How did black gi's become standard for kenpo?

Discussion in 'Kenpo - (EPAK) Ed Parker's American Kenpo Karate S' started by JohnPeace, Jul 24, 2008.

  1. JohnPeace

    JohnPeace White Belt

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    I'm new to EPAK and have been asking why kenpo students wear a black gi rather than the white worn by most traditional systems. Some instructors tell me that Mr. Parker started the practice with his instructors wearing black, then later his black belts, then later brown belts, but the trail of information seems to end there regarding how it became standard for most EPAK/AKTS students at all belt levels. Anyone know who/when/why? Thanks, JP
     
  2. girlbug2

    girlbug2 Master of Arts

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    I can tell you what my sensei told me. He said that in the martial arts, white symbolizes a pure style, aka traditional. Black symbolizes something that has been mixed. Another interpretation of those colors is that white means soft/weak and black means hard/powerful.

    In Hwa Rang do, white on the top and black pants symbolizes for instance that the style is weak on upper body but powerful on lower body, the legs. That's a style that is very heavy on kicking.

    So regarding the American Kenpo gis, the reason we wore black was to symbolize that AK is an "outlaw" style for not being traditional or "pure".

    Of course, I would like to also believe that it means that we are really hard badasses:)
     
  3. JohnPeace

    JohnPeace White Belt

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    Thanks girlbug2. I received a similar response to my question offline, that black symbolizes both a hybrid art and also that AK is the most combat-related art compared to others that have a greater degree of sport content. In short, kenpo guys/gals are hardcore warriors. jp
    ________________________________________________

    "Hit me once and I will walk away, hit me twice and you won't." jp
     
  4. John Bishop

    John Bishop Master Black Belt

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    In the tradition kenpo schools of Mitose and Chow, instructors wore black and students wore white. Both Adriano Emperado and Ed Parker came from the Chow school and carried on that tradition at first.
    In 1955 Kajukenbo went black for all practitioners. In Hawaii there are basically two MA groups, those in white (Japanese/Okinawan/Korean) and those in black (Kajukenbo/kenpo).
    Some EPAK schools are all black, and some still keep the kenpo tradition of black for instructors, and white for students. It probably depends on the instructor or organization.
    Most of the east coast Kempo groups descended from Kajukenbo/Karazenpo and wear black.
    And then there are the people who wear all colors of the rainbow.
     
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  5. marlon

    marlon Master Black Belt

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    Yeah, i do not care much for the 'all colours of the rainbow' i can not imagine myself in a red, blue or electric purple gi. Our tradition (if we have been around long enough to call it that ) is beginners wear white and then at purple belt (intermediate level) the student is permitted to wear a black gi but no one is forced to do so. Instructors are the only ones permitted to mix thier gi's usually white on top and black on the bottom...no meaning has ever been attached to it though, except to say that our foundation is kempo flow and style (black) and we must always hold the basics foremost (the white top)

    respectfully,
    Marlon
     
  6. stickarts

    stickarts Senior Master

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    We use colors the same way at the same levels. Although instructors may also wear a red top.
     
  7. Twin Fist

    Twin Fist Grandmaster

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    Marlon,
    I have never heard this, but i like it.

    In my school, i went with black gi's for everyone. My reasoning? to honor the Kenpo in my system.

    But then, i am an oddball about uniforms anyway. I wear a black gi with red sleeves sometimes and i think tops tucked into pants looks nice.
     
  8. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    So, black means 'hybrid' and white means 'weak'?

    I must get my time machine and travel back six centuries to tell the founder of iai about that particular morsel. Perhaps, Gichin Funakoshi would be interested too? :lol:

    I have to confess ignorance of the details of the lineage of kenpo so I can't judge the rationale or significance given to colours. It is interesting to read the interpretations given above - can someone give me a thumbnail of kenpo's development (don't be afraid to say "research it yourself, lazybones" :D).

    If the root is Japanese tho', then I could pass on a little about what 'colour' means in that culture - of course, being Japanese, it's not as straightforward as we'd like it to be, being heavily dependant on context.
     
  9. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    How convenient of karateka/judoka/etc. to wear white so as to help indicate the superiority of kenpo!
     
  10. girlbug2

    girlbug2 Master of Arts

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    Tsk tsk, you can't really mix the interpretations. It's either Hard/soft Or it's hybrid/pure. Officially, AK is a hybrid, thus the black. Many other styles are pure, thus the white.

    OTOH another interpretation of the colors could come from the yin/yang concept. Styles that wear white could be drawing upon the interpretation of yang (white), which is the stronger of the two.

    Clearly, whoever decided that AK should wear all black gis did not do so in the vein of the yin/yang interpretation:).

    But this is all just what I've been told -- I've never done the actual research myself.
     
  11. IWishToLearn

    IWishToLearn 3rd Black Belt

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    As I've been told by SGM Chuck Sullivan and by Doc Chap'el, the switch to black was merely a practicality choice. Black uniforms don't show dirt if you lean up against the wall.
     
  12. kenpofighter

    kenpofighter Green Belt

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    Well, I could not find what I was looking for online so I will have to tell you the best I can remember. What I have read was that a white gi use to be fairly easy to come by, but a black one was not. A black gi stood for bruising. And for whatever reason Ed Parker wanted to stand out, be different or whatever, so, he wanted to have his students wear a black gi.

    When a student first started he got a white gi because who knew how long he would stick with it. You see a black gi would have to be made person for person they did not come in bulk. So the student was given a white gi first then after about a blue belt (ruffly two year) he was able to have a black gi made.

    I also hear that out in CA students were not allowed to wear a black gi in tournaments (because of it's meaning).
     
  13. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    And maybe helped you stand out from the crowd a little!
     
  14. John Bishop

    John Bishop Master Black Belt

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    Well, like a lot of things in Kajukenbo, there's no big tradition or deep hidden meaning to our use of black gi's. Sijo Emperado simply wanted Kajukenbo practitioners to be unique in their uniform, in a place and time when everyone wore white. When you saw those guys in black, you knew they were Kajukenbo. At least in the 50's and 60's you did.
    Now days black is pretty common in just about any style.
     
  15. Sigung86

    Sigung86 2nd Black Belt

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    This makes as much sense, if not more, than some of the other fru-fru explanations about hard, and soft, etc. etc. I've heard this also from Doc, and some other, different sources.

    Suffice it to say, I think anyway, that most of the early folks, who were spreading the system, were practical folks, and not given to the religious/philosophical proclivities (With one notable exception). :angel:
     
  16. IWishToLearn

    IWishToLearn 3rd Black Belt

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    I dunno, I wasn't there. :)
     
  17. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

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    Black is slimming, have you seen most kenpo seniors?
     
  18. Big Pat

    Big Pat Orange Belt

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  19. Empty Hands

    Empty Hands Senior Master

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    It does vary quite a bit by school, even among first generation students of Mr. Parker. Bryan Hawkins' students wear white at the colored belt level, and black from brown belt on. Albert Cornejo's students, who train at the same location, all wear black. I've seen other EPAK schools that wear red on top, or black and white. I would hesitate to apply any deep meaning to any of these color choices, especially at this point in time. I don't think having a black gi makes you a "warrior".
     
  20. Jdokan

    Jdokan Black Belt

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    Funny you should mention that...In the USSD arena of old I am proud (LOL) to say I started a new tradition in Fred's world...We had always followed simliar tradition of black gi/white gi...we could upon promotion into brown start to wear the black gi....there never had been any ruling about white pants/black top or vice versa...UNTIL I wore a blue satin gi ( that had been my instructors ) to our annual tournament..... When they called my name to do my form (I was either 2nd or 3rd dan) I proudly stepped onto the floor wearing my instructors gi....There was Fred sitting in the middle of the line up with Mattera, Fritz, Carrozi, etc all sitting on either side...I respectfully waited to be summoned forward to announce myself when I noticed Fred whispering down both sides....Each of the Chief Masters shaking their heads...then I notice my instructor start to hang his head and hide ihis face in his hand... "Yeah....he's one of my guys"....or something to that effect.... Fred called me out...smiled..had me do my form then bowed me out.....Shortly after the Tournament there were NEW rules on what each ranking Black Belt was allowed to wear: 1st white top/black pants, 2nd white pants & black tops, etc.....
    So my claim to fame in that organization was the establishing of specific gi colors for each rank.....
    Not much but it does bring a chuckle every now and then when I think of it.........123
     

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