Kenpo Roots & History Part 2

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arnisador said:
I have to say...it would be easy to take some of your posts as disparaging Mr. Parker as yet another Soke McDojo wannabe. I realize you respect him and that peopla are complex and neither wholly good nor wholly bad, yet when I read things like this and consider that he was self-promoted to 10th degree, I think of the Fred Villaris and Soke Calkins of the world.

I don't mean to offend, but...aren't you basically stating that he was a McDojo propenent, because he wanted to make money?

I understand what you mean sir, and he and I used to have our disagreements as well because of some of the things I saw coming out of the schools. We argued about kids ranking and young black belts. He even assigned my thesis for 7th to deal with the proliferation of children into the schools without dilution of the grading process, because I made so much noise about kids belts.

But my perpsective was hard core Chinese much like his, but I never had a commercial school or engaged in the business of teaching to make a living. When you do, compromise is something that cannot be ignored. I have always been full time public law enforcment, so I could then as now afford to pick and choose my students and turn away those whose level of commitment and intellect was not up to what I wanted. Make no mistake about it, Mr. Parker was in the business of kenpo, and he never did anything else from the time he left college.

He felt the idea of a McDojo wasn't a bad thing anymore than its fast food brother McDonalds. It is what it is. You want a quick fast meal that will fill you up for a reasonable price, you go to McDonald's. If you wanted a really fine meal, you had to seek out a special restaurant, and expect to pay a premium price for the priviledge.

If you went into a strip mall or store front school full of women, children and middle aged men, you shouldn't expect to get ancient Chinese secrets. If you could find Ark Wong's school in the middle of Chinatown upstairs over a bar, and you walked in and there was an old Chinese man preparing herbs in between knocking people out with ease, then you had a right to expect more than a "big mac."

He took pride in a recognizable product in his name all across the country, and beyond. He was the Father of American Karate." No one had ever done that before. But he insisted there was a significant foundation available in his 'business kenpo' that would allow the diligent to become reasonably adept. Those that truly wanted more will ultimately seek it, and some no matter what you do will never rise above a certian level.

He created a componant that was pure marketing genius. It could appeal to everyone, including the hard core physical as well as the casual. But like anything else that gets big, you lose control. He always made a point to say that instructors are supposed to be responsible for the quality of their students, not he. The majority of those that claim Parker as an instructor were actually co-promoted. Very few had Parker's name on the instructor line of the big diplomas, and even of those, almost none began with Parker as a white belt.

In the beginning it worked well because of the stature of the first group of instructors that went into business. They were already tough guys, Parker just taught them the business and some of his Kenpo Concepts. Over the years though it continued to get more and more diluted by its own structure. Still with moderate effort, you can find someone that will teach you enough to take care of yourself under most circumstances you are likely to encounter today. Isn't that why most come in the door? I've never seen anyone come in and say, "I want to be a master of the martial arts, and I have 25 years to work on it." :)

Yeah he was self promoted to 10th, but even that was business. Parker hated stripes and rank. It was the business that dictated it, and as students coveted and assumed rank, he had to as well. Parker never wore any belt markings until the business took off and he had to. He was 7th then and was promoted to 8th by Sijo Adriano Emperado. Parker was so respected in the arts by everyone from every discipline he could have made himself anything he wanted. He had a drawer full of 10th degree certifcates from every organization you could think of. Everyone honored him, and acknowledged his business acumen brought profit to all and created an industry.
 

arnisador

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Thanks for this honest answer. I do agree with the McDonald's analogy; it brings a certain consistency that mutes both the highs and the lows.
 

pete

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WOW, just noticed that Clyde has been banished to the corn field for being a bad man, a very bad man. I guess any challenges to what may appear to be revisionist history will be kept in check.

we have now entered a new dimension, not one of height-width-or-depth, but of mind. there's a signpost up ahead: the Martial Talk Zone.
dodododo.
 

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Before I even say what I am about to say let me preface it first by saying that I in no way intend to disrespt anyone at all by this comment.

If Mr Parker took the rank of 10th for mainly business decisions then what are the reasons for all of the 10th out there now. Were thier decisions to take that rank business as well?

Once again please do not take this as a knock on anyone or thier rank or thier decision to hold that rank.
 

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Doc said:
He took pride in a recognizable product in his name all across the country, and beyond. He was the Father of American Karate." No one had ever done that before. But he insisted there was a significant foundation available in his 'business kenpo' that would allow the diligent to become reasonably adept.
I think this is the key. The times were very, very different. America had not exposed to the martial arts on any large scale. Very few people had the opportunity to learn.

Mr. Parker was able to bring a structure to the martial arts that allowed, as you say, the diligent to become reasonably adept. Are they better off having some training than absolutely none? Probably, considering the strong and common sense principles EPAK was built upon.

In some cases no training may be better than McDojo training, but given the time, the instructors, and EPAK's structure, I don't believe this was the case.
 
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pete said:
WOW, just noticed that Clyde has been banished to the corn field for being a bad man, a very bad man. I guess any challenges to what may appear to be revisionist history will be kept in check.

we have now entered a new dimension, not one of height-width-or-depth, but of mind. there's a signpost up ahead: the Martial Talk Zone.
dodododo.
Do not attempt to adjust your picture ... for the next hour we will control all that you see and hear .... :)

You telling your age Pete.
 

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I think Mcdojo is the wrong analogy for what Mr. Parker tried to create. A better analogy would be a comparison to to "The Outback" restaurants. A chain product which provides a relatively good meal in a marketable, reproducible manner not solely dependent on the manager or the chef for quality.

Jeff
 
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Atlanta-Kenpo said:
Before I even say what I am about to say let me preface it first by saying that I in no way intend to disrespt anyone at all by this comment.

If Mr Parker took the rank of 10th for mainly business decisions then what are the reasons for all of the 10th out there now. Were thier decisions to take that rank business as well?

Once again please do not take this as a knock on anyone or thier rank or thier decision to hold that rank.
I think to a certain extent you may be correct, but I think a huge dose of ego and pride drives it more than anything. Then there is the competitive nature of the business. To the layman the higher the number the 'better' the guy is. If the guy you're talking to is a '7th,' and there is a 9th down the street, the layperson will go see the '9th.'

With rare exception all the people who said they would never take a 10th (out of respect for Mr. Parker) have done so. In addition to the other reasons stated, an individuals organization can also drive it as it was with Parker. Your students always think you should be 10th.

I got caught up in it as well. I was recruited into the American Teachers Association of the Martial Arts (ATAMA), founded by Ralph Castro and Duke Moore to help anchor a Southern California Chapter along with an old friend of mine from Shotokan, Dr. Bernd Weiss. After a national presentation for the organization, I was surprised and awarded an 8th with a slap on the back from SGM Castro himself for "presenting Kenpo in the light it deserved." (The organization was primarily represented by other traditional styles, so Kenpo was a rare bird on display). Here I was presenting with Tak Kubota, Ralph Castro, Edwin Hamile, Bill Ryusaki, and other contemporaries of my teacher. The same happened for a 9th and 10th for me.

Later they published a book "Who's Who In The Martial Arts," and I and my relationship with Parker was higlighted in the book. Traveling and doing seminars outside of Kenpo for years with different disciplines garnered me a 9th from Dan Zan Ryu Jiu-jitsu, a 9th in Karate-do from WUKO and Shihan Edwin Hamile, and other ranks from very legitimate organizations. While it felt good to prove myself outside of the Kenpo political structure, ultimately you put these things in context. My students had a 10th made for me, and I wore it about ten minutes one day and never put it back on. For me it 'didn't feel right.'

I came up with Parker wearing no stripes and only put them on when he did. I continued to wear them because my students did. One day I woke up and realized I was in charge and didn't have to wear any stripes at all, so I went back to the old Parker Tradition. So now as a group, we don't wear black belt stripes, or talk about rank. Plane belts work fine.

My point is I have never been in the business and yet I got caught up in it as well. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for their years of hard work and acquired skills, and I had been at it literally all of my life. Some should be wearing 10ths, and Parker allowed for this in his rank structure. But the sad thing is Kenpo-Karate has more 8th's, 9th's, 10th's and different organizations than any other art in existence. It has been overwhelmed by 'business' and the majority of them shouldn't be.
 
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Kenpodoc said:
I think Mcdojo is the wrong analogy for what Mr. Parker tried to create. A better analogy would be a comparison to to "The Outback" restaurants. A chain product which provides a relatively good meal in a marketable, reproducible manner not solely dependent on the manager or the chef for quality.

Jeff
I would disagree. It was and is wholly dependent on the manager for the quality of the product. The McDonald's analogy was drawn by Parker himself, and he didn't find it a negative. He saw McDonald's as the original franchise business that it was, and thoroughly explored the concept and existing successful business plans. He ultimately settled on the Arthur Murray Dance Studio business plan, with a McDonald's twist. I actually sat in on one of these meetings with a 'franchise expert' when the concept was new. Parker knew what he was doing, and If Kenpo was as good as McDonald's in the arts, he would be happy. It isn't.
 

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Doc said:
I think to a certain extent you may be correct, but I think a huge dose of ego and pride drives it more than anything. Then there is the competitive nature of the business. To the layman the higher the number the 'better' the guy is. If the guy you're talking to is a '7th,' and there is a 9th down the street, the layperson will go see the '9th.'

yeah, this is my impression too. And the thing is, somebody could very well be excellent, but they would not be any less excellent had they just kept the 3rd or 4th or 5th or 6th dan that they legitately earned. High rank is given out like a door-prize, or is seized by someone with an insatiable ago or a business need. What should be rare has become common as dirt. There I go, on my soapbox again...
 
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Flying Crane said:
yeah, this is my impression too. And the thing is, somebody could very well be excellent, but they would not be any less excellent had they just kept the 3rd or 4th or 5th or 6th dan that they legitately earned. High rank is given out like a door-prize, or is seized by someone with an insatiable ago or a business need. What should be rare has become common as dirt. There I go, on my soapbox again...
You need a bigger box, to make room for me.
 

Kembudo-Kai Kempoka

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pete said:
WOW, just noticed that Clyde has been banished to the corn field for being a bad man, a very bad man. I guess any challenges to what may appear to be revisionist history will be kept in check.

we have now entered a new dimension, not one of height-width-or-depth, but of mind. there's a signpost up ahead: the Martial Talk Zone.
dodododo.

Stay with me on this one, and see if you can spot the "silly" part.

I ain't banishing Clyde, nor am I supporting a criticism-free forum for the sake of propagating revisionist history. Doc's position is simple: There is a commercial, money-making version of kenpo...in fact, several: I don't think Mr. Parker ever taught the same technique the same way twice, regardless of how it was written in the red book. There are also different aspects of kenpo which were NOT made readily available to the masses, generally because they did not support an income-generating market.

Clyde, of all folks, should be aware of this. According to several folks who were regularly there, the old Thursday night classes in Santa Monica were behind closed doors...mainly, because the public would have been scared away by the intensity of the training sessions. Secret kenpo taught after hours? Nah, not secret...just more detailed, and a little more hard core in delivery and exploration. Kenpo most kenpoists will never see, much less non-kenpoists. Kenpo subtley different from what the commercial mainstream experiences.

Now keep in mind...that's one group of people in one location. There were other cells elsewhere, each being fed different items to focus on. There are some subtleties in techniques that can only be explored with this brand of intensity. They leave marks; they make people veeerry sore. No moms are going to sign their kids up for that abuse; nor are weekend warriors apt to stick around for the privilege of being bounced off the walls to learn it. Meanwhile, the sole proprietor has to pay the bills. Solution is simple...dumb it down for the folks who aren't up for getting jiggy with it. Generally, about 98 to 99 percent of the student load.

Does Larry blast his orange belts with the same intensity he brings to his black belts? I bet not. Yet they all will be able to say, "I trained with Larry Tatum", despite their very different experiences and the content of their learnings. Blasting is bad for business. Data-dumping all the possibilities that cross your mind in a training session is bad for business. Not having a standardized cirriculum is bad for business. Parker was a businessman. It was not in his best interest to explore all his ideas all the time with all the people. Bad for business.

It could then be argued that Larry has a commercial product -- the kenpo he uses to run his money-maker classes, such as kids and beginners classes -- and a more personal kenpo: What he trains when doing his own gig, or the next-layer of intensity he breaks out with his upper-crust boyz.

Something has to pay the bills. I ain't out to censor Clyde. Let the man speak; he has certainly done his time to be entitled to an opinion, even if I'm not in agreement, or consider it poorly informed. (free speech vs mohammed cartoons). I would rather see him offer positive possible alternatives as opposed to taking pot-shots at what/who he disagrees with.

We have some full-blown loonies in kenpo, insisting on stuff like...toting around Parkers workout clothing entitles them to be the next messianic kenpo action figurine. Yet, for all the wierdness out there, we get people slinging at Doc because his experiences with Parker were different than those had by others; generally, the "others" they trained with or are tree'd under. He holds up his banner, and folks take shots at it. Not only did he spend enough time with Parker to be one of the dinosaurs, he also trained with some of the guys Parker trained with. He is one of the few to have stuck around during re-writes and reorganizations of kenpo by Mr. Parker. He is one of the few who didn't have to tread softly with the old man, because he didn't betray his friendship or come knocking on the door looking solely for rank and recognition. They were friends...they shot the $#!%, and explored concepts in conversation and on the mat that didn't make it into mainstream kenpo, because they just didn't belong there. That's not double-secret ninja kenpo training; that's just two kenpo geeks talking about what gets their geek on. How could they NOT cover different territory than what's in the journals?

Also, unfortunately (for the masses asserting that Doc is writing revisionist histories), there are other well-known, highly recognized prominent kenpoists who have/will concur in private with what Doc's holding up. Why don't they do it in public? Bad for business.

Kenpo is a commercial venture. One must pay the bills. With a home mortgage, site lease, and business loan to repay, it would make excellent sense to cling publicly to the "What you see (in the books and seminars) is all there is" version of kenpo history.

As for lauging and slapping...to date, Doc's boys have some of the most predictably solid basics; stances, strikes, blocks, etc. I've personally seen waaayy to many kenpoistas with wicked fast techniques, full command of the kenpo-speak terminology from the books, but who move like disjointed marionettes and can't hit a target hard enough to harm it. Doc's techniques are not out of the manual, but his kenpo is solid, as is the kenpo of his rugrats. He is a ***** about basics, because he can afford to be...his kenpo don't pay the bills.

Regards,

Dave
 

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Kembudo-Kai Kempoka said:
Stay with me on this one, and see if you can spot the "silly" part.

I ain't banishing Clyde, nor am I supporting a criticism-free forum for the sake of propagating revisionist history. Doc's position is simple: There is a commercial, money-making version of kenpo...in fact, several: I don't think Mr. Parker ever taught the same technique the same way twice, regardless of how it was written in the red book. There are also different aspects of kenpo which were NOT made readily available to the masses, generally because they did not support an income-generating market.

Clyde, of all folks, should be aware of this. According to several folks who were regularly there, the old Thursday night classes in Santa Monica were behind closed doors...mainly, because the public would have been scared away by the intensity of the training sessions. Secret kenpo taught after hours? Nah, not secret...just more detailed, and a little more hard core in delivery and exploration. Kenpo most kenpoists will never see, much less non-kenpoists. Kenpo subtley different from what the commercial mainstream experiences.

Now keep in mind...that's one group of people in one location. There were other cells elsewhere, each being fed different items to focus on. There are some subtleties in techniques that can only be explored with this brand of intensity. They leave marks; they make people veeerry sore. No moms are going to sign their kids up for that abuse; nor are weekend warriors apt to stick around for the privilege of being bounced off the walls to learn it. Meanwhile, the sole proprietor has to pay the bills. Solution is simple...dumb it down for the folks who aren't up for getting jiggy with it. Generally, about 98 to 99 percent of the student load.

Does Larry blast his orange belts with the same intensity he brings to his black belts? I bet not. Yet they all will be able to say, "I trained with Larry Tatum", despite their very different experiences and the content of their learnings. Blasting is bad for business. Data-dumping all the possibilities that cross your mind in a training session is bad for business. Not having a standardized cirriculum is bad for business. Parker was a businessman. It was not in his best interest to explore all his ideas all the time with all the people. Bad for business.

It could then be argued that Larry has a commercial product -- the kenpo he uses to run his money-maker classes, such as kids and beginners classes -- and a more personal kenpo: What he trains when doing his own gig, or the next-layer of intensity he breaks out with his upper-crust boyz.

Something has to pay the bills. I ain't out to censor Clyde. Let the man speak; he has certainly done his time to be entitled to an opinion, even if I'm not in agreement, or consider it poorly informed. (free speech vs mohammed cartoons). I would rather see him offer positive possible alternatives as opposed to taking pot-shots at what/who he disagrees with.

We have some full-blown loonies in kenpo, insisting on stuff like...toting around Parkers workout clothing entitles them to be the next messianic kenpo action figurine. Yet, for all the wierdness out there, we get people slinging at Doc because his experiences with Parker were different than those had by others; generally, the "others" they trained with or are tree'd under. He holds up his banner, and folks take shots at it. Not only did he spend enough time with Parker to be one of the dinosaurs, he also trained with some of the guys Parker trained with. He is one of the few to have stuck around during re-writes and reorganizations of kenpo by Mr. Parker. He is one of the few who didn't have to tread softly with the old man, because he didn't betray his friendship or come knocking on the door looking solely for rank and recognition. They were friends...they shot the $#!%, and explored concepts in conversation and on the mat that didn't make it into mainstream kenpo, because they just didn't belong there. That's not double-secret ninja kenpo training; that's just two kenpo geeks talking about what gets their geek on. How could they NOT cover different territory than what's in the journals?

Also, unfortunately (for the masses asserting that Doc is writing revisionist histories), there are other well-known, highly recognized prominent kenpoists who have/will concur in private with what Doc's holding up. Why don't they do it in public? Bad for business.

Kenpo is a commercial venture. One must pay the bills. With a home mortgage, site lease, and business loan to repay, it would make excellent sense to cling publicly to the "What you see (in the books and seminars) is all there is" version of kenpo history.

As for lauging and slapping...to date, Doc's boys have some of the most predictably solid basics; stances, strikes, blocks, etc. I've personally seen waaayy to many kenpoistas with wicked fast techniques, full command of the kenpo-speak terminology from the books, but who move like disjointed marionettes and can't hit a target hard enough to harm it. Doc's techniques are not out of the manual, but his kenpo is solid, as is the kenpo of his rugrats. He is a ***** about basics, because he can afford to be...his kenpo don't pay the bills.

Regards,

Dave

Thank you for this excellent post. An outsider like myself is starting to understand the bigger picture.
 

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unfortunately, you are getting one side of a bigger picture.

me, i'm a nobody, and far be it from me to say Doc is wrong (or right for that matter). what Doc and Dave say makes a lot of sense, and i will NOT dispute for one minute the accuracy and integrity by which Doc has graciously elaborated relating to his relationship, training, and friendship with SGM Parker. Further, i have no reason to doubt that he was taught differently and explored different material with his friend and teacher.

this happens all the time with good teachers and their students, whether they be friends or not.

then there is the commercial, hamburger, motion, dance school stuff that also makes sense for the masses... but, are we expected to believe that people like larry tatum, steven labounty, tom kelly, joe palanzo, etc were not taught at the same level of quality as Dr Chapel? Could it be possible that these men, proteges if you will, were given much of the same instruction, or if different, then at the same level of quality, as each other and Doc alike?

Maybe these other seniors were taught the 'advanced concepts' not to teach to their kids and weekend warriors, but to hold for those students who earn it... maybe?

Seniors like Tatum, LaBounty, Kelly, Palanzo are all men with at least 40 years in the martial arts. yes business is business, but i give them all credit that they would have figured it out on their own by now~

pete.
 

Kembudo-Kai Kempoka

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I would venture to say that each of them had different experiences with Mr. Parker. In fact, I'd bet on it.

One of Clyde's stated/inferred beefs is that Doc has changed the techniques off the standardized format. Not one of the guys named does any of the techs the same way. LaBounty has been around long enough to make up his own mind, and deviates from established techniques to teach or illustrate principles. I also understand he does extensions...which happen to be nothing like the Kelly/Larry/Huk/Palanzo, etc., extensions.

A couple of the guys you mentioned above also either took breaks from Parker, so to speak, or were situated in geographically undesirable locations so as to be unavailable for much of the stuff.

Kelly is an excellent example for the point I was hoping to make. He is, by the "testimony" of several around in the last days, the busiest recipient of Parker's newest fedback on the written manuals. Binders of typed notes with handwritten edits by Parker, elucidating small differences that make a difference. Understanding the way Mr. Parker compartmentalized the people around him, I would say that those notebooks represent a clearer picture of the final kenpo version Parker was working on...with Kelly. Who's to say what went on when he was on the mat or on the phone or trading ideas with Planas, vs Kelly, or any of the other oldsters with whom he was maintaining ties.

Another important point I glossed over a moment ago: Mr. Parker compartmentalized his relationships. 2 of the guys you mentioned had -- while Mr. Parker was still here -- reputations for only really showing up looking for rank or recognition in the business and politics of doing kenpo. As if to punctuate this point, they both went to Mrs. Parker to ask for higher advanced ranks shortly after the old man slipped off the plate. At least one (I'm not sure about the other), when denied by Mr. Parkers wife, did NOT address his concerns to the IKKA, but rather promptly seperated and promoted himself accordingly.

Mr. Parker was smart enough to know which side his bread was buttered on; large chain guys got front row seats at the show, and regular promotions to keep the cash cow's milk flowing. He was also smart enough to govern the flow of information accordingly. Those he cared for and trusted got more after the show was over, regardless of rank.

Regards,

Dave
 

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pete said:
but, are we expected to believe that people like larry tatum, steven labounty, tom kelly, joe palanzo, etc were not taught at the same level of quality as Dr Chapel? Could it be possible that these men, proteges if you will, were given much of the same instruction, or if different, then at the same level of quality, as each other and Doc alike?

pete.

I really don't see it as an issue of "....taught at the same level or quality", but that Mr. Parker had a gift for adressing lessons to meet the students level of understanding and ability...
and that sometimes he would teach something to someone else *differently* as sort of a "lab-experiment" to see what they'd do with it and see how it'd work.
Each of the men you mentioned are, from what I know, TOP NOTCH practitioners of Kenpo!!! Each, I'd bet, recieved some very individualize instruction from Mr. Parker.
Just my thoughts.

Your Brother
John
 

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Kembudo-Kai Kempoka said:
Another important point I glossed over a moment ago: Mr. Parker compartmentalized his relationships. 2 of the guys you mentioned had -- while Mr. Parker was still here -- reputations for only really showing up looking for rank or recognition in the business and politics of doing kenpo. As if to punctuate this point, they both went to Mrs. Parker to ask for higher advanced ranks shortly after the old man slipped off the plate. At least one (I'm not sure about the other), when denied by Mr. Parkers wife, did NOT address his concerns to the IKKA, but rather promptly seperated and promoted himself accordingly.

Regards,

Dave



Dave,

I know that Palanzo and I believe Planas started the WKKA shortly after Mr. Parker died. I had also heard a rumor that there were some inquiries about rank promotions from other Blackbelts before Mr. Parker was even laid to rest. I find this appalling if true. Could you or Doc shed some light on this issue. If you don't want to answer, I can understand. This is a touchy subject for some people. I you do want to answer, PM me if you don't want to post public.

Thanks,

HKF
 

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Brother John said:
I really don't see it as an issue of "....taught at the same level or quality", but that Mr. Parker had a gift for adressing lessons to meet the students level of understanding and ability...
and that sometimes he would teach something to someone else *differently* as sort of a "lab-experiment" to see what they'd do with it and see how it'd work.
Each of the men you mentioned are, from what I know, TOP NOTCH practitioners of Kenpo!!! Each, I'd bet, recieved some very individualize instruction from Mr. Parker.
Just my thoughts.

Your Brother
John

Not only understanding and ability, but also the interest of the student, and where they want to go with their art. That seems to apply to many different types of art. Studying music at the college level, an instructor has a certain amound of ground that s/he has to cover with their students. That material is also framed by what the student is interested in and how the student interprets what is being taught.

A great music teacher can produce great performers, but a great music teacher rarely produces identical performers.

Is it possible that Kenpo is the same way?
 

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pete said:
WOW, just noticed that Clyde has been banished to the corn field for being a bad man, a very bad man. I guess any challenges to what may appear to be revisionist history will be kept in check.

we have now entered a new dimension, not one of height-width-or-depth, but of mind. there's a signpost up ahead: the Martial Talk Zone.
dodododo.


Revisionist history? Who's version?
 
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