The History of the Kenpo Logo
The Kenpo Freestyle Academy’s logo has been re-designed. We enlisted the services of a very talented young designer named Paolo Geronimo from the Philippines. In my not-so-humble, but very opinionated view, it is the world’s coolest Kenpo logo. After months of refinements, we release our Kenpo logo with pride.
In 2010 I wrote a blog post entitled “The Kenpo Freestyle Sydney Logo: What Does it Mean?” Since then I have reflected a lot on what our logo truly means. Many of the ideas of the first post are sound, but I would like to touch more deeply into the meaning of our new logo. Since there is so much to explore on this topic, I will break it down by the symbols in the Kenpo logo, starting with the tiger. The other symbols will be covered in subsequent blog posts.
Our Kenpo logo retains many of the features of the original American Kenpo version. The late great Ed Parker, who founded American Kenpo, said this about the tiger in his book, the Infinite Insights Into Kenpo, Volume 1: THE TIGER — represents earthly strength derived during the early stages of learning. This is the stage where the individual is more impressed with his own physical prowess.
With due respect to the great man, I agree with this to some extent, but believe that the tiger means more. A lot more. This magnificent creature, arguably the world’s most powerful animal predator on land, but unfortunately now endangered, represents so many positive things in our system, the Kenpo Freestyle Academy. It is also my favourite animal, so allow for a little bias to creep in here.
What the Tiger Represents
The tiger, along with the dragon, are the two central characters depicted on our logo. The tiger represents strength, power, stealth, defence, adaptability, individuality, patience, determination, focus, and generosity.
Tigers are extremely powerful. They are able to leap distances over 6 metres, can run over 60 km an hour, and can smash a bear’s skull with their front claws. Tigers can break the neck of their prey by simply crushing vertebrae with its jaws, and can take down and drag prey up to five times its size. Even a tiger’s “voice” is powerful. The roar of a Bengal tiger can be heard for over 2km at night. Overall, the tiger represents straight-ahead, linear power, with no retreat.
Tigers are masters of stealth. They can move through high grass, forest, and even water in silence. A common comment of those who have witnessed—or survived—an attack is that the tiger “came out of nowhere.” A tiger cannot catch a deer or other fleet-footed animal. Instead it uses stealth to catch its victims; attacking from the side or the rear, after creeping up very closely to its prey.
Tigers represent defence. In Asian cultures the tiger is a symbol of protection. Tiger paintings are often hung on walls inside buildings to guard entrances, “scaring demons away”. The heads of tigers were often painted on a soldier’s shield, in order to terrify the enemy.
In general, tigers will try to avoid fighting, unless absolutely necessary. Fighting usually happens only within the mating season. Males will often fight over one female, and the strongest male will have the privilege of mating with her. Still, tigers prefer to part ways and pursue a more peaceful existence elsewhere than to fight. Territory disputes are often settled by displays of intimidation rather than physical aggression. The tiger is wise because it knows an injury incurred in a fight most likely means starvation.
The tiger, like the dragon, is shown within a circle to show that the power of the tiger, like the power of Kenpo, is contained. The power is only unleashed, or broken from the circle, in order to defend ourselves or our families from violent attack. More about the circle in a later post.
Tigers are supremely adaptable. Unlike almost all other cats, tigers can swim long distances and can even attack and drag prey in the water. They are also adaptable in their hunting techniques. They can bite, claw, or strangle their prey. They are native to various habitats, from the forests to open grasslands, even tropical swamps.
The tiger’s sense of hearing is so sharp that they are capable of hearing infrasound, which are sound waves below the range of normally audible sound (20 hertz). They have a special adaptation to their retinas, which allows more light to reflect back into their eyes, making it easier to see in the dark.
The tiger’s striped coat helps them blend in well with their surroundings as the striping helps break up their body shape, making them difficult to detect for unsuspecting prey.
Tigers stand on their own. They are solitary creatures. Except for a mother and her cubs, tigers live and hunt alone. They can have a social life; they just prefer to socialise from a distance. The stripes on every tiger are unique, just like the fingerprints of humans. On average, tigers have about a hundred stripes on their coats, helping them to camouflage themselves in the wild.
Tigers are persistent, patient, and disciplined. Catching a meal is not easy; a tiger is successful only once in ten to 20 hunts. But it must kill about once per week to avoid starvation. To give up is to die. The tiger is a study in discipline and patience. Due to its size it must approach prey using stealth, and cannot pounce too early as most prey will outrun it. The tiger may lie in wait for hours for an opportunity. If the prey is alerted, they must quietly wait until the jungle is calm again, which may take hours.
Tigers are focused. The tiger in the traditional Chinese folklore implies “the tiger never sleeps.” It symbolises the keen alertness of the wakeful tiger. The tiger must be alert to the slightest movement in the jungle, its focus must be keen in order to survive.
Tigers are known to share and be generous. In contrast to male lions, male tigers will allow the females and cubs to feed on the kill first. Furthermore, tigers seem to behave relatively friendly when sharing kills, in contrast to lions, which tend to squabble and fight. Unrelated tigers have also been observed feeding on prey together.
What the Tiger Means In Kenpo Freestyle
The spirit of the tiger is alive in our system. All Kenpo Freestyle students are taught from the earliest stages to move with power and stealth (put hips into play for power, no slamming of feet, move with grace and silence, attack from angles) and to have a powerful kiai. We are able to adapt to the circumstances (all ranges of combat, including kicking, punching, and grappling) and are open to modern innovations (freestyle).
Our students are taught to be generous by later becoming leaders in our organisation, and how to stand on their own two feet and become independent, resisting peer pressure. They are taught focus and concentration by the many games and activities we do that rely on it. Self discipline is another important aspect of the Kenpo Freestyle system, and is the basis for lifelong success.
In Kenpo, many of the movements of the tiger are used such as thrusts, stikes and rips, which can be employed from any angle. Our students are taught a strong defence (like the tiger) using head movement, footwork, blocking, and parrying. Our grapplers are taught defence first, attack later. Most importantly, our students are taught to avoid violence at all costs, just like the tiger.
We can learn much from this beautiful creature. The role of the dragon and how it relates to the tiger will be discussed next. What does the tiger mean to you in your martial arts journey? How do you like the new Kenpo logo?