KT:American Kenpo's "New" Voice

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Sep 11, 2006
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American Kenpo's "New" Voice
By Doc - Sat, 10 Mar 2007 03:10:11 GMT
Originally Posted at: KenpoTalk


Below is an excerpt from an old Black Belt Magazine Article from about 12 years ago. I do not have the magazine to nail down the exact issue. I do know however that what i have is "unedited" by the magazine. I will continue to search for the other parts, while discussion commences on part one.

American Kenpo's "New" Voice
Part 1: "The Evolution of American Kenpo"
by Ed Parker, Jr.

First, let me clear up a couple of misconceptions that has brought much unfounded criticism from &#8220;outsiders&#8221; to the first American Martial Art who say American Kenpo was taught as an incomplete art but, they, somehow KNOW, the complete art. Interestingly, these people all claim to be legitimized by a prior member of the Family Tree, but still teach the system that My Father had began to organize. The Mitose and Chow lineage systems are still around today, but if you compare the number of Ed Parker studios to any other you will see that the Parker lineage studios clearly out number any others. Mitose came to My Father in the early sixties in Pasadena with the idea of a collaboration between the two. The philosophical differences between them were significant enough for My Dad to decline.

As a child, My Father was always teaching me but, like most youth, I had different interests than Dad. I had a natural artistic talent, and ultimately went off to college to Hawaii to study Illustration. Upon finishing college, I was given the task of developing a computer system for the family business. As my graphic arts skills matured, I was ultimately pressed into service running the production wing of Dad&#8217;s publishing company. Supervising and working on every aspect of everything he did in print and video, forced me to understand American Kenpo like few others. It&#8217;s true my physical lessons weren&#8217;t keeping pace with my intellectual progress, and I am not where I would like to be but, that&#8217;s because I could get away from some of his impromptu classes in the kitchen or den but, I couldn&#8217;t get away from work. Nevertheless, even against my own wishes, I was a constant student of the Founder of American Kenpo.

Recently I have become concerned with other people deciding what my fathers art is all about, and the direction it should follow. In some cases persons previously associated with My Father have been attempting to re-write history in their favor. Although I don&#8217;t consider myself American Kenpo&#8217;s &#8220;new&#8221; Grandmaster, I do consider myself to be the &#8220;Ambassador&#8221; to American Kenpo, and what you could call, the extended voice of Ed Parker Sr.

After all, I am his only son and I have made it my business to remind people of what My Father would have said or would have wanted in certain situations. Sort of a &#8220;Kenpo Conscious.&#8221; In this area, no one is more of an authority than I am. Although now that I&#8217;m a black belt, rank has never been important to me as was the same to My Father. I know, no matter how much I progress, I can only be compared to My Dad. No one can fill his shoes. Certainly, I know I can&#8217;t, and that&#8217;s why I don&#8217;t try. Fortunately, as I got older, my interest caused me to intensify my training, (to My Father&#8217;s delight,) before he passed. The only thing that surprises me is, I keep running into people who are amazed when they participate in my seminars. They always seem to say, &#8220;I didn&#8217;t know you studied Kenpo.&#8221; I thought it was pretty simple. How could a son live with Ed Parker for thirty years, and not? I have studied with several of My Dad&#8217;s top Black Belts and been promoted by them. They have a wealth of knowledge and notes taken from My Father since the sixties, and are very helpful in several areas of training.

Historically, the state of the art taught by Professor Chow or James Mitose was extremely primitive in the fifties and sixties. What we call a &#8220;technique&#8221; today, did not exist at that time. Most &#8220;techniques&#8221; consisted of only two or three simplistic moves, which was fairly indicative of the state of almost all martial arts in the late forties, to the sixties. Ed Parker was a major contributor to the evolution of the Martial Arts through His theories and principles.

My Father&#8217;s first book on &#8220;Kenpo Karate&#8221; was published in the early sixties, and although devoid of principles, demonstrated techniques with three and four rather simple movements, and discussed pressure points and nerve strikes. It was considered both innovative and outrageous, (for being non-traditional,) at the same time. If you follow the paper trail of books and magazines, as well as movies, you can see how all arts, (not just Kenpo) have evolved slowly over the years. Bruce Lee&#8217;s crowd-pleasing demonstration at the International Championships in 1964, would hardly raise an eyebrow today. My Dad often said the champions from his early tournaments would &#8220;...pay good money for...&#8221; him &#8220;...to burn the film of their competition.&#8221; Compared to contemporary students, they looked like poor white belts.

This leads to the next misconception. American Kenpo has always been thought by some to be this immense body of work with a beginning, middle and an ending. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ed Parker&#8217;s American Kenpo has always been in a state of evolution. Any criticism aimed at His System, must specifically address a particular part of His System, at a particular point in time during its evolution. My Father said, &#8220; Kenpo never changes, but it is always in a state of perpetual refinement.&#8221; This contradicts those who teach the art, and choose not to &#8220;change.&#8221;

Indeed massive refinements were made to the System over time. &#8220;Changes&#8221; where made by My Dad as he discovered new concepts and principles, refined them, and integrated them into His System. His discovery of &#8220;Reverse Motion&#8221; in the sixties, virtually changed almost everything previously created. But, it did not invalidate His earlier work. So those who suggest elements of the System have been left out, can only address what the state of the art was when they learned the art from Ed Parker, and how long did they studied with Him. After coming to the mainland from Hawaii, He began instructing what Professor Chow was teaching at that time. Always being logical in his analytical approach, and as My Dad constantly discovered new principles and concepts, the art evolved and from then on became Ed Parker&#8217;s System &#8220;in progress.&#8221;
Those who have seen his Black Belt Diploma know My Father was ranked in three arts. Kenpo, Jiu-jitsu, and Kara-Te. Undoubtedly He drew on all elements of the Martial Arts when he began creating American Kenpo. As an aside, it might be interesting to note My Father&#8217;s diploma was signed by William K.S. Chow, and no one else.

Ed Parker&#8217;s system is a ninety-five percent conceptual product of the mind of Ed Parker, and is only superficially related to any of his previous training. This distinction is important because it removes those who have never studied directly and continuously with Ed Parker, to a position making any rational criticism of his art, at best, superficial and un-informed. Those who left in the sixties are uninformed with regard to newer material. Those who began training later are familiar only with the &#8220;motion&#8221; side of Kenpo and lack perspective. Almost no one transcends the sixties to His passing. There were many who were around. However, they were not part of the overall evolution process. My Dad used to say &#8220;When you ask people how long they have studied, they tell you how long they have lived since they started.&#8221;

The system contains many elements, with which, many might not be familiar. My Dad taught what he wanted, to whom he wanted. So, because you aren&#8217;t familiar with something, doesn&#8217;t mean it doesn&#8217;t exist. I have seen My Dad teach something, and the same day, teach the same thing completely different to someone else. He had what I call little &#8220;laboratories&#8221; all over the place. Giving different instructors different elements or &#8220;experiments&#8221; with their students was not unusual. He catered to the strengths of his instructors, based on their understanding of principles coupled with their physical abilities, personal preferences, and educational capabilities. How He felt about you as a person also played a major role. After all, who hasn&#8217;t learned more when the instructor likes you. To My Dad&#8217;s credit, he made everyone feel like they were getting all the information. What they were getting was all the information he wanted to give to them. It brings to mind the old saying &#8220; I taught you everything you know, not everything I know.&#8221; We must all check our egos and let our Kenpo speak for itself. Everyone has worth.

Indeed, if one has read and understood all of My dad&#8217;s books (that I put together) they would have only scratched the surface of the depth of the man&#8217;s thought process. Remember, those who took a lesson with him were taught what he wanted to teach them, and the System of the moment. We know what he taught was rather extensive and extremely demanding on its practitioners, both physically and intellectually as well as &#8220;effective.&#8221; But we must never forget, there is &#8220;ineffective,&#8221; &#8220;effective,&#8221; &#8220;more effective,&#8221; and &#8220;most effective.&#8221; We need to remove the word &#8220;wrong&#8221; from our Kenpo vocabulary. It invalidates, and is counter productive.

Very purposely, my Father limited most of His teaching to certain material in an effort to spread the art. The martial arts community short of seeing the Grandmaster in his physical and intellectual equinox has rarely seen His other levels of Kenpo. Many of us as students, have definitely felt the other levels of kenpo, but most could not relate to the intangible aspects of the art.

&#8220;Motion Kenpo&#8221; (also called Commercial Kenpo by me) deals only with the concepts and theories of motion as it pertains to the Kenpo System and, does not have a stated purpose beyond &#8220;Elongated circles and rounded off corners.&#8221; Doesn&#8217;t this seem just a little to simplistic to encompass the many aspects of American Kenpo? After all, this phrase is devoid of any of the philosophical, humanitarian, mental, or even the spiritual side of American Kenpo. So, how could this simple phrase collectively define American Kenpo&#8217;s in its entirety?

Although there is no doubt the information My Father conveyed to most of his public and private students was indeed excellent and good information, it was only a precursor to what he would eventually teach, once he had accomplished his primary goal, spreading and making His Kenpo the International Art that it should be.

However, My Dad knew his time was short. He felt a driving compulsion to get American Kenpo out to the masses. He wanted His innovative system to take its rightful place in the world of martial arts, like so many other cultural, sport based styles had done. He criticized &#8220;traditional&#8221; styles for passing themselves off as self-defense or fighting systems to the public. He knew that given the opportunity to compare, His American Kenpo would prevail, even to the untrained American public.

In that process, My Father made many concessions for public appeal. He attached the word &#8220;karate&#8221; to American Kenpo because no one had heard of Kenpo, and &#8220;Karate&#8221; was the &#8220;flavor of the month&#8221; with the American public. Servicemen, after World War II, brought their training back to the United States, and the public was fascinated with this mystical oriental art. Even though Kenpo was Chinese in origin, he adopted the Japanese Karate-Do rank structure and uniform. He even stuck the word &#8220;karate&#8221; into his &#8220;Kenpo Creed&#8221; in his first Kenpo book. In those days everything was &#8220;Karate.&#8221; Chinese, Korean, Okinawan, Hawaiian. It didn&#8217;t make any difference. Later on , he considered trying to undo some of those things but, they had become such a part of His System, he just decided to leave it alone. He did eventually decide to get his students into black uniforms, and created a major controversy. After all, the traditionalist all wore white.

The one area where My Dad was unbending was in language. He refused to use anything but the English Language. &#8220;We&#8217;re Americans!&#8221; He would say &#8220;...and Americans speak English.&#8221; He wanted people to feel familiar with things so he applied phrases like &#8220;studio&#8221; and &#8220;school&#8221; instead of dojo. Promotion certificates became &#8220;diplomas,&#8221; payments were &#8220;tuition.&#8221; Clearly he wanted to establish His Schools as an environment of learning, and not just a gym where you work out. As an educator, My Father was moving toward the legitimization of the martial arts academic process. We are still continuing that effort today. We have knowledgeable, and physically gifted black belts, who are excellent first generation students of My Dad, we feel we&#8217;re headed in a positive direction.

But, more recent students have made the mistake that many had made in the past. They failed to recognize the depth of the man and his knowledge of the martial arts. Not just his personal art, but everyone&#8217;s art. My Dad was friendly towards everyone, traditional and non-traditional. In fact the &#8220;traditionalist&#8221; dominated the first few Internationals, and over the years participated in large numbers. He truly cut across all style boundaries.

Mas Oyama stayed with My Father when he toured the west coast in the fifties. And so did Bruce Lee, learning much from My Dad about different arts while the &#8220;Kahuna&#8221; told stories of the great &#8220;Judo&#8221; Gene LaBell. This is the guy Dad called &#8220;The toughest man alive.&#8221;

Many others either crossed his threshold as friends, or took his council. Great masters like Bong Soo Han, Sea Oh Choi, Ark Wong, Wally Jay, Tadashi Yamashita, &#8220;Tiny&#8221; Lefiti, and The Great Tino from Lima Lama. There was also Dan Inosanto, (an early black belt of My Dad who contributed much to Bruce Lee&#8217;s Jeet Kune Do and a Filipino Arts master himself) George Dillman, and Ralph Castro, the Grandmaster of Shaolin Kenpo. These, along with Lou Angel, Peter Urban, Jhoon Rhee, Aaron Banks, Hidetaka Nishiyama, Robert Trias, and many others. There are much to many to list and please don&#8217;t be upset if I can&#8217;t remember everyone. You see, all of these people are my &#8220;extended family.&#8221;

But before I get off track and too deep into history. . . some Students of My Father felt they had the bulk of the information He had to offer, split and broke away. They obviously felt they didn&#8217;t need him anymore. In my opinion, some of these people took advantage of his enthusiasm for his art and virtually stole what he knew of the art and business from him and went into business for themselves. Some did very well. However, My Dad maintained a cordial relationship with all of His former Students, and always gave credit to those who deserved it. He never publicly said anything negative about anyone. But, He never forgot who His real friends were.

Most of these same people now proclaim that a black belt from My Father in the fifties or sixties is better than a more recent product. For most, the evolution of American Kenpo has left them in the primitive dust. After all, would you rather drive a &#8220;Ford Model T&#8221; or that new Mustang? In most cases, common sense would indicate how wrong they are. Just as wrong as a surgeon who received his medical degree in the fifties ceased studying. They would be in no position to challenge a current resident on a surgical procedure today. Which one would you want to operate on you? It defies logic that &#8220;older is better.&#8221; That is an Asian Culture influence. Something My Father rejected if it got in the way of progress. Some have chosen to &#8220;traditionalize&#8221; Ed Parker&#8217;s Kenpo and not change anything. After all the work My Father did to make people think, when he died, most stopped thinking.


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