haolin Kempo Karate (or “SKK”) is a martial art style that combines the Five Animals of Shaolin Kung Fu, the core competency of Kempo, the hard-hitting linear explosiveness of traditional Karate, as well as the power of Western boxing and the felling and grappling arts of Jujutsu, Chin Na, and Mongolian wrestling.
This system was founded and developed by Fredrick J. Villari (a former black belt student of Nick Cerio and William Kwai Sun Chow), who devised a hybrid system which integrated the four ways of fighting: striking, kicking, felling, and grappling to eliminate the inherent weakness of martial arts systems that focus on just one or two of fighting techniques.
Shaolin Kempo Karate is primarily taught through a chain of Villari’s Martial Arts Centers in the United States and Canada, although there are several unaffiliated organizations that teach variations of the style. These include schools founded by former students of Fred Villari.
The development of the system consisted mainly of mastering several existing martial arts, removing movements Villari deemed inefficient, and then integrating the remaining movements into a cohesive system.
Fred Villari borrowed heavily from the following in the development of SKK.
1. Shaolin Kung Fu is the “backbone” of SKK for its circular punches and kicks, but mainly for the incorporation of the 5 animals: Tiger, Crane, Dragon, Snake, and Leopard. Shaolin arts also emphasize a sense of balance and a lifestyle of health and fitness. Shaolin animal strikes and methods used by Villari are included more prominently in the higher ranks of SKK and are thus less apparent to a casual observer or low ranking student.
2. Karate for its mechanical style as well as linear and angular movements combined with quick shuffles and explosive attacks. Nearly everything taught in the first three levels of SKK is rooted in traditional Karate, which had led to much of the criticism of the system using the term “Shaolin” when the casual observer or young student would be learning little else but Karate stances, strikes, and blocking methods until they have achieved the rank of purple belt.
3. Kempō for its non-dogmatic approach to fighting systems and a mixture of both hard and soft movements that blend nicely in combinations. Kempo is taught slowly to beginners in SKK, but is increasingly prevalent in intermediate, advanced, and master levels of the system. It is also a noticeable source of many black belt forms in SKK.
4. Chin Na, Jujutsu, & Mongolian wrestling for their varying focuses on different aspects of holding, seizing, locking, throwing, felling and delivering pain that can be controlled.
Four Ways of Fighting
Shaolin Kempo Karate is built on the notion that all martial arts styles can be characterized as using one or more of the “four ways of fighting”.