USKKA - ABOUT US AND HISTORY
The United States Kenpo Karate Association (USKKA) was founded in 1989 by Dr. James Tindall after consultation with Master Edmund K. Parker, founder of the Parker Kenpo System and the International Kenpo Karate Association (IKKA) and, master of our style. The USKKA was founded to help spread functional utilization of the Parker Kenpo System throughout the United States by teaching the use of practical concepts and theories that have been proven as a method of self protection on America's streets today. Dr. Tindall (8th degree black belt) served as USKKA President from 1989 to 2008. He also holds black belts in Kobudo, Iaido, and Freestyle Combat. Dr. Tindall has 30 years teaching experience in Kenpo and other styles, logging over 18,000 teaching hours; he has received instruction in nearly every major style of martial art including Ed Parker's Kenpo, Tae Kwon do, Shotokan, Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Ishin-ryu, Kung Fu, Kobudo, Iaido, Judo, Kali, boxing, Shorin-ji Kempo, and Uechi-ryu. Dr. Tindall received his formal training in Ed Parker's Kenpo System under Mr. Stephen M. Snelson. Mr. Snelson is the Senior Executive Vice President (emeritus) of the USKKA and is a first generation student having formally trained directly under Grand Master Parker for about 33 years. In addition to his rank in Kenpo, Mr. Snelson also holds advanced black belt ranking in Kobudo,Judo, Goju-ryu, Tae-Kwon do, and a 5th degree ranking in Shotokan.
Since 2001, Dr. Tindall and USKKA officers have sought a replacement as President so that Dr. Tindall could pursue other duties for the USKKA, as well as varied other interests. After an exhausting seven-year search, USKKA officers have selected Mr. Joseph Whelan to serve as acting President. Mr. Whelan began his martial-arts training in 1982 at the age of 13; ten years later he received his black belt in American Kenpo. During the next 16 years he continued his studies in the Ed Parker Kenpo system, Isshinryu and Tae kwon Do, receiving 5th and 1st Dan in Isshinryu and Tae Kwon-Do respectively. In 2007, after more than 25 years in American Kenpo he received his 5th degree black belt under the tutelage of Grandmaster Paul Britton (a Vic Leroux student). Joseph was inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2008. He is a 2 time inductee for the Southeastern Martial Arts Hall of Fame from Florida and also a member of its Board of Directors, as well as being the Florida State Representative for the American Isshinryu Karate Association. Additionally, Mr. Whelan is owner of Three Dragon Kenpo Academy in Clermont, Florida. Mr. Whelan’s knowledge of the Martial Arts spans almost three decades during which he has logged over 11,000 hours teaching. Due to his experience and passion for the full Ed Parker Kenpo Karate System, great expertise, and unending quest for perfection, Mr. Whelan has been selected to serve as acting President of the United States Kenpo Karate Association International. Mr. Whelan assumed the duties of President on June 2, 2008, relieving Dr. Tindall who served as President for the USKKA since its founding in 1989. The USKKA welcomes Mr. Whelan into his new role where he will guide the organization into the future making it the hub of the Kenpo world and where he will continue his advancement and erudition under Grandmaster Tindall.
Mr. Steve Gresham continues to serve as Executive Vice President for the USKKA. He is a 4th degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate. He studies under Dr. James Tindall, and has 18 years experience in Martial Arts including Kenpo, Muay Thai, Kali, Silat Serak, and Wing Chun. Mr. Gresham has taught hundreds of students and is dedicated to the further promulgation of the arts for the benefit of others.The ancestral lineage of the Ed Parker Kenpo System we teach dates back to Tamo (515 A.D.) of the Shaolin Monastery; it is the oldest known system of Martial Arts.
The USKKA offers the student and instructor the benefits of membership in a national association with the support necessary to progress in a truly unique martial art. The USKKA is continually expanding and is committed to seeking new ways to serve its members and the communities in which they reside with videos, brochures, seminars, self-defense classes, and awareness classes through local martial arts schools, health and fitness organizations, and universities. As a realist, one must admit that self-protection and awareness preparations are necessary in today's environment; seek and prepare now, it may be too late tomorrow.
Mission Statement--The mission statement of the USKKA is very simple: (1) The USKKA was founded to assist individuals, groups, and Martial Arts studios to attain a sound knowledge in the Ed Parker Kenpo System. To disseminate a knowledge of the basic principles of self-defense so that the individual can feel confident about their abilities to protect themselves in the performance of everyday activities. (2) Unlike many karate associations, the USKKA is essentially non-profit. We don't wish to interfere or try to manage schools for instructors. Instead, we want to furnish you with the necessary items so that you can teach and/or learn the Ed Parker Kenpo System under the validity of a recognized national association. The USKKA will provide any training necessary to assist any individual, group, or school with further certification of rank in the Ed Parker Kenpo System. (3) We value each member and seek to provide each with the best service possible because the USKKA is sincerely concerned about the personal development of each member. The USKKA endeavors to give all members the knowledge they seek and require. (4) The USKKA is an information based Kenpo Association and as such, provides the member with up-to-date information on the Ed Parker Kenpo System (this is the entire purpose of the home page and associated links), will schedule seminars with notable Martial Arts practitioners for your school, and provides many other services which will benefit the individual or school. Essentially, we are an information umbrella. If you don't have the information you want, the USKKA will provide it or arrange to obtain it for you.
What is required of the individual or school who wishes to be affiliated with us? The basic requirement is that you wish to learn and teach the Ed Parker Kenpo System. The school or individual who will not learn or teach the Ed Parker Kenpo System will not be accepted for affiliation with the USKKA. We have an initial membership fee of $15.00; at the time of membership a full-color 8 1/2 x 11 inch membership certificate is given to the individual. Currently, our association crest (gi patch -- 4 x 6 inches-- see it on the title of the Home Page) is about $7.00 which includes shipping. We will furnish promotion certificates (the most beautiful anywhere-- 11 x 17 inch, 7-color for underbelts; for black belts these are 18 x 20 inch full-color-- these are simply awesome--see below--),
membership certificates, school charters (2' x 3' size--at cost plus shipping--these look exactly like the black belt certificates, but with most of the wording removed and mounted on 3/8 inch "gator" board; they are customized for your school), and other training materials at cost. You don't have to be a large club to be affiliated with the USKKA or bring in money to the association. We simply desire you to progress in the Art and practice hard at being your very best. The best thing you can do for the USKKA is to teach the Ed Parker Kenpo System and "choose the right". This means doing your best always, being honorable, and being a true Kenpo practitioner. One way to start is to never degrade another style of Martial Art. Remember the words of Grand Master Parker,"that style of Martial Arts is best which suits the individual best". To receive samples of our various materials, please contact us. If you wish, we can update all your rank certificates or replace lost ones, but you must have proof of promotion. All students and prospective students and member schools are expected to follow the policies and guidelines as set forth by the USKKA in its BY-LAWS and GENERAL HANDBOOK. For information about the USKKA or an Ed Parker Kenpo School near you write U.S. Kenpo Karate Association, P.O. Box 260126, Lakewood, Colorado 80226-0126 or, contact us by e-mail.One who hesitates, meditates in a horizontal position--Ed Parker
Edmund K. Parker (10th degree blackbelt) is the undisputed "Father" of American Karate having opened the first commercial Karate studio in 1954 at the age of 23. He was a native of Honolulu, Hawaii and a graduate of Kamehameha High School. In 1956 Grand Master Parker graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a B.S. in Psychology. As Grand Master Parker learned Karate in Hawaii, he realized the need for new innovations to combat modern day methods of fighting. To fulfill this need, he developed revolutionary concepts, theories, and principles that are practical--not classical. Because of this, his innovative concepts and ideas have greatly enhanced the Martial Arts in the United States and throughout the world. After graduation from BYU, Grand Master Parker moved to California and opened his second school in 1956 in Pasadena; at this time he was a 3rd degree black belt. Due to his skill and prowess as a martial artist, within two years Grand Master Parker was teaching many well known entertainment personalities.
Time Magazine referred to Grand Master Parker in 1961 as the "High Priest and Prophet of the Hollywood sect." Grand Master Parker taught many well known screen personalities including, Robert Wagner, Blake Edwards, Robert Culp, Robert Conrad, Darrin McGavin, Hose Ferrar, George Hamilton, Warren Beatty, Dick Martin, Elke Sommers, Joe Hyams, Joey Bishop, the late Elvis Presley (4th degree black belt rank), Audie Murphy, Jeff Speakman (4th degree black belt rank), and many others.
Quoting Black Belt Magazine, "Many Kenpo stylists refer to Ed Parker as the last word on the proper way to do their techniques" (February,1975). Similar praise for Ed Parker appeared in a special issue of Inside Kung Fu, commemorating 20 years of Karate in America: "You don't become the father of American Karate by being the second in line...Universally acknowledged as the man who introduced Karate to America some twenty-nine years ago, Ed Parker has been one of the most innovative and successful influences in the development of the Art in the new environment" (May, 1974). Karate Kung-Fu Illustrated quotes Ed Parker's Kenpo as being "America's logical and unstoppable fighting system...discovered in America, it's Karate's gold mine of motion" (September, 1986).
The interest Mr. Parker had in employing logic dates to his beginning Martial Arts studies in Honolulu. He approved of the exciting methods that he learned as a novice in Kenpo, but as an experienced street fighter felt that innovations were necessary in order for the classical concepts he learned to become practical concepts on the street. As a result of his research, Mr. Parker generated innovative answers by comparing Kenpo to other fields of endeavor. By relating past experiences with the functional aspects of Kenpo, he has revealed astounding breakthroughs in body motion as it applies to martial arts, power shifting, and strength concepts. Because of his formal education, Mr. Parker was able to extract principles from physics, geometry, mathematics, and alpha-numeric systems and compare them to life experiences that caused a new Kenpo discipline to emerge which is without equal in the world today. As a result, his use of analogies, short sories, and quotes has created distinctive methods to convert verbal language into physical body motion. His unique ability to communicate Kenpo and other Martial Arts information remains unparalleled.
Through formal martial arts training under William K.S. Chow, experience, experimentation and thought provoking study, Mr. Parker developed the Parker Kenpo System as we know it today. The Parker Kenpo System has achieved a steady growth and with it, Mr. Parker developed a timeless Martial Art. The Parker Kenpo System was effective yesterday, is effective today, and will continue to be effective in the future.
Since the time of Grand Master Parker's death on December 15, 1990 at the young age of 59, many have sought to degrade both Mr.Parker and the Kenpo system which he extensively innovated. These people have gratuitously attacked Grand Master Parker making many false claims. The attacks have been basically to discredit Parker, his honor, system of Martial Arts, and his integrity as an individual. It is interesting to note that these people claim to have been intimately associated with Mr. Parker and because of this feel they have every right to condemn and criticize however, most of them were not associated with Mr. Parker at all. It is particularly interesting that these people only surfaced after Parker's death when, as we all know, he can no longer defend himself. Also, why do they make such claims now? It seems very clear that they are making such claims to bring greater attention to their own system of Martial Art or for other selfish desires. Such claims could have been made as early as 1960 or any time before Mr. Parker's death in 1990 in the numerous magazines which printed articles about him and his Art, but no one stepped forward, nor did they step forward in 1963 when Mr. Parker published his book "Secrets of Chinese Karate" which traced the roots of the Ed Parker Kenpo System back to Tamo in the Shaolin Monastery in 515 A.D. As a matter of fact, this single event made it possible over the next decade for other systems to trace their ancestry back to their Chinese origins for which many Martial Arts masters were very grateful.
If the reader will investigate the references listed above from Black Belt Magazine, Time Magazine, etc. one will see that the Martial Arts community in general and the Masters of various systems were very impressed by Parker and his contribution to the Martial Arts in America. He has received praise from some of the most well known Masters including Tak Kubota, Tadashi Yamashita, Fumio Demura, Tino Tuiolosega, Jhoon Rhee, Chuck Norris, and many others. Mr. Parker was similarly praised by many columnists, film producers, and actors including Curtis F. Wong (former publisher of Inside Kung Fu Magazine), Joe Hyams, Ricardo Montalban, Blake Edwards, Robert Culp, Rick Jason, Nick Adams, MacDonald Carey, Darren McGavin, Rory Calhoun, and others. During all this time, these individuals had the utmost respect for Mr.Parker and he respected them as well for who they were and what they did. Perhaps Chuck Norris put it best when he was once asked how many styles of Martial Arts were available, to which he replied, "a lot". He was next asked if he had to defend himself against a particular style or system which one would he least like to defend against? The style he named was the Ed Parker Kenpo System because of its principles and philosophies. Mr. Norris did not degrade Mr. Parker, nor by answering this question in such a manner did he degrade his own Art. He simply made a factual statement which he felt was honest. The conduct of Chuck Norris was that of a true champion and one which we should all follow. It never serves the best interest of any individual or group to condem others for what they believe; it only brings about enmity and anymosity. Respect will never be earned by those who consciously seek to bring disrespect and ill repute upon others in order to serve their own selfish designs. Thus, be a true Martial Artist and "choose the right".
The most widespread account of the origin of Chinese Martial Arts is credited to the 28th East Indian Patriarch of the Buddhist Faith named Tamo. He was also called Bodhidharma and was known to the Japanese as Daruma Daishi. His arrival in China is dated about 515-530 A.D. In addition to being credited with the development of the Martial Arts, Tamo is also credited with developing principles for using the Bo as a karate weapon of self-defense in 517 A.D. (Demura, 1976). Upon Tamo's arrival in China, he found that the Canton Warlords had disarmed the general public which left them completely defenseless against marauding bandits and other warring factions. Tamo made extensive travels within China endeavoring to teach the Zen philosophy i.e., that one must coexist with nature and the surrounding environment. He promised that if the people would do so they would have a better understanding of their individual relationship with nature. He was basically rejected by the people initially because such a philosophy did not seem reasonable during war time thus, he began teaching in seclusion at the Shaolin Monastery in the Hunan Province. As a result, his Zen doctrine became the foundation of study for Monk's within China's religious structure. As a note of interest to the reader, Dr. Tindall, USKKA President, learned on his research trip to China in August, 1993 that the inhabitants of the Shaolin Monastery still practice the Martial Arts as a way of meditation and training today, the Chinese were impressed with Dr. Tindall's skill in Kenpo.
The Shaolin Monastery is also called Shorin-ji in Japanese. Tamo was able to get his foot in the door because the monks were constantly harassed by bandits. He told them that peace was within each person and not within the world. Tamo tried to teach the monks, but found that many fell asleep during meditation. As a result, Tamo introduced exercise to improve their fitness levels and taught the original 18 hand movements of the martial arts for both defense and offense. Under Tamo's tutelage, the monks became formidable opponents. To graduate from the Shaolin Monastery, the monk had to compete to travel through, what we term in the USKKA the "corridor of death." This was a corridor equipped with 108 dummies which were triggered into action by the body weight of the monk as he proceeded along the corridor. Each monk could trigger up to 5 dummies at once depending on their weight. Many of the monks died in the process and some were injured and taken to the infirmary. As accounts relate the incidents, no one had ever lived to make it through if they failed during the first journey. This resulted in defection of the monks from the monastery who emigrated to southern China and Okinawa and began the teaching the part of the full system which they liked best. Thus some would teach straight line power movements and some would teach circular, flowing movements, animal forms, etc. This may explain why there is so much similarity between certain martial arts styles and why there are so many of them. If the monk made it to the end of the corridor, he had to lift a burning metal urn which branded a dragon on his left forearm and a tiger on his right forearm. This should be familiar to many readers who have watched the old "Kung Fu" series on television in the 1970's with David Carradine. The historical setting for the program was taken from Ed Parker's book "Secrets of Chinese Karate" which was published in 1963. It was about 5 years after this book was published that many other Martial Arts systems began tracing their beginnings back to the Shaolin Monastery, no doubt a result of Ed Parker's hard work and research which was of great benefit to Martial Artists.
During the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368 A.D.) there was noticeable improvements in the Martial Arts. Chueh Yuan had increased the original 18 hand movements to 72. Chueh Yuan eventually became partners with Li Ch'engand Pai Yu-feng and increased the number of movements from 72 to 170. As time passed, Martial Arts training became integral to the Chinese lifestyle because they were in a constant state of war. However, due to its lethal qualities, the Martial Arts were taught only by select clans who had their own master and who would teach only selected individuals in each clan. Great pride was taken by each master in his distinctive style. Family clans were swore never to divulge the teachings they received from their masters.
The Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Ch'ing(1644-1911 A.D.) Dynasties were the golden age of Martial Arts in China and many of the styles taught today were founded and expanded on during this period. In 1372 Chinese-Okinawan relations were consilidated and in 1470 Sho-ha-shi became king of Okinawa and confiscated all weapons from the people. This forced the Okinawans to seek for other forms of self-defense. As a result, some Okinawans emigrated to China to learn what was then called Chinese Kenpo from top masters. As the years passed, practitioners continued tolearn and demonstrate their skills in private and the Martial Arts improved considerably. Then in 1609, the Japanese dominated Okinawa and Lord Shimazu removed all forms of weapons from the public at large. Between 1609-1903 the greatest achievements were made in the Martial Arts. As a result, a variety of styles and systems emerged. The Okinawans had always termed the Martial Arts as "Te" which literally means hand. During this period (1609-1903) "Karate" meaning "hands of China" replaced the word "Te" (during the latter part of the 19th century) until the Chinese character which denoted "hands of China" or "China Hand" (the latter being more correct) was changed by the Japanese to their character which meant "empty hand". This change (officially dated to 1923) angered many of the Okinawan masters who were proud of the term designating their fighting style. They also did not wish to dispense with their loyalty and association with China. However, there was great pressure by the Japanese and the masters very reluctantly accepted the new character change. The change was spearheaded by a student of Chogun Miyagi named Nagashi Hanage of the Goju-ryu style of karate. It was actually Chogun Miyagi himself who desired to make the change and compelled his disciple Nagashi Hanage to pursue the change with great vigor. While the change may have brought a deeper meaning according to Chogun Myagi, in which spiritual overcomes the physical, it is yet another example of how the Japanese managed to make many think that the Art was theirs and not the Chinese from whom it descended. The Bonzai tree is also an example because the Bonzai tree was propagated in China long before anyone ever heard of it from Japan. This has, and still does anger many Chinese which is especially true since the Japanese language descended from their Chinese ancestors.
For further clarification, if the reader will observe the last two oriental characters on the right hand side of the Parker System patch, you will note that these are the true Chinese characters referring to "empty" and "hand" respectively. This was done intentionally by Mr. Parker to honor the Chinese from which our system descends. It is not a mixture of Japanese and Chinese. This has always been a primary mistake of many students of the Kenpo system and others. It is due primarily to the fact that both the Chinese and Japanese character for "te" meaning hand, are identical. This is the last character on the right hand side of the Parker patch. Consequently, it is easy to mix the two or rather to think they are mixed when you look at both the Chinese and Japanese characters--the character for "kara" is different in both languages. If one uses the word Kenpo, which took on the Japanese meaning when "kara" was added before "te" as described above and has generally been the accepted norm ever since, it literally means fist law. The Pinyin pronunciation in Chinese for fist-law is "Ch'uan Fa" and is sometimes incorrectly called "Ch'uan Shu" which is the Chinese term for Kung Fu. We have tried to remedy this in the design of the new USKKA patch. We give credit to the Chinese from whom our art descends.
The characters on the left side of the USKKA patch literally mean "the way, passed from father to son", this can also be read as "the way of the Art passed from generation to generation". The Chinese characters on the right side of the patch mean "the way of the fist-hand and strategy of the long knife" or also "the way of the fist and empty hand and strategy of the use of ancient weapons". The long knife is the most ancient of weapons and therefore, its symbol is used. The weapons were included because weapons have always been taught in the Kenpo system, the earliest of which was likely the Bo staff in 517 A.D.(Demura, 1976). You will notice on the USKKA patch that the Chinese characters on each side of the patch are balanced; this is because good Chinese writing is always balanced i.e., for every character on the left side, there is an equal number on the right side. This is the Chinese philosophy and is a way of life with them. Thus, there really doesn't have to be any confusion about the meaning of Kenpo because it literally took on the Japanese definition when the orginal change was made to "te" in 1923. Until that time, the Chinese definition and characters had always been used. Indeed, we can actually claim that the Japanese copied the Chinese since their character for hand is exactly the same as the Chinese character for hand and also because the Japanese characters and language descended from China. Thus, it may be seen that the term Kenpo Karate as used by William K.S. Chow to describe his art has, and will always be, Chinese since his father (who was Chinese) passed the Art down to him.
Many Chinese began emigrating to the United States about 1840 and began work as common laborers on railroad construction and digging gold mines. The Chinese syndicates, also knownas Tongs, came with other wise honorable Chinese people seeking a better life in the United States. The Tongs had many internal conflicts and began to import top Martial Arts masters from China to protect them and teach their families how to adequately defend themselves. Kenpo was first introduced in Hawaii during the beginning of World War II by James Masayoshi Mitose who had learned it during his early years in Japan. As accounts dictate, Tamo was the founder of his system; this system was called Shorinji-ryu Kenpo by the Japanese; this is the Japanese equivalent of the Chinese "Ch'uan Fa or Ch'uan Shu". This as you recall, coincides with what has been passed down by ancient masters through the centuries. Because of Tamo's contribution to Kenpo it is logical that Mitose's ancestors of the Martial Arts refer to the term of Shorin-ji as the system of Kenpo taught by Tamo. However, the Kenpo system which had been learned from ancient Chinese Masters and then taught by Mitose's ancestors was altered and extensively modified to a form and method more suitable to Japanese understanding and culture. These modifications and extensive changes were made by Choki Motobu who claimed to receive new revelations regarding Kenpo and changed the name of their system to Kosho-ryu Kenpo (Parker, 1982). When Mitose began teaching in Hawaii, he named his art Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu. Today, many people call his art Kempo and sometimes use the term Kempo synonomously with Kenpo, but this is in error since Kempo is a linear system of movements much like Shotokan and while it has some similarity to Kenpo it is both distinctively and stylishly different. The "m" in Kempo also refers to its Okinawan origin.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Mitose was residing in Honolulu and had to come to grips with the fact that he was Japanese by birth, but Americanby citizenship. Thus, one day he asked his students "You are strong believers in Kenpo and Buddha. If the Kenpo founder, Buddha came to attack and conquer your country with soldiers, what would you do? Would you take ups arms to defend your country? Or would you assist Buddha in his design?" (Mitose, 1980). While there were many varied answers from his students Mitose replied that: "This is our country so it is our duty to defend and protect it and in the presence of God we are right. So naturally we must fight against the founder Buddha. We should take the invaders prisoner and make them realize the wrong they have attempted to do. This is the way of the true Kenpo man and this is the Kenpo man's duty." (Mitose, 1980). Mitose went on to open the Official Self-Defense Club where he trained fellow servicemen and civilians and began to expound the merits of his Japanese Kenpo. He hoped that one day Kenpo would become Americanized.
William K.S. Chow cultivated the seeds of American Kenpo. He was primarily a student of his father W.K.S. Chow, but also had some training from Mitose. Chow's father was Chinese and thus, Chow learned mostly the Chinese ancestral art of Kenpo Karate which has been passed down from Tamo. Chow was also a street fighter and while he learned many circular and flowing motions from his father, he incorporated some of the linear movements and take-downs he learned from Mitose. Seeing the value of incorporating both systems, Chow began to modify Kenpo Karate. Chow could see that one day, Kenpo could reach its full potential and once its potential was reached, Kenpo would greatly exceed other systems. Through the efforts of William K.S. Chow and Ed Parker, American Kenpo has reached this potential. American Kenpo is the most sophisticated and scientific Martial Art designed to cope with confrontations on America's streets today. However, if the skill of the Kenpo practitioner utilizing the system falls short of expectation, the outcome would be questionable (Parker, 1982).
Edmund K. Parker began studying Kenpo with William K.S. Chow at the age of 16 which would be about 1947. Ed Parker learned all he could from Master Chow and studied with other well known students of Chow such as Adriano and Joe Emperado who founded their own system call Kajukenbo which is a blend of Kenpo, weapons, and also has influences from other systems. Other practitioners included Bobby Lowe(representative for Mas Oyama in Hawaii), Paul Yamaguchi, Masaichi Oshiro (representative for Gogen Yamaguchi of the Goju-ryu style), and Manny de la Cruz. Parker later attended Brigham Young University and at the outbreak of the Korean War was stationed in Hawaii with the U.S. Coast Guard. This gave him the opportunity to study further with Master Chow. Chow wanted Parker to begin Kenpo full-time on the mainland and was prepared to move to California when Ed Parker opened his second club. However, Chow later declined; possibly because of his strong ties in Hawaii, Ed's formal education which would stand him in good stead with the general public, and possibly Chow's accent which he did not think would be of great asset to Ed Parker's presentations. Chow saw that he could still continue to teach Ed from Hawaii and thus, never moved to the continental U.S. While at Brigham Young University, EdParker, 23 years of age at the time, had a closed club, teaching only students of Polynesian descent and law enforcement officers. One of the law enforcement officers was Charles Beeder Sr. who became Ed's permanent assistant. As a note, J. Tindall, USKKA President was a fellow student with Frank Beeder, one of Charles' Sons. Both were under the tutelage of Mr. Stephen M. Snelson, a 33 year student of Mr.Parker.
After graduation from BYU, Ed Parker moved to California and opened his second school in 1956 (ranked as a 3rd degree black belt) and also founded the International Kenpo Karate Association the same year. He continually advanced the Kenpo system which pleased Master Chow very much. Ed Parker had numerous students and friends in the film industry and went on to assist in many films as a Martial Arts technical advisor. He can be seen in most of the "Pink Panther" movies in which he not only did the acting, but also the fight scenes. Mr.Parker believed that the Martial Arts did not always have to be serious, but that one should have fun with them as well. This is evident in the "Pink Panther" film series. He also played the bad-guy in a film entitled "The Seven" which showed some great Kenpo moves. In 1964, Mr.Parker held his first "Longbeach International Karate Championships" which became the largest Martial Arts tournament in the U.S. for many years and still ranks in the top three today. It was at this tournament that he introduced Bruce Lee to the American Public who became enamored with him. Contradictory to what the film "The Dragon" portrayed, Bruce Lee did not fight anyone at the tournament, but simply gave a demonstration of his style which has since became known as Jeet Koon-do. Mr. Parker helped Bruce Lee obtain the role of Kato in the "Green Hornet" television series. Bruce Lee was later to have a chance as the star in the "Kung Fu" television series. However, it was felt by the film producers that the general public was not yet ready for an Oriental starring actor and the part was given to David Carridine instead. After this, Bruce Lee began making his movies in the Orient instead of the U.S.
Shortly before his death, William K.S. Chow promoted Edmund K. Parker to the rank of 10th degree black belt. Ed Parker was the only student Chow ever promoted to 10th degree rank, despite what others claim. This was done not only because of Mr. Parker's skill in the Art, but because of the many innovations and advancements Parker had made to the system with Master Chow's approval. Mr. Parker was the first to open a commercial karate studio in the U.S., the first to conduct a karate class on a college campus, the first faculty member to teach karate on the college campus, the first authentic karate technical advisor for T.V. and film, the first to publish a rule booklet on free-style competition, the first to teach karate to law enforcement officers, and many other firsts. He was truly, and has been recognized as such, the Father of American Karate. As Parker "Americanized" (as Chow had envisioned) and further developed the Kenpo system, he developed specific requirements for each rank over a period of about 15 years. He was initially opposed to a belt ranking system since many of the Chinese systems only had a rope for a novice and a black belt for the advanced student. However, as the needs of each group such as law enforcement compared to the average citizen were more keenly recognized, Mr. Parker introduced a belt ranking system to go along with his requirements. The colors are yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, brown, and black. In the Parker Kenpo system there are three levels of brown: 3rd, 2nd, and 1st which is next in rank to 1st degree black belt. The colors signify proficiency, achievement, and authority. This belt ranking system has become widely used by most major Martial Arts systems in the U.S. today. Others have claimed to come up with many of Mr. Parker's ideas first, but their claims have absolutely no credibility according to historical accounts and published records. Mr. Parker is without question the most innovative Martial Artist that has ever lived. He has often been referred to as a "genius of motion" and was called by many throughout the world as "Mr. Karate".
One of Mr. Parkers first students was Chuck Sullivan (Mr. Sullivan was the 4th person to gain a black belt in the IKKA under Parker's tutelage in 1961) who is a Master in his own right. Mr. Sullivan along with Vic Le Roux (ranked by Mr. Parker as 7th and 5th degree black belts respectively) have founded an organization called the International Karate Connection. Mr. Sullivan knew Grand Master Parker very well, perhaps better than any other since they remained long time friends until Grand Master Parker's death, but the memories live still. Other long-time, early students of Mr. Parker include Joe Palanzo (8th), Bob White (8th), Richard "Huk" Planas(7th), Stephen M. Snelson (7th), Larry Tatum (7th), Jay T. Will (7th), Lee Wedlake Jr., Robert Perry (7th), Mike Pick, and many others. The rank given in parenthesis is the rank given to these individuals by Mr. Parker before his death in December 1990. As one may see, the highest rank ever given by Mr. Parker was that of 8th degree to Mr. Palanzo and Mr. White; others have higher rank status which has typically been awarded to them by their respective systems based on a proficiency test. For the interested reader, a complete family tree is given withthe first volume of the Infinite Insights Series. A more up to date family tree is currently being prepared by Mr. Eric Johnson and should be available in 1996 (when available, the specifics will be posted in our "What's New" section). This tree lists all the belts who were ranked to about 1980, but many others were not included because of the difficulty in keeping track of everyone. No other names have been added since that time. Other students of recognition which Mr. Parker taught were Jeff Speakman, Frank Trejo, Steve Sanders, Sterling Peacock, Mim Grunwald, Ron Chapel, Roy MacDonald, Mohammed Tabatabai (not listed on the tree, but ranked as 5th degree by Mr. Parker), Brian Adams, Brian Hawkins, Harry Hutchings, Arturo Petit, and many others. The USKKA plans to update the tree, if you would like your name on the new tree, please send us a photocopy of your original Parker certificate at the 1st degree black belt level. We'll be glad to add your name to the list.
Al and Jim Tracy (two other Parker students) began taking Kenpo from Mr. Parker in about 1958 and left his tutelage about 1961 to open their own school. Since that time they have created the Tracy Kenpo system with headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky. The Tracy system is essentially the only other Kenpo system with any recognition and is considered a minor system in comparison to the Parker System(which was extensively innovated by Parker with Chow's approval) through Master William K.S. Chow. At the time they broke off, Parker was making significant changes (again, with Master Chow's approval) in the Parker Kenpo System which, because they left after only a few years tutelage, never benefitted from. The Tracy system taught many of the principles learned from Mr. Parker during its early years. However, it now teaches only minimal ideas and concepts learned from Mr. Parker. The Tracy's developed their own system as an original branch from Parker, but began to mix the Japanese ancestral teachings of Mitose which did not impress Mr. Parker (see the following paragraphs). On November 18, 1990 they closed out their "old" Tracy System and terminated all roots and ties to both Ed Parker and William K.S. Chow (Tracy, 1993). During this time, Al Tracy promoted Ray Arquilla to 8th degree black belt, the last to be promoted in the "old" Tracy sytem. Directly after this, Ray Arquilla (who worked as a prison guard in Folsom Prison and who had supposedly been promoted to Master #3 in March 1981 by Mitose while Mitose was incarcerated), immediately promoted Al Tracy to 10th degree black belt. This promotion supposedly gives the Tracy's legal, legitimate succession through the Mitose clanon the Japanese side (Tracy, 1993). It is claimed that Ray Arquilla's rank from Mitose as Master #3 was in the Kosho Shorei system. The name itself appears to be a mixture of the Kosho-ryu (Old Pine Tree Style) and the style of Shorin-ji Kenpo which the Mistose clan originally learned from Chinese masters (as passed down from Tamo) and later extensively modified and renamed Kosho-ryu. The rank Al Tracy received is not recognized as rank in the Parker system and is in no way affiliated with the Parker system or what it teaches. It is interesting to note that while the Tracy System claims to teach the original concepts of Grand Master William K.S. Chow, that they have completely and officially cut all ties to both Chow and his most recognized disciple Ed Parker (Tracy, 1993) to whom Chow passed the mantle of authority. Thus, the concepts which Parker and Chow sought so diligently to combine for over 80 years--the circular and linear--were very easily discarded.
It is commonly believed that many of the students who left Mr. Parker to brave the world on their own did so in great bitterness. However, it is simply analagous to a parent and child. The child grows up doing everything the parent instructs them to do, but the day comes when the child must develop and grow on his own. This is what Mr. Parker anticipated and what has generally happened with many of his advanced students. Chuck Sullivan, Joe Palanzo, Stephen Snelson, Huk Planas, and Larry Tatum are good examples of this. The starting of their separate organizations in no way diminishes the Parker system or the authority to promote. Remember the old adage, "emulation is the sincerest form of flattery". Within the Parker System, Ed Parker gave the authority to promote to two belt levels below a chief instructors rank. For example, if instructor A is 6th degree, then he/she may promote student B to 4th degree before a 3-5 member panel of advanced ranked black belts. Consequently, as some have suggested, the Parker system is not dead but will live on because the Masters in the system have authority to promote and expand the art. Also, organizations or masters of other systems can separately or band together and with their combined rank, promote another to grandmaster or 10th degree black belt. This in no way diminishes the rank, but makes it more recognizable because the promotion is under the auspices and authority of a board of governors or council of instructors. In established systems, the Grand Master will not likely promote any disciple to 10th degree black belt who does not present his/her-self before a board or council of recognized, advanced ranked masters and other black belts for the purpose of a test questioning the experience, knowledge, and physical teaching ability and application skills of the individual. This gives credibility to any such promotion and has always been the way with the Martial Arts.
The Parker System has expanded to many countries around the world, but as Mr. Parker suggested himself, it is not mere numbers that are important, it is the conscientious and sincere instructors and students which are wanted; those who thirst for knowledge in a truly unique martial art. There have been many myths and untruths espoused about Mr. Parker and the Parker system. His relationship to Chow and Mitose, etc. Mr. Parker was the only student which William K.S. Chow ever promoted to 10th degree black belt in Kenpo (despite claims by others). Legally and in simplistic terms, one can say that Mr. Parker simply failed to protect himself--it's rather ironic. Regardless of this, Mr. Parker was recognized throughout the world in the Martial Arts community and by most Martial Arts masters as a Grand Master because of his significant contributions to the Martial Arts in America, his unrefuted proficiency and skill, and his extensive improvements and innovations of the Kenpo Karate taught to him by Master Chow. This fulfilled Chow's own vision of Kenpo to such an extent that Master Chow was both eager and excited to promote a student who had achieved higher recognized merits in the Martial Arts than Master Chow had ever expected. Mr. Parker was the "Father" of American Kenpo Karate, is the undisputed "Father" of American Karate, and an innovative genius. To obtain the achievements Mr. Parker obtained took over 40 years of hardwork; he was truly a first class pioneer of American Karate. Contrary to widely held accounts, Mr. Parker was never a student of James Mitose. Here are Mr. Parker's own words regarding the subject. "Contrary to some of the claims that have been made in publications, I was never a student of James M. Mitose. However, he did visit me at my home and Kenpo School in Pasadena, California during the early 1970's. His visits extended over a five month period. Each time I saw him, he was dressed as an ordained minister. Many of our conversations lasted hours on end, touching upon an array of topics as well as his proposed money raising projects. He was knowledgeable about the evolution of Kenpo, revealing many interesting historical facts. On occasion, he would take off his shoes, walk on the mat area (of my Pasadena School), demonstrate self-defense techniques and discuss Kenpo principles with some of my Black Belt students; namely, Tom Kelly, Richard "Huk" Planas, Bob Perry, and Mike Pick. I noticed after Mitose demonstrated techniques, that my students would look at me hoping to detect from my facial expressions some reaction confirming or condemning Mitose's performance. As I gazed into their faces, I could detect tell tale expressions of bewilderment and disappointment. Many of Mitose's moves leaned heavily toward impractical methods of application. They seemed to lack continuity and forethought and left him dangerously exposed. My disappointment was heightened when I witnessed an almost total void of circular movements which Chow had so emphatically stressed in his teachings. During the months that followed, many other unanswered questions surfaced. Why had the Mitose (Kosho) Clan so drastically deviated from the original teachings of Tamo (Daruma) and his Chinese disciples in the frequent use of circular movements? Circular moves had certainly been a vital part of the original system that added to the totality of movement. I could not understand why the Mitose Clan, who had so proudly traced their roots to Tamo (Daruma) were willing to discard and abort circular disciplines as well as other rudiments of motion. I support the Mitose (Kosho) Clans's desire to change the Art to suit the needs of the Japanese people during that period of history, but why did the Clan employ moves that were predominantly linear in context? Circular moves, used within the framework of reason (logic) undisputedly balances the blend of motion which, when given time, inevitably leads to useful and practical movements. Lacking this ingredient would be comparable to replacing round tires for square ones on an automobile. Thanks to William Chow and his father, the crucial link has been restored as well as preserved. They have been responsible for circular movements having again found their rightful place in the Kenpo system. Naturally, it is how you apply circular movements in todays environment that will render the true validity of their significance and importance. Now that circular movements have been brought back into perspective, regardless of modern innovations to make them practical, we can truthfully say that American Kenpo salutes China as its original and prime source of ascendancy. However, while respect and credit will always be accorded China, we are not obligated nor compelled to be subservient to them."(Parker, 1982).
Thus, one may see that Ed Parker was never a student of James Mitose. Mr. Parker was to be disappointed several years after this incident in his studio. Mr. Mitose was arrested for conspiracy to committ murder and subsequently died in a California prison. This caused grave distress to Mr. Parker because it did not fit the definition of the "Kenpo Man" as given by Mr. Mitose (Mitose, 1980) and was quite out of character; it had brought shame to the art. It saddened Mr. Parker to see a master in such a predicament. There are accounts of students who learned from Mr. Mitose while he was in prison, but according to Mr. Parker, many would not desire to be associated with any Martial Arts master who had so shamed the art as it would greatly decrease the validity of claims of rank, ethics, and morality of the individual practitioner. How can one trust the message if one can not trust the messenger?
From Parker's own comments, one can ascertain that the Chinese ancestry and not the Japanese ancestry is the more important of the two because in Parker's system a circular movement becomes a linear move and at the same time, a linear move becomes a circular motion so that the system fully incorporates both types. Remember that the Japanese version of Kenpo taught by Mitose was void of circular motion. Mr. Parker was a legend in the Martial Arts and has made a lasting impact on the Martial Arts in America. He has many widely recognized students and some that are very skilled, but not as well known. A good example of one of these is Mr. Gil Hibben. Gil developed his black belt thesis on knife fighting using Kenpo tactics. It was his thesis that led to the development of Long Form VIII (the double dagger form) which uses two knives in mock combat. Mr. Hibben's work is well known to any who have seen the "Rambo", "Deep Space Nine", or recent "Star Trek" films. Gil is the craftsman and Kenpo Black Belt who made the knives and edged weapons for these films. Thus, there are worthy and respected black belts in all walks of life who practice and teach the Parker Kenpo System. For a complete history of the Ed Parker Kenpo System, the reader is referred to the books--"Secrets of Chinese Karate" and "Volume 1: Infinite Insights into Kenpo: Mental Stimulation" by Ed Parker.
We at the United States Kenpo Karate Association pay our greatest respects and admiration to Grand Master Ed Parker and his skill and insights into Kenpo Karate and the lasting legacy he has left. As recognition of Grand Master Parker, we wear the Parker System Patch on the right sleeve of our gi's near the shoulder. We are determined to teach Grand Master Ed Parker's Art the way he outlined in volume 5 of the Infinite Insights Series which is the way he taught us. We intend on making the Parker Kenpo System the most well known style of Martial Arts in the world. We have both the authority and ability to promote all who wish to learn the Parker Kenpo System and welcome the sincere and conscientious instructor and student with open arms. If you are a Parker Kenpo System practitioner, we are here to serve as a support group. We provide personal instruction, seminars, seminars from masters of other systems, the most beautiful rank certificates in the world, tee-shirts (customized for your school), patches, newsletters, membership certificates, studio support, school charters, and much more. We are here to assist you in any way possible and since we are primarily an information based organization willing to share the Parker Kenpo System with all interested individuals, most of our services are free. As a sample, check out the technique write-ups associated with our homepage. If you would like your school listed within our newsletter, please send us your instructors name and rank, address, and school name.Yours in Kenpo-- Dr. J. Tindall, President, USKKA.
Demura, F. 1976. Bo: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense.
Mitose, J.M. 1980. What is Self-Defense? California State University.
Parker, E. 1963. Secrets of Chinese Karate.
Parker, E. 1975. Ed Parker's Guide to the Nunchaku.
Parker, E. 1982. Infinite Insights into Kenpo--Volume 1: Mental Stimulation.
Parker, E. 1983. Infinite Insights into Kenpo--Volume 2: Physical Analyzation I.
Parker, E. 1985. Infinite Insights into Kenpo--Volume 3: Physical Analyzation II.
Parker, E. 1986. Infinite Insights into Kenpo--Volume 4: Mental & Physical Constituents.
Parker, E. 1987. Infinite Insights into Kenpo--Volume 5: Mental & Physical Applications.
Tracy, A. 1993. Collectors Edition: Catalog of Products and Services. Lexington, Kentucky.
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