When I was young, I took a few years of Shaolin-Kempo-Karate at a couple Villari's dojos. As part of our training, we had the expected set of katas that we were required to learn. However, there was another class of forms that we were required to learn that resembled the Kata in classification but clearly were different in technique and style. These were referred to as "pinyons". While our katas (at least the ones that I learned while studying) typically had us move in an "H" pattern, and essentially contained a shorter set of techniques repeated 3 times. The pinyons, I do not remember quite as well, but I do recall them having us stepping in more directions and containing more variations in stances (such as cat stance, as well as horse stance and half-moon stance). They also featured a greater variation in striking, and contained less repetition (if I'm remembering properly).

I've never heard the term "pinyon" used anywhere else so I'm not really certain from where these forms came from, if they were created by Villari, or even from what language "pinyon" derives.

Does anyone have any insight into this?

  • 4
    I usually see it anglicized as "pinan", which might help you in your search. – Dave Liepmann May 17 '12 at 20:44

Kempo Karate is a unique blend of concepts and principles from the Chinese Temple Boxing and Japanese/Okinawan Karate forms from Nick Cerio who took them from Mas Oyama's system. Shaolin applied to the art of Kempo, combining to form the 4-ways of fighting system. The forms originate from those disciplines... Pinions 1 thru 5 originate from Okinawa and Katas originate from Kempo. The animal forms learned after the rank of 2nd dan are from Shaolin. I believe the crane form offered early in the Villari system could be Okinawan... Forms are taught to provide new technique, understanding of foot work, combining motion with your basics and so on. You would have learned 1 and 2 pinion first. The "I" pattern of both is to teach you a balanced way of forward motion and not throwing your energy into your opponent and how to deliver power using body.

  • Thanks for showing up and giving such a detailed answer! By the way, I trained under Sensei Ken Smith when he was up in Massachusetts, until he (and I, actually) moved in 1998. I see that your school is about 10 minutes from where he is, now (villarisroyalpalm.com/index.html). Have you met him? How's things going for him? I'm sure he probably doesn't remember me, at this point. I greatly enjoyed his training, though. – Ben Richards Nov 19 '12 at 21:29
  • Excellent answer. Thorough, provides context, well written. Thanks. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 20 '12 at 10:52

You are indeed looking for the 'Pinan' (or 'Heian') forms. The wiki article sheds quite a lot of light upon them.

Short story - they are in Shito, Wado, Shorin, Kobayashi, Kyokushin Shorei, Matsubayashi, and Shindo Jinen Ryu, as well as Shukokai and Shotokan. They were created by Anko Itosu.

They consist of pieces of the larger forms KankuDai / Kusanku and 'Channan', which seems to be a lost form.

  • Ah, that is what I'm looking for. Thanks! – Ben Richards May 17 '12 at 22:05

The correct term is actually 'Ping-An', which means 'Safety' in Chinese. They are from original Karate (China Hand), and were part of a larger form. In the late 1800's, Anko Itosu broke the form down into smaller subsets and branded them with the name 'Ping-An'. Students of his, such as Funakoshi, learned these and incorporated them into their arts later on.

In Kempo (Kenpo), they were originally included in the Kajukenbo training regimen. Later in the late '50s, George Pesare brought Kempo from his training in California (with Sonny Gascon) to the east coast. It would seem that he got the training mixed up a bit, because he apparently only taught the Katas, but called them 'Pinions'. To this day, his direct students still do this. Following this, one of his students, Prof. Cerio, went back to Hawaii to train and I suppose that he was then shown or informed that the Pinions were a thing, and as he also did Karate prior, he reincorporated the forms into the system restoring the names Pinion and Kata to their proper places. Fred Villari as did Uechi Ryu KLarate and learned Kempo from Nick Cerio, but the Americanized lingo of pinion stuck. This is merely a general overview of the history, there are others who can expound on the details more thoroughly. for more detailed info, you can always contact Kenpo Joe. He is literally the library of congress on anything Kenpo related.


in the Villaris system there are only 2 "pinions" that use an "I" pattern that is 1,2 pinion. up to Black Belt there is 1,2,3,4,5 pinion and 1,2,3,4,5 kata. 1 and 2 pinion are also taught before 1,2 kata in the Villaris system. I do not think you could have been at a school for a "few" years and not got more than 1,2 pinion. You would have been taught them first in forms. They start white belt with 1 pinion.

  • When I was studying Villari's system, I was taught 1 and 2 pinan, as well as 1, 2, and 3 kata. I don't recall the order in which they were taught to me, but I remember learning all of those. – Ben Richards Jul 6 '12 at 18:16
  • You should have received statue of the Crane prior to 3 kata. But some schools go in a slightly different order. – Doug Jul 20 '12 at 12:26
  • This answer corrects the spelling and confirms some of the memories, but it doesn't provide any real "insight" - what is the function/purpose of the pinions? Are there any resources that would provide more information? – Mark C. Wallace Oct 10 '12 at 18:23

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