Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Q&A: Bruce Lee, Ark Wong, and Ed Parker

(by Brad Bode martialmoves.com)

Here is another round of questions answered by three people. Ron Chapél answers the bulk. Ed Parker Jr (Paxtial Arts) answers a question about himself. Finally, Guru Dan Inosanto (Inosanto Academy) answers a simple question about Bruce Lee. 

Ark Wong

Did Ark Wong have children's classes? Did Ark Wong awarded Black Sash to students who were not adults yet? Did he have a minimum age requirement for Black Sash?  

First, I didn't stop training when I met Mr. Parker, and there was no such thing as a "children's class" in those days. Everyone, everywhere trained the same. Many would not take children, but my personal association with my oldest friend inthe arts, Douglas Wong didn't hurt. You trained and earned what you got. Later, Most adopted an age limit of 16 years old for black belt, but the commercial explosion of Taekwondo blew that out of the water. The business of teaching was over run by children, and Mr. Parker recognized that fact was coming, and had me write my thesis for my 7th based on how to deal with the rank structure of young people without destroying the integrity of the art. It was never implemented. - Ron Chapel

Ed Parker

At what point did Ed Parker start teaching the basics? In what order did he teach those basics? How codified was Ed Parker's basic training?

From the beginning, we engaged in a process where we examined the Classic Chinese Basics and attempted to refine them to his idea of what he wanted his "American Kenpo" to be. It was an ongoing project. He made many changes and altered directions as often as necessary to get where he wanted to go. It was an intense process, requiring flexibility. You might work on something for a period, and just when you think you have it down, he would change it to something he felt was better. It was a process where you had to keep up with him on whatever he wanted to work on at the time. - Ron Chapel

Did Mr. Parker teach anyone the category of basics known as Specialized Moves and Methods (i.e. the grappling side of Kenpo) if yes who?

In the early days, Mr. Parker taught grappling and concentrated heavily on Dan Zan Ryu Jiu-jitsu Techniques as a part of his regular teaching when he was in the school. He later predicted the grappling craze would return, and leaned on his good friend, training buddy, and World Wrestling Champion Gene LeBell to help him promote the art. Mr. Parker set up the fight between LeBell and the boxer Milo Savage. Gene won that in the first round, closing the distance and choking him to submission. Gene could choke anything that breathed, and still can. Mr. Parker described him as, "The toughest man I ever met." 

However, the creation of Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate and Mr. Parker switching from strict basics to conceptual teaching through “one-night stands” all over the world pushed all of that training aside, because of its physicality, and a lack of Mr. Parker’s availability to teach it. All of the original groups had jiu-jitsu knowledge as a regular part of training. 

However, there was no room for that in Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate. While Mr. Parker “suggested” its existence through many of the techniques, so-called teachers dropped the ball and never explored the material as they were supposed to. System techniques like, “Twisted Twig” had a “wrist-flex takedown or throw” as the attack. Everyone concentrated on the defense, when they were supposed to learn and understand how to perform a wrist-flex takedown first, and then work on a defense for it and create an Ideal technique. - Ron Chapel

Did Mr. Parker share any of his knife information with you and what did it consist of... was it also broken down like the unarmed system with its own unique vocabulary and category of basics etc.

Mr. Parker gave me all the information he said I needed on the blade work. He gave me all of the vocabulary and demonstrated it to me. If you follow his philosophy of the weapon being an extension of your own mechanics, it's simple and straight-forward. Not much to it, other than a few no-no's because you have an edged weapon in your hand, and you don't want to cut yourself because of your very active off hand.

The "double blade" stuff drifted into performance competition exhibition. Using a double blade on the street is not only impractical it would probably get you locked up. I tend to stay away from the fantasy stuff he created for tournament competition. This includes all the forms after Short Form Three. - Ron Chapel

Whom did Mr. Parker consider as his key protégé and who did he identify as sharing the full scope of his knowledge with?

The only protégé's Mr. Parker had were "business protégé's." He touted a couple of guys in the magazines as protégés but in truth, he didn't have any. He was “puffing” guys, because it was business. A good example of that was Larry Tatum. Larry ran the only Ed Parker owned school that made any money. Larry turned out the greatest quantity of his best black belts in his new system, all under Larry. Most of have declared Ed Parker as their teacher, and ignored the fact that Larry primarily taught them and signed their diplomas on the "instructor" line, not Ed Parker.

However technically, Ed Parker always co-promoted all of the black belts in his lineage when he was alive. I always tell people if you want to know the truth, look at their diplomas. As an example on my 7th Degree Diploma, Mr. Parker signed on both sides. On the left, as the president of the IKKA, and on the right as My Instructor, with Ed Parker Jr. signing as the witness.

When the magazine article came out on Larry, Mr. Parker got blow back from guys who had been around a lot longer than Larry. Larry was essentially a “newbie” but making money running the school for him, as the only actual full time employee of the IKKA that was not his family. Mr. Parker cleaned it up by saying, "Well yeah, Larry is protégé, but he's not the ONLY protégé. I have lots of them!" It was just business puffing, but everyone took it so seriously.

There is no way Mr. Parker shared the "full scope" of his knowledge with anyone. It simply wasn’t possible. Mr. Parker was evolving as a martial artist everyday. He was growing and figuring out what he wanted to do, as he expanded his own knowledge. But, he also had to keep his Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate running while he did it, because that's what made the money.

Keeping up with Mr. Parker was Impossible. If he shared something with you today, it might change over night, and if you weren't around for the changes the next day, you were already out of the loop. In many ways, this accounts for the great variations of information from different lineages, even before Ed Parker’s kenpo Karate and certainly even more so after it was created.

The process was so arduous most simply stayed with what they were taught and never upgraded their information, because it was too labor intensive, and impossible to do if you were running a school as a business to make a living. You had to settle on one way to do things and go with it or you would lose students, much like Mr. Parker himself. Once most got a belt and some rank, nobody wanted to reexamine their neutral bow, or how to do a drag-step reverse, with an inward block but that is what Mr. Parker was constantly doing

He shared many things specifically with me, but then some things he just pointed me in the right direction and trusted that I could work it out because of my Chinese background, and the history he and I shared. He always monitored what I was doing with my students, and gave his approval of the process I was engaged in with his help and guidance.

I took notes of his work, and codified as much as I could, considering its fluid nature. It was actually much more difficult when he was alive, because I had to work at his pace and on his timetable. Sometime he would call me up in the middle of the night and we'd talk until the sun came up. His mind was constantly on fire and he lit one in me as well.

I also received all his computer notes and files from Edmund after he passed. - Ron Chapel

During an interview while Mr. Parker was alive, Ed Parker Jr. was asked about Kenpo training and said he did not train in his father's art but rather was into graphic design. What made him suddenly change his mind and want to learn Kenpo?

That is one of the greatest misunderstandings about Edmund. When he says he didn't study his father art, he's talking about “Ed Parker's kenpo Karate.” He’s not saying he didn’t study Kenpo with his father. Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate is the only "defined" art that Mr. Parker had. Everything else was as I said before, works in progress.

What his father shared with him are the working concepts that I use myself, but it isn't really Kenpo as in the Kenpo era he grew up in would define it based on “motion.”

It is Kenpo, but only as defined our personal unique teaching perspectives. He and I both use a less aggressive and maiming style of Kenpo based on human anatomy and body mechanics. In my opinion, this is what’s missing from Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate. But the Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate crowd is so large and vocal, if you do anything "different,", in a matter they don't understand, or if it isn’t in “Infinite Insights,” the first thing they do is shout, "that ain't Kenpo."

Trust me, it is a form of Kenpo, it's just not "Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate," and that's all they know. Many of them are shocked to hear that Kenpo existed in various forms before Ed Parker. Naturally, they want to define Kenpo by their own terms because that's where their rank has legitimacy, even though Mr. Parker had 4 or 5 different forms of Kenpo he taught to others, and all different from his Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Business.

Edmund has used his deep understanding of human anatomy refined by his many years as a graphic illustrator of the human body, to define and add to his Kenpo in different terms as a defensive defusing method he calls the Paxtial Arts. I call what I teach SL-4 American Chúan Fa. Whatever you call it, the roots are the same; Ed Parker Sr. It is much easier to utilize one's own identity in a world of intolerant "kenpo" people who think there's only one way. So in my opinion, when Edmund says he doesn't know his father's art, he only talking about Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Curriculum, nothing else. - Ron Chapel

I also said I would never marry again. I also said I think the moon is made of cheese. We all say things based upon the perspective of the time. So in fact I did not want anything to do with Kenpo. What changed my mind was this: I was living in Hawaii, going to college pursuing a career in film and TV when I got a job on the TV show Magnum PI.  Then I got a call from my dad. He wanted me to come and help him finish his lifes work, because he said he had a dream or a vision that he was going to die. So I gave up my dreams to fulfill his.

I worked for him, with him, and in the end by him on his projects. The only way I could get his vision was to get in his head. So to illustrate what he wanted he had to teach me how to think like him and understand him. So my training went the Mr. Miyagi way. We worked some weeks 120 hours plus.
He was obsessed driven like a mad man to get his works done. 
I was by his side for that process.

So I did learn Ed Parker, not his system, but him, the way he thought and why he thought that way. What made him come to those conclusions etc. 

After he died is when I wanted to learn the system. Yes I was taught privately. For years in fact. Protected from the outside world. Then after he died I studied with Ron (Chapél) because he stimulated my mind. He was one of my fathers closest friends and I wanted to get to know my dad better through the eyes of his students.

I consider myself an artist of motion. - Ed Parker Jr.

Bruce Lee

Can you clarify about Lao Bun introducing Bruce Lee to Ed Parker? Was James Lee given credit to protect Lao Bun because he was still in the United States illegally.

Those things were not on my personal radar, and Mr. Parker only spoke of those things in generalities. Who introduced who, when wasn’t that important to me, and Bruce Lee was impressive but wasn’t doing anything I hadn’t seen Sifu Wong, or Lefiti do. - Ron Chapel

James Lee introduced Ed Parker to Bruce Lee. - Dan Inosanto

How long did Bruce Lee and Ed Parker live together and how much if at all did Ed Parker borrow from Bruce Lee?

Ed Parker and Bruce Lee did not "live together." There were a couple of times where Bruce was in town from Oakland and stayed with Mr. Parker at his house for a week or so. Mr. Parker did not "borrow" anything of significance from Bruce Lee. Mr. Parker was a Mr. Parker was a seasoned martial artist who had trained in Western boxing, Judo, Jiu-jitsu, Karate, and Kenpo from the age of 10. When he met Bruce Lee, relatively speaking, Bruce was a young kid.  

Lee drew attention not from his knowledge of the arts but for his physical prowess, and the ability to physically learn things quickly. Most are unaware Bruce Lee only formally studied Wing Chun for about 2 years before he left Hong Kong to be a student of philosophy, at the university of Washington at the age of 19 when he enrolled. He dropped out of school and moved to Oakland, and opened up a gung fu school teaching what he knew. When he gave his famous demonstration at Mr. Parker's invite at the 2nd International Karate Championships in 1964, he was only 24 years. 

While the public had begun to embrace and understand the arts, it was primarily from the Japanese Perspective at the time. When Bruce displayed simple Chinese Concepts of fighting in 1964 at the Japanese dominated tournament, it blew everyone away. A look at that demo today would virtually put you to sleep. - Dan Inosanto



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Q&A: Kenpo

(by Brad Bode martialmoves.com)

Getting answers straight from those "who were there" is tough today, unless you have the connections to call the right people. Fortuneately, through my association with Ron Chapél I can make those calls. So lets kick off the first Q&A session. Email me your questions at Brad@MartialMoves.com and I will do my best to get your questions answered by the most knowledgeable person on the topic possible. Don't hesitate to suggest that person either, as I probably can get them on the phone.

Keep in mind that subjective questions will get subjective answers. Everyone's history in the Martial Arts is different, but non-theless valid so please, treat all Q&A responders with respect.
For starters, Sami Ibrahim of Fort Campbell, Kentucky sent me a long list of question, which were answered by Ron Chapél. While this series of questions is highly Kenpo related, don't hesitate to ask questions outside of Kenpo.

When Secrets of Chinese Karate was published in 1963, did the old school Kenpo guys abandon Mr. Parker in favor of James Wing Woo? Did that have anything to do with why they were not a part of the American Kenpo transition?

First, Mr. Parker never created his "American Kenpo." It was a project he started and abandoned almost immediately when he ran into financial difficulty with the people he invested with to produce Action Karate Magazine. He was financially ruined by the partnership when the magazine folded after about 7 issues, and it forced him into bankruptcy. Bankruptcy was the only way he could protect his home assets, and his family.

Having a Mother and five children to take care of was essentially the driving force that caused him to create a commercial martial arts product he called "Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate." It was never Ed Parker's American Kenpo Karate, nor did he ever market it that way. Others confused his pronouncements of being desirous of creating an "American form of Kenpo" with the creation of Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate, which was based on the study of abstract "motion."

His proposed American Kenpo was supposed to be closer to the Chúan Fa of its origin, and a much more precise and meticulous vehicle, that was much too labor intensive for Kenpo Karate’s philosophy of teaching. There was also the element that he would, and could be the only qualified teacher, which doesn't lend itself well to proliferation.

In the early days, it was not unusual for students to leave once they had received their black belts. It also was normal for it to take only about a year or slightly longer of diligent study to get there. Sifu Woo not only provided a great deal of the information, (along with contributions from Sifu Ark Wong) for the book "Secrets of Chinese Kenpo," but taught elements of the traditional Chinese Martial Arts in Mr. Parker's School in Pasadena. When Sifu Woo decided to leave, he took with him several black belts he was already teaching. As I recall Richard Montgomery and Rick Flores were the two to leave with Sifu Wong.

Students were more migratory in the early days because everyone was fascinated with the arts in general, and wanted to "sample" everything new that came along to expand their knowledge. It happened in all the traditional arts as well regularly.

The most well known student to leave Mr. Parker was Dan Inosanto, but that too is misleading. Dan Inosanto had spent time with Sifu Ark Wong before forming a relationship with Mr. Parker, and was simply moving on. I would not ever characterize his relationship as student/teacher with Bruce Lee. In my opinion, they traded information with Bruce Lee being the greater beneficiary of Inosanto's knowledge. He certainly was responsible for the weapons training that Bruce Lee picked up. Bruce Lee was smart enough to surround himself with knowledgeable so-called "students'” he could learn from, while his celebrity students paid the bills.

All of this occurred before there was ever an Ed Parker's kenpo Karate as people know it today. But those that trained with Ed Parker in his "Original Kenpo Karate," as when he first came to the mainland, or his more traditional Chinese influenced "Chinese Kenpo" he switched to almost immediately, wanted nothing to do with the "new" commercial brand of kenpo he was teaching, and none of the previous students transitioned to it by choice. Most continued to do as they were taught, or transitioned into their own versions, or moved on to other things. The Kenpo that existed just before Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate is almost non-existent now. The closest you can get to it on ant decent scale would have to Be Al Tracy's guys. No one wanted to transition to “Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate,” because it was so “watered down” in comparison to Mr. Parker’s previous teachings in terms of physicality. The new Kenpo Karate had to be user friendly for everyone, including children and older people.

Is it true that when all of Mr. Parker's Black Belts left him only Chuck Sullivan stayed loyal to him? (Around the time of the James Wing Woo fall out and the Tracy's leaving?)

First, all of Parker's Black Belts didn't leave him en mass. This was something that happened gradually over time as students grew and wanted to be on their own. The allure of business opportunities pulled them away when they felt they had learned enough Kenpo, and the business. Mr. Sullivan, who is senior to us all, created his own product he called the "Karate Connection" long before Mr. Parker passed, which was quite successful.

Later he was criticized for his creation of his International Karate Connection (IKC) video teaching program. What most don't know is the video method was Mr. Parker's idea that he floated before his death. Mr. Sullivan was merely continuing with a Parker idea, and he isn't the only one. But, most stayed "loyal," (to use your word), to Mr. Parker even though they were no longer "students" and left to form their own schools, associations, and businesses. Mr. Parker never expressed any of these earlier students were being "disloyal," and he maintained a relationship with just about all of them. Few were actually physical students in the pure sense of the word anyway, because Mr. Parker stopped teaching.

What actually caused the Tracy fallout?

There was no "Tracy Fallout." When Mr. Parker decided he wanted to move in a different direction, he turned his Yudanshakai Organization, the Kenpo Karate Association of America, (KKAA) over to Al Tracy who was an astute business man, to run as he moved onto to form his then new, International Kenpo Karate Association, (IKKA). They ultimately became business rivals, but always retained a cordial relationship while Mr. Parker was alive, and Al Tracy, his troops and teams were always quite prominent at Mr. Parker's International Karate Championships Tournament every year.

Is it true that Huk Planas was actually busy traveling around the world playing in a band and had very little time training with Mr. Parker?

It is correct Huk was a musician and traveled a lot, but he didn't travel any more than Mr. Parker, so I don't know what that means. He was as much a student as anyone at the time and even ran the Pasadena School for a period. Huk came to Mr. Parker as a student of the late Sibok Tom Kelly, who was a student of Sigung Steve LaBounty out of the Tracy System, so all were well trained when they came over and simply continued, and contributed heavily to Mr. Parker's new method of teaching.

Did you ever see Ed Parker spar?


Did you ever witness Ed Parker in an altercation?

Yes I did. Mr. Parker was a devastating person.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Kenpo Karate's Grand Master, James Ibrao Autobiography

I was born November 3, 1937 in the state of Hawaii in a city called Waialua. In Waialua, every element of our lives was based around a sugar plantation which meant that everyone worked with one another, knew one another and respected one another. For seventeen years I had the advantage of having an extended family of nearly three thousand people. I believe that this element has given me an incredibly strong base and advantage in dealing with people because I came from such a strong foundation of respect for so many people.

In addition, the positive development of the person came from the positive development of the entire group and so, common goals and traditional values were of the utmost importance. For instance, the development of the ego came from the the development of the ego of the entire community not just any one individual. Perhaps this is why I have been able to exceed and excel in the learning and much more importantly, the teaching of the martial arts to so many people. I have always judged myself by the number of people I have been able to assist and not on my own "personal achievements".

During this time I became very active in athletics and I was able to make my mark in every sport I played. Strangely enough, out of all the sports I tried, basketball was my favorite. In fact, many of you may find this difficult to believe, but at 5"foot 9" I was able to slam dunk!

Introduction to Kenpo

At seventeen I had the tremendous opportunity to go to school in Boise, Idaho. I found the climate to be too cold for me and I decided to return to Los Angeles. From there, I tried my luck at Brigham Young University, but again I found the climate was not to my liking. I returned once again to Los Angeles where my life would change forever. After being so active in sports, I found I needed a release. A friend of mine, Bob Sarno, had an acquaintance named Ed Parker who was involved in the teaching of a new martial arts called Kenpo Karate. On the island, martial arts instructors had to be registered to teach and the only art I had been able to study was a little judo. You can imagine my excitement at being exposed to the power, quickness, and innovative moves of Ed Parker who was literally a giant. It was more than just his stature, he had an aura of power and what many would call fearlessness. The very next day, I joined Mr. Ed Parker and his four students, on their journey into the experience called Kenpo Karate. I"m not sure whether it was natural ability or pure desire to learn, but I never found the "intensive workouts" to be too difficult. I was always trying to see and figure out what the next move would be. I always looked for the next logical step in the beautiful and deadly art taught by this dynamic and charismatic individual. Within weeks, I noticed that my already athletic build was beginning to grow and change. Almost instantly, I gained weight and watched as my muscle structure began to change. I developed power and strength in my legs, arms and back and was amazed at how my shoulders widened. Of all this, perhaps the most important change came in my level of confidence. The power I felt was tremendous. There was nothing that I couldn't do. All this came from my complete and total immersion into this new art. I lived, ate and slept Kenpo Karate. The year was 1956.

Hard Hitting Kenpo

Now for all of you out there who have illusions about some magical climb to Black Belt; let me explain a few things. When I started, there were only three belts, White, Brown and Black. It is true that I was the first man to achieve Black Belt under Ed Parker and it is true that I achieved this goal in only nine months. However, these things were not as important as the fact that not only was I determined to achieve these goals, I was driven to see that belt knotted around my waist. Back then, study was much more intensive and the judging of any artist was on the basics; ability, quality, coordination, speed and power of your techniques. In those days the only way to test your abilities was to really hit! While not very practical and in retrospect not very prudent, it did develop something in us that our current counterparts will never know.

The Kenpo Forms

That is in no way a slight to any martial artist, I am simply trying to translate the feeling of intensity derived from literally being involved in the creation and the development of such an awesome form of self defense. You must remember that we created the forms that many of you do today. In fact, many of you have been doing these forms incorrectly. Can you imagine the number of nuances and movements that have been lost over the last forty plus years? In addition, along with the loss of many of the elements of the katas; much of the original essence of the forms, the power; the raw power has been diluted and reduced. A perfect example of this is the Book Set which was believed to have been lost. This form was taught to me by Grand master James Wing Woo himself, and I in turn was charged with teaching it to the other students and instructors. Unfortunately, Grand master Woo was only able to teach half of the move to Ed before our days of training together came to an end. Thanks to the efforts of Al and Will Tracy, for the first time in over forty years, many of you will be able to finally see and learn this kata in its entirety. More importantly, you will be able to learn this form correctly. You will be exposed to a true kata that has literally been saved for each and every one of you!

Grandmaster James Wing Woo

Grand master James Wing Woo came into the picture in 1960 when Ed Parker and I went on a road trip to San Francisco to visit a few of the Chinese Martial Arts Schools. Ed immediately recognized Master Woo's talent and invited him down to Los Angeles to document his knowledge in books and to incorporate some of the characteristics of the Chinese systems into Parkers Kenpo.

Kenpo and Beyond

By 1962, I had been exposed to every aspect of Kenpo Karate. I had developed many of the Forms and Kata which would come to set the tone of the art for years to come. I also developed some of the most powerful and deadly techniques the system has ever known. Another of my innovations were the High Kicks, Double Kicks, Triple kicks, Spinning Kicks, Back kicks and many specialty kicks that have long been forgotten. I mentioned earlier that I was an avid slam dunker in basketball, this was a direct result of the power I developed in the martial arts. It"s funny now, but in 1961 I was invited to scrimmage against the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. After the scrimmage, I was asked to try out for the team. It was no surprise that I made the team. I do not say this to be conceited, it is only meant as a way to convey to you the level of confidence and ability that had been developed through the arts. I toured with the Globetrotters for two years, until 1964 and then returned to Los Angeles. I did not return to my studies with Ed Parker. I had made up my mind that I would begin to unlock the mysteries of the Chinese Martial Arts. Ed and I did not part enemies and over the years we continued to speak and remain on good terms contrary to what many people believe.

I never left my Kenpo roots, in fact, I believe that the Kenpo has been vital and essential to my development and longevity in the arts.

There is much more to my story and I am currently documenting hundreds of special moments and events that I am sure will be of interest to you all. I plan to publish a series of books and articles which will chronicle my experiences over the last forty years. I look forward to meeting you all and I wish you only the best in your endeavor to become the greatest martial artist you can be.


Parker, Ibrao, 1958