Friday, June 30, 2017

Kenpo in Europa

My thoughts on the "HISTORY OF KENPO IN EUROPE":

(by Rainer Schulte

Since Mr. Parker’s passing, Kenpo has become unregulated worldwide. Europe, in my opinion, is the champion of unregulated Kenpo. Regulated only by self serving interests of people who may have met Mr. Parker a few times at seminars or classes and now claim to have been close friends and students of his.

Just as it is today, people back then were jumping from organization to organization or were creating new “associations” thinking the grass is greener on the other side, or not as “challenging” as it was with the IKKA in Europe under my leadership.

Since my arrival on the Kenpo scene in Europe we now find Kenpo in most every country in Europe. Upon my arrival in Germany I found only one martial art that resembled American Kenpo. It was Shaolin Kempo with less than a hundred practitioners.

When I told Mr. Parker about a call from Roy MacDonald from Jersey C.I. He said: Go for it!

In Jersey I found a group of fantastic guys and girls just wanting to learn what Roy MacDonald, a first degree Brown Belt at that time, had seen and experienced while visiting Ed Parker’s studio in West Los Angeles. They were not happy with their Instructors from Ireland. It was quite easy to teach the 32 Tech Syllabus. I have to give credit to their Irish Instructors, however, because their basics were excellent. Actually, that was the first time I had heard about Kenpo in Ireland.

Following the calls of several individuals in Europe, I found some basic Kenpo in England taught by Bob Rose who claimed he held a black belt in a related system. England was eventually taken over by Gary Ellis, a then awesome brown belt who I believe is now under the watchful eye of Lee Wedlake whom I respect highly. In Spain I found Lima Lama to be the closest thing to Kenpo. One Gentleman in Spain claimed to have been a student of Ed Parker which turned out to be a lie. Under the direction of Louis Gonzales Lopez, however, Spanish Kenpo expanded rapidly.

In Ireland, I was surprised about the amount of Kenpo Schools/Clubs. The trouble was that they did not like each other very much. During my travels throughout Europe and back to the states regularly, I had learned that the first man to bring Kenpo to Europe/Ireland was John McSweeney who had left 4 Black Belts in charge when he returned to the US after two years in Ireland. One individual from Ireland who became my friend and an excellent ambassador of Kenpo was Lorcan Carey. One of the highlights in Ireland was when Ann Moloney and her son Stephen tested and passed for black belt to join Ambrose Moloney to the ranks of Kenpo Black Belts in Ireland.

In Holland I found Hans Hesselmann to be the major force for EPAK. He had come to Germany on one of Mr. Parker’s visits and said, “This is what I want to learn.” Hans is the only one in Europe who has kept all the Kenpo groups under his skillful guidance.

When I say that I was the first to teach EPAK in Europe it is because I did not find anyone to be teaching what I was teaching - Ed Parker’s American Kenpo or EPAK for short, according to the rules and regulations of the IKKA.

There are some great Kenpoists in Europe now, many of whom I have never met but heard a lot of good things about. When I started to teach Kenpo in Europe, I was on a mission. All I wanted was to please the “Old Man” and give back to the Kenpo community what I had received from this great art.

At that time hardly anyone was teaching full time to earn a living. I had a good job with the US Government and was never forced to charge for seminars. Mr. Parker also never charged for seminars when he came to Europe.

I have to recognize Roy MacDonald for his tenacious passion for Kenpo. He is a key driving force behind European Kenpo. I would also like to recognize Graham Lelliott for his help and friendship, and for traveling to different countries when I was unable to. Thanks Graham for letting me stay at your house when visiting Jersey (saving money for the IKKA).  Thank you Dave and Esta Williams, as well as Gary Grimshaw who were always willing and able to help the cause.

I would like to recognize Gary Ellis who has stayed on track and, in my opinion, is one of the best Kenpoist in Europe. Thank you Hans Hesselmann for being a good friend and an icon in the European Kenpo scene. We have not always been on the same page, but we were always on the same path. I want to recognize Christian Springer, my first black belt, who was instrumental in keeping Kenpo alive in Germany when I had to return to the US.

Two more friends need to be recognized: Peter Ritters, who was my first student in Germany and one of the founders of the Kenpo Karate Club Schiefbahn, also known as the infamous WAKS (Willich Ass Kickers). Willich is a small township where we trained at the British Military Camp. Peter stayed a first degree brown belt for the past 30 years and has just started training again to finally test for Black. The other friend to be recognized is Andree “Pitbull” Kretschmer who started the first IKKA oriented Web Site in 2001, in Germany. Andree became a Black Belt in 2001, 25 years after he started his Kenpo Journey with the WAKS. Salute to you both.

A host of American Kenpo Instructors have found their way to Europe and are now teaching Seminars with different groups in different countries throughout Europe. Larry Tatum was the first to come over to teach a seminar in Jersey, and I believe it was in 1981. During that time he filmed the awesome as well as doing this awesome video “Walls of Defense” at the incredible “Gorey Castle”
I lay no claim to have been in Europe first, second or third, just that I have been there to do what I did in the name of  SGM Ed Parker and the IKKA. All well documented within this Book or the picture DVD.


Yes! Not enough time to have done more teaching.


Would I change anything? Yes, I would be a little more Diplomatic.


Yes! A picture that appeared on Hans Hesselmann’s Web Site which had the caption: “First European Kenpo Black Belts”! It should have said either: “My first European Black Belts” (since it was MY picture and I was very proud of them) or “First European IKKA Black Belts.”

Some People liked me, some did not. However I salute you all, since we all love the Art of Kenpo.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Interview with Grandmaster Michael Pick

(by Manny Cabrera 9-21-10)

Grandmaster Michael Robert Pick is a 10th Degree Black Belt in Parker’s American Kenpo and founder of the Universal Kenpo Federation. Mr. Pick was a long-time student and friend of Senior Grandmaster Ed Parker, and received his First Degree through 7th Degree Black Belts personally from Mr. Parker. Mr. Parker often referred to Mr. Pick as Kenpo’s premiere knife-fighter. Mr. Pick served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam, and for seven years taught hand-to-hand combat to the Special Forces at Fort Carson, Colorado. He was recently honored as the 22nd member of the International Close Combat Instructors Association. Mr. Pick now lives in California and is a professional blacksmith.

CKF: Mr. Pick, how old were you when you began training under Ed Parker? Was he your only teacher?

I started with Ed Parker when I was 10 years old and cleaned the school until my 16th birthday for my lessons. Since there were no children’s classes, I had all my lessons with Ed Parker privately, some ten minutes and some many hours. He was my only teacher.

CKF: In what year did you receive your Black Belt in Kenpo?

I received my Black Belt on March 19th, 1965 when I was 18 years old. I was honored, for Mr. Parker removed his own Black Belt and promoted me with his belt.

CKF: Was there a particular time in your training that stands out in your memory? A time when something special took place?

I recall many memorable classes and time periods. One that strikes me is when Mr. Parker coined the phrase ‘Marriage of Gravity,’ and said after he created the phrase that gravity is gravity, never changes, the only thing that will change is the application.

CKF: Is it true that you sparred with Bruce Lee? If so, when was this and was it special to you?

I sparred with Bruce Lee for about two years from my 16th to 17th birthday. Most of the time it was when Ed Parker was giving Lee a private lesson and I was allowed to be present as a dummy for the Old Man to show Lee what he was teaching. Using the methods learned from Ed Parker, our sparring was brisk and intense. I always found that Kenpo was a superior and effective system.

CKF: What role, if any, did you play in your life with Ed Parker? Do you miss those days with him?

Ed Parker was many things to me and our relationship evolved over the years, I was very fortunate to act as his ‘bodyguard’ for 25 years until his death (in blessed memory). I miss my Monday morning conversations with him. We had those conversations for 30 years.

CKF: Who were some of the people you recall that were around in those days that are still in Kenpo today?

There are not many left from when I started in 1957. Dave Hebler is still carrying the torch as is Chuck Sullivan. That’s about it. I am the youngest of the original first generation, those that started as white belts and received there black belts from Ed Parker. To my recollection, there were only about 10 that were there in the early days and just a few left.

CKF: Since the passing of Ed Parker, have you seen Kenpo change? If so, can you tell us in what direction?

I’ve seen many changes in curriculum and interpretation of the original system. Many now claim direct tutelage from Ed Parker, but their timelines do not add up, and what they do does not reflect Mr. Parker’s teachings. American Kenpo is solid in my view overall on the world theatre of martial arts, and has not been subject to the cyclical offerings of many styles and systems that grab the headlines of the martial arts tabloids. American Kenpo is steady and still growing worldwide and is still the original American martial arts system.

CKF: What was your last rank that you received from SGM Ed Parker? And when was it?

I was promoted to 7th degree in June 1982.

CKF: People are aware that you have never been ‘about rank,’ but more about proving yourself on the mat. Do you see martial arts today as being more about rank and less about skill and knowledge?

I see rank used as a tool by many to sequester their following and keep them as minions or members of their organizations. I find that many with rank cannot muster the knowledge to perform a functional neutral bow, much less the sequential delivery of a system that brings the individual to proficiency in American Kenpo.

CKF: You formed your own organization called the Universal Kenpo Federation. In what year was this, and what is the UKF about?

The UKF is a federation that allows individuals to maintain their autonomy and personal direction in life. I established the UKF as a federation for those that would like to study under me and connect to others on a like-minded path. In creating the UKF shield and logo, I made a departure from the Eastern influence of dragons and tigers and oriental language and opted for an American identity focusing on the colors of the main belts–white, brown and black. Red, white and blue are the colors of our country. As a patriot, I find the colors both appealing and meaningful.

CKF: Your rank today is a 10th Degree, which illustrates the level of Grandmaster. Who, if anyone, recognized this rank for you?

Over the years, I have had many individuals, both in and outside of the Kenpo world, give their accolades to my acceptance of rank. Grandmaster Tino Tuiolosega officiated at the ceremony for my tenth degree at Tom Garriga’s school in Salt Lake City. Tom is a first generation Parker Black Belt and was the manager of the Pasadena school for four years in the late 60’s to early 70’s. Many of the prominent seniors studied under his tutelage. Ed Parker basically quit teaching regular classes at the Pasadena school when he was traveling with Elvis Presley, so the bulk of the teaching fell to the manager and a number of others, including Dave Hebler, Dion Steckling, Roger Meadows, myself and a few others.

CKF: There has been talk about a ‘Kenpo Alliance" being formed and you have been a big influence in this movement. What is it all about?

I believe that this alliance is a positive gathering of people of likemind to gather and collect their energy toward a united Kenpo front. The purpose is not to establish rank or position of organizations, but to add the authenticity of a governing body to restore truth and lineage, as well as ethics and morals. This is not a based a religious dogma pursuing ethics and morals, but rather on ideals of basic decency of that will promote growth in the martial arts and focus on the many positive things the martial arts should provide.

CKF: You recently retired from teaching the Special Forces. Could you give us your position with them and what you did?

I was the Chief Combatives instructor for the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) for seven years. I conducted daily classes for the entire group in "A" teams to support units. I was able to extract from my early teachings from Ed Parker aspects of the ancient system of Lua and my own experience as a Marine Rifleman in Viet Nam and create the American Kenpo Combatives System. In this system, every engagement goes to the physical kill.

CKF: Who are some of the people out there who have recently come to you looking for your mentorship, guidance or knowledge? Why do you think this happening?

In the military and special operations world, I am very busy with instruction and am involved with SWAT teams around the country. To answer the question with candor, I am who I am, without fanfare, I have always been obscure and have taken a backseat and have watched many exploit Ed Parker and heard their claims of positions with him. I have chosen a different path that suits my lifestyle. I will be 59 years old in October, and when I reach 60 I will have 50 years in American Kenpo, I think that many wish to seek my time and grade and my own personal evolution in Kenpo. As the senior with Ed Parker on the mats, and having an obscure position in the Kenpo community, I think many just want to find out what I am doing.

CKF: You attended the 2006 Florida Kenpo Camp. What was it like?

I found the gathering excellent and with many different practitioners sharing information on their own paths in the martial arts. The unity and fellowship, without pomp and ceremony to herald a single individual’s prowess, was very rewarding. In my belief, the focus was on offering a spectrum of talent and lifestyles that can be witnessed to the gathered showing what the Kenpo experience has done for them.

CKF: At that particular camp there were other Kenpo legends, including Dave Hebler, Frank Trejo, Steve LaBounty, Larry Tatum, Rainer Schulte, and Ed Parker, Jr. Do you see an ‘Alliance’ forming with these people to come together more often for seminars and other events?

I see an energy that the CKF has established for many decades to come, providing a well rounded range of instructors from many arenas to create a view for the gathered to explore and implement their own pursuit of the martial way.

CKF: Mr. Pick, what do you think will take place in the community of Kenpo within the next 10 years?

I see a growth in the Kenpo community of sincere authenticity, those seeking out ones that have the authentic credentials to lead the next generation and to have a mindful diligence to bring the joy of personal development and unity to those that are united.

CKF: Do you see yourself as one of the ‘Seniors" passing the torch on to the next generation the way Ed Parker would have liked?

From what I learned in my many conversations with the Founder of American Kenpo, I am with deep respect fulfilling my obligation, empowered by him, to the entire Kenpo community, I am honored to be a part of it.

CKF: Mr. Pick, can you tell us when you were promoted to Black Belt by Ed Parker? And was that a special moment in your life?

I was promoted to Black Belt on March 19, 1965, when I was 18. I believe I was the first teenager, and youngest person, to be promoted to Black Belt by Ed Parker. When i was promoted it was a five-minute ceremony. He had me kneel, he removed his belt from around his waist and placed it in front of me, and I touched my forehead to the belt and then tied it around my waist. He motioned to me to stand and I got into a horse stance and he kicked me. I wore that belt for many years and retired it when I accepted my 10th Degree. Now in my 49th year in American Kenpo, I still reflect upon that moment when I received Ed Parker’s Black Belt. It was an honor then as it is to this day, and I am still humbled by that gift of destiny as Ed Parker referred to that moment later on in my life when I could understand his actions.

CKF: What was it like working out with Bruce Lee, and how old were you then?

I was always excited to observe the lessons Ed Parker gave Bruce Lee. When I was at the Pasadena school during the daytime is when Lee had his time on the mats with the old man. This happened during a two-year period when I was 16 and 17 years-of-age, in the early 60’s. I was very privileged to work sticky hands with Ed Parker, Tino Tuilosega, and Leonard Mau. I would go back and forth among the three, and I routinely got my young body pounded, but what was really fascinating was that what I learned from all three, I would try on all three. Of course, I was allowed to hit them a time or two and snuck in a few by accident, but overall it was a learning experience. I have raised my three sons up in this fashion, all hard hitting, and they learned to take physical abuse to their bodies and keep on a coming. I used to do sticky hands with Lee when the phone rang and the old man was on the phone, as a fill-in for Lee’s lesson. Some say it was an exchange of ideas between Parker and Lee, but I always saw Ed Parker as the dominant force, and always the giver. Bruce and I had many exchanges in the physical realm. He was a good fighter, but my continuous experience with my older brothers that gave me a comfort zone in dealing with his wing chun. Bruce did a lot of boxing type moves, from jab to a straight blast in, combined with classical Chinese-style moves. Some forget that Ed Parker’s big brother Tino was all service welterweight boxing champion after the Korean War. I was well-schooled, and was successful in sparring with Bruce.

CKF: What can you tell us about the study of Lau? Is this a Hawaiian art?

Lua is a Hawaiian art, although it has roots in all of the Polynesian cultures. Most of the martial arts systems on this planet can trace their roots to one culture or another–nothing new under the sun. It is a system of meridial attacks, that cause incapacitation and bone breaking. The duality of the system is also a healing system that brings both into focus. It is a multi-dimensional system with many layers. Ed Parker shared many of his insights with me over the years beginning when I was 16. I was not aware at the time what he was teaching me. When he would hit me, I would react to his attack on different parts of my body, and would react differently from zone to zone, some connected and some with waves through the body creating different effects. He shared with me some of the things he learned from Lau Buhn in the early sixty’s, so it was kind of a mix of some very esoteric Chinese arts and his native arts. The mechanism that focused these arts was always Ed Parker’s genius in how he digested this material and created a system. Much has been said by those who claim he studied other arts, but he was always an innovator, not a follower. Some claim they learned special hidden secrets about Ed Parker, and some claim they even created some of the system for Ed Parker. Bear in mind, Ed Parker was the teacher, always. Although an observant man, the bottom line was that whoever went against him in demonstrating their prowess was always overwhelmed. He was the final word on his art when he was alive. Period. While there are a few who learned different dimensions of his system, no one learned everything in Ed Parker’s mind. He always had a reserve, a back up of actions he was always working on. I had the privilege of being his student for 32 years, and during that time we went over many different levels and covered many different concepts, theories and principles. Some of the things being suggested at this point are new to me and other genuine first generation Black Belts. Let me define a first generation Black Belt as an individual who began as a White Belt and received his Black Belt from the same instructor. There are just a few of us left who are still active, myself being the youngest of the first generation Black Belts to my understanding.

CKF: By the way, is it true you have a Birthday coming up soon? When is it, and how old will you be?

I will be 59 on October 5th.

CKF: What can you tell us about Master Tino and his relationship with Ed Parker?

They were brothers. Although Tino received his Black Belt from Ed Parker, I believe, if my memory serves me, that Dave Hebler gave Tino his first Kenpo lesson. Tino was very well versed in many fighting systems from around the world before he became a Kenpo Black Belt.

CKF: Wasn’t Tino the one who endorsed your 10th Degree Black Belt ceremony?

Big brother officiated at the ceremony that was held at Tom Garriga’s Salt Lake City school, and he presented me with my 10th degree belt. I was not promoted, I was recognized by a man that I hold in the highest esteem, for big brother is the real deal– former Marine, marched out of the chosen reservoir with chesty puller, Silver Star recipient, and many other accomplishments. Big brother and I have an eternal relationship, the same as I have with Ed Parker.

CKF: Mr. Pick, what did you find to be most memorable when Ed Parker and Bruce Lee worked out together?

The most singular constant I remember was the dialogues on concept and theory. I recall that principle always ruled in the physical application of the two divergent systems. Although both men were in a constant process of evolving their own prowess, Ed Parker was always clearly the ‘alpha.

CKF: Did you interview to be Mr. Parker’s bodyguard, or did Mr. Parker handpick you for the job? Also, why would Ed Parker need a bodyguard?

Ed Parker was my teacher. He was well aware of what I had learned from him, and he also knew that my combat experience in Vietnam and made my hyper-vigilant and taught me skills with knife and firearm. Ed Parker had dealings in many of the world’s arenas. In some of those situations, four eyes watching the environment created a greater degree of protection. Mr. Parker requested that I serve as a protective companion, which I was pleased to do. I often handled his personal affairs in business as well as with the IKKA. I served him until his death (in blessed memory).

CKF: What is Lua? And are you trained in this art?

Lua is a Polynesian system of healing both spiritual and physical maladies. It involves neutralizing the spirit of one who has the intent to harm you or other you have pledged to protect and love. I began training in this art at the age of 16 with Ed Parker. My lessons took me on a path of discovery through spirituality, physicality and self-healing. Many of the Polynesian spiritual paths trace their roots to Abraham, as I do my spiritual path.

CKF: Who are some of the people you recall running the Pasadena school or West Los Angeles school in the 1970’s and ‘80’s?

There were a number of people—many for brief periods. The main ones I remember are Tom Garriga and Yoshio Furuya in Pasadena, and Danny Inosanto and Tom Kelly in Santa Monica.

CKF: Do you see a recent change in why Kenpo belts are seeking you out or looking to train with you?

I think now more than ever, Kenpo black belts are interested in the history of Kenpo from the beginning with Ed Parker. They often seek me out because I went through the evolution of him as my teacher, my friend and my employer. We had lengthy discussions on some of the ‘revelations’ others may not have been aware of, particularly in the creation of Forms 9 and 10, which I had a major role in writing.

CKF: You once mentioned that there are really two types of Kenpo—combative and academic—could you explain this?

Correct. I believe that many students enjoy the academic aspect of the art–science and philosophy of the system, and the physical skills involved. My belief is that the combative element of American Kenpo is about developing the skill and intent to destroy ones enemies. I believe that one should be grounded in both the academic and combative aspects of the art to be well-rounded as well as to be capable in grave moments of confrontation. I have seen many martial artists caught in “analysis paralysis,” unable to block a serious punch or kick in a real-life survival situation. I have always believed in the basic teachings of Ed Parker—simple and refined basics, tenacious spirit and intent, and total brutality until it’s over.

CKF: Who were you in contact with during your early years of training?

My main contact was with Ed Parker. As a child, there weren’t any kid’s classes. I had many lessons with Ed Parker during the time I was 10 until his death. Historical Record: three of us went from white belt to 7th degree black with Ed Parker—Chuck Sullivan, Dave Hebler and myself, the youngest of the original first generation black belts. Many of my early days of sparring and sticky hands were with Ed Parker, Tino Tuillosega, Leanord Mau, Danny Rodarte, Louis Solis, Tom Gow, Tom Garriga, Paul Pisak, Roger Meadows, Deon Steckling, to name a few. Lots of the island boys came to Pasadena to study at Pasadena City College and visit with “Uncle Ed.” Lots of people came and went and passed through. The Pasadena school was a magnet for many of the leaders in the world of martial arts.

CKF: Did your training methods with Mr. Parker evolve throughout the years? If so, in what ways?

I was privileged to spend many hours with Ed Parker and he was my teacher for 32 years. Over the years I watched the metamorphosis of his martial genius unfold and was privileged to learn and absorb his progress in his evolution. I have always believed he died with the music in him, although he sung many songs and was able to sing his passion to many, in many styles, disciplines and ethnic origins.

CKF: When did Mr. Parker choose you as his personal bodyguard and how did that come about?

I was honored to be asked by him to accompany him in many of his private business dealings around the world and also represent him in his capacity as the founder of the IKKA and travel and assist those that wavered from the path back to the IKKA or they were removed. I served him in this capacity for 25 years until his death (in blessed memory).

CKF: What was your role as Mr. Parker’s bodyguard?

MR. PICK: The title bodyguard at times can be an ambiguous title. I had a personal relationship with him and many of my memories are private and sacred to me. Rest assured, he trusted me with his family and many other responsibilities. When he needed me, I was there. Four eyes are better than two and often to conduct oneself without the constant scan and awareness that at times harsh environments offer, can be taxing at best. My role with him varied and was always focused on my service to my teacher.

CKF: What do you think of sticky hands training? Is it important? Why or why not?

In the early 60’s the sticky hands exercise became popular in many Chinese based systems from many ancient origins. Ed Parker’s Kenpo was no different. Bruce Lee was a proponent of sticky hands with on of his teachers Yip Man. I spent many hours watching and doing sticky hands with Bruce Lee as well as Ed Parker. What developed from those early days was the evolution of Sticky hands/splashing hands into sticky fists. In later years on my return from Vietnam and when my training escalated with the knife with Ed Parker in 1969, the early sticky hands/fists training began to blossom with many of the flow cuts such as filleting, riding and redirecting, etc. Aggressive attacks with empty as well as filled hands (knives, clubs, and guns).

The metamorphosis of the sticky hands exercise into sticky hands was an Ed Parker innovation. I have always believed that the sticky hands was not aggressive enough, thus came sticky fists. As a sensitivity drill, pitter patter, as some might use repetitive drills over and over might develop sensitivity; but then how many sensitive moves and attacks are there in actual violent encounters? Instead of a training partner that is pliable and cooperative in the exercise, dojo ballet, the nutcracker sweet, one must further evaluate this drill. Sticky hands/fists is something I believe is a bridge and gap filler to matrix the American Kenpo System to bring in the ability to dominate the Outer Rim Principle using variable expansion of a set based system that teaches connectors and relationships to aggressive action to allow one to penetrate the attack. Since this shift in perspective, new sets have been created to bring this belief into fruition.

CKF: Is it true that the UKF practices a set based system? If this is true, could you explain your philosophy behind this?

The evolution of the American Kenpo System as a set based system as perpetuated by the UKF versus a technique/form system is a system based upon variable expansion and the domination of an aggressive realistic attack. In belief that the final culmination of a practical system with modern needs of multiple attacks and introduction of edged weapons and firearms is a need that brings the modern combative is a system in my belief that prepares martial humans to deal with real time confrontations in a violent arena. A set based system relies on the matrix to connect the dots of target creation verses a target available approach to physical domination to access the targets that themes the belief that we “hurt to stop not hurt to hurt.”

The connective sequence of a battle drill using sets that overlap and continuous pressing to remove the barricades that becomes obstacles to enter and to penetrate the spinal ring in attack, is a system that teaches one to conform to basic axioms of physical personal combat. Bear in mind that one never knows what level of escalation one might encounter in personal conflict; whether it’s an ego bound aggressive attack or life and death. In the UKF my impetus fortifies the teachings of Ed Parker, overkill or over skill, taking every encounter to the physical kill and not just submission, but allowing to ratchet down if the encounter does not factor in a life and death threat. The back and forth ebb tide and flow of sticky hands/fists creates the ability to be kinetic in energy surges, verses allowing the attack to set the crescendo of the nature of attack; that then becomes the introduction of defense based system allowing the stimuli to set the arrangement of what “technique” one encounters, one applies and unfold the conditional response one finds appropriate to defend against the attack.

In the UKF I stress to entertain a shift in mindset and intent of the resultant needed to sever the attack and gain control and domination to clear the path of one’s protection of sacred peace.

CKF: Could you explain the difference between balance and stability?

Ed Parker taught the re-arrangement theory: the understanding that any technique could be re-arranged in sequence. In viewing the principles of personal and universal energy and how it applies to the collective of energy and power, I have found that balance and engagement were vastly opposed. Balance is a constant state of adjustment, taking on a gyroscopic attitude in staying mobile while attempting to counter a violent aggressive attack—like the difference between the bowling pin and the bowling ball: the bowling ball knocks down the pins, not the other way around. Bare in mind that pins will be knocked down, which will produce more pins to fall as they knock others down; however, the initial surge of attacking action causes this, not the other way around—cause and effect and effect and cause.

In the UKF, the primary source of collection of mass and then to accelerate the mass is what is referred to as engagement—a gathering of parts in alignment anatomically to best serve the needs to conjoin every available asset in one’s arsenal. To re-arrange the standards of energy from the previous explanations of marriage of gravity, rotational torque and back-up mass in my belief needed to be scrutinized. The UKF axiom: “In order to move the mass, one must engage the mass according to one’s natural anatomical alignment” sets a stage of understanding. From this platform, the re-arrangement of energy sources had to be revisited in not only definition, but also application.
The great Einstein in his theory of relativity, he began at another platform where most scientists began with Newtonian physics. He made a huge shift in theory, a new starting place to emancipate his inner mind and how things worked in other realms. The human body basically has not changed for many generations and neither has the laws of the universe. A shift in application in the orders of magnitudes and their definitions needed to be revisited in my opinion with an understanding of the basic nature of attack.

Inertial engagement defines the dimension of depth. According to Sir Isaac Newton, “Any body whether at motion or rest will maintain that position unless affected by another source.” To paraphrase inertia in my belief is the greatest magnitude of the three. Rotational engagement attacks the dimension of width and also the connector between depth and height. Gravitational engagement attacks the dimension of height. Inertia is an unlimited energy source as explained: mass x acceleration = force; the greater the acceleration, the greater the force—unlimited in magnitude. The practitioner must bring this energy into battery.

Lines and circles, lineal action to rotational energy and then adjustment to directional, use of the in-place energy that has already been established, and culminates into gravitational engagement. Of course, the ultimate combination of all three is synergistic engagement—using all three to dominate all three. Bear in mind that the stances of the system must be re-evaluated to support and direct this energy infusion. This is a brief explanation as the variables that bring on resolution to this subject are multifaceted.

CKF: What are your thoughts about this big MMA (mixed martial arts) craze?

I believe that there are many talented pugilists immersed in the MMA arena bringing a new level of conditioning and resource to the general martial art theatre, and a semi-realistic encountering to actual fights in a confined arena. Is it the ultimate? Specificity in arena and rules dictates the results; where there are no rules, only to survive brings in a new need to rise to the occasion. Place and time must enter into the equation and I believe that many great martial humans practicing MMA are steadfast in belief and the competitive nature of competition, although my experience with combative training with the military does not entertain grappling and going to the ground just by the nature of gear on the body inhibits mobility. MMA type action could work in non-lethal encounters. Shifting to weapons of war and people trying to kill one another would require another resource in skills to maintain life in a lethal encounter.

As cyclical endeavors in the martial arts changes from generation to generation, and now to see stand up fighting becoming more prominent is a cycle change and many are adapting to this cycle. Ed Parker in his wisdom coined a phrase, “Whatever the action so is the response,” which has many levels of understanding. It deals with the old story about bringing a knife to a gun fight. In my humble opinion there is a vast difference in fighting and killing. Know your arena and prepare for it.

CKF: How much time do you spend with soldiers to get them to the necessary level of combat preparedness? It must be a small fraction amount of time compared to the time it takes an average Kenpoist to achieve proficiency.

Combat preparedness is about mindset and intent. Physical skills are a manifestation of that requisite. First and foremost is the desire and understanding of the mission. To design and tailor a program is specificity of the required mission. Knowing the mission and training up for the mission is essential to success. Four hours a day for six weeks was a normal training cycle and a continuous availability everyday for questions and resource of the system weapons and empty hands takes on a new light in lethal encounters. The intensity in real time and in full kit (battle ready and full combat gear with loaded magazines, knives, pistols and rifles) was standard, not Gi’s or shorts and tank tops. Battle ready means battle ready in the gear and uniform of what arena one encounters.

CKF: Could you explain attacking the Spinal Ring and what that entails?

In the process of the stages of engagement, contact penetration as defined is to penetrate the dimension you are attacking. Bear in mind the axiom of attack the attack—in order to beat the action you must meet the action is a physical profile of the attackers body in regards to your position to go through the target and not to the target. In summarizing physical body mass, to flesh out the skeletal mass and reduce the skeleton to its basic lowest common denominator, taking a 250 pound and a 150 pound man the difference is about 15%; thus, you have a tactical advantage of dominating the skeleton instead of the muscle. The muscle moves the bones through articulation of joints. Controlling the joints is controlling the bones; controlling the bones is controlling the body. Foot placement in regards to spinal ring penetration is a vertical plumb line that places the foot in maneuvers directly below the spine in regards to the attacker’s four rings.

CKF: What’s your opinion about cross training in other arts?

Cross training to me is learning what other systems and styles operate in real time and how to combat them. I feel that the American Kenpo system has much to offer. To blend and exchange principles of other systems denigrates both applied systems reducing the ability to close and conquer. Basic concepts of down side of a circle or upside of a circle—as Ed Parker explained in regards to simple applications of circular movement—are prime examples. Not to proclaim an expert in other systems, my 7 years at 10th special forces group gave me a first hand look at many systems from around the world from Systema, Krav Maga, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu; traditional Korean, Japanese and Chinese systems; and a plethora of individual interpretations of MMA and boxing. Bear in mind that most systems are pugilistic in nature. The bottom line to me is do the systems entertain the closure of an enemy to his physical incapacitation or death and not submission? Awareness in my view on many platforms is just that. Many martial arts masters would visit the Pasadena school during the early 60’s to meet and exchange ideas with Ed Parker. What I saw and experienced was that Ed Parker had an uncanny skill to exchange each person in there respective art and improve upon their delivery—something I believe is a mainstay in my acquired teaching skills. So many teachers try to develop their student to the way they do it instead of capitalizing on an already established platform of training. Why throw something away when it can be enhanced and brought into a higher level of skill?

CKF: Many people in the Kenpo world think big circles means more power. What are your thoughts about large circles in Kenpo as related to combat?

Big circles mean big trouble. Style theatrics and showmanship regards flamboyant moves and expressions that capture the bystander’s attention—not the first view in the three points of view. The old story in boxing and full contact: it’s the punch you never see that knocks you out. The outer rim principle should be considered in domination of the attacker, not out of range wind up that takes twice as long to reach the target in the belief that longer moves create more power and impact. Short explosive attacks that create implosive damage to the body while controlling the limbs and central torso to me is dominating the attack and gaining superiority, not an exchange to EBB and flow to allow any opportunity to be hit and damaged. Take them out in the first closure, referring to the answer in my view on spinal ring penetration.

CKF: How do you view sparring? Do you feel it is important? Why or why not?

Intent has always been a guideline for my personal study. Without intent, training has no purpose. Point sparring can develop timing and range judgment, combinations and styles of entry, and an obvious difference in whether a competitor is a target available strategist or a target creator. I believe there are three categories of martial artists: academic, competitor (sport) and combative. At one point in time many in their paths have dabbled in one or all three. At this point, I believe competition has developed its own style, where many styles have become tributaries to develop this confluence into a very athletic skilled and high martial level.

Whether one wants to call it martial arts or that the humans need to test ones own metal, is a matter of semantics in my view. I also find sparring to be the product of exchanging ideas and patterns of motion in study and then application. The only tournament I was ever in was when I was 17 years old at the first IKC in Long Beach. The old man threw me in with this traditional shotokan Japenese brown belt under Hidetaka Nishiama. If my memory is correct, he stepped in with a traditional straight punch and I did Dance of Death on him and dropped him. He hit his head on the concrete and he was out. That was my last time sparring in competition. When I returned from Vietnam my perspective on Kenpo had changed. On another note, I feel that competition is a great gatherer of the tribes and clans and camaraderie of like minded spirits.

CKF: In your opinion what is the most realistic method of training for reality?

Intent as mentioned above has to be the main progenitor of training. I believe that nothing replaces combat, but combat. All the talk and speculation of violent encounters and the preparation of such is mere speculation. On the other hand, to train warriors in many different arenas of life is the obligation of a Kenpo teacher and the duty of the student to make the proclamation of their needs and intent of study.

To establish one of the teachings of SGM Edmund Kealoha Parker (In Blessed Memory) in teaching and learning is to tailor the system to the individual instead of tailoring the individual to the system. One of my constant training methods is to have a progressive spontaneity drill that starts off with just right or left strikes or both, then kicks and then hands and leg attacks, and finishes off with any attack the attacker chooses to do. This type of drill creates spontaneity where realistic encounters at the level of the attacker’s intent can clearly be discernible.

CKF: Do you think fear is the enemy or does it assist one in survival?

Fear is a mindset; whether it invades in combat, competition or the first day of elementary school. Fear at times can create a hyper-consciousness that can benefit survival or the saving of lives. Training to overcome fear many times is just experience and awareness multiplied by the introduced reality of life and death or the resultant and consequence of poor preparation.
I believe that fear and being scared are two different mind splashes. I have learned that humans that have fear and are properly trained and equipped will survive the most rigorous conditions and episodes, whereas humans that are scared do not know what they are going to do and often never survive or are hurt and beaten in physical violent encounters. Fear is a four letter word that is one breath of air in the mouth, but a pinball machine of thought and confusion in the mind. Mindset, mental control and a clear understanding of intent of ones actions often times places fear in its own compartment.

CKF: How to you view the spiritual aspect of the martial arts? Is it important to have spiritual guidance? Could you explain?

The universe and all of creation is the platform of all physical laws. Beyond the physical realm of this finite reality is in individual belief systems. I refer in my teachings as spiritual as it pertains to basic fusion with the physical laws and a basic moral and ethical code to what I believe is a basic collective human unconsciousness, defined as to procreate, live in peace, love fellow human beings and focus on kindness and giving of what one believes is of worth. Be free and have the freedom of choice. I believe the martial path can define these platforms and archetypes of personality to individuals that fits them to a heightened awareness of themselves and the joy of life. I also believe that spiritual guidance is basic mentorship—having the connection with another human being that a bridge of commonality and understanding can be created between like minded humans. I have discovered in my own spiritual pursuit that the greater my peace with myself, the greater my strength.

CKF: How important is speed in Kenpo?

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast; speed is a resultant of accuracy. My belief in speed is the ability to bring a weapon into the target, not to the target, so you achieve target penetration. To deliver a strike and immediate resultant, impact manipulation is to attack the attack. Speed is a mindset, not a mechanical apparatus that goes from point A to point B, but a delivery system of the entire engaged mass, following the magnitudes of energy—inertial engagement, rotational engagement, gravitational engagement—culminating into synergistic engagement. The limbs are a penetrating product of the entire mass in attack. Speed then is a product of mass engagement following a sequential order.

CKF: Is there grappling in Kenpo? Could you explain?

As some recall history and the place in American Kenpo of varied Japanese systems, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, etc. and modern manifestations of these historic systems, grappling and MMA, etc., I recall that Ed Parker taught ground fighting. It was not about submission and tying a person up, but defeating and destroying them. Sticky hands can be interpreted as vertical grappling, along with sticky feet, sticky elbows and knees. Spinal ring domination brings all ranges of the four rings into control. I believe that ones intent multiplies the intended action into varied results. Modern grappling in a confined ruled arena has created extraordinary athletes with great skill and endurance, but with restrictions on targets and limits of resultants—multiple attackers. I have worked with many from many disciplines and the difference was basic intent on resultants of the encounter, one sport and one combative. I believe that many skills can be obtained in the modern grappling arena. To look closer at the American Kenpo system will reveal many aspects of grappling that has always been in the system but simply called ground fighting.

CKF: Could you explain your philosophy behind attacking the attack?

Ebb and flow, back and forth, in and out, counter and re-counter, evade and slip, deflect and redirect, absorb and flow, and detain and subdue, are methods that can be applied in a physical confrontation. Attack the attack primarily focuses on invading an attackers attack regardless of the nature of the attack or what weapon displayed and what stage of battery. A system must consider every stage of delivery of any limbed attack or a filled hand with a weapon versus an empty hand without a weapon. Attack the attack platform nullifies the source of the entire attackers array of empty and filled hands thusly enjoining a basic Ed Parker axiom: “In order to beat the action one must meet the action.” From point A to point C, B being the body, A the alpha inauguration of your action, C being completion of that action and B then becomes a pass through point.

CKF: What is the value of forms in Kenpo? Do you teach them in the UKF?

Forms are a reservoir of discovery and are used in my belief as a beginners platform to connect many dimensions of American Kenpo. Set in standards of direction and connections, these bodies of motion can illustrate the ideal phase of basics through more advanced concepts, theories and principles. Traditionally forms have been a generational supply train to be handed down from generation to generation to preserve a systems syllabus. I for one learned the forms through the original short form one to form seven—the two knife set. I believe that forms are useful for the individual that relies on the content of the forms, exercise and the pure joy of improving upon stances, etc. Although I do not believe that acquiring the full array of forms will give one the ability to connect and internalize and enter into the innovative spontaneous stage, I believe that sets are a method of filling the system to dominate the outer rim principle at a higher degree of proficiency. Whether one gets caught up on the exact placement of a foot at a pre-described angle, etc. becomes an academic pursuit and has its own merit for what it is. I request of a candidate for belt promotion if tested to perform a spontaneous form by my request with a particular theme, such as a right punch or kick or any other aspect of an attack and request 10 displayed encounters, give them 30 seconds to think about it and then begin. An amazing window into skill and thought, ability to project ones method of training and exposes the student to what needs to be worked on in those methods of training and what needs to be evolved.

CKF: What do you think of the empty hand knife self-defense techniques in the Parker system (raining lance, glancing lance, thrusting lance, entwined lance and piercing lance)?

My experience with learning the knife techniques from Ed Parker was different than how I do those five basic techniques. I believe those five are as is the early learning forms, basic concepts, theories and principles—angle changes through rotational action, rotational angular deviation, trapping, working on the top side of a sphere and attacking the attack. For Glancing Lance, I believe too much emphasis is placed upon a circular extended handsword than an attacking line to intercept; the rest of the action should begin to combine multiple actions and remove the isolations. Raining Lance from an overhead attack should be defined in angles instead of the customary putting circles into orbit so these orbits do not re-orbit into yourself. A bracing angle such as the first strike in Dance of Death to the groin locks the arm into the body for the attacking guided arm will be physically plunged into the target; then again targets alter circles and lines, these being simple methods of target acquisitions. Concepts should be arranged in regards to expanding the domination of the outer rim principle, creating a dominating matrix.

CKF: Do you feel power is more effected by mass or speed and why?

If you take a Volkswagen traveling at 50 MPH verses a Greyhound bus traveling at 50 MPH, the greater mass will have more force. Power is a selective variable depending on the target, depth of penetration and the physical resultant of said action. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, speed is a resultant of accuracy. Many are renowned for fleet of foot and kick, hand and fist. I believe speed is a proportional elemental that merely brings the weapon into range from an accelerating mass. Mass and speed are separate functions. Mass has energy in place from the shear force of gravity, friction and other physical magnitudes. Speed on the other hand is a resultant of the trained and conditioned muscle groups, joints and the attachments—skeletal alignment. Speed is measured time, distance it travels and what result will impact that speed on body targets. The joining of the two magnitudes creates the force, delivered in a sequential directional attack going through the target.

CKF: I read that your experiences in Vietnam changed your perception of Kenpo. Could you explain this?

Life and Death is an incubator for my growth as a human. The futility of war waged from political bastions instead of allowing warriors to be warriors. My perception of American Kenpo is based upon my belief as a warrior, a former combat infantry marine, and my basic belief that every human being has the inherent right to protect their sacred peace, formed by our founding fathers of the constitution of the United States of America, and with this allows me to pursue my spiritual belief for all of humanity. For I believe that there is a collective unconsciousness amongst all humanity to live and love, pursue peace and live amongst our fellow humans.

CKF: What would you say is the most important element to successful self-protection in the real world?

One of the basic United States Marine Corps axioms—The 7 P’s: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Pour Performance.

CKF: You had stated in the last interview, "Concepts should be arranged in regards to expanding the domination of the outer rim principle, creating a dominating matrix." Could you explain what you mean by this?

A set based system is a system that maintains a network of overlapping blocks and strikes that invades the outer rim principle. Grafting in the three phase equation relies on the ability to conjoin elements of techniques and the relationships of these techniques dependent on the web of knowledge arranged according to belt levels in a sequence of sophistication as one advances through the system.

A technique based system works on a pre-arranged system that relies on the stimuli to conditioned response as the pre-arranged technique unfolds anticipating failure to what if and then formulate. In an attack the attack mindset reliance on the stimuli is removed from the equation and the mindset is shifted from a defensive mode of reaction to an offensive invasion.

The sets create an overlapping matrix such as block set establishes the sight picture of the outer rim principle; everywhere the block set does not go the strike set goes; everywhere the strike does not go the elbow set goes; everywhere the elbow set does not go the finger set goes and so forth. To establish domination of your attack and invasion using variable expansion in connection to articulation of shoulders, elbows and wrists, hips, knees and ankles, penetration of the spinal ring creates the ability for your attack to control the ebb and flow of the confrontation. Stances and maneuvers maintain the magnitudes of energy from inertial, rotational and gravitational engagement. The same matrix is also applicable in lower body weapons from stance sets, maneuver sets, employing twists and crossovers creating the same dominating matrix of the four rings.

CKF: How do you maintain the stability of engagement in combat?

In my belief the main requirement is to remove balance from ones established curriculum, harnessing the entire mass in action where you attack and support your body alignment with proper anatomical arrangement. Bear in mind the axiom, ‘In order to move the mass you must engage the mass; in order to engage the mass you must distribute your mass according to your natural anatomical alignment.’ Focus becomes the ability to capture your entire mass in action going through the attack and not just to it. Many I see are simply out of range, staying on the peripheral of the opposing body and not establishing contact penetration which creates impact manipulation staying in a point fight range without a lot of expected damage on targets. Target creation verses target availability would be the opposing polarities of intent.

CKF: Please explain the four rings?

The four rings is a training aid I created in a mat form that measures ones range from elbow, knee, fist and foot. I believe in a hostile encounter is when an attack enters your four rings, critical range through the stages of engagement. Out of range, in range, contact penetration, impact manipulation, contact manipulation, contact maintenance, contact release and contact extraction. Sub-headings of these stages involve further definitions.

CKF: It has been said that it takes 20 years to perfect your neutral bow. Could you explain how you teach a neutral bow and explain the weight distribution from ball to heel of the foot?

Neutrality is a state of mind. The neutral bow in my belief must bring one to a physical state of omni-directional stability, having the ability to maneuver in an attack sequence. Physical mass engagement is the prerequisite for distribution of the mass as alluded to further up in this expose’. I coined that phrase many years ago while traveling around the country teaching and witnessed many high ranking black belts that did not and could not establish a neutral bow in full attack or in practice.

The foundation of primal man is his gait and delivery, to move and secure his safety, to travel about with the necessity of living. In my view the upright nature of man personifies his value and projections. The basic stance in my view should consider many elements; this is just one. In my view, when the body is stressed and ramped up in real combat, the infusion and escalation of endorphins, adrenaline, etc. overrides the conscious ability to perform in a non stressed arena. The moment stress and fear enter into the equation we can lose up to 30% of our consciousness. To override the reduction, lung expansion, erect carriage and proper basics will win the day; intent and mindset fortify one’s ability to be victorious.

The standard distribution of the neutral bow is, 50-50, leg to leg, 60-40, ball to heel. To engage the mass, the mass must be over the greatest shift of distribution, empowering the body to accelerate through the stages of engagement following the magnitudes of energy. In my belief, the nomenclature of the neutral bow should be based on a natural step. To paraphrase the great sword saint Miyamoto Musashi in his “Go Rin No Sho,” the book of five rings, he made it clear that your everyday stance is your fighting stance and your fighting stance should be your everyday stance. When addressing the two explanations of the neutral bow, toe heel alignment for width, knee heel alignment for depth, the height of the stance was only considered as what was comfortable. To explain comfort was a negotiated explanation in my view and missing the physiology of the body in use of flexors and extensors and the relationships of how they support the body and move the mass. Thus, I coined a term that I could understand and explain while teaching—the angle of articulation—which captures the natural articulating angle of the knee in motion and implant with the other two and you complete the equation with all three physical dimensions of the body: depth, width and height, which corresponds to the magnitudes of energy—inertia for depth, rotation for width and gravity for height. Bear in mind that each connected magnitude and dimension creates multipliers that exponentially increases power and acceleration.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bruce Lee and the Art of Scientific Street Fighting

(by Charles Russo 5-30-17)

The recent uproar over an MMA fighter's beatdown of a tai chi practitioner is a virtual case study for Bruce Lee's emphasis on real world application of the fighting arts.

"Organized despair." That's the phrase Bruce Lee often used to characterize many of the prevailing practices within the martial arts world.

Bruce actually had an entire arsenal of these kinds of colorful criticisms, and he wasn't shy about using them: "the classical mess," "dryland swimming," "patternized robots." He employed these terms to argue against where he saw the martial arts going astray, and to illustrate his opinion of how many practitioners were merely engaged in choreographed routines, or as he put it, "artificial techniques … ritualistically practiced to simulate actual combat."

Amid his ever-enduring popularity as a global icon, it is easily forgotten that Bruce's critical perspectives were not well-received by much of the martial arts community, particularly prior to his big screen success. In fact, his outspoken viewpoints had earned him a pair of heated challenge matches early in his career as well as a reputation as a "dissident with bad manners." Yet while his candid opinions were often contentious, they were not without historical precedent.

For example, more than a 150-years prior, the Chinese Emperor Jia Qing issued an imperial edict which included his concerns for the current fighting trends: "Now the Wuyi [martial arts] of Green Army Barracks are all flowery movements, …only for show and performances, not for practical use." Back in the 1930s, the Chinese martial arts historian Tang Hao advocated for reform within the culture, and urged practitioners to "emphasize practicality; renounce embellishment."

The Emperor, the Dragon, and the Scholar were all arguing the same case: namely, that as flamboyance and folklore gained an increasing presence over real world technique, the martial component of the martial arts would only stray further and further from the realities of actual fighting.

With these concerns in mind, Bruce took to calling his own approach "scientific street fighting," promoting a martial worldview that was fact-based, research-driven, and analytical; as well as free of the mythology and romantic hyperbole that was so heavily-embedded within the field. By citing "street fighting," he was emphasizing practical application within the most unpredictable martial context possible, in which "combat is not fixed and is very much 'alive.'"

More than four decades after his passing, Bruce's reformist identity remains remarkably relevant to the history of martial culture as well as the perennial tensions that still populate the martial arts landscape of the 21 st Century.

Bruce Lee pictured on the streets of Oakland, circa 1965. Bruce had contempt for the light-contact martial arts competitions of his era, and kept his focus on application for street fighting. (Photo courtesy of Barney Scollan)

Field Study

By the time he boarded a steam ship in the spring of 1959 to depart Hong Kong for San Francisco, Bruce Lee already had a nuanced martial arts worldview that was based upon tangible first-hand experience. Although he was only 18-years-old, his immersion within Hong Kong's robust rooftop fighting culture of the 1950s had instilled him with a conception of fighting that was predicated as much upon live encounters on the streets than practice in the studio.

Hong Kong's street fighting culture was anchored around the many kung fu schools that packed into the British Colony after the advent of Communist victory on mainland China in 1949, and involved teenage practitioners in regular bareknuckle challenge matches. When the local police began to view the participants of these fights as deviant youth gangs, the teens took the action up to the rooftops, where they could conduct their bouts uninterrupted by the authorities and other adults.

During his mid-to-late teens, Bruce not only took part in these fights, but had a front row seat to regularly watch them and assess what was truly viable. His teacher—the now-glorified Wing Chun master Ip Man—encouraged his students to seek out real world application beyond the classroom. As Bruce's friend and classmate Hawkins Cheung explained, "Ip Man said, 'Don't believe me…Go out and have a fight. Test it out.'" Collectively, Bruce's time amongst this fight culture would comprise a core foundation for his approach to the martial arts for the remainder of his life.

As Bruce arrived to America in the spring of 1959, the Asian martial arts were on the cusp of an initial widespread popularity in the West, and a heavy part of this interest was based around a romanticized view of the Eastern world. Many young American men perceived them as the secret fighting arts of an exotic and mystical culture. Where some exploited this, Bruce condemned it: "80% of what they are teaching in China is nonsense. Here, in America, it is 90%." Unsurprisingly, these views were not welcomed by most of the martial arts community, particularly when coming from a young loudmouthed out-of-towner.

Shortly into his time attending school in Seattle, Bruce ran into his first challenge after a public demonstration in which he implied that kung fu was a more nuanced fighting system than karate. This antagonized local karate practitioner Yoiche Nakachi, who was ten years older than Bruce, had been practicing karate since his childhood in Japan, and was known for his street fighting victories around town. When Bruce finally accepted the challenge, he obliterated Yoiche in 11 seconds, knocking him unconscious and leaving him with a fractured skull. Rather than Bruce's critiques being silenced, they soon grew louder.

Bruce and James Lee practicing in their garage, in east Oakland. Despite their difference in age, the two became close collaborators for the remainder of their lives. (Photo courtesy of Greglon Lee)

"Does it work?"

Beginning in 1962, Bruce began to increasingly gravitate down to Oakland, California, in order to collaborate with James Lee and his innovative group of martial arts colleagues. James had a fierce reputation from his younger days as an Oakland street fighter, and ran a no-nonsense modern training environment out of his garage, where the emphasis was on technique that would be immediately applicable to real world encounters.

Bruce, James, and the other accomplished martial artists in their Bay Area orbit (including Ed Parker, Wally Jay, Ralph Castro, and Al Novak) created a unique martial arts laboratory in Oakland, where they would practice during the day and then hold energetic think tank sessions that ran late into the night. In this progressive martial arts environment, two main points of emphasis emerged—viability and innovation.

"Does it work?" was the simple blunt litmus for any technique in question, and they tested them with methodical analysis across various scenarios. If street fighting was "alive" and not choreographed, Bruce argued, why should the preparation for it be? "There is no way a person is going to fight you in the street with a set pattern. Too many practitioners are just blindly rehearsing systematic routines and stunts."

In Oakland, innovation was seen as the antidote to the drawbacks of fixed routine. In an era when most masters frowned upon their students deviating beyond a single system, the Oakland camp enthusiastically embraced the mixing of styles and drew from the wide cross-section of their collective experience. The approach was as expansive as it was analytical: they watched old boxing films, discussed the footwork of fencers, and debated the circumstances of past street fights. In the process, Bruce began envisioning a new system.

At the inaugural Long Beach Tournament in 1964, Bruce gave a contentious demonstration to an international audience of martial artists, in which he "trashed" the widely-practiced horse stance as an impractical technique ("there is stability but no mobility"). In an effort to discouraged cookie-cutter practitioners, Bruce also argued for an individualistic approach in which the student took priority over the system. The response was divided. Some considered Bruce a visionary, while others saw a trash-talking troublemaker ("a bit of an arrogant prick," as one Long Beach participant characterized him).

Even as Bruce was stoking fresh tensions towards a new challenge match, everything remained on the table in Oakland as they pioneered a modern martial arts future. From his garage on the east side of town, James Lee ran his own martial arts book publishing outfit and designed custom training equipment. During his next appearance at Long Beach, Bruce showcased innovative protective gear as a way to conduct both full-contact sparring and martial arts competitions (a sharp contrast to the prevailing light-contact and point-based competitions that were typical of the era).

A menacing street fighter in his youth, James Lee embodied all of the blue collar grit of his native Oakland. On a conceptual level, he was a remarkably creative innovator of the martial arts in America. (Photo courtesy of Greglon Lee)

With all of these habits and viewpoints in mind, Bruce began to incorporate the phrase "scientific street fighting" into his increasingly outspoken public demonstrations. Inevitably, his opinions continued to aggravate the longstanding differences he had with the practitioners of San Francisco Chinatown, where one longtime kung fu master regarded him as "a dissident with bad manners." During a demonstration in front of huge Chinatown audience in 1964, Bruce criticized the masters of the local martial arts culture as "old tigers with no teeth." Logically, a challenge soon followed.

The no-holds-barred fight which occurred in Oakland between Bruce Lee and Chinatown's young ace practitioner Wong Jack Man is arguably the famous martial arts challenge match in modern history. Bruce fell far short of his own expectations after struggling to decisively put his opponent away as he had in Seattle a few years earlier, winning the fight but in sloppy fashion.

Rather than rest upon an unsatisfying victory, Bruce saw the incident as a catalyst for evolution, and his personalized system of Jeet Kune Do soon began to take tangible shape. Bruce synthesized his many influences into an approach that maintained the Oakland principles of viability and innovation, with an emphasis on a simple, direct, and non-classical awareness. And while Jeet Kune Do was the culmination of over a decade of Bruce's research and application, it was not fixed in structure, but intended for constant evolution.

Half a century later, these same principles remain highly relevant to the modern martial arts landscape.

Tape Don't Lie

Recent viral videos which show MMA fighters making quick work of kung fu practitioners during organized bouts are a prime example of the still lingering disconnect that Bruce Lee and other martial reformists were trying to illustrate through their more critical viewpoints.

In a match in Malaysia, video footage shows a Wing Chun practitioner being quickly taken down, pummeled, and choked out by his MMA-oriented opponent in less than 30 seconds. Watching the pre-fight activity, it is hard to not feel that the kung fu fighter was more intent on posturing his way through some kind of Donnie-Yen-as-Ip-Man fantasy, than realistically confronting the "actual combat" looming before him.

If there is merit to the video beyond mere spectacle, it is the simple takeaway that some practitioners remain woefully out of touch with the hard realities of the fighting arts that they have committed so much time and energy. Bruce would refer to these practitioners as "dryland swimmers," and argue that to be a fighter, you need to acclimate to actual fighting, just as a swimmer needs to understand the reality of being up to his neck in water.

Of course, no fight video has more clearly gotten to the core of these still lingering issues than the recent high profile showdown in China between brash MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong quickly beating down the supposedly mystically-powered tai chi practitioner Wei Lei. The incident has since become international news, and sparked a fresh debate (as Xu had initially hoped) over the real world validity of martial systems.

The confrontation had emerged out of a war of words in which Xu bluntly called out Wei Lei's self-touted magical abilities as utterly fraudulent. When the dispute culminated into an actual match between the two, Xu easily overwhelmed Wei in about ten seconds.

The showdown between tai chi practitioner Wei Lei and MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong has hyper-charged perennial debates over the viability of martial systems.

Historically-speaking, fights of this nature aren't anything particularly new. Martial arts historian Ben Judkins recently posted an account on his site Kung Fu Tea that described a similar cross-style matchup in which a tai chi practitioner lost a high profile public exhibition in China… back in 1928. Prior to the era of widespread Internet, the early days of the UFC during the 1990s also provided plenty of lopsided encounters for consideration. In the age of YouTube, such scenarios are hardly new revelations, as these kinds of fight videos surface often and in abundance.

With all this in mind, it has been the post script to Xu Xiaodong's victory over Wei Lei that has proven far more illuminating than the fight itself, and which speaks volumes about the longstanding reluctance for sections of the martial arts community to detach itself from mythology and embrace an evolution towards a fact-based martial sensibility.

In the wake of his victory, Xu has been publicly condemned by numerous Chinese agencies, including the Chinese Boxing Association and the state news outlet Xinhua. The Chinese Wushu Association declared that the fight "violates the morals of the martial arts" (despite the fact that both men willfully participated and that the contest itself was conducted with a referee). It also appears that government authorities have shut down Xu's blog and censored articles related to the fight. Collectively, the reaction to the incident within China has been so harsh that it has caused Xu to go into hiding, leaving him to an issue the statement: "I'm fighting fraudulence, but now I've become the target."

Even in mind of the reported abrasiveness of Xu's behavior, the entire aftermath of the incident resonates with a kill-the-messenger-style of blowback, which clings to a flat-earth conception of the martial arts. Like Bruce, Xu could just as easily be called "a dissident with bad manners" for his outspoken and brash approach. Yet the offensiveness of his "bad manners" doesn't eclipse the merit of his dissent, and the backlash is ultimately an old storyline within the history of the martial arts, which affected Bruce Lee and others who dared to pull the curtain really far back.

Tang Hao was the father of modern martial arts history. While his work still holds up, many of the myths he sought to dismiss still thrive nearly a century later.

Original Dissent

Most martial artists are unfamiliar with the work and career of Tang Hao, yet historians and academics within the field remain enamored with him. And rightfully so, as Tang Hao was the father of modern martial arts scholarship and fact-based history.

His work dates back to the 1920s, where amid an explosion of fanciful literature, the Chinese martial arts were ripe for a sober historical assessment. A lawyer by trade and an experienced practitioner of the martial arts, Tang Hao wrote numerous books and articles that dismissed much of the prevailing history surrounding the Chinese martial arts as fanciful folklore.

In 1920, he published Study of Shaolin and Wudang, in which he tackled the disparity between fact and folklore in Chinese martial arts history, taking aim at, as historian Ben Judkins put it, "as many sacred cows as possible." He dismissed the mythology surrounding the Shaolin Temple, and criticized much of the quasi-mysticism that had been attached to the martial arts in his time.

In drawing sharp lines between mythology and fact, Tang Hao's work was not met by the Chinese martial arts community with interest and gratitude, but rather, with hostility and outrage; and as a friend of his would later write in a memorial essay, "some ruthless and self-proclaimed practitioners of Wudang and Shaolin made a plan to attack Tang Hao and beat him up." This was only prevented when a reputable third party intervened on his behalf. Despite these tensions, Tang Hao would continue to write about and promote an evidence-based history of the Chinese martial arts for the rest of his career.

Almost a century later, his work still holds up, though it is likely that Tang Hao would be dismayed to see so many modern day practitioners still clinging to mythology in the 21 st Century, such as the idea that the Asian fighting arts originated within the Shaolin Temple. This storyline asserts that the semi-mythical Bodhidharma had passed along a series of fighting exercises to the Shaolin monks to invigorate their physical well-being, in the 5th Century A.D. There is abundance of factual scholarship which says otherwise (in which historians point to a confluence of factors within China that saw the rise of unarmed fighting styles around the 16 th Century). Yet, the Bodhidharma legend persists into 2017, despite it being the equivalent of a modern Olympic athlete citing Zeus and the gods of Olympus as the founders of the summer games.

Martial historians see the unifying thread of reformist effort that runs through the careers of Tang Hao and Bruce Lee. As historian Brian Kennedy writes, "Many Chinese martial systems had become, in the famous words of Bruce Lee, 'cramped and distorted' by lots of different rituals, different titles, theories with little or no basis in reality, fake lineage, and pseudo-religious overtones… Tang Hao, much in the same vein as Bruce Lee, wanted Chinese martial arts stripped of this extra baggage."

In this sense, both Tang Hao and Bruce Lee would have likely also been dismissive of Wei Lei's supposed magical powers, just as they would have been keenly familiar with the post-fight treatment that Xu Xiaodong has been subjected to.

Seishiro Okazaki (bottom row, center) pictured during an advanced jujitsu seminar at his home in Hawaii, February 22, 1948. Okazaki's classes had very large enrollment, and over the years he would teach thousands of U.S. servicemen at the Honolulu YMCA. (Photo courtesy of Bernice Jay)

Martial Proving Ground

The debate that has followed Wei Lei's defeat has involved perspectives that are as varied and expansive as the martial arts themselves. Health, fitness, and self-cultivation are all legitimate and popular reasons for why a wide variety of people pursue the martial arts in the 21st Century. Yet when it comes to this recent fight in China, there is no way around the bottom line issue of martial viability. Just as Bruce and his colleagues in Oakland had asked—"Does it work?"

As many have correctly pointed out, the defeat of one practitioner does not conclude a complete worthlessness of any given system. But if the issue in question is the martial component of the martial arts, then there is really no other testing ground for the traditional Chinese martial arts to bounce back from Wei Lei's loss than within the ring. And in this regard as well, there is positive historical precedent to draw upon.

In 1922, British heavyweight boxer Carl "KO" Morris arrived to the Hawaiian Islands, and put out an open invitation to Asian martial artists to test their mettle against him in the ring. Morris had a reputation for being openly condescending towards the Asian fighting arts, and his challenge was quickly considered a standing insult to the islands' large Japanese immigrant community.

At the time, Hawaii was forming into the first great international martial arts hot-spot. Based upon immigration trends presented by economic opportunities within the islands, a wide array of Asian fighting styles arrived to the islands and quickly began to cross-pollinate.

"Hawaii was the first great melting pot of Asian martial arts," explains eclectic martial arts master Dan Inosanto. "It's where Chinese trained Japanese, Japanese trained Chinese, Chinese trained Filipino, and then Hawaiians themselves got involved in all those arts, too." (With this in mind, it is logical that the early modern mixed martial art fighting system of kajukenbo was born of the Hawaiian Islands.)

The first Japanese fighter to take up Morris' challenge fared poorly in a first-round knockout. However, the Japanese martial arts community did not concede this as evidence of anything. Instead, they appealed to a local martial artist that fully embodied the multi-faceted nature of the Hawaiian fight culture.

Seishiro Okazaki came from a long line of Japanese samurai. Like many others of his era, he migrated to Hawaii as a young man for work opportunities on the islands' sugar cane fields. There, at the age of 19, he began studying jujitsu as a means of cultivating his physical health. He spent the next twelve years of his life not just practicing jujitsu (of which he mastered three different styles), but any martial arts that he could seek out on the islands: kung fu with a 78-year-old Chinese master in Kohala, karate from an Okinawan, Fillipino knife fighting, western wrestling, and the native Hawaiian martial art of lua.

Upon taking up the standing challenge, Okazaki prepared for the fight by proactively researching and testing out techniques that could be applied against a boxer of Morris's size and abilities. He observed boxing matches between U.S. servicemen on the island, and aimed to design an approach that would be stifling to pugilist technique. After weeks of research, Okazaki developed an especially low fighting crouch, with the reasoning that boxers had little practice punching downward.

Seishiro Okazaki (seated) pictured with student Wally Jay, who would become one of Bruce Lee's closest colleagues in Oakland. (Photo courtesy of Bernice Jay)

On May 19, 1922, Okazaki met Morris in the ring for a wild bout. Early in the first round, Okazaki misjudged Morris's reach and had his nose broken in the first round. Still, he bounced back and managed to throw Morris out of the ring twice. Seeing the boxer hang his jab too long in a subsequent round, Okazaki drove low and threw his opponent to the mat in a move that appeared to break Morris's arm on the spot. Humble in his victory, Okazaki visited Morris in the hospital. Later, Morris would study jujitsu in Okazaki's class during the remainder of his stay in Hawaii.

Xu Xiaodong's challenge to the traditional Chinese martial arts community is no different than the one Morris posed towards the Japanese in Hawaii some 90 years earlier. Rather than censor Xu's viewpoints or put forth empty excuses for Wu Lei's loss, the traditional Chinese martial arts community should be anxious to get a new fighter to step up to the challenge. Some have offered, yet the state seems content with publicly reprimanding Xu.

Seishiro Okazaki did not defeat Carl Morris with mythological stories or magic tricks. He won through research, analytical design, and live combat execution; essentially, the essence of what Bruce Lee had characterized as "scientific street fighting." It is as relevant now as it was then.

Charles Russo is a journalist in San Francisco. This article contains information that is excerpted from his book - Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

American Kenpo Forms & Set Development

(from Dennis Conatser's Facebook page January 24th, 2012)

"Learning & Teaching Methods" {excerpts from "Kenponents" The Book}

One of the many innovative components Mr. Parker outlined for belt advancement within our system is the creation of a form. Starting at Purple Belt the student is required to develop a “Personal Form or Set” consisting of 5 techniques or 15-20 movements. Subsequent Belts increase by 5 additional techniques up to 1st Black Belt. 

Note: This requirement may vary greatly between Associations.
Many students are initially are puzzled or insecure as to why and how to go about accomplishing this requirement. I shall attempt to outline several concepts and ideas to assist in this Adventure and make it a fun and inspirational.


Mr. Parker during his lifetime of Kenpo Development, he experienced many different aspects of the Art. Being a student himself, he faced many of the same problems, obstacles or challenges we all have. The Martial Arts are divided into two main categories, Mental (Scholar) often symbolized by the Dragon, and Physical (Warrior) often symbolized by the Tiger. Study of within both areas is necessary to the complete development of an individual that wishes to achieve success as a Kenpo practitioner. Knowledge of human movement and why it is so is critical to the balance and “understanding” of Kenpo.

Being a constant innovator, Mr. Parker devoted his life to the development of a system of self-defense as well as a syllabus of basics, exercises, drills, definitions and teaching aids in which to explore not only the physical skills desired but also an organized Architectural Structure of explanations.

Forms and sets are but two examples of drills within the Kenpo Architecture. The first Four Forms (a series of movements put together in a dance like arrangement), Short & Long Form #1 and Short & Long Form #2, are considered the dictionaries of Kenpo. The next Forms (Short & Long) #3,4,5,6,7,8, Two-Man, & Staff are considered the encyclopedias of Kenpo. All the Sets (Stance, Blocking, Striking, Finger, Kicking, Coordination, club, & nunchaku) are considered the appendices of Kenpo. These are all the current drills outlined; however there are additional Forms and Set being developed.

As Mr. Parker continued to design these exercises, he realized the tremendous learning opportunity developing such exercises and chose to include such an exercise within the requirements. Starting with but a few movements at Purple Belt, then increasingly adding movements through 1st Brown Belt, until at Black Belt, a much more sophisticated effort was produced.

Developing these forms create a vehicle for thinking and design. A topic or theme must first be chosen (either by the instructor, student, or both) then structurally developed following Principles and Logic. {It should be noted, that only a minimal instructor influence should be given, after all, the exercise is to see what, how and why the student completes the assignment.} Like a dissertation for a College Doctorate Degree (PhD), the student will be required to defend or explain his/her creation. This can be the scary part, IF the student completely botches or violates any or all principles, concepts and produces a horrible expose of the assignment (which is actually rare), they may fear failure. It MUST be understood by Instructors that regardless of the quality of the Form or Set produced, that the examination, explanation and subsequent discussion and evaluation of the students work and enlightenment is the goal.

This work and creation by the student, which can now be used as a vehicle to discuss the pros and cons of said assignment. Violations of principles or design flaws on the choices of, directions, ranges, positions, maneuvering, targets, natural weapon selection, and defenses all should be pointed out and discussed as well as any positive, clever, or innovative ideas that may occur. This “discussion and evaluation” will create a win-win scenario for the student and complete the purpose of the assignment which is the acquisition of greater knowledge and understanding.

A General outline should include; 1) Form/Set theme, 2) What the Form/Set contains, 3) What the Form/Set teaches, 4) Brief description of the Form/Set, 5) Graphic layout of the Form/Set components (see blank Form “Blueprint Graphic” & Short Form #1 example), 6) Any additional Notes or Comments.