"The word kenpo translates as "fist law" or rather "the method of the fist." It is a broad term - like "martial arts" or "self defense" - that carries a complex and colorful history: it can be described as a Japanese word for a Chinese concept that was heavily influenced by the Okinawans, and uniquely interpreted by the Hawaiians. Better yet, kenpo would also be integral to the rise of martial arts culture in America." - Charles Russo

Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America - (page 94)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tracy's Karate St. Louis


(from the Tracys Karate Saint Louis Facebook page)

Tracy’s Karate Studio: a Kirkwood tradition for 50 years! Since 1969, this landmark sign has stood on Manchester Road in Kirkwood, and Tim Golby, 10th Degree Black Belt, and his professional staff continue to provide self-defense instruction to people of all ages throughout our community. Chances are, you - or someone in your family or your neighborhood or workplace - have been or are a student. It’s been a great FIRST 50 years! Join us as we begin the next half century!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Kenpo Forms: The Unifying Factor in American Kenpo

(from Mr. Rich Hales' Facebook page, January 1, 2019)

Kenpo self-defense techniques are generally done differently in most schools. Which is okay, because self-defense techniques should not only be done differently between most schools, they should be done differently between most individuals.

I know some instructors will insist that their students perform the techniques exactly as they do, but eventually, everyone will reach a point where they’ll perform the techniques as they see best. This is where the instructors who say it’s my way or the highway, will have to say goodbye to their students, as they hit the road to self-expression.

The argument for self-expression, in Kenpo, really isn’t an argument at all. There are many quotes by Mr. Parker to back this up. Take this one from an article in Black Belt, Aug. 1979, titled The Special Techniques of Kenpo, by Ed Parker:

"The reason I give my techniques names is because there are certain sequences associated with these terms. If I told a student tomorrow that I was going to teach him a counter version to a double hand grab, it's not as meaningful as when I say I'm going to teach him ‘Parting Wings.’ It's not explained, basically, but it sounds intriguing. There is a little mystique and the student looks forward to learning what this is. And though each term I use has a particular sequence I want students to follow, these are ideas and not rules. At any given moment they may alter these ideas."

How about this quote from Karate Kung-Fu, Sept. 1986, V-17 No. 9, titled Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate: Discovered in America, Part 1:

“There is no one correct way for everybody to do a certain martial arts move. Four plus four equals what? Eight. Now, what's six plus two? Right, eight again. And five plus three? Seven plus one? Now, did I use the same numerical combination each time to get eight? No. And it's the same in Kenpo. Each Kenpoist can arrive at the same result a little differently, depending on his or her own style."

Or even better yet, this quote from Black Belt, Nov. 1985, V-23 No. 11, titled Ed Parker on Bruce Lee, Elvis Presley and . . . Ed Parker:

“I teach these techniques not for the sake of teaching the techniques, but for the principles that are involved in the techniques. And even then, these principles have to be altered to fit the individual. My system is structured to bring out a “style” of an individual.”

Another argument for self-expression, regarding techniques, is the Three Phase Concept, defined as the concept that no technique is a set pattern or rule unto itself, but rather is composed of the Ideal Phase, the What If Phase and the Formulation Phase.

Note that Mr. Parker says the Three Phase Concept refers specifically to techniques. I’ve never heard, or read, where Mr. Parker, or anyone else for that matter, says to study Forms according to the What If Phase, or the Formulation Phase. To the best of my knowledge, Forms have always been taught, practiced and performed according to the Ideal Phase.

So, what did Mr. Parker have to say about Kenpo Forms? To see how he felt about Kenpo Forms, I’ll quote another statement, made by Mr. Parker, in an interview with Karate Illustrated, Sept. 1976. The article is titled, Going Through Them Changes:

“While it is true that we should adapt a martial art to suit us individually - and we learn to express ourselves freely and blend with the situations as they occur - a firm basis is still needed to learn from. In learning English, the alphabet forms the basis of our language. Then words are created, phonetics added, and verbs, nouns, pronunciation, along with definitions. Kata is alphabets in motion. If you learn how to pronounce a word and never know what the word means how could you ever use it correctly in a sentence?”

A few years later, in another article for Black Belt, July 1979, titled Ed Parker's Kenpo: The Magician of Motion Reveals Secretes of His Art, Mr. Parker states:

"When learning English, the alphabet forms the basis of our language. From them, words are created, phonetics added, pronunciation, along with definitions to give words meaning. I feel that over the years many students are going through their kata, but they don't know what the kata are for.”

This is why I consider Forms to be the Unifying Factor in American Kenpo. Like any other karate system, our forms are the one thing that holds our system together. Once the forms change to a certain point, so does the system itself. Take Tae Kwon Do and Tang So Do, for example. As similar as these two systems are, it’s primarily the differences in their forms that separate one system from the another.

So, if Mr. Parker was seeing a decline in how Kenpo forms were being performed forty years ago, what can we do about it today? Number 1) quit relying on our teachers to teach us the forms IN THEIR ENTIRETY.

So many of us think of our teachers as the best, smartest and most bad-ass karate men and women on the planet. This may very well be true, but as amazing as our teachers are, they’re not infallible. If a teacher has been taught or learned, something incorrectly, then pass that incorrect information along to us, we are not – by virtue of doing what we’re told – doing it correctly.

An example of something I often see done incorrectly are the foot maneuvers in Short 1. When I see this, I’ve asked the teachers, when they’re teaching a step through reverse, if they tell their students to move their rear foot slightly forward “before” they step back. They say no. I ask if they tell their students to lift the heel of their rear foot off the ground before they step back. They say no. I ask when they’re teaching a student how to cover, do they tell them to first pivot their rear foot, as a separate move, and then step across with the lead foot, as they turn to face the opposite direction. They say no. Then I ask why they and their students do it that way in Short Form 1? To this, I get varied reactions, but mostly just an ugly stare.

Ed Parker’s Encyclopedia of Kenpo describes a “Step Through” as the execution of full steps by either moving forward or back. It describes a “Cover” as shifting the forward leg to the opposite side as you turn and face the opposite direction. The Encyclopedia of Kenpo also says the word "And" implies one or more wasted beats of timing. In Kenpo, we try to eliminate using the word "and", because it involves wasted time and is, therefore, contradictory to the principle of Economy of Motion.

When most people think of the term Economy of Motion, they tend to think of it offensively. In other words, they think of not cocking a punch or kick before executing it. Which is understandable, because the definition of Economy of Motion reads as such: “Entails choosing the best available weapon for the best available angle, to ensure reaching the best available target in the least amount of time. Any movement that takes less time to execute, but still causes the effect intended. Any movement that inhibits or does not actively enhance the effect intended is categorized as Wasted Motion.”

Yet, a lesser-known, but equally important, principle of American Kenpo is what Mr. Parker called the Chinese Fan Principle. This principle teaches how reaction can beat action by simply moving the target, instead of blocking the attack. This principle takes advantage of the time it takes for a weapon to reach its target. Since the target is the last point that an opponent must reach, moving it out of the way first, enables your reaction to beat your opponent's action.

Here's a quote from Inside Kung-Fu, May 1990, titled The Life and Times of Ed Parker: Part 2 by Bob Mendel, in which Mr. Parker tells a short version of the 50 Cent Fan:

"I use a story about a businessman who goes to San Francisco to buy his daughter a Chinese fan," he says. "She only uses it briefly and it falls apart. The businessman keeps the pieces and when he goes back to San Francisco, he goes to the same shop and shows the pieces of the fan to the owner. The owner says: How much did you pay for the fan? He answers 50 cents. So, the owner says: with a 50-cent fan, you hold the fan and move your face.”

"I tell my students that the defensive hand is a 50-cent fan. If they move their face, they won't get hit. If they just use the hand, I'll hit them every time. So, it's a case of move face, not fan. It's a funny story but they remember it."

While the Encyclopedia of Kenpo definition of Economy of Motion emphasizes offense and the Chinese Fan Principle emphasizes defense, they are essentially one and the same principle.

So, why do I care so much about the foot maneuvers in Short Form 1? It’s because I consider the Economy of Motion to be the most defining principle in the art of American Kenpo. Think about what’s truly unique to American Kenpo, compared to other systems of karate. Every karate system has blocks, kicks, and punches. Every karate system rotates their hips for power, shuffles forward, back, and side to side. What many karate systems partially, or completely, ignore is Economy of Motion.

Now, let’s look at how the Economy of Motion and the Chinese Fan Principle relate to Short Form 1. If when I do a step through reverse, I shift my rear foot forward or lift the heel off the ground, I’m actually moving my head forward, toward the attack, not away from it. When I cover, if I pivot my rear foot, as a separate move, before I shift my lead leg to the opposite side, my head remains stationary during the pivot, instead of moving directly and immediately away from the attack.

The bottom line is Short Form 1, and every Form thereafter is primarily a lesson in foot maneuvers. If we’re going to totally disregard the proper execution of foot maneuvers, why even teach the forms at all? Without the proper execution of foot maneuvers, forms are nothing more than a bunch of techniques done while facing in various directions.

I guess this would be a good place to say I’m not professing to be a master of Kenpo Forms. I don’t consider myself to be a master of anything. Yet, I am a student of Kenpo and my never-ending study of Kenpo is a quest toward mastering the art. All I’m doing here is sharing what I’ve learned during my study of the art. If someone else sees the logic in what I’ve learned, good. If not, fine.

I’m willing to share and discuss my viewpoint on Kenpo with everyone, but I’m not willing to argue it with anyone. Almost every argument comes down to this anyway. Someone comes up to me and says, what about Mr. Famous Kenpo Guy. He pivots his foot before he covers. Are you saying “HE’S” doing it wrong? Well, yes. The proper (and well documented) method of performing a cover is to move the lead leg to the opposite side while turning to face the opposite direction. If anyone pivots their rear foot first, as a separate move, they are doing it wrong. Being famous doesn’t make you right. If that were the case, we’d simply turn our government over to Hollywood and let the movie stars (in all their wisdom) run the country.

Why I believe Mr. Parker’s written materials are our best shot at performing American Kenpo correctly:

One of the most significant lessons I had, with Ed Parker, wasn’t really a lesson at all. He had called me and asked if I could stop by the house because he had something he wanted to show me. When I got to the house, he had his Infinite Insights into Kenpo book series literally on the drawing board. He then went about explaining his Web of Knowledge and showing me how he used it to rearrange his techniques. Along the way, he asked me if I’d be willing to stop teaching the 32 Technique System and use his new 24 Technique System. I, of course, said I’d be happy to, as he continued to tell me about his new books and plans for the future.

At some point, the conversation took a quick turn with Mr. Parker saying he had a dream that he was going to die. Shocked, I asked when he had this dream. He said, five years ago. Bewildered, I said, five years ago? He said, yes and a week later my brother died. Now I’m not saying anything. I’m just standing there staring at Mr. Parker, waiting for him to continue. He then said, you see my brother and I were so close that when I had a premonition of death, I thought it was my death because I couldn’t separate my own death from that of my brother.

He then said it was his brother’s death that prompted him to write the Infinite Insight series and update his written manuals. He said that even though it was his brother who had died, he was left with the realization that he too would die young. He said his books and manuals would leave us with a guide to follow in his absence.

It was at that point I asked a very difficult question. I said, Okay, now that you brought it up. Who will run Kenpo when you’re gone? He said, “Everyone will have a part because no one has it all.”

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Billy Idol, Kenpo, Elvis, and Mr. Parker

(from a discussion on Facebook)

Billy Idol back in the 80's. Notice the American Kenpo crest hanging from Idol's neck. Although he never practiced kenpo he was obsessed with Elvis which led him to being a fan of kenpo and Mr. Parker.




Frank Trejo, Billy Idol, Mr. Parker

I don't remember him studying with Frank. Idol wanted Mr.Parker as his bodyguard since he idolized Elvis. When he got him to come on, Frank was going to be added to the security team. - Lee Wedlake

Friday, August 2, 2019

55 years ago today


Bruce Lee put U.S. martial arts on the grand stage in Long Beach 50 years ago

(by Chris Trevino presstelegram.com 8-1-14)

Bruce Lee is the greatest martial artist of his generation. A movie star. A pop culture icon. A philosopher. A legend.

But all legends start somewhere. For Lee, that somewhere was Long Beach 50 years ago.

Lee took center stage of the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium on Aug. 2, 1964, during the inaugural Long Beach International Karate Championships. For the next half-hour, Lee dazzled the thousands in attendance with unimaginable feats of speed and power.

Richard Bustillo remembers that day when he was a 22-year-old boxer and martial artist whose life changed forever.

“I had seen it all until I saw Bruce Lee perform with his philosophies, his concepts of martial arts and his speed and power,” said Bustillo, one of the last remaining original students of Lee. “I said, ‘Now this is something we have to learn. This is real martial arts.’ ”

Over the International’s 50-year history, Long Beach has hosted some of the sport’s greatest black belts from Chuck Norris to Joe Lewis and Lee again in 1967.

This year’s edition, at the Long Beach Convention Center this weekend, will be the International’s last under its current name and will take on a new identity moving forward. The International will conclude with a ceremony to honor the 50 year history and feature appearances from participants in 1964.

“It’s the proper way to say goodbye,” said Steve Cooper, the event’s promoter. “They want to come down memory lane one more time.”

Tournament’s genesis

Like Lee, the International itself was the brainchild of Ed Parker, founder of American Kenpo Karate. It was unlike anything ever seen — not only in Long Beach, but also the United States.

Lee took the stage, unassuming at 5 feet 7 inches tall and barely 140 pounds in his black Chinese kung fu jacket and pants. And after that summer day’s performance in the Auditorium, both Lee and Parker’s tournament became staples in the martial arts world and forever linked.

[The Long Beach International] kick-started martial arts all over, not just Bruce Lee,” said Bustillo. “It made martial arts popular.”

Going mainstream

Today, it’s impossible to drive anywhere in the U.S. without passing a martial arts school or finding a local tournament. But 50 years ago, the idea of a commercial school or a tournament was all but unheard of.

“In the ’50s and ’60s, martial arts was kept secret. It wasn’t something you could open a commercial school or talk about it,” Bustillo said. “When (Parker) opened up it kind of raised eyebrows to the traditionalist people. ‘Why is he exposing our martial arts?’ But it was very successful.”

Robert Trias’ 1955 Arizona Karate Championships is regarded as the first recorded martial arts tournament in the U.S., with Trias and John Keehan putting together the first national competition in 1963 at the University of Chicago Fieldhouse. A year later, Jhoon Rhee, the father of American Taekwondo, held the U.S. National Karate Championships in Washington, D.C. The Chicago and D.C. competitions were marred by inconsistency and disorganization.

In a letter printed in the September issue of Black Belt Magazine, titled “Disgusted at the National Karate Championships,” the reader outlined his account of the D.C. event, calling it the most “unorganized sports event I have ever seen.”

“If karate is to become a popular spectator sport,” wrote the reader, “much will have to be done to change the public’s mind and erase the impression that was conveyed at the 1964 National Championship.”

Parker was able to distinguish the International among the chaos and have it become a premier event in a sport that would quickly enter public consciousness.

“Chicago was a real mess,” said George Mattson, who was an official at both the Chicago and Long Beach tournaments. “Ed’s was the first notable tournament that was run in an organized matter. … It was the best run at the time and set the standard that followed.”

“That tournament was real special,” said grandmaster Pat Burleson, winner of the 1964 title in Washington. “You couldn’t talk about martial arts without mentioning the International in Long Beach.”

A legend is made

Parker was introduced to Bruce Lee by James Yimm Lee (no relation), a martial arts instructor in Oakland who befriended Bruce Lee and hosted his visits from Seattle. Impressed by Lee immediately, Parker invited to Lee to demonstrate his skills at his inaugural International.

Parker introduced Bruce Lee the evening before the tournament to handful of attendees of the black belt meeting.

“I thought he was too little to be so tough, but he was fast enough to make up for it,” said grandmaster Allen Steen on his first impression of Lee. The two later became friends. “He wouldn’t have been ranked in the top 100 fighters because we didn’t know who he was.”

“He was so small … you have to understand he was a nobody [then],” said Mattson, the tournament official. “But he was somebody Ed Parker kept saying, ‘You have to meet this guy.’”

It was a statement backed up the next day during his time on stage.

“He just blew everyone away,” said Bustillo. “When he spoke that whole auditorium was quiet. You could hear a pin drop.”

Impressive technique

Lee demonstrated blazingly fast techniques while explaining his philosophies on martial arts to the packed Auditorium audience. He demonstrated forms and his famous two-finger push ups. But the climax came during Lee’s crowd-pleasing one-inch punch demo on volunteer Bob Baker, sending him toppling into a chair. (Baker was said to have told Lee not to do the demonstration again as he was forced to miss work due to the “unbearable” pain in his chest as a result).

“They went crazy. They had, well no one had, never seen that kind of exhibition,” said Bustillo. “Nobody wanted him to leave the stage. They wanted to see more of what he could do.”

Spectators, celebrities and show business VIPs filled the Auditorium. One was legendary celebrity hairstylist “Hollywood” Jay Sebring.

A week after the International, Sebring was styling producer William Dozier and mentioned Lee’s performance. Dozier found film of the International and invited Lee to Los Angeles for a screen test, eventually landing himself the role of Kato in the “Green Hornet” series.

The remainder of Lee’s arc is well known: His Kato role catapulted him into a movie star through his legendary films in Hong Kong and later Hollywood. His death at the age of 32 in 1973 only increased his status as a icon in the following decades.

After watching Lee’s demonstration, Bustillo’s life was changed. He immediately wrote Lee, who returned to Oakland, asking how he could learn from him. Lee wrote back, inviting him to the orientation for Lee’s new school to be opened in L.A. Two years later Bustillo became Lee’s dedicated student and friend. Now 72, Bustillo, a master himself renowned for his expertise of Jeet Kune Do — Lee’s hybrid martial arts system — runs his own school, the IMB Academy in Torrance. He remembers that Sunday 50 years ago fondly: the packed Auditorium, where he sat and the view his 22-year-old self had of that unknown martial artist.

“[He was] extraordinary,” Bustillo said. “He was electrifying when he spoke. People gravitated to him. He had passion and his passion was martial arts.”

He pauses after that last thought, looking out of the front of the school before starting again. A painting of Lee that used to hang in Lee’s house is displayed over his shoulder in the Torrance school.

“That’s why he’s the best. He was like van Gogh or like Mozart. All those geniuses spent all hours and life on their passion. Bruce Lee was like that. You are not going to find guys like that — well there are, but not like him.”

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https://www.presstelegram.com/2014/08/01/bruce-lee-put-us-martial-arts-on-the-grand-stage-in-long-beach-50-years-ago/?fbclid=IwAR25LXFvsY8tknxAOfQRHjqYGDp-Z98D5XpVDK4aIspXqEcdYVmIupLxv4M

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Imagine what our strikes are like

Kenpo in its most basic street fighting maneuvering is to make your assailant regret the fact that he even had an idea of attacking you. It is prevalent in our techniques for every one strike your opponent gives there are three to four/five strikes returning.

One of my slogans I always used with my students is, "If our blocks are like strikes, imagine what our strikes are like." - Eugene Durelle