What are Ryukyu Kempo’s Core Principles?

Our dojo, East Valley Martial Arts, is a member of the international United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance (URKA). The URKA is a unique martial arts organization for many reasons. One of the things that makes us unique are the Core Principles taught by our instructor Amor Kaicho. He learned them from his teacher Oyata Taika who came from Okinawa and became a United States citizen.

We teach these beneficial habits through our curriculum starting right at the beginning. The Core Principles not only help our students become strong in the life protection arts which go beyond just self defense. They also help us to take control of and improve on other parts of our lives. Here we will focus on how they help our martial arts training.


When a physical thing, including your body, has Structural Integrity (S.I.), it is strong in its placement and use. In our martial arts, that means we work from strong body alignment and build the habits for strong postures. A focus on S.I. helps our students to not only have better posture, but to have solid strikes as well as overall proficiency in movements. We can instinctively tell, by looking at a person or a structure, whether Structural Integrity is in place.

URKA practitioners using the core principles in their stances and body positions.


Coring is also known as the 18 inch rule, from the recognition that adult human bodies are about 18 inches wide. If you break the 18 inch rule with your guard too wide, that means that you are not protecting yourself. Then you are not in your “safe place.” On the other hand, if you have a strong guard, you are protected and you are zeroed out. It is difficult for an opponent to get to a position to harm you when you use the Coring Principle.


The third Core Principle is Observe, Plan and Execute (O.P.E.). For martial artists this means that we constantly Observe surroundings and situations. If we see something that needs action, we know to Plan our response then Execute an intelligent action. Much of our training in the life protection arts consists of regularly Observing and Planning. Then when our skills are needed to protect life, we are ready to finish out the O.P.E. Principle and Execute an informed action.    


The fourth Core Principle is Efficiency and Proficiency (E. and P.). The E. and P. rule means we don’t waste time, space or energy. We can apply it to all karate moves. But let’s start with a punch. We use Efficiency to move the fist in a straight line from point A to point B. We use Proficiency with proper use of first mostly the biceps and then mostly the triceps muscles. Part of that process is the twist of the fist. Practicing the punch with the E. and P. Principle makes it safe for the practitioner while creating a strong, effective technique.  

Practitioner uses Efficiency and Proficiency Core Principle to protect herself.
The E. and P. Core Principle is invaluable in Life Protection.


The Weight Lead Indicator is the fifth Core Principle. Your Weight Lead Indicator shows the path you are on, how deliberate you are on that path, and how able you are to follow through in your direction of travel. For martial artists, the Weight Lead Indicator is shown by their deliberation in their strikes and their direction of movement when they move or apply a technique. Sometimes you can feel the Weight Lead Indicator in the follow-through of a motion applied to you by a martial artist. Other times, you see or hear it in their demeanor.


To review, the five Core Principles in our curriculum are: 1) Structural Integrity, 2) Coring, 3) Observe, Plan, Execute, 4) Efficiency and Proficiency, and 5) Weight Lead Indicator. Many martial artists use some of these without knowing it. But our students use all five of these Principles in order to become exceptionally strong martial artists. And the beauty is they learn to apply these Principles to other areas of life to be more effective, proficient and successful.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

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