Thursday, December 29, 2016

My thoughts on Forms in Ed Parker's American Kenpo

(from the Kenpo Awareness Self Preservation Facebook page)

by Rainer Schulte

Back in the 60s and 70s we learned Form 1 to 3 in short and long.

 We learned 4, 5 and 6 period. Seven was in the making and geared to be a Knife Form.

 4, 5, and 6 were NOT in the curriculum as short or long.

 We had to perform the Forms for our Test's as well as performing "our own" Form.

 Some of these "own" forms E.P. liked and some he did not. They did not qualify or disqualify you to be graded. If you were performing Forms at a "Kenpo Form competition" you would have received low marks if you cut them short.

 In Tournaments you are judged on your "Performance" not if you did the Form according the way it should have been taught.

 We have a System called Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate. The names for the Techniques are still the same as when they were written, just the Five Count was changed to Five Swords. Techniques are done according to your physical and mental capability, thus called "Style" As we all know it is always open for interpretation & other opinions.

 The Forms are the Forms. When it came to Techniques he would say 'Use what you like' 'Discard what you don't find Useful' but never eliminate, because it may become 'Useful ' at another time or to someone else!

 The original way the Forms were taught in the 60s & 70's era has made some changes depending upon who it was taught to or from. I think Richard Planas sets the position of being the person best suitable for knowing the answers to most question when it comes to Forms.

 When they reached the more advanced stages it was termed Form 4, 5, & 6

 The Forms 7 & 8 were being played with as a Knife & Club set (Form)...only later to be reversed where the Club was first & the knife would follow again depending on who you ask.

 Mike Pick will tell you that the concept was to originally have 10 Forms being the final number within the Kenpo system based on the notion the art had rank up to a 10th Degree Black Belt.

 The concept of doing a personal Form or known as a 'Thesis ' form was to allow Ed Parker to see how a particular student could engineer their creativity & he would invite an open minded thought process just to assess his students thinking process.

It was known Tom Kelly created the 'Kicking Set', as Chuck Sullivan created the 'Staff Set'.

 As for the 'Nunchaku Set', 'Elbow Set', and 'Striking Set'(Punching set) it was said Master Rick Avery was behind the 'Nunchaku Set', Gary Ellis with the 'Elbow Set' & Guru Dan Inosanto was the person behind the 'Striking' set aka 'Punching Set' because his strong background in the Chinese Systems (Wing Chun)..ect..

 I believe it was Ernie George who brought the Knife Form (7) to the forefront at the time he was under Tatum...and it was being endorsed as a 'IKC Tournament' form....not a realistic Knife Form as many may think. This brings the clear understanding a to the direction the other Forms like 8, 9 & 10 where in the research of Single Dagger to Double Dagger Forms to show a progression. As a matter of fact Mike Pick still has the photo stills in his archives of the project.

 We need to remember Ed Parker was constantly methodically thinking...and he had a series of future books that would compliment his research. These books were called 'Speak with a Club' & 'Speak with a Knife'. He also was writing an Empty hand book called the use of 'Every Day Gestures'.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Remembering Mills Crenshaw, the voice behind a massive Utah anti-tax protest rally

(by Paul Rolly 12-26-16)

Long before the tea-party movement was launched, a talk radio host in Salt Lake City got his listeners so riled up against tax hikes that they marched on Utah's Capitol by the thousands and chanted slogans that echoed through the building's rotunda while the governor remained holed up in his office, reluctant to even show his face.

The talk-show host was Mills Crenshaw, the premier voice at the time of K-TALK Radio. His anti-tax drumbeat inspired close to 7,000 protesters to show up at the Capitol to rail against a more than $300 million tax increase the Legislature passed to benefit public education.
Crenshaw, who spent 50 years on the radio, mostly in Utah, died Tuesday of complications incident to age. He was 80.
"He had a golden voice," said conservative activist Janalee Tobias. "It was just the kind of voice that made you believe whatever he said. He could really motivate people."
"He was one of the great talk show hosts on radio," said former U.S. Rep. Merrill Cook. "He was an absolute natural at that and he was a great help in many of the things I was trying to accomplish."
Crenshaw organized the massive protest in November 1987 after the Legislature, at the request of then-Gov. Norm Bangerter, passed the largest tax hike in state history.
Crenshaw had been at KTKK 630 AM for about a year, having moved to Utah from his home state of California.
He had been inspired by the California tax-limitation movement that led to successful ballot proposal Proposition 13, which imposed strict caps on property taxes.
"We were in total agreement on that," said Cook, who used the momentum from Crenshaw's Capitol Hill rally to launch a petition drive to get three tax-limitation initiatives on the ballot in 1988.
Cook ran as an independent candidate for governor that year, with the ballot initiatives serving as the basis for his political rallying cry.
"Mills was usually right there in my camp," said Cook, who has run for office more than a dozen times, including two successful bids in Utah's 2nd Congressional District.
The tax initiatives went down to defeat and so did Cook, although he received a respectable percentage of the vote for an independent.
Crenshaw and Cook continued their small-government, limited-taxes crusade, which eventually helped Cook get elected to Congress in 1996.
"I got a phone call from a little old lady and she broke down and started to cry," Crenshaw once said to explain his passion for the anti-tax campaigns.
"One of the things I've learned in the decades I've been on the air is there are times when you just shut up and listen. And I listened to her and when she got her voice again she said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do.' "
The woman, who had called in to his radio show, added: "Everyone is behind this tax increase and I don't know how I'm going to buy food and pay my taxes at the same time."
Crenshaw said he listened and then the phone lines lit up "and for two weeks, nobody wanted to talk about anything else."
"That was the peak of talk radio in Utah," said longtime Republican strategist Dave Hansen.
"And Crenshaw was at the top. He was the Rush Limbaugh of Utah."
Hansen was a part of the Bangerter administration and was at the Capitol when Crenshaw's army arrived to protest the taxes.
"I remember it well," he said.
Besides his radio career, Crenshaw launched several businesses and, for a short time, owned a radio station. He authored a book, "The Christmas of '45," and he was a black belt in karate.
"Even in his later years, he kept himself in shape," said Tobias.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A post left on Mr. Crenshaw's Facebook page today

"The next time I hear thunder I will know it is you with Mr. Parker working on some new kenpo techniques."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mr. Crenshaw passes away

Mr. Mills Crenshaw, one of Mr. Parker's early students back in the BYU days, passed away last night.

He was 80 years old.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stripping the System?

(by Ron Chapel Ph. D. 10-19-16)

Stripping away at the system by implication, suggests that there exists a standard system from which you can perform this task. Unfortunately the “system” by which most understand it, is non-existent. One person may strip away something, only to discover it was never included in another’s understanding. One stripped, and the other didn’t, and they both theoretically arrive at the same place.

The system, as most want it to be, does not exist. It is NOT a set of codified movements of forms, sets, and techniques. Nor is it a systemized methodology to convey the aforementioned because a teacher must perform that task, influenced by his own ideas and experiences, gleaned from various points in time from the ever changing ideas of the system itself, and who taught them with the same limitations.

Because in reality it is only a series of ideas, many of which are open to extreme subjective interpretation, the “system” in Parker Lineage Kenpo-Karate, is different from teacher-to-teacher, and even student-to-student in the same school or organization. The teacher, specifically YOUR teacher IS the system, and that will change over time as the teacher matures, and gains experience and knowledge. Ed Parker’s ideas for Kenpo-Karate are a suggested open-ended training methodology, in many ways like JKD.

For those who seek definitive answers to definitive questions, that may be bad news but the reality is, the system was designed to do just as it does. It allows and encourages teachers and students alike to experiment and explore to the best of their abilities, whatever that might be. It is an open ended idea system that is devoid of hard codification. It is designed for the individual to get as much, or little out of it as they desire without the fear of structural invalidation in the process. (Street application is another review process)

(for the rest of the article follow the link)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why is Martial Art Movement So Complicated?

(by Ron Chapel Ph. D. 10-19-16)

When dealing with the physics of human anatomy the relationship between the many parts of the body are “infinite” when it comes to movement. In my lessons this is what Mr. Parker meant and how he explained it to me, and why he chose the titles for his last series of books.

The human body has (in general) 206 bones, (more if younger, less if much older). They are all attached, (except one) through tissue of various viscosity densities, and therefore maintain various degrees of relationship fit or “tightness” to each other predicated on the body movement and posture. It is the bodies ability to vary this “tightness of fit or structural alignment,” that allows it to perform actions that are NOT always structural sound.

In other words, humans align and misalign themselves constantly to suit the purpose at hand, and to allow fluidity that is difficult to re-create in machines. It is also why humans have the capacity to injure themselves by doing things inefficiently, whereas a machine cannot and will only work within set parameters of their mechanical design. Humans can lift heavy objects with their back muscles, when they should be using their leg muscles as the primary muscle group. We have the ability to make conscious decisions as to “how” we perform learned movement.

So the relationship between the many parts is truly infinite, and therefore possesses an infinite amount of variables that may not be accounted for with some “universal or singular movement.” It is anatomically impossible.

(for the rest of the article follow the link)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Friday, November 11, 2016

Let’s Talk Kenpo Structure

(by Ron Chapel Ph. D. 10-19-16)

Excerpts from the Diary of a “Mad” Martial Scientist

Understanding Human Structure

Over your lifetime beginning when you first began to have control of your body, you have performed various tasks, and in that process created synaptic pathways to the brain that support these many physical activities. Most of them are unconsciously engrained into your muscle memory and autonomic nervous system. You body can work efficiently when your body “senses” the need to use or overcome resistance, or inefficiently if you make a conscious decision to do something that contradicts sound body mechanics.

Most are “trained” into using poor body mechanics and in many cases have over-ridden and created “bad” synaptic pathways for inefficient and body damaging physical movement.

The human body is a great machine if you listen to it. Unfortunately for many, they have stop listening and retrained it so poorly; they can no longer “hear” what it is saying. You have forced yourself into “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.”

In Martial Science, much like other sciences, there is a direct cause and effect to all activity. Martial Science draws on many different scientific disciplines, but all are in some way related to one another through the conduit of human anatomy. There exists a significant cause and effect interaction between all the many parts of human anatomy whether static or in motion. In any examination of the many martial postures and their transitions, the efficacy of its many positions are predicated upon, among many factors, weight distribution and an exacting posture relative to the physical activity at hand.

The relative position of the feet to each other, and their movement, also significantly determines whether structural integrity is created or maintained. Let’s discuss for a moment structural integrity in posture, movement, and weight distribution. Any variations in these categories beyond proper anatomical posture can diminish or enhance effectiveness on multiple levels offensively or defensively.

How you move your body in its entirety, and arms, feet, and even the head in particular, in martial science affects the stability of the complete body for a variety of reasons. For most this probably is not news. However what is probably “new” information to most is that some of the basic things taught in most “martial arts” fall quite comfortably into the negative and inefficient category. Surprisingly their effectiveness can be demonstrated to be much less than perceived. That is, when these things are tested in the light of reality, they fall well short of their well-intended goals. Lets us define efficiency relative to human physical activity in general, and martial science in particular.

(for the rest of the article follow the link)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What's With All the Attempts?

(by Ron Chapel Ph. D. 10-19-16)

It seems that most teach, “Every attack is an attempt,” and the answer is always to “Move first.” This point of view is prevalent in a lot of kenpo interpretations to mask the lack of knowledge of teachers who do not have the answers to completed assaults, or by those who have never considered the reality of the Psychology of Confrontation over just following what some teach as “the” kenpo curriculum.

When I have broached this perspective with “motion” people, they have said that “I don’t believe in defending before, or during an attack,” which is ludicrous, and it astounds me that someone might entertain that notion.

Certainly given the opportunity, one should neutralize any threat as soon as possible, even taking the offensive when it is appropriate. Multiple decades as a street cop have made me acutely aware of reality over, “techniques done on the mat at the school.”

Kenpo-Karate based on motion has degenerated to that level because of the dearth of competent instructors ever since the first generation of black belts Mr. Parker recruited to teach his commercial curriculum. They knew what worked in reality and ignored or changed what did not, all with Mr. Parker’s approval.

(for the rest of the article please follow the link)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Mr. Speakman

(photo from the Kenpo Hall of Fame Facebook page)

Nice photo of Mr. Speakman.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Four Stages Of Anatomical Indexing

(by Ron Chapel Ph. D. 10-19-16)

Or; Anatomical Indexing versus “motion master keys”

I. Stage One – Alphabetic
This is the preliminary physical stage of learning in any physical activity, where the alphabet “letters” or basics are learned and “pronounced” singularly and properly in preparation for the next stage of learning.

II. Stage Two – Phonetic
This is the secondary stage of learning in any physical activity. It stresses the basics of proper [url=″]execution[/url] and constant physical correction, anatomical alignment and structural integrity, as its primary function. Its primary goal is to begin the process of training the body, and creating muscle memory and synaptic pathways associated with the activity in preparation for the next stage of development. Here the term “Phonetic Basics” is appropriate to distinguish what is learned from more expeditious and intuitive action to come later in one’s development.

III. Stage Three – Script/Cursive
Here the movements began to take on a more fluid look as the mind and body becomes comfortable with the activity. The “corners are rounded” although the movements are still significantly large and pronounced as we execute with a flowing, smooth, and unhesitating action. It can be compared to drawing a square as opposed to drawing a “circle.” A circle may be drawn rather quickly but a square takes more time. The square is phonetic, while the circle is scripted movement.

(for the rest of the article please follow the link)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Early photos of Mr. Parker

(photos from Ed Parker Jr.'s Facebook page, date and location unknown)

A couple of rarely seen photos of Mr. Parker in the early days.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Where’s Kenpo’s Waldo?

(by Ron Chapel Ph. D. 10-19-16)

Where’s Control Manipulation?

Let’s talk about the four distances of combat as defined by Ed Parker in his Encyclopedia, and how they relate to each other and exactly where “Control Manipulation” actually resides, because clearly it is not included in the definition used by Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate.

I was taught there are subcategories to all four of the well known ranges of Kenpo-Karate, with each range as you progressively get closer to your attacker, encompassing additional concepts and principles, and still including all of the previous ones. Thus, the fourth range contains all of the other range principles of combat, as well as those exclusive to the fourth range itself.

This somewhat counters the “different stages of action” perspective some have adopted because of a lack of information regarding the full scope of Ed Parker’s Range definitions. Although it is true varying “ranges” can dictate the availability of various fighting tools at ones disposal, they do not dictate or restrict beyond simple physical limitations normally associated with human physical interaction.

Ed Parker Sr. defined the four ranges as 1; out of reach/range, 2; within reach/range, 3; Contact Penetration, and 4; Contact Manipulation. Each of these ranges in my teaching have extensive subcategory information that must be learned en route to a full, and advanced level understanding of the science.

From a motion-based Kenpo-Karate perspective, “Control” could be seen as a subcategory of “Contact Manipulation.” Because most of this information is not included in Ed Parker’s Kenpo-Karate, the subcategories become significantly important to the higher levels of the science of execution.

(for the rest of the article please follow the link)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Is Self-Defense really necessary?

(by Ed Parker, Iron Man Magazine, Oct. 1958)
Self-defense is indeed necessary. The old theory that it can never happen to me is little comfort when it really does happen. No sensible person can assume that all trouble happens to just certain persons or just a certain group of persons. It can happen any time without warning. If not today, perhaps tomorrow, if not tomorrow it will surely take place in one's lifetime. Kenpo Karate prepares one for such a crisis. Regardless of the seriousness of the situation, knowledge of Kenpo Karate will truly prove invaluable.
Only a few weeks ago a friend of one my students came to my school and expressed that ever-so-common phrase, "trouble will never come my way so why should I take any self-defense course?" A week after our first meeting he came to me again, only this time with determination to acquire defensive training. The same night of our first meeting he was attacked by two hoods who had no reason for their actions. While bending over to open his briefcase one of the hoods approached from the side and caught him on the jab with a staggering right punch. Stunned he turned to see who struck him; at that moment the other assailant kicked him in the groin. Dropping with pain, he watched as his attackers casually walked away.

There have been many like incidents lately and attacks of this nature are on the increase. We read about them daily in the local newspapers. To the average citizen these incidents mean nothing since they do not concern them. We would feel sorry if that were to happen to our friends, but we would chalk it up as a "bad break" and possibly say, "poor guy, he was unlucky." Not until it actually happens to us do we try to prepare ourselves.

Although this modern world that we live in is eliminating many of our old problems it is creating new ones. The strength, endurance, and hardy physique we were once dependent upon to protect our country, or families and ourselves is being lost in our new easy going way of life. Transportation by buses, cars, elevators, escalators, etc., all save countless hours of effort during our day. They have become a necessity, but something else is now needed to compensate for the lessened physical activity and the great amount of time on our hand s.

Not knowing what to do with this enormous amount of free time, many of our young people are seeking outlets. Some are frequenting reputable organizations such as the YMCA, commercial gyms and athletic clubs. Unfortunately, there are others who misuse their time and do things that are not constructive. Because of idleness and boredom, some of their activities are steered toward stealing, street fighting and other vices.

Present day fighting has changed somewhat from the old days when men fought one man at a time, regardless of number. To find this type of ethics in present day fighting is rate. The size of a person is no barrier to those who collect in great numbers. Big or small, heavy or light, the odds are increased proportionately. Even age and sex mean nothing to those who seek what they term entertainment.

Kenpo Karate is the answer in combating this unethical way of fighting. It teaches one how to fell an opponent through the manipulation of the hands, feet, knees and elbows. Each blow is delivered swiftly and precisely so that very little time is spent on one man. The coordination developed is such that three opponents can receive a blow at exactly the same precise moment. Using the many parts of the body as weapons, combined with the knowledge of maneuverability, a person with knowledge of Kenpo Karate can be equivalent to five or more men.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Points of Engagement

( 9-26-26)
In My American Chúan Fa/Kenpo System there is by design like most, defined footwork for various applications of offensive and defensive maneuvers. However, one of the things emphasized in our basic training is that all forms of footwork have distinctive predictable functional points of engagement to optimize their applications.
These points of engagement are numerical and allow the teacher to be specific in application with regard to the upper and lower platform synchronicity thus defining basics even more, relative to applications and the understandings thereof of the “how” in execution.
Much like my teacher, the late Ed Parker Sr. who created the concept of the “Clock Principle” to better help students and teachers alike to understand directional applications, I feel the American Chúan Fa Footwork Points of Engagement, will be just as revolutionary in the teaching, learning, and strict codification of the system to contribute to its longevity as a system itself.
By better defining what you do, and ensuring each generation learns the system properly, the system survives and insures generational access to the original information as taught to First Generation Practitioners. This is “old school training” where the student is given information and is expected to learn and execute as instructed.
Physical limitations are compensated for by high-level instructors who will make decisions on “tailoring” for individuals who need it, and those adjustments will remain philosophically within the parameters of the system mandates. However, these individual “adjustments” will not be allowed to become a part of the system even though it may be a part of a necessary interpretation for a particular individual.
(for the rest of the article please follow the link)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

KKAA and IKKA logos

First proposed logo for the Kenpo Karate Association of America

(I've heard that Mr. Parker didn't like this first version because of the yin and yang symbol.)

Official logo of the Kenpo Karate Association of America
International Kenpo Karate Association
(larger version)
(possible future version)
Cover of the 1985 IKKA handbook

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The De-Evolution of Kenpo

( 6-7-16)

There are many people seeking to define their place in Kenpo and as such, either embrace or reject many descriptors of the various interpretations that have evolved from the original mainland progenitor. To emphasize their positions, many have created various associations supported by their interpretations to validate their particular point of view.
I have personally clouded the issue by publicly making distinctions between what some see as the “mainstream” versions of Ed Parker’s work versus others. I have further muddied the waters by being public enough in discussions to attract the ire of those born into a system that didn’t exist when I began. Clearly, everyone from their own perspective may choose to see the universe in their own terms, but Ed Parker taught me sound logic should be the deciding factor regardless of source or origin.
Ed Parker himself made many distinctions in all of his teachings and created in his own evolution, various incantations, philosophies and directions within the students exposed, and instructed during different periods in his life. Add to that an instructors willingness, or lack thereof, to share specific information with some and not others, creating additional downstream variances.
In other words, the “so-called evolution” of Ed Parker’s Kenpo is as convoluted as a conundrum wrapped in a riddle and punctuated by an enigma of inconsistent tolerances, at best. The question itself implies the existence of a singular evolving Kenpo philosophy from Ed Parker’s beginnings to the present day. This is obviously and completely incorrect.
(for the rest of the article please follow link)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Meat Hook

(photo from Skip Hancock's Facebook page)

No information was given about this photo but it looks like that is Jeff Speakman with Mr. Parker.

What drew my attention to the photo is the size and power in Mr. Parker's hand, which Paul Mills described once in a YouTube video as "meat hooks".

Friday, October 28, 2016

Excerpts from the Diary of a “Mad” Kenpo Scientist, Part Three

SubLevel Four Kenpo Concepts

(by Ron Chapél, Ph.D. 1-15-16)

(Published in Martial Sport Magazine Mar. 03)

Up until the passing of Ed Parker I had not given much thought to the diversity of Ed Parker’s teachings over the years, and its affect on what he, in general called “American Kenpo.” I considered myself a good friend first and a student second, and I assumed his contemporary lessons for me were no different than others he considered “close.” I watched him teach and influence a variety of motion Kenpo-Karate based concepts over the years. He continued to share with former students who had gone on their own, as well as his current black belts who taught commercially. However I really thought there were others he was teaching similarly to myself and never gave it much thought. In all fairness, who really knows?
After his passing I was caught off guard at the amount of curiosity students at all levels of Kenpo had about where my information came from. I took for granted and spoke of things they had never heard of from an American Kenpo perspective. I was further surprised how strongly some argued that such things “didn’t exist in Ed Parker’s system” and how their personal understanding of his creation was “complete.” Others simply assumed his Infinite Insight series of books were the collective sum of his knowledge. “How arrogant,” I thought to myself for someone to assume they know all Ed Parker knew, or the sum of his knowledge was in a few books on concepts. Others wanted to know where this information was written down. Still others asked the question, “Why didn’t Ed Parker teach me that?” That’s a question they should probably reserve for themselves.
Clearly there are advanced aspects to Mr. Parker’s commercial vehicle he often privately called Motion-Kenpo. However I personally use the word “advanced” to mean knowledge not contained therein, not to demean or as a put down of other concepts. I coined the terms Advanced American Kenpo Concepts, and SubLevel Four based on phrases Ed Parker always used when he wanted to work on very specific areas in my interaction with him. He borrowed the former and used it himself on the jackets of the videos his son produced.
This advanced level of Kenpo, shortened sometimes to SL-4™ tends to be misunderstood because it covers multiple areas of applications. When SubLevel Four is used to strike, nerves are activated through Destructive Sequencing utilizing Chinese Acupuncture Meridians and nerves embedded in cavities. This causes the subject to involuntarily react in a predictable manner and creates a Negative Body Posture. This places him at an anatomical disadvantage. In simple terms, nerve cavities are made accessible and body positioning is mechanically restricted and vulnerable, thus the term Negative Body Posture.
This unique methodology effectively manipulates his body for each additional action until he is essentially incapacitated by a bodily dysfunction called Physical/Mental Disassociation, or actual and complete unconsciousness. At the very least your adversary is severely momentarily physically restricted. During this striking process, minor or major manipulations are employed to assist in placing the opponent into a negative posture to facilitate the desired nerve cavities being “open” and accessible. Once that occurs, particular natural weapons are then executed in a specific method, manner, angle, and known sequence in conjunction with the created negative posture. This process is initiated by your opponent’s own aggressive actions and posture. When you are capable of understanding as well as reading Martial Posture, you know what nerves are most easily accessed based on his actions. Although it would seem to be a complicated process, with proper basic training it really is not. Freshman students routinely do it quite effectively. The method is all in the design of the Default Techniques and the level of knowledge in their execution. If you learn the technique properly, it functions on its own. Like with an automobile, when you turn the ignition key, a series of very complex things take place in successive order. You don’t really have to know how or why these things happen to be a driver, you just have to know how to turn the key.

(for the rest of the article please follow link)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Two man set?

Mr. Parker and Sterling Peacock working on what looks like the Two Man Set.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Excerpts from the Diary of a “Mad” Kenpo Scientist, Part Two

The “Kenpo-Karate” & JKD Connection

(by Ron Chapél, Ph.D. 1-15-16)

(Published in Combat Martial Sports, March 02)

Ed Parker’s creation, “Kenpo-Karate,” has a brother and a sister art. The “sister” is Jeet Kune Do (JKD). We’ll save the “brother” for another day. Kenpo-Karate and JKD are both training concepts, as opposed to styles, or even real systems of the martial arts. Although the Bruce Lee vehicle unlike the Ed Parker version was never designed to be commercial, Ed Parker had a considerable influenced in its creation and concept.

Bruce Lee spoke extensively with him about his (Bruce’s) own personal goals and dissatisfaction with his Wing Chun training (even though he hadn’t really trained that long). He expressed a desire to learn as much as he could without the restraints imposed by any one discipline. Bruce became bored easily when he could not readily see benefit to what he was doing. Ed Parker argued this was pretty ambitious, but typical for a 22 year old. (I think we tend to forget Bruce was just a really talented kid.) Parker further expressed there must be variables to allow for the physical, emotional, and intellectual differences in students. For Bruce this was of little concern. He didn’t really care about students or teaching. Bruce Lee was on a personal mission to enhance his own skills and his salability to become a movie star. His teaching was primarily to insure he had training partners and of course, to learn from other accomplished martial artists to get to his personal goals. When Lee moved to Southern California his school was not open or known to the general public. The local “insiders” knew where it was, but to get in you had to bring something special to the table. It was located about five minutes away from Grandmaster Ark Wong’s School in the Los Angeles Chinatown.

 Ed Parker now realizing Lee was only interested in his own self-development, gave him some history making advice. Acknowledging Bruce’s obvious physical gifts, he suggested he should explore as much as possible from diverse teachers. Although Lee had already been doing this to a certain extent, Parker felt he should be introduced to the top guys, and of course Ed Parker knew them all. Bringing him together with notable martial artists like “Judo” Gene LeBell, Dan Inosanto and Sea Oh Choi to name a few, Ed Parker helped Bruce immensely with his martial arts. He advised Lee to study a variety of arts and take what he felt he could use. LeBell taught Bruce to grapple and became his stuntman in the “Green Hornet” TV show, while Choi was partially responsible for the awesome “Korean style” kicks Lee displayed on film. And of course, Dan Inosanto for teaching Bruce the many diverse weapons and for his Kenpo and Filipino Arts influence on Lee. Thus the seed to ultimately what became JKD was planted, but like motion based Kenpo-Karate, more a training concept than a style, and only a system within the confines of its own concept. His introduction by Ed Parker as well to William Self the director of the popular Batman T.V. series, who was casting for the Green Hornet, ultimately got him into television and jump-started his movie career.

(for the rest of the article please follow link)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

1964 and 1965 Long Beach Internationals

I'm not sure if these are program covers or posters, etc.

I just found them while searching the web and they came up without any further info.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Excerpts from the Diary of a “Mad” Kenpo Scientist, Part One

Historical perspective

(by Ron Chapél, Ph.D 1-15-16)

(Published in Combat Martial Sports Nov. 01 issue)

It has been arguably stated, “Ed Parker is the father of American Karate.” Although there are some who may take issue with such a claim, there are particulars that are undeniable and those who subscribe to Ed Parker’s lofty status in martial arts history are probably much closer to the truth than they know. It is a given Ed Parker was the first to bring and create an American Concept of the Asian fighting arts to mainland America. Although pre-dated by others who essentially transplanted Asian Arts with cultural accouterments intact, it is clear Ed Parker was the first to approach the arts from an American point of view. From an American historical perspective, this makes him a pioneer of quite significant proportions.
Historically, the art as it existed in China, was an immense body of knowledge encompassing a wide variety of physical sciences. All-inclusive in concept, it included, weapons warfare, self-defense, exercise therapy, entertainment, religion, herbal therapy, and other forms of medicinal healing.  In actuality, it was more of a broad range of various disciplines and sciences interconnected by, and related to the human body. This is extremely important. Because this science crosses so many diverse academic concepts and scientific boundaries, it makes its study even by the educated and scholarly difficult. Also for this reason as well as its destructive component, the sciences were and still are in the hands of relatively speaking, a small group of people. Clearly the art of China is the “mother” of all arts. (The “father” is perhaps for another article)
As the sciences migrated from within the borders of China to other nations, its name was translated from the original Chinese, to simply those meaning ‘”kempo or kenpo.” However with this interpretation and the inability or unwillingness to take on such a vast body of work, Kenpo slipped away from its “martial science” heritage and took on a significantly different meaning. Once transplanted, it became an interpretive, culture based, nationalized, “martial art.” No longer a science but now a subjective art form, each country instead chose to focus on and interpret specific slices of the very large “Chinese pie.” This is very evident in the Korean, Okinawan, and Japanese national arts. Other countries like India and Pakistan as well, although staying closer to the science roots, chose to also infuse a very heavy cultural and religious aspect to their interpretations. After portions of the Chinese Sciences were adapted to the individual cultures and became a “martial art,” then the second stage of development was not far behind. Before we move on an important reminder. When the science left China it became an art form.
(for the rest of the article please follow link)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sean Kelley, Mr. Parker, Curtis Sliwa

I'm trying to track down a little bit more information on this but haven't come up with anything so far but this appears to be a seminar Mr. Parker did (per the hand written sign hanging on the wall) with Sean Kelley. (not sure of the name of the kenpoist on the far left of the photo)

Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angles was in attendance as well.

Must have been either very hot in the room or the seminar was intense looking at how worn out Mr. Parker looks.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Are You Supposed to Finish Self-Defense Techniques?

(by Dr. Ron Chapel Ph.D. 11-9-15)
There are many misconceptions that permeate modern self-defense martial arts “systems.” Most of them have their origins somewhere in the Ed Parker influence or lineage, based on his successful implementation of business concepts to insure fiscal success, with what is essentially a non-profitable entity by nature. Creating an amalgam of profitability, and reasonable successful applications brought with it many diverse concepts that often contradict each other, or at a minimum, serve to add fuel to the fire of a confusing hybrid activity, at best. The strict dichotomy between an “art,” and its self-defense potential are often loss on many.
One of these is the understanding surrounding elongated self-defense technique sequences. While many of the uniformed see them as real world applicable, others recognize the folly of such notions. Depending upon perspective and philosophy, this is either completely unreasonable, or impractical, and sometimes both. But all the perspectives are borne of a misunderstanding philosophically where Mr. Parker intended to ultimately take his many art(s) and his singular ultimate interpretation.
To clear the picture we must look back first to the traditional teaching of the arts from the cultural progenitors perspective of the “Old Chinese.” Traditionally the art was taught through many complex forms and sets, for dual purposes. First and foremost was for the preservation of significant accumulated information that defied codification in any other form.

(for the rest of the article please follow link)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Martial Arts Versus Martial Science Structure

(Originally published in Combat Sports Magazine Aug 2001)

(by Dr. Ron Chapel 10-13-15)

Over your lifetime beginning when you first began to have control of your body, you have performed various tasks, and in that process created synaptic pathways to the brain that support these many physical activities. Most of them are actually unconsciously engrained into your muscle memory. You body can work efficiently when your body “senses” the need to use or overcome resistance, or inefficiently if you make a conscious decision to do something that contradicts sound body mechanics.
Most are “trained” into using poor body mechanics and in many cases have over-ridden the instinctual good, and created “bad” synaptic pathways for inefficient and body damaging physical movement.
The human body is a great machine if you listen to it. Unfortunately for many, they have stop listening and retrained it so poorly they can no longer “hear” what it is saying. You have forced yourself into “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.”
In Martial Science, much like other sciences, there is a direct cause and effect to all activity. Martial Science draws on many different scientific disciplines, but all are in some way related to one another through the conduit of human anatomy.

(for the rest of the article please follow link)


Monday, October 17, 2016

Some photos from Mr. Parker's BYU days

(photos from Ed Parker Jr.'s Facebook page)

Top photo was tagged as "1954 college years", bottom photo as you can was taken in 1955.

Friday, October 14, 2016

2014 Long Beach Internationals photo

(photo from Mr. Bob White's Facebook page)

Top row from left to right: Doreen DiRienzo, Zach Whitson, Eddie Downey, Dian Tanaka Whitson, Mohamad Tabatabai, Netzahualcoyotl Soots, Norman Sandler, Neil Hardin

Bottom row from left to right: Barney Coleman, Mike Pick, John Sepulveda, Bob White, Stephen LaBounty, Gilbert Velez, Jeff Speakman, Benny Urquidez

(A couple of comments posted to the photo:)

Was this a seminar/camp Mr. White? - Christian Jimenez

Long Beach Tournament a couple of years ago sponsored by Steve Cooper and N Neil Hardin. - Bob White 

Those are some Angels of Death right there. To paraphrase one of my favorite Bob White quotes "Death was close." Mr. White once said he felt death was close when onstage with Mr. Parker during a demo. I still repeat that story. - Doug Hall


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Discussion on Kenpo Talk prompted by Short Form 4 video

Doc - Typical, but in my world horrible execution. But that is what I've been saying for years. Kenpo Karate in general and specifically the forms are martial performance art, with a complete detachment from reality.

What a person "sees" is based on their perspective of training. One person sees something good, and yet I know from my teacher that he would cringe looking at this. But, he also did the same looking at old footage of himself. Until Kenpo Karate gets beyond this, it will always be mired in "WuShu" Country because that's what it is in forms competition. "Kenpo WuShu."

I always tell my students when looking at video, "Take your hand and cover the top half and do nothing but look for the stances, footwork, and maneuvers. Chances are, you see very little, if anything at all." Yet everyone was trying to duplicate his movements and had no idea why they couldn't. Simple, they never had the tools to do so because he didn't teach them.

Ed Parker was an anomaly. What he sold, is not what he himself did.

nelson - Interesting last statement!

Doc - Well that's the part that nobody wants to hear. How many times have you seen me say that NONE of the pre-Ed Parker Kenpo Karate students transferred to the "new" system? NOT ONE. Remember Mr. Parker stopped teaching in the sixties on a regular basis in any school, and began to teach almost exclusively in seminars while traveling on the road where he began teaching conceptual ideas, not specific basics. After all, who wants to pay to go to a seminar and drill the proper execution and movement in a neutral bow for 2 hours? No, they want to work on Five Swords, and even then Mr. Parker refused to show them a definitive way to perform it because there wasn't any.

While in the right hands the "system" may produce, for the vast majority of people it is limited and structurally teaches no basics at all. It is a system that tells you a lot of "what" to do, but never tells you "how" unless your individual teacher already knows "how" as the system was created and designed. That is why Mr. Parker recruited seasoned black belts in the beginning. This also accounts for the wide variance in "basic" execution, as black belts brought their own basics with them when they began teaching Mr. Parker's concepts. How many times have you seen someone do Short One, and the only block that protects their head is the upward block? Follow the line back and you run into a Traditional Japanese Instructor interpreting the "system" as an Ed Parker recruit. And to make matters worse, after a generation, even those basic were essentially abandoned.

I've seen and talked to many an intelligent instructor who struggles with trying to make sense of the system. They want to still honor it while trying to stay true and loyal to Mr. Parker, but acknowledging things "That won't work." Than there are the "purists" who insist that if you change anything, "You're not doing Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate." because they don't even understand the system. They cling to the Big Red technique manuals as "biblical" works, mistakes and all. Then there's the "American Kenpo" crowd that insist that's the name when Mr. Parker named it something different for a very specific reason. Than there are the "distance students." Like it or not the majority of Mr. Parker's "private" students didn't even live in the same city, county, state or in some instances country as he, so how does that work? It goes on, but the point is there is no direct line from Mr. Parker's teaching to the feet of a student, and all kenpo is not the same or remotely close to being "equal."

I taught an "open" class recently and began by asking everyone if they knew how to make a fist. They all replied they did. Certainly in a
martial arts
class somewhere along the line someone taught these high ranking black belts the proper way to maximize and execute the simple act of closing your hand to make a fist. I was taught that you don't punch with your fist, and that you punch with your entire body with it being firmly rooted to the ground generating tremendous amount of power, and that your fist is only the point of contact when you strike. So, I had every stand up in a natural stance with no brace, extend their hand forward and make a fist. I then walked by and pushed mildly on their fist, and watched all of them stumble backwards unable to maintain their position.

Telling someone to "make a fist" is a concept telling them "what" to do. It is not a principle. Teaching them "how" to do it, and then allowing them to physically prove and feel it for themselves, is "teaching" basics. "Teachers" were supposed to learn and teach basics for their students. They didn't. Don't blame the system, blame the guy standing in front of you. That is the singular lesson I got from sitting on testing boards with Mr. Parker. He said, "If the guy in front of you doesn't perform well, don't blame him. Find his teacher and ream him for not doing his job." But the system spiraled out of control and that never happened.

flying crane - I saw a lot is stepping and position- changing with the stances. But none of it gave power to any of the techniques. Torso was disconnected from the legs. All arm-power in the techniques.

Doc - Exactly. This is because of a lack of basic training that removes proper stances and their transitions from the power generation equation of Kinetic Linking of the body in movement, in favor of "flashy hands" that appear to the uninitiated to be well done. 

In all fairness the hand movements sans stances and footwork, may be effective depending upon targeting from the sheer weight of the hands and arms themselves. However, anyone can smack somebody in the face, poke them in the eye, slap them in the testicles, and claw the face with minimal training from day one and hurt someone. There isn't much training in that, and the multitude of strikes in a single technique that many find so fascinating, just exemplifies the weakness and lack of effectiveness. If a guy is standing still and you have to hit him 20 times, then you're not very good.

But to the general public raised on "chop sockey" movies, this is reality because they simply don't know any better, thus it is a perfect sales presentation. Oddly enough, even though
Bruce Lee
was not that knowledgeable with a limited perspective (according to Wally Jay, Ed Parker, as well as others), He found success by bringing a measure of reality to his films previously lacking. Looking back on his many mass attacks in Enter The Dragon, the first thing you realize is he dispatched each attacker with a single blow or kick, rarely striking a single attacker more than once.

Kenpo Karate can be very impressive if you don't know what you're looking for, and understand the principles necessary in real life to be effective. Paul Mills and some of his guys do an excellent presentation, so does Larry and a few of his crew, and there are others as well. The better the "presentation," the better are the odds that it MAY be effective, so I'm not saying presentation is all bad.

Than there are people like my good friend Bob White who was full of fire when he was a Blue Belt when we first met. (We go back of few days). He has a crew where reality takes a more prominent role in their training. Some of the "technicians" used to whisper that "Bob White doesn't really teach Kenpo," to which I would always reply, "Really? Come back and tell me that after one of his guys punches you." Bob White's training exemplified Mr. Parker's saying, "When pure knuckle meet pure flesh, that my friend is pure Karate."

All the old school guys like Chuck Sullivan, Steve LaBounty, etc stuck to their guns and shied away from the "new age" flavor of Kenpo in favor of a more direct approach. Guys like David German stuck with and emphasized the "infusion" of
in their Kenpo to maintain that "reality contact" effectiveness, while Joe Dimmick did a similar approach with his early departure in his Sam Pai Kenpo. Danny Inosanto I first met when he was still with Ark Wong who, after a stint with Ed Parker, looked for more of that "reality" in training with and teaching Bruce Lee. Few actually knew that Danny came from Ark Wong, and that he was an accomplished Filipino practitioner in Kali and Escrima already.

There are obviously more, but my point is these are seniors. Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate has its own set of "seniors" whose singular significant experience is the very limited presentation laden "Kenpo-Karate" itself, and its functional ceiling that limits growth potential. You can rise to a significant level, but still be low on the overall scale of
martial arts
in general because of the lack of information. Kenpo Karate was designed to teach a guy with no street experience how to survive in most situations, and give him limited skills he didn't have before. With a decent teacher, it does exactly that. The problem is the inflated ranks are in an art that is less substantive than many other more traditional arts, and when you go to "play" with others, you find that out very quickly.

The best Kenpo practitioners are those like Dr. Dave Crouch, or Martin Wheeler, who leave the comfort of Kenpo after getting significant rank, and venture out to learn the real
martial arts
from other perspectives. Or, those that came from other more traditional arts like "old school" Hapkido, Shotokan, Goju, Okinawa-te, Jiu-jitsu, etc, and added some Kenpo ideas to what they already know.

So you see, Mr. Parker had it right in the beginning. Recruit other black belts and let them teach his concepts infused with their previous training and experience. But, that should also tell you just how much is actually missing from the Ed Parker Kenpo Karate experience in training with born and bred Ed Parker Kenpo Karate teachers.

The people you call "seniors" who taught many of you, may be knowledgeable in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate, but it also explains why I look at a video and just shake my head. Someone once said, "You don't know what you don't know." I say, You can't see what you don't know to look for." Someone once said, "Ignorance is bliss," which is why the M.F.L. is so popular, and why they keep to themselves.

I do a camp every year for my old college roommate Dr. Cliff Stewart called, Camp Of the Masters in Southern California's Woodland Hills. (October 14-16 this year). He brings in masters from every art you can think of from Silat, Escrima, Sambo, Capoeira, African Arts, etc. My presentation is always the last on Sunday afternoon, and very well received by all. I'm just happy to do it again this year. But if you want to know if your stuff is good, you got to jump in the pool with other swimmers.

bdparsons - In your opinion, why do you think Mr. Parker sought out experienced Black Belts in other systems to propagate "the system". Was it in hopes that folks with some semblance of sense would latch onto the principles and concepts? I know that Mr. Sullivan was someone who had no formal martial arts experience before starting with Mr. Parker. Yet he has always had an eye toward the practical approach, or in your words "direct". Did many others fall into this category?

Doc - Well sir, the direction that Mr. Parker found himself going toward was created by circumstances not of his control. Caught in a financial bind because of a failed business proposition where he invested heavily, forced him to file for bankruptcy and homestead his home. Prior to that he was on a different path and was leaning heavily toward the "American Kenpo" he never created. This American Kenpo was to use old school strict Traditional Methods of teaching with a modern approach to disseminating knowledge.

Instead he needed a version of his art(s) that he could proliferate on a larger scale, that didn't require him to teach everyday in a school morning until night. He recognized his single best resource and asset was his own knowledge and skill, but he also knew he could not possibly be everywhere he needed to be to be successful.

Hitting on the idea of a system based on ideas and teaching "motion" over "hard basics" was revolutionary in the
martial arts
and had never been done before. The idea came to him while running film of himself backwards on a projector. His was the first truly commercial martial art designed from the ground up to be a business. Even the Pasadena School was the first commercial building in the U.S. built from the ground up to be a "Karate School." Basing it on the Arthur Murray Dance Studios Business Plan was also a stroke of genius that turned students that paid the studio to teach and worked as defacto paying employees as a part of rank requirements.

But in order for this plan to work he needed Black Belts at a time when he was hemorrhaging black belt students who were leaving to start their own businesses. He knew that if he could convince black belts of the viability of his ideas, and gave them flexibility to teach as they choose, he could recruit outside black belts with the lure of non-traditional flexibility in their teaching, as well as lucrative business potential in his methods. He needed these black belts in order to succeed with this method, at least until subsequent generations of promoted black belts could be utilized to teach the systems. This was possibly the biggest fatal flaw to viability of this method.

Previous to all of this Mr. Parker's focus was more on the intricacies of the art, and expanding his knowledge. This shifted to proliferation and commercialization over that by necessity, to survive his own personal circumstances as a man with 5 children, a wife, and mother to support.

In consultation with his teacher Kwai Sun Chow, who had turned down the fulfillment of Parker's promise to bring him to the mainland and teach, (Chow had told him he was "on his own now."), Parker's singular focus shifted completely. And while this didn't mean he abandoned his "American Kenpo" dream, it became a personal quest in his own execution of the art, that would never see the light of day in his general teaching, although glimpses of his progress can be seen in how he changed over the years on film and video.

All the "old school" guys were more direct in their approach, as that was the "norm" of the day, and Mr. Sullivan was no exception and never transitioned to the "new" art, instead sticking with the original Kenpo methods that everyone had already come to know as practical and effective. Chuck's teaching was always known as "hard" and tough, and he ran the premier "fighting" school of the day with the likes of John Henderson, and Steve Sanders as students. The training was old school, and not "student friendly" for the likes of women, children, and less than physical types Mr. Parker needed to appeal to for business purposes. Injuries were common, and split lips and bloody noses were an acceptable part of training among the assortment of ex-military, bouncers and bikers-types that trained regularly. There were no kids, women, or "older" people to speak of. It was Kenpo down and dirty. Chuck Sullivan built on that theme, as well as others from that era. Keep in mind there are few that are senior to Chuck Sullivan. Very few.

Mr. Parker's hope through his Infinite Insights Series was to proliferate his ideas even more. Many thought Mr. Parker wrote the books for the Kenpo Community, but in reality he wrote them for all martial artist in hopes they would adopt the ideas they liked to their own arts. This is why some of the concepts contradicted each other in the books. He felt if you didn't like one, you might like the other. A "shotgun approach" he called it as Edmund and I helped him with the series. But also keep in mind the first installment was published in 1981, and was an interpretation of information Mr. Parker had accumulated in the sixties and early seventies. ostensibly, the information was ten years old when it was published.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bruce Lee vs. Wong Jack Man: Fact, Fiction and the Birth of the Dragon

(illustration by Andrew Strawder)

(by Charles Russo

In late autumn of 1964, Wong Jack Man piled into a brown Pontiac Tempest with five other people as the sun set on San Francisco Bay. The group departed Chinatown and traveled east over the Bay Bridge to Bruce Lee’s new kung fu school on Broadway Avenue in Oakland. After weeks of back-and-forth messages and rising tensions, high noon had finally arrived.

The showdown that occurred that night in front of just seven people behind locked doors was a legendary matchup by just about any standard. It posited two highly dynamic 23-year-old martial artists who shared a compelling—almost yin/yang-like—symmetry between them: the quiet ascetic and the boisterous showman, traditional against modern, San Francisco vs. Oakland, Northern Shaolin against Southern. The fight that ensued would affect the remainder of both of their lives. And even still, this symmetry would persist: one would silently endure the fight’s long shadow for decades, while the other would boldly become a global icon before passing all too soon.

Far more than just some youthful clash of egos, the incident has a much wider relevance. Not only did it shape the fighting approach of the man who would become the world’s most famous martial artist, but the match itself was a key moment in a battle of paradigms. If Bruce Lee is indeed a philosophical godfather of modern mixed martial arts competitions, then his fight with Wong Jack Man was a qualifying moment, a crucible that tested the validity of martial techniques much in the way that early UFC fights would in the late 90s, tearing back the curtain to bluntly expose what was effective and what was mere hype.

Yet this context has mostly gotten lost in the shuffle over the past half-century, as the showdown seems to permanently teeter between absurd urban mythology and obsessive hero worship of Bruce Lee. With Hollywood gearing up to release its latest sensationalized rendering of the fight, a new wave of misinformation is already starting to take hold. George Nolfi’s hyperbolic new film Birth of the Dragon will frame Wong Jack Man as a Shaolin Monk on pilgrimage who eventually teams up with Lee to battle the mafia. This movie will file in alongside the often-maligned 1993 biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, which framed the fight as a dungeon battle in front of some kind of elder ninja counsel, concluding with Wong cheap-shot kicking Bruce in the spine.

By simple contrast, the factual history is infinitely more compelling than the mythology

(A young Bruce Lee with key Oakland-era colleagues Ed Parker (center) and James Lee in Ralph Castro's kenpo school in November of 1963. Bruce had found a very likeminded group of martial artists within James Lee's orbit in Oakland, and would soon relocate from Seattle to continue collaborating with them. (Photo courtesy of Greglon Lee))


By the early 1960s, the San Francisco Bay Area was home to a robust martial arts culture that was populated by a diverse array of talented practitioners, who hailed from southern China, Hong Kong and Hawaii. Bruce dropped out of college, and abruptly left a good situation that he had built for himself in Seattle, to participate in this pioneering scene in the Bay Area.

Most notably, he took up residence in the city of Oakland to collaborate with James Lee (no relation), a blue collar local who was twice Bruce’s age, who had a lingering reputation for his youthful days as a no-nonsense street fighter and body builder. Yet James was also a brilliant innovator for the martial arts in America, and was already enacting the sort of martial arts future that Bruce was just beginning to envision. James was publishing his own books, designing his own workout equipment, and running a very modern training environment out of his garage. He quickly introduced Bruce into his orbit of talented and progressively-minded colleagues, which included innovative jujitsu master Wally Jay and early American kenpo karate pioneer Ed Parker. In 1963, James would produce Bruce’s first book—Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense—through his self-run publishing company.

Altogether, Bruce very much found what he had wanted in Oakland: a unique martial arts think-tank laboratory where he could practice and discuss martial arts 24/7 among experienced and likeminded collaborators. These Oakland days encapsulated key milestones in Bruce’s life, including the creation of the only book he ever published in his lifetime, getting noticed by Hollywood, his fight with Wong Jack Man, and his initial development of Jeet Kune Do. However, this era typically gets minimal attention in most biographical works, despite its formative significance. In keeping with that trend, Birth of the Dragon will not only omit the likes of James Lee from its storyline, but also completely drop Oakland from this history, and instead set the entire era within San Francisco, where things were very different for Bruce.

(Lau Bun (left) and TY Wong governed the martial arts culture within San Francisco's Chinatown for three decades. Most descriptions of the Bruce Lee/Wong Jack Man fight have little context for Chinatown's martial arts culture and how it factored into the affair.  (Photo Courtesy of UC Berkeley))


Across the water from Oakland within the city of his birth, Bruce Lee was perpetually at odds with the martial arts culture of Chinatown. In fact, there is a laundry list of little-known incidents and tensions that occurred between Bruce and Chinatown martial artists dating back to when he first returned to America in the spring of 1959. As Bruce quickly learned, San Francisco’s martial arts culture operated in very different fashion from the one he experienced in Hong Kong as a teenager.

For about three decades, Chinatown’s kung fu culture was presided over by two longtime local tong enforcers—Lau Bun and TY Wong—whose trailblazing careers have mostly fallen into obscurity. In the 1930s, Lau Bun opened Hung Sing, which is likely the first public school of the Chinese martial arts in America. He maintained a rigid discipline over his students and other martial artists within the neighborhood. For years, Lau Bun did not allow Chinatown to devolve into the sort of daily youth violence that Bruce Lee grew up around on the streets (and rooftops) of Hong Kong during the 1950s, where students from rival martial arts schools regularly challenged each other to fights.

(Lau Bun (center) with senior students in Hung Sing, his basement training studio off of Portsmouth Square in San Francisco's Chinatown. In 1959, 18-year-old Bruce Lee would have a little known run-in with this crew. (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley))

TY Wong arrived to San Francisco in the early 1940s. As a junior tong member to Lau Bun, it often fell to TY to clean up rowdy and drunken behavior around the neighborhood’s Forbidden City nightclubs. The name of his school—Kin Mon—translated to mean “the Sturdy Citizen’s Club.” And like Lau Bun, TY expected a specific code of conduct.

Word of Hong Kong’s challenge culture and the tenacious reputation of its Wing Chun practitioners had preceded Bruce Lee to San Francisco. Bruce had spent his teen years learning Wing Chun kung fu within Ip Man’s school in Hong Kong, where he enthusiastically embraced the simple and streamlined nature of the style. Economical, swift and direct, Wing Chun emphasizes in-fighting along the opponent’s center line, employing short kicks and rapid punches in close proximity. The style had a reputation for being results-oriented, and on the streets postwar Hong Kong, that was a crucial distinction.

Not long after arriving to San Francisco in 1959, Bruce Lee had a heated incident with Lau Bun and his senior students in Chinatown. “When Bruce came to Hung Sing, he didn’t know anything about San Francisco,” recounts Sam Louie, one of Lau Bun’s senior students at the time. “There were seven or eight of us in class. He came down to show off some hands, and tried to say to us that Wing Chun was the best. So our sifu threw him out.”

(A comparison of technique stills from TY Wong's 1961 book, Chinese Kung Fu Karate, alongside imagery from Bruce Lee's 1963 book, Chinese Gung Fu. TY, Bruce and James Lee would all package insults into their books from this era, aimed between Oakland and San Francisco.)

Instantly then, Bruce had gotten off to a bad start within Chinatown. These tensions would only build over time as he increasingly became a vocal critic of traditional approaches to the martial arts, which—in his minimalist Wing Chun mindset—he saw as heavy on flair but short on effectiveness. One of the most pointed examples of Bruce’s criticism is hidden in plain sight within Chinese Gung Fu…, where in a photo-by-photo case study, Bruce is seen dismantling specific techniques that are put forth in one of TY Wong’s earlier books. This is featured in a section titled “Difference in Gung Fu Styles,” in which Bruce distinguishes between what he sees as “superior systems” (namely, his own) versus “slower…half-cultivated systems” (that of TY Wong and other “more traditional” masters like Lau Bun). Bruce’s book was readily on sale within Chinatown, and the insults were not lost on locals. So when TY Wong subsequently characterized Bruce Lee as “a dissident with bad manners,” it was a view shared by most martial artists within Chinatown.

At about the same time of Bruce’s book being published, Wong Jack Man showed up to Chinatown, and quickly made a name for himself as a dedicated and highly skilled practitioner. He was the first to bring a northern style to the neighborhood, and he proved “elegantly athletic” in demonstrating it. In many ways, his style appeared to be an inverse of Wing Chun: expansive, acrobatic, and oriented around long-range attacks. Chinatown was quickly impressed with Wong Jack Man, and embraced him in every manner that they had shunned Bruce

(TY Wong (standing, 2nd from right) with his teenage students in his Kin Mon Physical Culture studio on Waverly Place in Chinatown. Notice his one white student (Noel O'Brien) on the top right, who followed Al Novak in a steady stream of non-Chinese students that TY taught throughout the 1960s.  (Photo courtesy of Gilman Wong))

"Chinese Only..."

The long-held rationale for Bruce Lee’s fight with Wong Jack Man has asserted that top brass in Chinatown took exception to Bruce teaching non-Chinese students kung fu, and sent Wong Jack Man over to Oakland as an enforcer to settle the matter with fists. This theory, which was rendered in heavy-handed fashion in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, has always been completely void of details as far as who exactly took exception. If anyone in Chinatown was to make this call, it would likely have come down from Lau Bun or TY Wong. Yet, there is not only scant evidence to support this, but developments at the time prove highly contrary to this perspective.

When asked about the idea that Chinatown sought to reprimand Bruce for teaching non-Chinese, Al Novak—a hulking WWII veteran and close friend of James Lee—shrugged it off, “I think that’s mostly made up.” Novak would know, because by 1960 he was a white student regularly training with TY Wong at Kin Mon in Chinatown without incident. A few years later, TY took on Noel O’Brien, a local Irish teenager. In Hung Sing, Lau Bun was training a Hawaiian named Clifford Kamaga, and also showing no open opposition to his senior student Bing Chan, who was accepting all types of students at his own newly-opened school just a couple blocks away in Chinatown.

(Lau Bun (2nd from top right, with glasses) standing with Hop Sing Tong members and a Lion Dance squad in Marysville, California, during Chinese New Year celebrations in 1961. Lau Bun's Los Angeles colleague and noted kung fu master Ark Wong (2nd from top right) would eventually give a formal interview to Black Belt Magazine in 1965 expressing that he was open to teaching all types of students, regardless of race. (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley))

Of course, the situation was not without nuance. Bruce Lee’s early classes, particularly in Seattle, were indeed groundbreaking for how diverse they were, in terms of both race and gender. And the Chinese-only martial arts code was a very real policy that existed for decades, and one that had surfaced against Bruce at various early points in his life. Yet the code was in its final throes by the 1960s. In fact, in early 1965 (very shortly after Bruce’s showdown with Wong Jack Man) Ark Wong, a well-respected kung fu master in Los Angeles, gave a high profile cover story interview to Black Belt Magazine in which he said in explicit terms that he was open to taking on any type of student willing to learn from him.

So for as tangible as the exclusion code had been, martial artists from the Bay Area—including many of Bruce’s colleagues—widely express skepticism at the idea of it being the core reason for that particular fight.
“It was never about that,” says Leo Fong, a versatile veteran martial artist who knew the landscape well. “It really had to do with Bruce’s personality.”

(Bruce Lee's demonstration at Ed Parker's inaugural Long Beach Tournament in August of 1964 is typically cited as a key moment in his career (in which he first get noticed by Hollywood), but is typically sanitized to omit the critical lecture he delivered to an international crowd of martial artists. (Photo courtesy of Barney Scollan))

The Dissident

By the start of 1964, Bruce began to double-down on his earlier criticism of “ineffective” styles and techniques, and began given lecture-heavy demonstrations featuring stinging rebukes towards “dry-land swimmers” practicing the “classical mess.” By contrast, he referred to his own approach as “scientific street fighting,” and made a habit of demonstrating other styles and then methodically explaining why they wouldn’t work in a street fight. One of the styles he liked to perform and then dismiss was Northern Shaolin, and he began to air these viewpoints to some very large and qualified audiences.

At Ed Parker’s inaugural Long Beach Tournament in August, Bruce delivered a scathing lecture that disparaged many existing practices, including such common techniques as the horse stance. “He just got up there and started trashing people,” explains Barney Scollan, an 18-year-old competitor that day. Although Bruce’s showing at Long Beach is often painted in glossy terms, many of those in attendance corroborate the polarizing nature of his demonstration, in which half the crowd perceived him as brash and condescending. As longtime karate teacher Clarence Lee remembers it: ““Guys were practically lining up to fight Bruce Lee after his performance at Long Beach.”

(In late summer of '64, Bruce accompanied Hong Kong starlet Diana Chang Chung-wen ("the Mandarin Marilyn Monroe") on a promotional tour of the U.S. west coast in support of her latest film. This brought them to the Sun Sing Theater, in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown where Bruce's demonstration and critical lecture would infuriate the neighborhood's martial arts practitioners. (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley))

A few weeks later before a capacity crowd at the Sun Sing Theater in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, Bruce gave a similar demonstration, and even went as far as to criticize the likes of Lau Bun and TY Wong by declaring “these old tigers have no teeth.”  It was a considerable insult coming from a young martial artist towards two highly-respected members of the community.

At this point, a confrontation wasn’t surprising…it was logically inevitable, especially when considering that Bruce had been challenged for similar reasons in Seattle a few years earlier on far less provocation. That fight was also predicated on the content of Bruce’s demonstrations at the time, when local karate practitioner Yoichi Nakachi took issue with Bruce’s martial arts worldview and loudly issued a challenge. Yoichi pursued him for weeks. When the two finally fought, Bruce obliterated Yoichi with a rapid series of perfectly places punches and a knockout kick in an 11-second fight that left him unconscious with a fractured skull. Oddly enough, the entire affair tends to get shrugged off as meaningless; when really, it should be seen as a case study.

(Bruce Lee with student Barney Scollan in east Oakland, where Bruce eventually relocated his school into James Lee's garage. An earlier formal location on Broadway Avenue—where the Wong Jack Man fight took place—proved to be short-lived. (Photo courtesy of Barney Scollan))

"Made to Fight"

One of the most enduring questions that still remains difficult to answer, is—“Why Wong Jack Man?” Of all the practitioners in Chinatown to step forward to issue a challenge, why was it a recent transplant that had never even met Bruce Lee before?

There are two main theories on this. The first is that because Wong Jack Man was poised to open his own martial arts school in Chinatown, he stepped forward in an opportunistic moment to generate some publicity. Local tai chi practitioner David Chin asserts that Wong said as much when he signed a challenge note to be delivered to Bruce. Yet a more popular theory professed by many local sources from that era is that Wong Jack Man was duped into fighting Bruce, essentially the new kid on the scene goaded into a schoolyard brawl without grasping the stakes.

But who were those five people that drove over to Oakland with Wong Jack Man? In the front seat with Wong were David Chin and Chan “Bald Head” Keung, two martial artists that frequented the Ghee Yau Seah (The Soft Arts Academy), a sort of tai chi social club that had been established within Chinatown in the early 1930s. In the back seat, were a trio of hanger-on troublemaker types, with no strong connections to the neighborhood’s martial arts scene: Ronald “Ya Ya” Wu (whose nickname reflected his constantly yammering mouth), Martin Wong, and Raymond Fong. As Wong Jack Man would later put it, this group was “only there to see the hubbub.”

No one in the car was a student of TY Wong’s Kin Mon or Lau Bun’s Hung Sing, but tied instead to the Ghee Yau Seah. In fact, Lau Bun’s senior student Sam Louie remembers his school mates abiding by Lau Bun’s code of conduct and admonishing this crew as they riled themselves up that day prior to the fight: “We said, ‘It has nothing to do with Hung Sing.’ And we explained to them, ‘You go into someone’s studio…it’s no good. Whether you win or lose…it’s no good.’”

In Oakland, Bruce would only have two witnesses: his recent bride Linda Lee (who was 8 months pregnant at the time) and his close colleague James Lee (who had a loaded handgun nearby in case things spiraled out of control). This made for a total of nine people in the room, only three of whom are alive today. With a couple of very rare exceptions, Wong Jack Man has stayed perennially quiet on the matter. Linda Lee and David Chin, who were on opposing sides of the conflict, give a generally similar account: the fight was fast and furious, spilling wildly around the room. The exchange was crude, and far from cinematic. After landing an opening blow on Wong’s temple, Bruce struggled to decisively put away his evasive opponent like he had in Seattle a few years earlier, and quickly found himself heavily winded by the encounter.

Eventually Bruce’s relentless advance caused Wong to stumble over a small step, into an untenable position on the floor where Bruce hollered “Do you yield?” in Cantonese over and over while pummeling him repeatedly. Having lost his footing, Wong had no choice but to concede. “From there, he said he gives up and we stopped the fight,” recalls David Chin. “The whole thing lasted…not more than seven minutes.”

As with any good schoolyard fight, the exaggeration soon took on epic proportions. Storylines of Bruce slamming Wong’s head through a wall, or of Wong having Bruce in a headlock and ready to knock him out when the cops arrived, are just a couple among many. Perhaps the most absurd of the hyperbole, which is now a regular storyline in the press surrounding the upcoming release of Birth of the Dragon, is that the fight lasted for 20 minutes, a notion which is not only wholly inconsistent to the accounts of all proven eyewitnesses, but contrary to all basic sense for the nature of a street fight.

(A rare image of Bruce Lee demonstrating techniques the night before the first Long Beach Tournament, in the summer of 1964.  (Photo courtesy of Barney Scollan))

In the fight’s aftermath a war of words took place in local Chinese newspapers, in which both Bruce and Wong denied starting or losing the fight. In time, the urban mythology surrounding the incident would cite that Wong issued a call for a rematch in his article, though the exact wording suggests otherwise: “[Wong] says that in the future he will not argue his case again in the newspaper, and if he is made to fight again, he will instead hold a public exhibition so that everyone can see with their own eyes.” Although not an exact quote from Wong, the wording is curious—made to fight—and hints at the idea that Wong was indeed manipulated into the affair.

What is generally agreed upon is that Bruce Lee’s messy victory—light years from his precise 11-second win over Yoichi in Seattle—was a catalyst for him to finally overhaul his approach. For a martial artist who all year long had been so loudly professing the effectiveness of his technique against the inferiority of others, Bruce found the Wong Jack Man fight to be a sober reality check, in which both his technique and his conditioning came up very short of his expectations.

The timing was right for Bruce to begin tangibly forming his new system, Jeet Kune Do. He had already been synthesizing many of the influences that he had been exposed to in recent years—from James Lee’s street-fighter sensibility to Wally’s Jay’s propensity for innovation—to form an integrated system personalized to the individual. In creating Jeet Kune Do, Bruce incorporated elements of Wing Chun, fencing, and American boxing into a minimalist-based approach with a philosophical orientation.

Yet among the more egregious historical liberties that the new film appears to be taking, Wong Jack Man’s character will literally explain core Jeet Kune Do principles to him, as if it wasn’t the fight itself that impacted Bruce, but Wong’s personal martial arts wisdom.

(Bruce Lee (back row center) with one of his early Oakland-era classes operating out of James Lee's (bottom row, third from left) garage, circa '65. Bruce's time in the Bay Area was was essential to his evolution as a martial artist, yet remains a largely obscure period of his iconic life. (Photo courtesy of Greglon Lee))

Today, when Bruce Lee is cited as “the godfather of MMA” it shouldn’t be merely for his sense of mixing styles (after all, others had done this in notable ways prior to him ever learning martial arts), but rather, for his emphasis on effective technique, and the constant evolution that is required to maintain it. This is the takeaway that gets lost amid the petty debates over the particulars surrounding the Wong Jack Man fight.

However, one of the most interesting postscripts (and there are many) to Bruce’s fight with Wong Jack Man falls to David Chin, the young martial artist who drove the Chinatown crew over to Oakland in late ’64. Despite standing that night with those opposed to Bruce Lee, David Chin is crystal clear on what he regards as the big picture: “The things Bruce was saying back then were true. I disagreed with him at the time, but he was right.”