Kenpo is a system of self-defense. Its techniques are almost entirely counters; typical schools of kenpo do not teach its students how to attack people. Kenpo is not about fighting. A Kenpo practitioner does not "feel out" his opponent. Once the kenpo practitioner is attacked, his aim is to end the fight however he can as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Kenpo is set apart from many other martial arts by the sheer size of its curriculum. This varies, of course, from school to school, but several forms and defences against strikes, weapons, and grabs, are required to advance in rank.

Kenpo employs a belt ranking system, similar to those of Karate and Judo. Kenpo is almost exclusively a stand-up martial art, using various hand strikes, kicks, elbows, knees, throws, and joint locks in some cases.