Background and Philosophy


Simplicity through the eight fold path.

Decomposing Kenpo

Kosho-ryu kenpo has 22 generations of history behind it. It wasn’t until 1957 that we start to see the roots of American Kenpo Karate form. Ed Parker opened up his Pasadena school in 1957 and started training students in his Kenpo Karate system of martial arts. Belt ranks, techniques, and forms that those original students learned, are far removed from many of the developments in Kenpo Karate over the succeeding years.  Depending on when your “root” instructor was ranked and left the Ed Parker schools to open their own schools, your forms and styles could be completely different. The two main/major (there are a ton of others as well) American Kenpo Systems today stem either directly from Ed Parker (EPAK) or from his Student Al Tracy (Tracy Kenpo Karate) who was also a student of Ray Arquilla. For some, the Tracy system is much closer to the original “Kenpo” while for other purists, only the techniques taught in the later EPAK system count.

Ed Parker’s Magnum Opus – Infinite Insights into Kenpo Karate is often considered the landmarks through which kenpo should be measured. Not many self-defense techniques or forms are described in detail in the work, but many of the techniques and forms that are attributed with EPAK come from students who have compiled this work at a later date. Which is why, even when studying EPAK there is a diversity in styles even among schools tracing directly back to EPAK.

Kenpo operates on 4 separate levels:

  • The absorbing level – at this level the students are just learning the motions and their body is understanding how to move.
  • The reactionary level – at this level, the movements are automatic and muscle memory kicks in.
  • The what-if level – at this level, the student starts to dissect the motions and understand why the move works, and how the movement might play out differently in different situations.
  • The theoretical level – at this level, the student has internalized the theory behind the movements and can use them in new and dynamic ways.

One thing Ed Parker was insistent on was that Kenpo should be an evolving system – if something does not work, get rid of it, if something works well, make it even better, if someone does something better, borrow it and make it part of the system. And many instructors and schools have taken this to heart. Jeff Speakman’s Kenpo 5.0 or Jim Michell’s Kenpo System are both examples of students taking Kenpo to the next logical level. I think one of his quotes was “If I come back in 100 years I should not be able to recognize Kenpo Karate because it should have evolved beyond what I could even conceive.”

The Problem

There are a wide variety of Kenpo schools that primarily focus on technique memorization and form performance. They stick to hard and fast rules and want all students to learn everything and only that which is taught. There is nothing wrong with this approach and is a very valid way of teaching (I was taught this way and I originally taught in this same manner) – these schools are very valuable resources for people wanting to learn self-defense, and study a traditional EPAK system. The issue is, many students of these schools never progress past the secondary level of Kenpo and are stuck in the reactionary phase – primarily because the school does not encourage, or actively discourages going outside the system for training. You end up with a lot of students who can do hundreds and hundreds of techniques very well, and picture perfect forms, but never understand the theory or concepts behind what they are doing. Nothing wrong with this approach, but I think we can do better.


CMATOS is, at its roots is American Kenpo Karate. However, where it differs from other Kenpo systems is that the belt levels are simplified, and the focus is not so much on memorization of techniques and forms (although this does play a role for proficiency demonstrations and rank testing), the main focus is on getting students to the theoretical level of proficiency. In addition, CMATOS encourages students to study other styles and systems and bring these techniques and skills back into their CMATOS study. For students of other styles of Kenpo, your existing rank and structure will translate directly into a CMATOS rank – for students of other Martial Arts systems, there will be a little work needed to study the ranking material needed for the belt levels.

In addition, getting promoted in the Black Belt ranks not only requires a proficiency with Kenpo forms and techniques, but also demonstration of a high level of proficiency in one of the many other martial arts styles out there. The CMATOS system has many different options built in – but students are encouraged to study even beyond the boundaries of this.


After studying Karate for 14 years, along with some Taekwondo, Soke Salaka opened up the Don Quai Dojo at Virginia Tech to teach students American Kenpo Karate and continue his Kenpo studies. He found that due to the limited time that students had, teaching the full 24-32 technique and 2-4 forms per belt level to student’s wasn’t going to net anything more then a bunch of frustrated white belts. After studying Hsing Yi Kung Fu, Yang Style Tai Chi, and Bagua, the simplicity of the system and focus on conceptual and theoretical proficiency started to inherently appeal to him.

In 2000 Soke Salaka formalized his training into the CMATOS system. In 2005, Soke Salaka opened up the American Kenpo Karate Studios in Japan, and began teaching students around the Osaka and Tokyo areas, while at the same time continuing his training in Shotokan, Arnis, Krav Maga, Tai Chi, Goju Ryu, Kyoukushin, and other miscellaneous styles. Soke Salaka again reverted back to his Kenpo roots and attempted to train students in both the Tracy, Mills, EPAK, and Kenpo 5.0. Because the focus was on Kenpo, and because the students were more determined to study, there was a lot more success in the system, throughout this, the simplicity of CMATOS continued to be refactored and refined. After the 2011 earthquake in Japan, Soke Salaka was evacuated back to the US. Determined to continue his school, he started offering distance learning classes to his current students. And over the next 5 years, he continued to refine the CMATOS system.

After formalizing the system and the finalizing baseline style, in 2016, Soke Salaka was promoted to 8th degree Black Belt in CMATOS (Kenpo Budokan Karate), and has opened his training up to the rest of the world.

The result 32 years of work and study are found on this site, and CMATOS, the Kenpo Budokan Karate System is the result.


拳法武道館空手 – Kenpo Budokan Karate. It’s name is derived from Japanese and can mean many different things. The kenpo part pays homage to the system’s roots in Kenpo Karate. Kenpo also comes from the Chinese term quan fa, which roughly translates into boxing or shaolin fighting. Unlike many traditional hard styles of Karate which originate from Japan, many of Kenpo’s movements are more fluid and angular – tracing back to its Chinese roots rather than its more straight line roots in Japan. Budokan in Japanese usually refers to a building where budo competitions take place (tournaments), but it can also refer to a “house of warriors/champions”. Karate – from Japanese means open hand – so most of the core techniques from CMATOS are empty handed techniques.

Putting this all together we say that Kenpo Budokan Karate means: the House of Kenpo Karate Warriors.

The Eight Fold Path

  • There are 8 basic directional movements
    • Forward, Backwards, Left, Right, Forward Right, Forward Left, Backward Right, Backward Left
  • There are 8 Basic Blocks
  • There are 8 Basic Kicks
  • There are 8 Basic Strikes
  • Each combination set has 8 different movements
  • Each Rank has 8 self-defense techniques to study and apply
    • 4 Self Defense Techniques plus 1 Defense against a club, 1 defense against a knife, 1 defense against a gun, and 1 grappling/situational defense technique
  • Each Rank has 8 fundamentals which need to be studied
  • The Master 8 fold form is taught at all levels
  • There are only 8 degrees of Black Belt Ranking