Tag Archives: edmund parker

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?


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.’

The Truth about the Ed Parker Mess Up

The Ed Parker Debacle!

Let’s talk about the Ed Parker Debacle.

Before I start,
you have to understand
how much respect I have for Ed.
He did amazing things,
he fell into the same traps
as have all martial artists
for thousands of years.

kenpo karateIn the beginning there was no Kenpo.
There were a few judo schools,
fewer karate schools,
and along came Edmund Parker.

He knew if he put up a poster
with Kenpo on it,
nobody would sign up.
Nobody knew what Kenpo was!
So he called it Karate.
Don’t know if he called it Kenpo Karate,
or just Karate,
but he called it Karate
so people would know what it was
and sign up for it.

the interesting thing was that it WAS Karate.
I have had people argue this point with me,
but I look at the pictures in his very first book,
in which he demos the techniques he taught,
and he is teaching a string of techniques
that if assembled…
are straight from Karate.

as time passed,
Ed couldn’t get more martial arts from his Master,
William ‘thunderbolt’ Chow.
(Chow had studied with Mitose,
so there was great lineage there.)
So Ed started looking elsewhere.
He met and trained with many Martial Artists,
and this undoubtedly effect him.
The most significant influence,
was Jimmy Woo.
Jimmy was a Kung Fu stylist from China,
and he knew his stuff,
and he helped rewrite the Kenpo curriculum.
So we have two specific versions of Kenpo,
with multiple influences.

here is where the problems,
if you wish to call them that,
During the course of his career
Ed evolved five different Kenpo systems.
That’s right.
He would get tired of what he was teaching,
figure out some new stuff,
and change the whole thing.
And he did this five times!

There were probably many things influencing him in this.
There was the fact that he had a black belt in Judo
before he earned his brown belt in Kenpo.
(I don’t believe he ever earned a black belt under Chow)
Then there were his studies with people like
Ark Wong
Haumea Lefiti
Jimmy Woo

He even knew Bruce Lee,
and Bruce was sure to have had some sort of influence.

And then there were things like
adjusting to sales contracts
introductionof protective gear
and other arts and people we know nothing of!

So Ed Parker was a genius,
and he put together a massive system,
a system that evolved five different specific times,
it was all a put together,
and a re-put together,
and a re-put together,

no disrespect here,
everything in the martial arts is a put together!

We just happen to know the specifics of Kenpo and Parker.

here is the problem with put togethers…
they don’t always jive.
They tend to follow specific concepts
that the founder liked,
but they don’t always fit together.

you can thread from one technique to another in kenpo,
but that is serendipity.
Not a plan.
But an evolution of opportunity.

And that is true of ALL arts!

I tried to Matrix Kenpo,
I tried hard.
I collected all the systems of Kenpo that I could.
I had videos and books
and various instructor manuals from schools,
and my own notes from when I studied Kenpo.
And I tried to make sense out of it,
and it didn’t work.
I just couldn’t do it.
To be fair to me,
I had managed to matrix Karate,
but I was still evolving,
and I didn’t understand how many arts and influences
were in a thing like kenpo.

I could matrix kung fu systems.
But they had been around for thousands of years,
and they had been ‘shaken out.’
Evolution had shaped them into ‘closed combat systems.’
They were sets of techniques
that resulted in specific body and personality changes,
and even zen states of mind,
and so on.


the big breakthrough came
while I was doing the research for Blinding Steel.
Or what I call Matrix Kung Fu.

I describe the full sequence of events
on this page


but let me say now,
that there was a process of elimination.
When I had matrixed enough other arts,
and saw what was left,
the blinders came off,
the lights went on,
and I figured it out.

I didn’t want to matrix Kenpo.
Among the reasons was the simple fact
the system was big and unwieldy
and I felt that the concepts of the martial arts
were better presented in the string of courses I had already created.

Kenpo would have been doing everything over again,
except that I would have been separating everything
into kenpo styles of the arts I had done.

I just didn’t want to do all the work over again,
and slant it towards Kenpo.

That said,
Kenpo can be matrixed
if you just do a few courses,
Matrix Karate,
the Master Instructor Course,
Matrix Kung Fu.

Mind you,
it is probably choppier than official Kenpo,
but it will include all angles and potentials of motion.
But it is much more to the point.
Not the endless variations,
not the mystery of what to connect to what,
but a simplicity of a body and art
defined exactly and correctly.

If you like that notion,
if you are a kenpo stylist,
you should check out Matrix Kung Fu.


that all said,
if you click on the Matrix Kung Fu link,
you get to see the new website!

have fun,
see you there,
and have a great work out!


zen martial arts