms up straight before your chest, hands and wrists loose. As he throws jabs, you pick them up, with your relaxed “monkey traps” on the insides on his fists, stepping back as need be into lesser cat stances, shifting from right to left cat stances, and keep drawing in his punches, to the outsides of your chest w the “monkey traps”. Then, once he is perplexed or pissed, you step forward into him, and over his fists you strike with a continuous series of “rolling downward chicken wrists” to the bridge of is nose, eyes, forehead, cheekbones, whereever. Then you can switch into cross knifehands or palm strikes. So I find a “monkey trap” to be very nice. It comes from the actions of a monkey picking the fruit off of a tree. If you’ve ever seen anyone do Monkey Style Kung Fu, you will see them use this sort of action, block/parry/trap all the time, continuously. It is very elegant, very nice, and very effective and efficient.

  4. andyk says:

    I totally agree that Combination #1 as you describe it and as it appears in the archives of this site is effective and utilizes the opponent’s momentum.
    I wasn’t trying to change something that works.
    I was “tweaking” the way I was taught because it never made sense to me. I was taught and practiced the combination in at least three different Kempo dojos that the combination started with an inward/downward parry followed by a shuffle in while executing the wrap and the right palm across the face . . .

    Clearly, you would question that way of doing it, as I do.

    Thank you for clarifying the “monkey parry” since I wasn’t familiar with the term.

  5. matt says:

    The combination one / parry block discussion has been started as a thread in the forum, so please continue the chat there. Thanks!

  6. John P Mosher Jr. says:

    I learned #1 comb. first as you twist your hips to the left bending left knee as you stretch out left leg to move away from opp. stepping in with right punch,as U move left opp,misses your head U punch to groin right elbow to opp. behind U right uppercut to chin cross right foot over left downward block cover, Original#1 SGM S George Pesare,1st gen,Pesare student!

  7. John P Mosher Jr. says:

    I learned #1 comb. first as you twist your hips to the left bending left knee as you stretch out left leg to move away from opp. stepping in with right punch,as U move left opp,misses your head U punch to groin right elbow to opp. behind U right uppercut to chin cross right foot over left downward block cover, Original#1 SGM S George Pesare,1st gen,Pesare student!

  8. Our combo #3 is a take off of your combo #1 John

  9. Is there a way to see past the last 3 comments Matt? Just wondering. I was looking for some of Johns other comments but got lost. Hope all is going great. Ran a really fun class yesterday and cannot wait to teach at SGM Pesares Homecoming on June 16th. I will be working on some of the Kempo animals.. The poster should be out sometime next week.

  10. matt says:

    Jesse – not sure what you mean. I see 9 comments on this page. Do you mean the ‘recent comments’ thing at the bottom? There’s also a ‘comments RSS’ feed that should have all the comments in a big list. It’s down the bottom in the ‘technical stuff’ column. Hope that helps.

  11. kindof helps, cant understand the rss page thought. hahaah.

  12. peter orourke says:

    can you describe an iron triangle block for me? thanks, peter

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