Tag Archives: ed parker

The Messed Up History of Kenpo Karate

Kenpo History Sort of a Mess

Kenpo Karate is one of the most popular martial arts in the world, and the history is, to put it lightly, a mess.

There are three men who brought Kenpo to the streets of America. These are James Mitose, William ‘Thunderbolt Chow, and Ed Parker.

kenpo karate training manual

What really happened with Mitose, Chow and Parker.

James Mitose learned the art at a temple in Japan. Except, there is no temple there. The area is the home of kosho sect of the Yoshida clan, so maybe. Except…when you think about it, would there be much significance if your instructor learned Karate at a Baptist church somewhere in Illinois?

Yes, there are differences in culture, and there is a potential zen aspect to it all, but churches are basically meeting places.

The second man in this lineage is William ‘Thunderbolt’ Chow. Professor Chow claimed that he originally learned martial arts from his father, a Buddhist priest. Except, there are no records of his father as a priest. And how does that tie in with the Kenpo he learned from James Mitose?

The third man in this saga is Edmund Parker.

Parker brought Karate to the mainland, began teaching martial arts while at Brigham Young University. Except, he is said to have taught his students all he knew – he was only a brown belt – and when he went home and tried to get more to teach…Professor Chow wouldn’t teach him anything because he had been instructing without permission!

Now, there are a lot more sordid details to this story. There are fights and arguments and people slandering one another, and the reader might think, at this point, the this writer is writing black headlines just to sell an article. Except…the real problem here is not the three men, it is the students learning their kenpo karate martial art.

bruce lee kenpo training

How to shift your forms for maximum potentials

People seem to need to bolster themselves up, to give themselves airs, to make themselves sound more important than they are.

So when Mitose says, in an offhanded remark, ‘Yes, my father used to show me tricks when I was a kid. We were living next to a church then, and we would roll around on the grass in the side yard. Lot of fun…’ the student bows deep and realizes that his instructor studied at a zen temple, was beaten with a bamboo rod for dozing, and had to go through rigamarole that would make Gordon Liu envious.

And when Thunderbolt Chow says, ‘Yes, my father had dreams of being a priest, talked about it often. Priests know really great martial arts, you know,’ the student holds his finger aloft as the lightening strikes him, and knows that he studying ancient and arcane mysteries written down in scrolls dating back to the time of Buddha.

And when Parker says, ‘My instructor didn’t have any more to teach me,’ the student catches his breath and claps his hands together, for obviously his instructor has surpassed his instructor, and the student is the real beneficiary of all this light and goodness.

lop sau rolling fists freestyle drill

the last third of 150 Kenpo techniques scientifically analyzed

Yes, there are people who spread rumor and prevarication to make themselves look good, but it is up to the student to be discerning and find out the real truth…and, there is a lesson to be learned here.

The lesson is that man learns best from his mistakes. He learns a little bit from doing something well, but he learns A LOT from messing up. And these three men, James Mitose, William ‘Thunderbolt’ Chow, and Ed Parker, they were human, and they messed up.

So, are we going to make them saints and pretend they made no mistakes? Or are we going to look extra hard at their mistakes and learn, truly learn, from them?

The author began studying Kenpo Karate in 1967. Check out the three volume set analyzing Kenpo Karate (see illustrations above for links). History, forms, and 150 techniques broken down and scientifically analyzed. This will forever change the way you look at and do Kenpo Karate.

How to Make Kenpo Karate Perfect

Are there Too Many Kenpo Techniques?

I wrote the following comment on a forum where I had posed a question concerning Kenpo having too many techniques. Thought it deserved a reprint here, because it goes to the heart of Matrixing. You can find the original article here…

https://alcase.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/ed-parker-finally-speaks-on-too-many-kenpo-techniques-2/

kenpo karate training manual

150 Kenpo Techniques matrixed

I wrote a dictionary of Martial Arts. You can find it somewhere on the net if you google ’Matrixing Technical dictionary.’

The thing that actually got me started on this thing of too many techniques for Kenpo is this simple fact: When you line up the techniques in your system they are taught a) out of order, and b) they’re are missing techniques. This has turned out to be an absolute, and this is why it takes people so many years to maser the martial arts. The first time I wrote out a list of techniques, in order and no missing pieces, the result on the students were astounding. It wasn’t even a combat sequence, it was just stand up grab arts, and there were only forty of them, but suddenly the guys were free styling like they had years of experience. The learning curve went out the roof, so I started doing it to everything, and the same results were evident in every art I had. The conclusion was this: if the art is in order, with no missing pieces, the learning curve can be up to ten times faster. The lack was in polish, but if the student stuck with it, the polish happened within a couple of months. So even that was transformed. Anyway, I started the martial arts back in 1967. and in that time I have never seen an art with all the pieces and in the right order. It just doesn’t happen. But if they did, I speak from personal experience, the result is an art that functions on a conceptual level, and is much faster and easier to learn.

Have a great work out!

Al from monstermartialarts.com

BTW ~ the special two courses for the price of one will be over on the first of January. Go to MonsterMartialArts.com, pick out any course, order it, then pick out another course of equal value, and email me (aganzul@gmail.com) and let me know. You’ll get that second course for free!

MonsterMartialArts.com came into existence in 2002. The first Matrix course (Matrix Karate) was introduced in 2007.

Why Did Ed Parker Make Five Styles of Kenpo?

The Five Kenpos of Ed Parker

The first Kenpo of Ed Parker was actually Okinawan Karate. One can see the forms in the string of techniques in his first book. Forms were actually not taught, except, I believe, for Naihanchi and maybe one or two others.

The second version was a blend of Karate and jujitsu. This version was originally taught in a small temple in Japan.

lop sau rolling fists freestyle drill

Complete scientific analysis of Kenpo Karate

ed parker kenpo karate

Fiver versions of Kenpo Karate, and which one is the real one?

The third Kenpo of Mr. Parker was actually created by James Wing Woo, a kung Fu stylist who taught Ed’s class, and helped him write a book while he lived in Pasadena. This was the version of kenpo from which many of the forms were originated.

The fourth kenpo was a reworking and renaming of the 3rd version.

The fifth and final Kenpo was created by Ed Parker to replace the earlier styles of Kenpo. He was proud of the fact that it actually wasn’t kenpo anymore.

Now, this all stated, one has to ask why there were so many styles. The answer is simple, Ed was trying to simplify and make sense out of the mess.

The fact of the matter is that the martial arts are random sequences of motions. This causes the art to be hard to learn, and hard to apply. It is simply hard to memorize to the point of intuition so much data.

Ed was trying to simplify and make sense out of the thing so that students could learn faster (among other reasons).

Unfortunately, he failed.

He came close, but his efforts were still comprised of random sequences of motion.

Each method he designed or compiled or whatever was built upon the ashes of the previous, tried to include new concepts and theories he had come across, and does not make summation of kenpo, or the martial arts.

Was he wrong for doing what he did? Not at all. His work was ground breaking and innovative, he just lacked the logic and perspective to bring it all together.

Does it mean that the kenpo you are studying is wrong?

Nope.

For Kenpo is a manifestation of knowledge, and each person contains the knowledge in his own unique way.

Though Ed failed to make the art a science, it is still an art, and it is still whatever people make it.

Interestingly enough, Ed was proud that the last version of his Kenpo wasn’t Kenpo at all. If you want to read that story click on The Man Who Killed Kenpo.

The Five Kenpos of Edmund Parker

How Many Versions of Kenpo Karate were there?

The first Kenpo of Ed Parker was actually Okinawan Karate. One can see the forms in the string of techniques in his first book. Forms were actually not taught, except, I believe, for Naihanchi and maybe one or two others.

kenpo karate training manual

Three part series analysis 150 kenpo techniques

The second version was a blend of Karate and jujitsu. This version was originally taught in a small temple in Japan.

The third Kenpo of Mr. Parker was actually created by James Wing Woo, a kung Fu stylist who taught Ed’s class, and helped him write a book while he lived in Pasadena. This was the version of kenpo from which many of the forms were originated.

The fourth kenpo was a reworking and renaming of the 3rd version.

The fifth and final Kenpo was created by Ed Parker to replace the earlier styles of Kenpo. He was proud of the fact that it actually wasn’t kenpo anymore.

Now, this all stated, one has to ask why there were so many styles. The answer is simple, Ed was trying to simplify and make sense out of the mess.

The fact of the matter is that the martial arts are random sequences of motions. This causes the art to be hard to learn, and hard to apply. It is simply hard to memorize to the point of intuition so much data.

Ed was trying to simplify and make sense out of the thing so that students could learn faster (among other reasons).

Unfortunately, he failed.

He came close, but his efforts were still comprised of random sequences of motion.

Each method he designed or compiled or whatever was built upon the ashes of the previous, tried to include new concepts and theories he had come across, and does not make summation of kenpo, or the martial arts.

Was he wrong for doing what he did? Not at all. His work was ground breaking and innovative, he just lacked the logic and perspective to bring it all together.

Does it mean that the kenpo you are studying is wrong?

Nope.

For Kenpo is a manifestation of knowledge, and each person contains the knowledge in his own unique way.

Though Ed failed to make the art a science, it is still an art, and it is still whatever people make it.

About the Author: Al Case began kenpo in 1967. He has just written a three volume series scientifically analyzing 150 kenpo techniques called, ‘How to Create Kenpo Karate.’

Why I Gave up Kenpo Karate

And What I Did to Get Kenpo Karate Back

In 1967 I was an instructor at the Rod Martin Kenpo Karate school. I had written the school training manual, and I was pretty darned dedicated in my training.

One night a coworker and friend of mine took me to meet his brother, the purpose of the meeting to discuss martial arts. It wasn’t until we drove up to a rather shabby house in Sunnyvale that I was told that the brother, who I will call T, was a Hell’s Angel.

kenpo karate training manualT was friendly enough, and we entered into a conversation, and it wasn’t long before he said something to the effect of, “Let’s find out if it works,” and grabbed me by the shirt front.

“Go on, do that technique, the one you learned in the first few lessons.”

I was 19, and he was in his late twenties. I was a college kid with no experience. He had been in more fights than you could shake a stick at.

In the arena of fighting, I was simply outclassed.

Still, I tried.

I clamped my hands over his fists and locked his arms in place. He grinned. I brought my forearm up against his elbows to break them. It was like hitting oak branches. I brought my chop down on his radial nerves to paralyze them, and…he threw me through a wall.

Not just a dent in the wall, but all the way through it, to land on my butt on the other side.

He laughed and offered a hand to help me up.

His brother was sitting on the sofa, doubled in laughter.

“Okay, let me show you how we do it at our school. Go on and grab me.”

As I said, I tried. I grabbed his shirt front and tightened my hands and…he simply punched over my arm, down across my forearms and into my chest. Fortunately, he pulled his punch, changed his punch into a push, and I was propelled through the wall. To land on my butt. Again.

We spent several hours talking that night. And there was quite a bit more demonstration, and i learned he could be as gentle as well as hard. And though I kept taking Kenpo for a few more months, to all extents and purposes, that was the night I gave it up.

Now, a few things to be made clear.

First, I am not bad mouthing Kenpo. T had more experience, both in life and the martial arts, and I deserved to lose. He was a better martial artist than me.

But, that doesn’t mean the kenpo art is bad, it just means that I was bad, that i didn’t know how to make Kenpo work, and I have tried to fix that inadequacy over the last 45 years.

First, I collected several different styles of Kenpo, examined them for workability.

Second, I found that many kenpo techniques that worked in other arts.

Third, I found many other arts that worked better when they included certain Kenpo techniques and concepts.

The fact of the matter is that the good martial artists don’t tie themselves to one system. They are well experienced, well rounded, and educated in many martial arts.

Bruce Lee researched some 26 martial arts on the way to his formulation of Jeet Kune Do.

Kenpo was originally said to be a combination of Okinawan Karate and Japanese Jujitsu, and Ed Parker is said to have studied MANY different martial arts as he evolved his way through Kenpo.

So my Kenpo failed. That is not important. What is important is what I did with that failure. After all, a man learns a little from success, he learns a lot from his mistakes. And the truth of the matter is that I have obsessed on Kenpo on many ways since that night, and tried to fix it, and to fix the mistakes that I made.

About the author: Al Case began martial arts in 1967, became a writer for the magazines in 1981, had his own column in Inside Karate in the 90s, and is the webmaster of MonsterMartialrts.com. He has written a three volume set of books on Kenpo, ‘How to Create Kenpo Karate,’ which is available on Amazon. It includes some history and concepts, but the majority of the work is aimed at scientifically analyzing 150 Kenpo techniques. You can read an interesting article of his, ‘The Man Who Killed Kenpo,’ at Kenponow.wordpress.com

Before People Knew What Kenpo Karate Was

Back in the Beginning of Kenpo…

I began studying Kenpo in 1967.
It was so unknown that it was called Kenpo Karate so it could be identified with the art of Karate. Not that that many people knew what karate was.

lop sau rolling fists freestyle drill

Check out How to Create Kenpo by Al Case. Fifty years of martial arts knowledge turned loose!

Kenpo was born in Japan. There are many lineages, but the specific Kenpo that is so widely known these days came from James Mitose, Thunderbolt Chow, Ed Parker, and finally, an instructor near you.

Martial Arts were not studied widely at the time, and usually it was fellows who were tough, who looked forward to the street fight, who studied them.

Kenpo came from Okinawan Karate and Japanese Jujitsu. There were other sourcss, many and varied, but the American style Kenpo you might study was likely based, at least in the beginning, on these arts.

Right from the outset Americans realized that Kenpo could be marketed more easily through tournaments, so we studied our freestyle rabidly, and we looked forward to the weekend trips.

For such a violent art, the participants at these tournaments proved to be a polite bunch. Schools were located a distance apart and there wasn’t much competition. Instructors actually looked forward to seeing each other, to comparing notes, and even learning a ‘secret’ technique or two.

And, outside of school, fights did happen. Proud warriors, Kenpo stylists, all martial artists, were happy to step up to a challenge, take umbrage at a veiled insult, trade fists with a goon.

We were more rabid back then. We didn’t do ten or twenty kicks and think we were done, we would do a couple of hundred and chide ourselves for being lazy. We would do forms by the hour. See if we could do 60 forms in an hour.

In short, we would exhaust ourselves. We would go for a run, do some weightlifting, and then freestyle for a couple of hours in class, and know that we were doing it right.

Mistakes? We made a ton of them. But over time we fixed them; the martial arts tend to be self fixing; the turn of the foot, the line of the wrist, the physics of the universe corrected us and were out teachers.

And now, near fifty years later, all we wish is one thing: to do it all again. To do Karate and Kenpo, to throw and kick and punch to our hearts content.

And we feel sorry for all those people who quit early, or who were born too late, or who were just too lax in their training to really find the truth: You are what you do, that is your measure, and that is your worth.

If you want a REALLY good book on Kenpo, consider ‘How to Create Kenpo’ by Al Case. It has the real history, the one you don’t hear much about, plus a section on how to do forms, plus 150 kenpo techniques, thoroughly analyzed so that you can be the best Kenpoka you can be. That’s How to Create Kenpo, available on Amazon. The hard work is up to you.

Here’s a fascinating bit of history: The Man Who Killed Kenpo.

Publication of How to Create Kenpo!

Rerelease of How to Matrix Kenpo!

How to Create Kenpo is actually a rerelease of ‘Matrixing Kenpo.’ I ran into a few difficulties and had to rewrite and here is the new and better version.

There are actually three volumes, and they present a complete matrixing analysis of Chinese Kenpo. Likely, this version of Kenpo is the 2nd version taught by Ed Parker. It was taught in the 60s.

Matrixing is a form of logic, and provides the framework for the only scientific approach to the martial arts today.

The books contain in depth analysis of 150 techniques, a short history, a section on how to remake kenpo forms, and a section on how to matrix Kenpo and create a whole different viewpoint of Kenpo.

The purpose of the books is to ‘untangle’ kenpo, make it easier to learn, harder to forget, and do such things as make freestyle and techniques actually come together. This last has been a sore point, and a weak point, of Kenpo for decades.

There is a scurrilous article, and more information concerning the three books at kenponow.wordpress.com. The title of the article is ‘The Man Who Killed Kenpo.’

By scurrilous I mean that I go into some of the lesser known and not so honorable beginnings of Kenpo. You’re welcome to leave differing opinions, other data, or even hate mail in the comments section.

The books themselves are offered through Amazon.

Check them out let me know what you think.

About the Author: Al Case began martial arts in 1967. He has studied Kenpo, Karate, Shaolin, Tai Chi Chuan, Pa Kua Chang, weapons, and more. He was a writer for the magazines and had his own column in inside Karate. He currently lives at Monkeyland, a martial arts retreat in Southern California.