Frequently Asked Questions

[Under Construction]

FAQ 1: What is the purpose of the International Shaolin Kenpo Association?

A:   The International Shaolin Kenpo Association was established in 1981 by Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro to be the only governing body over his art of Shaolin Kenpo. The Association regulates the technical quality of Shaolin Kenpo and governs its members. It determines rank promotion criteria and maintains standards and ethics. The Association determines who are certified Shaolin Kenpo instructors and sanctioned schools, and it requires that they are subject to inspection, review, and revocation.

The Association represents Shaolin Kenpo, so it mediates and resolves issues that are the interests of Shaolin Kenpo. The Association holds and promotes competitions, seminars, demonstrations, and other events.

The Association currently requires members to be practitioners of Shaolin Kenpo -- students and teachers, and Shaolin Kenpo schools. Currently in discussion is a proposal to allow a class of non-voting members or associates who are former students, former instructors, parents, local business persons, or community leaders who have a special interest in supporting Shaolin Kenpo. Other such associates in the future might be a few prominent martial artists (of other systems) who are carefully selected and invited to collaborate with the administrators of Shaolin Kenpo to organize joint events.

FAQ 2: Who are the leadership of the International Shaolin Kenpo Association?

A:   The names of the current leadership can be found in the table below:

President - Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro
Vice President - Grandmaster Rob Castro
Secretary/Treasurer - Professor Sam Lucas
Internal Affairs Dir.

- Professor May Castro-Manner
        Professor Marvin Cunningham
        Sibok Tony Batshon
External Affairs Dir.

- Professor June Castro-Michalowski
        Sibok Leo Lopez
        Sibok Gerald Ronan
    Sibok Francisco J. Viciana
    Sibok Frank Ricardo
    Sifu Milton Navarro
    Sifu Ben Galleano
    Sifu Martin Castro
    Sifu Micheal Castro

FAQ 3: Is Shaolin Kenpo the same as kempo, kenpo, kempo karate, Shaolin Kempo Karate, or American Kenpo Karate?

A:   Some generic terms broadly identify a wide range of historically-related martial arts. Such terms include kempo and kenpo. On the other hand, Shaolin Kenpo, American Kenpo Karate, and Shaolin Kempo Karate are three of the many examples of specific, distinctive, and governed systems of martial arts.

"Shaolin Kenpo" is the name of the art developed by Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro (also called Shaolin Kenpo Karate, and Ralph Castro's Shaolin Kenpo). On the other hand, "Shaolin Kempo Karate" was developed by Grand Master Fred Villari, while "American Kenpo Karate" was developed by the late Grand Master Ed Parker. Both Shaolin Kenpo and Shaolin Kempo Karate incorporated the name 'Shaolin' to acknowledge their inclusion of martial arts techniques whose origin was the Shaolin Temple in China.

All three arts have distinguished founders and lineages. As to lineage, Ralph Castro was a student of the late Great Grandmaster William Kwai Sun Chow. (Also known as 'Professor' Chow, he was the first Great Grandmaster of Shaolin Kenpo). Ed Parker was an earlier student of Professor Chow. We understand Fred Villari was a student of Nick Cerio, who was a student of George Pesare, who was a student of Sonny Gascon, who was a student of Adriano Emperado [Kajukenbo], who was also an early student of Professor Chow.

[ The following names are trademark property of Ralph Castro: "Shaolin Kenpo", "Ralph Castro's Shaolin Kenpo", "Shaolin Kenpo Karate", "International Shaolin Kenpo Association". In addition, the 'Shaolin Kenpo (fist)' design, the 'tiger' design, the 'dragon' design (examples of images can be found at, and the 'Ralph Castro's Shaolin Kenpo (with fist)' design, (example of image can be found at are trademark property of Ralph Castro. - All rights Reserved. ]

An event that confuses many today, some years ago a few martial artists broke away from the (Villari) Shaolin Kempo Karate organization. Later, some of their students misspelled the name of the (Villari) art their teachers once studied -- They misspelled it with an 'n' rather than 'm', such as Shaolin 'Kenpo' Karate, or sometimes even shortened it further to Shaolin 'Kenpo'.

Today, a few still innocently propagate this same unfortunate spelling error that was first made by their seniors. They give the impression, by misspelling the name this way, that they practice the art of (Ralph Castro's) Shaolin Kenpo. In fact, they have no connection to Shaolin Kenpo and are not from the lineage of Great Grandmaster Castro. Rather, they use the name of his art without permission. They should investigate their history, and correct their error out of respect for their lineage.

True for many martial arts styles, occasional name and style confusions (and resulting rank confusions) might ordinarily make it difficult to determine who ARE the teachers and practitioners of the art of Shaolin Kenpo. However, the International Shaolin Kenpo Association is responsible for governing Shaolin Kenpo. It has the authority to decide the status of claims about any individual's rank in Shaolin Kenpo, and the status or sanction of any school.

An irritation more often found in the larger martial arts systems is, a small number of practitioners of generic or mixed kenpo/kempo techniques (and a few, interestingly, had teachers in Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro's extensive lineage) knowingly make false claims about earning a high rank in Shaolin Kenpo. They damage Shaolin Kenpo and they dishonor themselves and their teachers. They degrade their own current organization or school with their false claims.

This Association clearly identifies the Shaolin Kenpo black belts, the instructors, and the Shaolin Kenpo schools. Historically, through recognition within the Shaolin Kenpo ranks, and more recently, through public recognition in these pages of, the Association is quick to honor valid achievements.

Please see:

| Shaolin Kenpo Black Belt Society | Circle of Iron | Directory of Member Schools |

FAQ 4: What technical characteristics distinguish the art of Shaolin Kenpo?


I'm still working on this one. -Webmaster

FAQ 5: What is the Shaolin Kenpo belt system?


Great Grandmaster:

[Great Grandmaster]



[7th Degree, 8th Degree]

Senior Master

[9th Degree]


[10th Degree]


[1st Degree, 2nd Degree]


[3rd Degree, 4th Degree]


[5th Degree, 6th Degree]


[Student Ranks]

The student belt ranks are named in order as follows: White, purple/white, purple, purple/blue, blue, blue/green, green, green/brown, 3rd brown, 2nd brown, 1st brown, brown/black, black. (Please note: 3rd brown has one black tip, 2nd brown has two black tips, 1st brown has three black tips. Optionally, in similar fashion to the brown belt ranks and the black belt ranks, color tips of the next higher color may be used to indicate levels of acheivement within the student belt ranks.)

Advanced students expressing an interest in serving their school might be trained in some of the fundamental teaching methods and given an early opportunity to help their teacher with instructing subordinate ranks on a limited and strictly supervised basis. Such advanced students may be designated as Assistant Instructors (usually adults), or Junior Instructors (usually minors, helping the teacher with only the younger students).

Si-Hing (also Sihing) is a formal title for a senior student (usually a brown belt). However, brown belt students are commonly addressed by their first name. brown belt assistant instructors are addressed with the informal title 'Instructor (first or last name, depending on age)'.

After many years of successful study through the colored belt ranks, and after the demonstration of advanced skills, the student black belt is awarded. This award is followed by a one-year (minimum and typical) probationary period, after which, if studies and obligations are successfully accomplished, the first red tip will be awarded. The red tip indicates 1st-degree black belt.

Si-Suk (also Sisuk) is a formal title for the wearer of the first or second degree black belt. More commonly, they are addressed by the 'civilian' term of respect and surname, 'Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. (surname).'

Si-Fu (also Sifu, means "Teacher") is the title for the 3rd and 4th-degree black belts. Starting with this advanced (high-ranking) black belt level, an instructor may request the opportunity to open his/her own Shaolin Kenpo school and become a Head Instructor. On the other hand, some Si-Fu's choose to continue assisting or teaching at their teacher's school, while others continue with advanced training without teaching. As all circumstances are different, and all three choices keep one active and advancing in the art of Shaolin Kenpo, the choice of direction does not prevent future promotion opportunities. 3rd-degree black belt is the first rank that has the authority to award rank promotions (and only for promoting students of his/her own school, when serving as the school's Head Instructor). Depending on the size of the school or number of instructors, 4th-degree might also be called an Assistant Chief Instructor.

The title of Si-Bok (also Sibok, means "Teacher's Teacher" or "Older Uncle") is for 5th and 6th-degree black belts. The wide red band on this belt represents five red tips. Si-Bok is sometimes called a Chief Instructor (if 5th-degree) or Associate Professor (if 6th-degree).

The informal titles of Professor (rank of 7th-degree black belt), Master Professor (if 8th-degree, though this title is often shortened to Professor), and Senior Master Professor (if 9th-degree), indicate a martial artist has decades (possibly life-long) and very advanced study of Shaolin Kenpo. Si-Gung (7th and 8th-degree) and Si-Tai-Gung (9th-degree) are the formal titles for these ranks.

Two wide red bands on the Grandmaster's belt represents 10th-degree black belt. In Shaolin Kenpo there is only one Grandmaster, Rob Castro. He is the successor to the Shaolin Kenpo system.

The gold border on the red belt, designating the Great Grandmaster's belt, is reserved for the highest rank in the Shaolin Kenpo system. This belt is worn currently by the system's founder, Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro. The same belt was previously worn by his teacher, the late Great Grandmaster William Kwai Sun Chow, until his passing. Just as Grandmaster Ralph Castro became Great Grandmaster, so is Grandmaster Rob Castro designated to automatically receive promotion to the title of Great Grandmaster upon his father's passing.

Si-Jo is the formal name for the founder of the system. This title is only and always associated with Ralph Castro. The title cannot be passed on through promotion or succession.

FAQ 6: Why do some of the high ranking black belts have special Shaolin Kenpo names?


[I'm still working on this one. -Webmaster]

FAQ 7: My instructor can trace his lineage back to Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro. Does it mean my promotion from my teacher is a belt rank in Shaolin Kenpo?

A:   The easiest way to determine your status is to look at your rank promotion certificate/diploma. A valid certificate for a belt rank in Shaolin Kenpo is always properly processed. [ Before the Association (before 1981) Ralph Castro processed all Shaolin Kenpo promotions personally. But, in either case...] For example, the valid certificate clearly states that it is for proficiency in Shaolin Kenpo. It is embossed with the Shaolin Kenpo seal, and the certificate is signed by Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro and/or (more recently) Grandmaster Rob Castro.

In addition to the above there are also other indicators, depending on the era. An otherwise invalid piece of paper supports no claim to rank or title in Shaolin Kenpo. Processing of (and authority over) belt rank promotions by the Association is one of the necessary mechanisms for governing, inspecting, and regulating the quality and uniformity of the art, the certification of its instructors, and the sanction of its schools. The clerical procedure provides for proper record keeping as well.

Promotion, rank, and title are not valid unless the certificate was endorsed (by inclusion of the three key indicators described above). There are a number of possible reasons why a certificate might remain invalid and un-endorsed (but the recipient is never held responsible for such an oversight). If you believe your promotion was intended to be a belt rank in Shaolin Kenpo, but your certificate was not endorsed with the three key indicators, a flexible process for correction and recognition by the Association is available to you. Either you or your instructor may bring the matter to the Association for private and prompt resolution.

The requirement for recognition of your rank is very simple. Your proficiency in Shaolin Kenpo ultimately determines your rank. You can show proficiency by direct testing or through a review of the details of your promotion under consideration.

Such a review establishes: 1) You have lineage to Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro. 2) Your instructor certifies you are/were proficient at the rank level under consideration. 3) Your instructor was certified and had sufficient rank in Shaolin Kenpo to award your promotion. [Note: This means your Head/Chief Instructor was at least two ranks in the art of Shaolin Kenpo above your rank under consideration. A Shaolin Kenpo instructor is certified as a Head/Chief Instructor to operate a Shaolin Kenpo school and/or make rank promotions in Shaolin Kenpo only after his/her 3rd degree black belt.]

Failing some of the above, and depending on your circumstances, your rank might still be recognized conditionally (but the certificate endorsement is usually delayed, subject to your fulfillment of the conditions).

Succeeding, the proper certification of your rank may take two forms. It may be by the 'completion' (inscribing, embossing, signing) of your current certificate, or by presenting you with a new and properly endorsed certificate and a new belt (complying with Shaolin Kenpo uniform). At your discretion, the award or recognition may be made at the next annual Shaolin Kenpo promotions and awards ceremony for witnessing by all the Shaolin Kenpo ranks.

If you hold a black belt in Shaolin Kenpo, you have the privilege to have your name included in the long list, the "Shaolin Kenpo Black Belt Family Tree". And, if you hold a high-ranking black belt in Shaolin Kenpo (3rd degree black belt and higher), you have the rare honor to have your name included in the very prestigious and short list, "Directory of High-Ranking Shaolin Kenpo Black Belts." Go to the Shaolin Kenpo Black Belt Society page to find a link to both of these lists.

FAQ 8: What was the connection between Ralph Castro and Ed Parker?

A:   A few institutions of Shaolin Kenpo have an influence from Ed Parker. These reflect the many years Ed Parker and Ralph Castro were colleagues and friends. Please see " My Friend, Ed Parker ".

In that above article, The "association" that Ralph Castro (coming to the mainland the second time) mentioned is Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Association of America, KKAA, formed in 1956. Although Ed Parker was not his teacher, Parker was his senior under their teacher, Professor Chow.

In 1960, Ed Parker gave Ralph Castro a black belt to recognize his proficiency in kenpo karate. Parker thus endorsed Ralph Castro and his large school (Ralph Castro Kenpo Karate, San Francisco, started in 1958) in the KKAA. That recognition, and their subsequent collaboration, expanded the membership and influence of the KKAA into northern California. In turn, it provided an early network for Ralph Castro and his school to have a relationship with the kenpo practitioners who were based in southern California.

The black belt award from Ed Parker placed Ralph Castro in the Parker lineage (family tree) among his earliest black belts. Today, some who don't know the history, have a false impression that Ralph Castro was a student of Ed Parker, or that he studied American Kenpo Karate. Not true -- Ralph Castro and his school were among the exceptions who were members of Ed Parker's associations by affiliation only. Ralph Castro was not a student of Ed Parker, but their professional relationship stemmed from the fact that they both had studied under the same teacher, Professor Chow.

Later, after the formation of Ed Parker's International Kenpo Karate Association, IKKA (1963), Ralph Castro and his school changed affiliation to remain associated with, and supportive of, Ed Parker. It was IKKA that sanctioned the early years of Ralph Castro's California Karate Championship annual tournaments.

Another connection -- The right-hand fist in the Shaolin Kenpo patch design came originally from an early Ed Parker patch design. The patch design is from the period before the formation of KKAA, Ed Parker's first association. When Ed Parker adopted his next design (the patch design for KKAA) he gave his old design to Ralph Castro for his own use. [Take a look at this photo taken in 1957. Ed Parker is top center. See the patch design they wear? Compare the design with the Shaolin Kenpo patch.]

Ralph Castro incorporated this fist design into his own school patch. Later he included the same fist design in the Shaolin Kenpo patch that is worn of the back of the uniform of every Shaolin Kenpo practitioner. Today, this fist is recognized world wide as the Shaolin Kenpo fist, associated with the lineage of Ralph Castro, but few appreciate that the image came from an early design worn by his friend, Ed Parker.

Another connection with Ed Parker -- The Shaolin Kenpo Creed was derived from Ed Parker's Creed. In the early years, Ralph Castro's students would recite the (Ed Parker's) Creed due to the school's affiliation with IKKA. After development of his own art and adopting the Shaolin Kenpo name for it, Ralph Castro retained the Creed as a legacy, with the exception that the name "Shaolin Kenpo" was said in place of "karate, empty hands". Still today, students of Shaolin Kenpo recite this Creed, with the noted modification.

In the earliest years, both Ralph Castro and Ed Parker referred to the art they practiced and taught as, "kenpo karate," as they learned the art and the name from their teacher, Professor Chow. But, Ralph Castro, an avid teacher and inventor, spent many subsequent years developing a unique martial art. His art retained all the fighting techniques he learned from his teacher. But, built upon this foundation, he added a curriculum of self-defense techniques, plus a huge number of very fast and powerful training forms ['dances,' in the (understated) Shaolin Kenpo terminology], all of which are Ralph Castro's unique creations. In parallel, and independently, Ed Parker was developing an art he would later call "American Kenpo Karate."

Coming to the mainland in 1981, Professor Chow lived with the Castro Family in San Francisco. Seeing his student's innovations, Professor Chow suggested that Ralph Castro should name his unique art "Shaolin Kenpo," no longer call it "kenpo karate." This was because the name, kenpo karate, had become a descriptive term and had gone into generic use. Adopting the name "Shaolin Kenpo" was also to differentiate from, and to avoid possible confusion with, Ed Parker's art, "American Kenpo Karate." The names, "Shaolin Kenpo", and the "International Shaolin Kenpo Association," grew out of the close relationship between Ralph Castro and Professor Chow while they were together in San Francisco. Upon establishing the name, Grandmaster Ralph Castro's teacher, Professor Chow, was the first Great Grandmaster of Shaolin Kenpo.

Ralph Castro's art, based in San Francisco, not close to the movie and TV capital of the world (fortunately, or unfortunately), did not have the attention and name recognition from the producers and celebrities -- notoriety in the early years that was at least partially responsible for growing Ed Parker's American Kenpo Karate into the large number of practitioners it still has today.

FAQ 9: What's the history behind the Shaolin Kenpo Salutation?

A:   " To all the Warriors, to all the Scholars, to the late Great Grandmaster William Kwai Sun Chow, to our Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro, and to all the Masters before them, may we remain back-to-back, defending our country at all times.  Shaolin Kenpo ! "

[I'm still working on this one. -Webmaster]

FAQ 10: What was the connection with Bruce Lee?


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FAQ 11: What is the policy on hazing?

A: Hazing is not permitted.

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International Shaolin Kenpo Association - Site last revised 02/11/2024
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