KT:The "New Masters" of Kenpo

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Sep 11, 2006
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The "New Masters" of Kenpo
By Rich_Hale - 05-21-2009 01:49 AM
Originally Posted at: KenpoTalk


Although this post is not entirely directed at Amen Rahh, it was inspired by several posts on another forum where Dr. Dave and Michael Miller spent a fair amount of time beating him up over his videos and apparent declaration of Kenpo mastership. Only, the next few paragraphs are directed to Mr. Rahh. The balance is directed to anyone who fits the bill.

Mr. Rahh, you seem like a nice guy. You took the Internet beating like a man and responded to several shots at your competence, experience and performance with a certain degree of wit and a lot of personality. I respect that and would no doubt like you on a personal level.

In that I dont know you personally, I cant be a judge of your fighting ability or your overall knowledge of Kenpo. On the other hand I do know Dave (very well) as he is one of my best friends and have spend a fair amount of quality/painful time on the mat with him. I also know Michael Miller and shared the mat with him as well. Hes not only a good kid, but one hell of a martial artist. I can say that kid thing, because not only am I fifty seven years old, but Ive spent 37 of those years in the Ed Parker system of Kenpo.

Please understand that I am not trying to insult you when I say this, but you are in no position to argue with the likes of these two gentlemen. In fact you should thank them for their critique and pay the way for at least one of them visit your school and help you polish up on your Kenpo.

People sometimes take on certain titles and automatically expect everyone to respect and admire them as being masters of the art. If that doesnt happen right away, they sometimes put YouTube videos up expecting everyone to now suddenly become aware of their greatness. Unfortunately, it seldom goes down exactly the way they expect.

I know its quite the reality check when someone critiques your video saying things like; it lacked power, focus and form. They may even say the demonstrator seemed to have little understanding of Kenpo at all, let alone the Ed Parker System of Kenpo. Inflamed the standard issue comeback seems to be, Well lets see you post a video Mr. Smarty Pants! Its easy for you to criticize me, but wheres YOUR video? As if this childish rant will somehow make their video look better by comparing it to someone who (they are hoping) is even worse than they are.

Sorry guys, videos are a stand-alone representation of you and your students in action. Comparing yourself to someone who is hopefully worse than you doesnt make you any better, it just makes you happy.

To the credit and understanding of those who make videos, I can tell you that Mr. Parker hated both still photography and video. He once complained (for a lack of a better term) about a photographer and writer, doing a magazine article on him with plentiful text and photographs. He was excited to have the article come out, because it would graphically show his art of Kenpo to the mass readership of the magazine.

When the article came out Mr. Parker was pissed! He said, they not only photographed him from the wrong angles, making him look open and vulnerable, but they actually mixed up some of the photographs and text so the sequence didnt match.

I didnt relate this story to give everyone, who makes bad videos, a way out by saying the angles didnt properly represent the performance. I simply recognize the difficulty of producing quality videos.

In that we now recognize the difficulties involved, if you still want to post a video of you or your students performing Kenpo, prepare yourself for the criticisms that come along with it. And if you call it Ed Parkers Kenpo or not, if its a video of a modified Long Form 1 by any other name, it will still be judged as Long Form 1. The same holds true for anyone who changes Five Swords into Slashing Swords, Seven Swords, Swords of Death, etc. You can call your system Dark Star Kung Fu if you want, but if its an obvious knock-off of American Kenpo it will be judged as American Kenpo.

And when wishful comparison fails to establish you as being awesome, dont resort to being a master of your own system. Its too late for that. Youre already in an Ed Parker related forum and you have already posted a video declaring yourself to be one of us . . . only better . . . because youre a master and most of us are not. So, you cant now say youre the master of your own system anyway, so the comparison to Ed Parkers Kenpo is unjustified. And if youre the master of your own Kenpo system, what are you doing in this forum and why does your system look so much like a poorly modified version of Ed Parkers?

I have good friends in Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Shotokan, etc. and they would never think of posting a video of themselves on YouTube then coming here to discuss its merits, let alone defend it. So, if youre the master of your own system, please feel free to open a forum dedicated to you, your system and your followers. Im sure they would appreciate participating in a forum that is dedicated to the founder of their system as much as we enjoy participating in a forum that is dedicated to the founder of ours.

I know it could be rough getting started, but Mr. Parker had the guts to buck the system and go it on his own when he was an absolute nobody. He didnt dress up like Professor Chow and run around trying to convince everyone that he was teaching the same art as Professor Chow only better. No, he created his own system of Kenpo, called it American Kenpo, distinguishing it from his instructors art of Hawaiian Kenpo, and set out to make his own mark on the martial arts community.

This leads to the biggest issue I have with anyone who professes to be the master of their own system yet wears the same belt we do. An absolute tell-tale sign of Ed Parkers Kenpo is the very unique belt configurations worn by our 5th degree black belts and above. Mr. Parker created a bar and stripe configuration that is totally unique to our system. He did that to separate himself and his black belts from any and all other black belts, Kenpo or otherwise. Personally, when I see someone wearing a black belt with five inch red bars on the bottom and two one inch red stripes above the bars, I expect that person is a seventh degree black belt in the Ed Parker system of American Kenpo. The same holds true for two double 5 inch red bars, one above the other. By wearing that belt configuration the man is declaring himself to be a tenth degree black belt in the Ed Parker system of American Kenpo.

In case you think Im alone in this way of thinking, I suggest you walk into a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy wearing a black belt with a single red bar, on one side of the belt, covered with six to eight white stripes. Or you could walk into the Kodokan wearing the traditional red and white paneled belt of a Judo Master. In either case they too will have a certain expectation as to the knowledge and skill you are claiming by wearing those belts. Our belts and uniforms are representative of our system and our linage. If you dont want to be held to the curriculum of any given system, then dont wear the trappings of that system.

If you are the master of your own Kenpo system and youre tired of being criticized by a bunch of Ed Parker Kenpo instructors, then get out there and create an all new system of Kenpo with all new forms, sets and techniques.

And while youre at it, back up each technique with your own personal notes describing how each technique got its name, the theme of each technique - describing exactly what the technique is supposed to teach you, then add in several what-if scenarios for each technique and finish it up with a series of notes to help your students learn not only the difficult areas of each technique, but notes that will assist them in taking each technique from being primitive to mechanical and on to the spontaneous level of implementation.

When youre done with that put together an encyclopedia of a thousand, or so, terms that pertain specifically to your art - as an additional resource for your students, and then, time permitting, you can create a new and unique belt configuration to distinguish you and your students from any other Kenpo.

Maybe then you will be respected as a master of your own art instead of criticized as being a plagiarizer of someone elses.


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