The Combinations

The combinations are the canon, the bread and butter of the Karazenpo and Shaolin Kempo arts. It started with 10, then 22, then 26, 30, 41 and so on. Now there are (at least officially) 108. They are often treated like a treasure to be hidden, a carefully held secret. Each one contains principles, and by collecting the techniques and extracting the principles, the student understands Shaolin Kempo, or at least that’s how it is supposed to work.

I became frustrated when I realized two things. One, that most Shaolin Kempo ‘Masters’ and even 6th, 7th and 8th dans did not know all 108 combinations. In fact your average fifth dan knew maybe half. I thought it was strange, as I had to know all of the letters before I ‘mastered’ the alphabet. I felt that to understand Shaolin Kempo, one really should be able to look at the whole and see how the principles fit together. If this was possible without learning the rest, why learn them? Second, it seemed that the ‘next set’ always seemed out of reach, dangled just on the other side of a test fee.

With that in mind, I hoped that there were enough of us out there to ‘open source’ kempo. Put sunlight on the combinaitions, and let the burden fall to those teaching to raise the bar for quality. Just knowing the ‘next one’ wouldn’t be enough, and those who put in the effort to do them well would rise to the top. Exposing the secrets hasn’t killed Shotokan, Brazilian Jiujitsu or any of the plethora of arts out there whose curricula are transcribed for the world to see, so I felt it would only make us stronger. So far it has. Students (and Masters) from nearly every major splinter of SKK have pulled together to create this archive – the community has come together.