Two slightly different styles of Kempo developed in the areas south and north of the Yangtze River. In the south, where numerous rivers and wet rice fields necessitated a great deal of rowing, the arms and chests of peasants developed more than their legs. Thus, southern Kempo uses more rounded movements that use the upper body. In the north, great expanses of plains stimulated ranching and necessitated horseback riding and strong legs. Therefore, northern Kempo developed light, straight-line movements that used the lower body.
Throughout Chinese history, Kempo has been the weapon of the unarmed. During peasant revolts in the Yuan and Ming dynasties, it was the only weapon available to the people. In the 1280's AD, a hundred thousand Kempo warriors rebelled against the ruling Mongolian, Genghis Khan, in an attempt to restore a purely Chinese dynasty, but they were unsuccessful. Kempo warriors were also responsible for the successful, although short-lived, T'aiping Revolt of 1851 AD (successful for a while but later put down by the Englishman Gordon and the army of the Manchu Dynasty).
Kempo warriors also led the Boxer Rebellion of 1896 AD. The term "boxer" referred to a sect of ultra nationalistic Kempo practitioners who were known for their "boxing" style of fighting. The boxers were first encouraged by the Manchu Empress to rid China of foreign intruders but she later betrayed them. After losing her support, the boxers fell before the weapons of the foreigners and they were hounded as enemies of the state. They were executed in great numbers, their training houses were closed, and Kempo was eradicated from China.
While Kempo may have been eradicated from China, it was not completely eradicated. Throughout the centuries, it had spread into other countries in the Orient, such as Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Ryukyu archipelago. The largest and one of the most influential islands in the archipelago was Okinawa.