Title: The Kenpo Karate Compendium, The Forms and Sets of American Kenpo
Author: Lee Wedlake
Publisher: Blue Snake Books
Cover Price: $24.95
Again as I write this, I am not a kenpo person, nor have I had any real exposure to kenpo. There was a kenpo class that came in after my class when I practiced in Gainesville, but that was long before I had enough martial arts knowledge to really see what was going on. All of that being said, I really enjoyed most of this book. Mr. Wedlake is a very humble writer who doesn't claim to know the "true" way of kenpo, but where there is debate of accuracy, he lends what evidence he has. Several times he states that other schools do their kata differently, and as long as there is a specific reason why, that's okay. He also talks about how Mr. Ed Parker changed the details of the kata throughout his lifetime. As someone who is seeing that in my own system, I appreciate that honesty as well.
ContentThis book covers three basic themes. The first is a discussion of the history of Ed Parker, American Kenpo, and other people that use the term kenpo to describe who they are. He is very inclusive in the aspect, in that if they can fit themselves on the family tree, then they are family. He also starts to dispel some of the myths that are occurring in his own art as far as origin and continuation of curriculum. In the second part, he goes over the finer points of how to practice kata. Mr. Wedlake has a lot of background in kata competition and kata dissection, so he lends his expertise well to this section of the book. The third section goes over, in detail, the kata associated with American Kenpo, including what ideas should be derived from each kata form. He also discusses which goals should be tackled with each kata, an important fact that most people often forget when both doing/learning kata, and teaching them.
ProsI really liked the first two parts of this book. I am personally starting to appreciate kata more and more as I go through my own martial learning. Mr. Wedlake's take on kata was very honest and open. He also dispenses many little pieces of wisdom that can apply to any martial art/artist even if kata doesn't apply to them at all. I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from those first two parts. I enjoyed the book so much, that when I saw Ed Parker's Secrets of Chinese Karate at the bookstore, I bought it.
ConsThe third part of the book was not very useful to me. As it goes over the kata specific to American Kenpo, and I am not a practitioner, it was not that useful. However, the kata description section was very well written. I could follow the description of what the kata being described were supposed to be. Mr. Wedlake also provides a sort of "code language" with which to describe the footwork of the kata, and with some interpretation, I could use this to figure out the transitions between the pictures provided. Though one drawback is there are very few pictures, which in most martial arts books helps to further readers' understanding of kata and/or the author's meaning. The author does state that if you want to see the pictures, look at the those in Ed Parker's Kenpo books, and refers you to them.
Overall, If you are not a kenpo martial artist, I'd give this book 3 out of 5 Ninja Stars. The book is very well written, and I not only enjoyed reading it, but I learned from it as well. As I said above, the beginning sections can apply to any martial artist, even if you don't do kata in your art since they cover more of the history and philosophy of kenpo. However, if you are a kenpo martial artist, then I would give this book a 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars. I interpreted that this book is intended to be an additional book in your collection after you have looked at and read the other referenced books. If you have read some of the these books, or at least an intermediate level of experience with kenpo, then this would be a great book for you. So I guess, I'll average it out to 3.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars mainly based on how it applies to a select group of martial artists. However, it you are in that group, then by all means add this book to your Kenpo library.