Kenpo Power Principles

Kenpo power principles are based in science and logic, physics and kinetics, and are sound principles that generate power through the use of the body and body movement. The four main power principles in Kenpo are Back-up Mass, Borrowed Force, Torque, and Marriage with Gravity.

Back-up Mass

Back-up mass is weight moving directly behind the weapon when the weapon is delivered. It is, for instance, moving forward as you punch.

In this example of back-up mass, the defender is being attacked with a club-wielding opponent; he moves directly into the opponent and strikes.

Beginning of Kenpo technique “Calming the Storm”, against a round-house club attack.

As the attacker swings the club, the defender steps in and blocks and strikes at the same time.

As with many Kenpo techniques, this one move involves multiple principles; it also lends you borrowed force because the opponent moves into the strike as the strike moves into the opponent, doubling the impact. We will discuss borrowed force next.

Borrowed Force

Borrowed force is using the attacker’s force against him; typically it involves the opponent moving in, being drawn in or pulled in, and striking him at the same time. The effect is equivalent to a head-on collision, like two fast-moving cars colliding, the damage and impact doubling.

In this example, we see the defender kicking the opponent in the groin which makes his face move forward and also makes it land onto a heel-palm strike.

Defender kicks attacker in the groin.

As attacker’s head comes forward from the groin kick, defender delivers a heel palm strike, doubling the impact.


Torque is any kind of turning or twisting action which creates power. Typically this involves the turning of hips, a rotational force that lends power and momentum to a strike. Here we see it in basic form, as the defender turns into a strike using his rear weapon.

Man on left grabs opponent’s wrist

Man on right delivers a punch to the face.

As you can see, the defender’s body and hips turn into the punch.

Marriage with Gravity

Marriage with gravity involves generating power by using the force of gravity, going with gravity, and dropping weapon and weight down with the strike. It is back-up mass moving downward.

Here we see the defender delivering a kick and as he lands, he drops his inward-downward elbow strike into his opponent’s kidneys.

Defender scoop kicks the groin while checking the attacker’s upper body.

Using gravity as an ally, defender lands with an inward elbow to the attacker’s kidneys.

Kenpo makes use of scientific principles and burns them into muscle memory by practicing proper body mechanics and studying the use of these principles in self-defense techniques. The techniques of Kenpo are designed to teach principles, not really pre-set movements, and how to combine principles in sophisticated and effective ways. As you might have noticed, these snippets of techniques show this sophistication, as even in single moves, multiple principles are occurring. The student is encouraged to use the logic of science and learn how the natural occurring laws of physics can be an ally in self-defense.




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