Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What should I wear or bring to class?

    If you’re a beginner coming to your first classes with Stanford Kenpo, you should wear athletic clothes that you feel comfortable moving around in. Typically students practice karate in bare feet, so you need not worry about footwear. Once you’re ready to commit to the class, you can buy a gi package for $50, which includes a gi (black karate pants and top), a white belt, a mouthguard (for sparring) and a Stanford Kenpo Karate t-shirt. Male students are also required to wear an athletic cup to every class, which can be purchased from most sporting goods stores.

  2. How much does it cost to participate?

    Quarterly fees are $50 for students, faculty, and staff. Quarterly fees for community members not affiliated with Stanford are $100. Make checks payable to ASSU Stanford Kenpo Karate Association and indicate your Stanford I.D. on the check (if you have one). Checks are greatly preferred, but cash is accepted.

  3. How is a typical class structured?

    Classes begin by lining up according to rank and saluting the head instructor. There will be 20-30 minutes of warm-ups and group exercises. Students are then split up into small groups by belt rank and work on basics, forms, and techniques. At the end of class there are frequently some additional group exercises. Class is dismissed by lining up again and saluting the head instructor.

    We bow upon entering or leaving the dojo (i.e. the gym).

  4. What if I arrive late to class?

    The club expects students to arrive on time to class out of respect for the other students and the instructors, all of whom are volunteers. If you must arrive late, you should walk to the front of the class and wait for the head instructor to acknowledge you. Once this instructor has acknowledged you and bowed to you, you may join in the class’ activities.

    If you have a class or some other unmovable commitment which forces you to arrive late, make sure you clear it with your instructors.

  5. Do you actually hit each other? Will I get hurt?

    The instructors at Stanford Kenpo are committed to having class be an educational and safe experience for everyone. Beginning karate students are expected to make little or no contact with other students when practicing to ensure that no-one gets hurt. If ever you are uncomfortable with the level of contact in class, you can let your fellow student and/or an instructor know, and he or she will make adjustments. The level of physical contact you will make with other students will increase as you gain experience and greater levels of control over your strikes. Once you reach an intermediate level, you will be expected to make contact with fellow students in order to demonstrate that you can execute self defense techniques effectively and in a controlled manner.

  6. What is Kenpo? How does it compare to other martial arts?

    Some martial arts are more “martial” and some are more “artistic.” We like to say that Kenpo has a great blend of both.

    Kenpo focuses on practical self-defense techniques for attacks that might be encountered in any street situation. We practice for attacks such as a grab from behind, an arm pinned behind your back, a punch, multiple punches, a push from the front, and so on. A kenpo student learns a wide-ranging set of self defense moves in response to these attacks, which can be used and adpated in any situation.

    Stanford Kenpo also incorporates light sparring into our training, which teaches students speed, agility, and improvisation. When students are sparring, the emphasis is not on winning or hitting hard; rather it is on learning from one another, improving skills, and safety.

    In addition to the practical self defense aspect of kenpo, there is also an artistic aspect. Students learn katas (also called forms) which are choreographed sequences of movements that allow for self expression and creativity. Practicing katas helps students to master stances, balance, transitions between moves, flow, timing and so on.

  7. I have done Kenpo elsewhere. How will your club compare?

    Stanford Kenpo Karate is rooted in Parker Kenpo, but has evolved somewhat over the years to meet the needs of the Stanford community. The degree to which prior experience in Kenpo will translate depends on the particular school and the level of experience. Advanced students will notice that the fundamental style of movement is the same, and that many of the techniques and forms are very similar (although they have different names). Beginning students may have to start from scratch.

  8. How fast do students advance? What are the belt ranks?

    Student progress depends on the individual student and the amount of time and effort they devote to learning the art. Students test for and advance to a new belt rank once their instructors see that they have mastered the skills and techniques required at that level. The course is designed such that all beginners who attend regularly should receive their first belt (yellow) within one quarter. The next belt (orange) is typically attainable in two quarters, but after that it depends on the student. The belt order is white, yellow, orange, purple, green, brown and black. Once students reach intermediate rank (blue), they train to become assistant instructors. At Stanford Kenpo, it typically takes ten years or more to achieve a black belt rank.

  9. Do you compete with each other or in tournaments?

    No. We do, however, perform demonstrations from time to time for student groups on campus.

  10. What will I learn in the first couple classes?

    You will learn some really cool things in the first classes! You will learn blocks, kicks and strikes, how not to get hit by a punch, and also how to kiai (yell at the top of your lungs). Within the first couple classes, you’ll go home knowing how to defend yourself against a few basic attacks which might be encountered on the street.

  11. Do I have to be athletic or particularly strong to do karate?

    Not at all! Kenpo Karate is designed to work for all different body types and athletic abilities. Kenpo relies on technique, not strength, size, or athletic ability.

  12. Why do you guys like kenpo so much?

    People love Stanford Kenpo for a lot of different reasons, and these are just a few: * It’s a great workout and keeps us from getting fat. * Yelling, hitting and kicking pads and/or fellow students is an amazing stress reliever. * It’s great to know that you can defend yourself if you’re attacked. * It feels so good to finally master a difficult move or understand a complex technique. * The instructors are great and really care about your experience. * You build a lot of trust when practicing karate with others, and those others often end up being great friends. * Sometimes you just need a class in your schedule that’s NOT intellectual.