Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Self Defense International magazine

"If you don't ask the right questions, I can't give you the right answers. If you don't know the right questions to ask, then you're not ready for the answers anyway." - Mr. Parker

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Martial Arts versus Martial Science Structure

(posted on Facebook by Mr. Ron Chapel, Ph. D.)

Over your lifetime beginning when you first began to have control of your body, you have performed various tasks, and in that process created synaptic pathways to the brain that support these many physical activities. Most of them are actually unconsciously engrained into what is euphemistically sometimes called your “muscle memory.”

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

Your body can work efficiently when your body "senses" the need to use or overcome resistance, or inefficiently if you make a conscious decision to do something that contradicts sound body mechanics.
Most are "trained" into using poor body mechanics and in many cases have over-ridden the instinctual good, and created "bad" synaptic pathways for inefficient and body damaging physical movement.
In Martial Science, much like other sciences, there is a direct cause and effect to all activity. Martial Science draws on many different scientific disciplines, but all are in some way related to one another through the conduit of human anatomy.
There exist a significant cause and effect interaction between all the many parts of human anatomy whether static or in motion. In any examination of the many martial postures and their transitions, the efficacy of its many positions is predicated upon, among many factors, weight distribution and an exacting posture relative to the physical activity at hand. The relative position of the feet to each other, and their movement, also significantly determine whether structural integrity is created or maintained as a whole, or partially.
Let’s discuss for a moment structural integrity in posture, movement, and weight distribution. Any variations in these categories beyond proper anatomical posture can diminish or enhance effectiveness on multiple levels offensively or defensively.
How you move your body in its entirety, the arms, feet, and even the head in particular, in martial science affects the stability of the complete body for a variety of reasons. For most this probably is not news. However, what is probably “new” information to most is that some of the basic things taught in most “martial arts” fall quite comfortably into the negative and inefficient category.

Surprisingly to the uninitiated, their effectiveness can be demonstrated to be much less than perceived. That is, when these things are tested in the light of reality, they fall well short of their well-intended goals. Let us define efficiency relative to human physical activity in general, and martial science in particular.

Essentially, the “human-machine” is a large gelatinous bag punctuated by multiple directionally dedicated and articulated appendages, connected by loose and flexible tissue of various viscosities. This semi-solid shape is supported by an articulated and rigid substructure we call a “skeleton.” This necessary substructure skeleton supports the human body as the primary load-bearing entity, but also simultaneously provides it with mobility and maintains and sustains a general shape. It also supplies the major structural frame for anatomical rigidity on demand.
This relationship between the sub-structure frame, (skeleton) the connecting tissues, (ligaments, muscle, tendons), and the containment vessel epidermis (gelatinous bag) have a constant and perpetually active interaction relationship from one jiffy millisecond to the next.
The “system software” or brain constantly monitors all external stimuli from thousands of body sensors and subsequently makes thousands of minute adjustments every millisecond to allow the machine on one level to function intuitively, and on another, to take directed commands from the central processing unit simultaneously.
By its very evolutionary design, the human body unit operates in one of two non-destructive modes, either operating efficiently or inefficiently. The inefficient mode I have termed “Disassociated Anatomical Movement.”
In order to accomplish this state, this extremely complex machine has an inherent ability to “disconnect” or create a more loose and flexible relationship between its many articulated parts, expressly for the purpose of performing movements and/or postures not necessarily anatomically structurally sound, but necessary for fluid human movement.
Therefore by the very nature of the body, all movement is not necessarily effective, efficient, or even structurally sound, even though it may be performed quite easily. This is the reason humans do not move like “rigid” robots or automatons, and why they have the ability to hurt themselves by moving incorrectly, and especially under load.
Most modern martial arts place a heavy emphasis on immediate satisfactory results and therefore are usually conceptually driven, allowing practitioners flexibility to achieve immediate short-term goals of questionable or elementary effectiveness.
Unfortunately, these arts usually have levels of efficiency defined by some ranking process, and they include belts despite the lack of knowledge and quantifiable basic knowledge to support perceived skills. Martial Arts clearly have taken on a business life of their own. A look in any martial arts magazine will yield pages of books and videos for those who believe they can actually learn real physical science this way, and virtually teach themselves to mastery.
When any physical activity is taught with only an emphasis on conceptual movement with no regard for anatomical structural requirements and physical mandates than inefficient movement is the most likely result. The reason this can be confusing is that most martial “arts” instructors teach from this aesthetic perspective emphasizing the “look” over the proper anatomical “execution” to obtain the desired results.
A lack of knowledge has created a plethora of interpretations as numerous as there are “instructors.” Thus the western term “martial art” is indeed accurate because of this interpretive aesthetic perspective. Art, (in this instance artistic movement and postures) is clearly subjective, whereas martial science and its proper anatomical movement and postures are not. This explains why one “martial art” can have so many different interpretations from instructor to instructor, school to school, and even student to student.
This methodology is also inherent in cultural-based martial discipline “do” (way) type “arts” that choose to emphasize a cultural and artistic methodology over an efficient anatomical results-driven perspective. It is also an unintentional byproduct of modern eclectic commercial self-defense arts that lack sufficient foundation material beyond their conceptual design, as well. At least the traditional “way” arts emphasize the consistency of movement and execution from student to student.
Oddly enough some of the most effective of these modern types “arts” are “stripped down” bare-bones courses that at least allow participants to be “attacked” and retaliate against a person dressed in protective armor for a more realistic assessment of perceived skill development. This methodology also has the effect of introducing a level of “Adrenal Stress” to training that is also missing from most martial arts self-defense instruction.
Subsequently, training in improper movements like stepping back into any stance as an example is an “inefficient” methodology that is readily revealed in realistic practice and application but is rarely exposed in “hypothetical self-defense training.
Using this most basic of footwork to obtain a stance causes the body to go into its loose “disassociated“ mode to achieve the objective. The architectural human frame is designed to locomote forward partly deriving its balance from the swinging of the arm opposite the forward moving leg. Although the body can walk and move rearward, it does so inefficiently and in a definite disassociated mode. Even moving forward is essentially a series of "controlled fall."
As an example, when you walk backwards your arms do not swing naturally and balance is more difficult as a result. Additionally, moving forward aggressively without the ability to move your arms creates the same “disassociated” condition. The principle area affected in all of these situations begins with the “Primary Disconnect Mechanism,” the pelvic bone or girdle. The same holds true in any relative lateral movement as well.
However, the converse of stepping backward to meet resistance moving in the same direction as you’re stepping is stepping forward when you are being pulled forward. Both of these movements are inefficient and must have correcting mechanisms to regain structural integrity.
Stepping rearward without the mechanism makes alignment impossible. Stepping forward however because the body functions to locomote forward naturally may create alignment, but only predicated on either how far or how many times you step, or if an additional correcting mechanism is involved.
Therefore to teach any execution that by necessity requires inefficient movement forward-backward or laterally, first there must be recognition of these absolute anatomical facts, and second a mechanism must be designed to compensate, re-connect, or re-associate the body unit into singular structural integrity for efficient transference of power, or to resist body mass driven assaults.
Additionally as previously stated, proper weight distribution and postures are also mandated based on anatomical parameters, and not aesthetics. Other good examples can be found in various forms of footwork taught in most traditional and non-traditional arts alike.
Lateral and forward movements where feet move toward one another create similar results of instability and structural disassociation as “stepping back.” Although all of these activities are a staple of most arts, anatomically speaking, such maneuvers lack structural stability, absent a compensating mechanism.
Let’s conduct an experiment to determine if you have the stability you think you have:
Beginning with feet even, step back and settle into your strongest “fighting stance and posture,” making yourself as stable as possible. Have someone slowly push on your shoulders from the front toward the rear or 6:00 (Presumably the direction with the most stability) to simulate a bodily assault or grapple attack to the upper torso from the front.
You'll notice that the top part of your body is easily pushed back until the angle is extreme enough to cause the front foot to lift from the floor, and subsequently, the rear foot will be forced to adjust back to retain balance. The torso seems to be “disconnected” from the feet and lower part of the anatomy. The feet only remain in place until the torso is moved sufficiently to pull the feet from their position. This is why “street grapplers” entertain a measure of success against those unprepared or unknowledgeable. Most are always taught to “step back” in preparation to defend themselves, and without the requisite skills to counter our own inefficient body mechanics our chances of success are diminished significantly.
What has happened is the step rearward has created the “Disassociated Anatomical Condition,” at the hips separating the lower platform (hips to the floor) from the upper (Hips to the shoulders) platform, causing them to work semi-independently of each other with no shared structural integrity. Thus, there is no significant stability to counter any realistic physical pressure from any angle, and specifically from the front.
This relationship of the hips to the rest of the body can be explored in another simple observation. When walking in a normal manner, if a decision is made to change the gait or stride significantly, before one can jog or run, a “skipping action” must be made to change the relationship of the hips to the torso. This is done naturally without conscious thought but never the less it must be done to run efficiently. This action is termed a “Platform Aligning Skip.”
In American Chúan-Fa™ and its basics foundation American Tactical Kenpo, we teach a variety of mechanisms to counter every Disassociated Anatomical Movement we may be forced, by necessity to perform. Some of these mechanisms are termed PAM’s, (Platform Aligning Mechanisms), BAM’s (Body Alignment Mechanisms), and PAS for Platform Aligning Skips. Because of their variety and complexity, they are explored in detail in the physical curriculum and are taught in situational scenarios within the context of specific self-defense techniques.
The important thing to remember is that all rules of martial science are specific, and therefore apply to specific circumstances. Any variation of any portion of the body, no matter how minute, may cause a complete breakdown of structural integrity, as well as other anatomical properties for later discussion. This means all methodologies have “correcting mechanisms” to compensate for inefficient movement or improper posture.
Also, in martial science posture, there are rules relative to weight distribution. As an example, whenever the feet are parallel, weight distribution (absent a correcting mechanism) is mandated to be 50/50. This is the overriding base for the beginning of understanding correct postures and corresponds with the traditional “horse” stance found in most arts for a reason. However, that is not all. The position and manner of the hands, wrists, head, shoulders, fingers, muscle tension, etc. in addition to weight distribution will ultimately determine whether you are correct structurally or not.
Therefore proper posture in the execution of all things must be explored and defined in significant detail as the starting point for any serious study. Funny, that’s how the traditionalist always started, and the knowledgeable still do.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Professor Nicholas R. Cerio

by Shihan John James, July 29, 2001

On July 9, 1936, a child was born who grew up to be one of the most powerful and influential people in the Martial Arts world. That man's name is Nicholas Raymond Cerio. Professor Cerio was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At a very young age, he took on many odd jobs to raise money to help support his family. At the age of 10, he moved with his family to the Federal Hill district of Providence, Rhode Island. During his early childhood, Professor Cerio was continuously getting into fights defending his 'turf'. It was in his later teens that Professor Cerio started boxing at the Federal Hill House in Providence. Boxing was a perfect match for him. It gave him the outlet to channel his aggression while starting him on the theories of angulation and continuous motion that he would endlessly refine over his lifetime. Professor Cerio's love for boxing continued on into his tour of duty with the Air Force in the mid 50's. In the Air Force, Professor Cerio would box in the lightweight division with great success. While in the Air Force, Professor Cerio got his first introduction to the art of Judo. The Professor was fascinated by Judo's intricacy and the fact that there was a science and a proven theory backing up all the movements. Thus, upon being honorably discharged from the Air Force, Professor Cerio, at age 22, began studying Judo at the YMCA in Providence under George McCabe. This relationship would continue for the next three years at which time he wanted to pursue a martial art with a heavier emphasis on fighting. In 1961, he met Ted Olson and began the study of Tae Kwon Do. Professor Cerio spoke very highly of Mr. Olsen and was very sad to be told that Mr. Olsen was no longer teaching for personal reasons. This left a large void in his pursuit to develop himself in the Martial Arts.

In 1962, he was introduced to Sensei George Pesare. Sensei Pesare had introduced the art of Karazenpo Goshinjutsu to New England two years earlier. Professor Cerio threw his heart and soul into his training with Sensei Pesare. He frequently entered tournaments for fighting in the black belt division (often as a brown belt). These tournaments would be the catalyst for his introductions to many of his later instructors. In 1966, Professor Cerio earned his Shodan (1st black belt) in Kenpo under Sensei Pesare and also opened his first school named Cerio's Academy of Martial Arts (Professor would use this name for his school right up until the time he developed his own system). Everyone who knew Professor could easily spot his car by his license plate 'CAMA' which he kept throughout his entire life.

After earning his Shodan from Sensei Pesare, Professor Cerio broke away to continue his martial arts education. As mentioned earlier, Professor Cerio was a frequent tournament competitor. It was during this time that he met a man who was a frequent judge/referee for many of his fights. That man was Master Edmund Parker. Professor Cerio would have a long relationship with Master Parker. After being introduced, Professor Cerio and Master Parker began informally talking about Kenpo history and showing each other techniques each had learned and developed. It was at this time that Professor Cerio learned of a man that would change his life forever. That man, of course, was William Kwai Sun Chow. Professor Cerio asked to meet Professor Chow and Master Parker agreed to write a letter of introduction and set up a meeting. This part of history is unclear. Some people will say that Professor Cerio was introduced to Bill Chun, Sr. first then to Professor Chow. Others will say the opposite. This much is fact. Professor Cerio received his Shodan from Professor Chow in August 1966. He was then tested by Master Chun (a sixth dan at the time) for Shodan in August 1967 (both dates have been verified by the actual diplomas). Bill Chun, Sr. was Professor Chow's top student at this time. Professor Cerio spent one year between 1966 and 1967 training with Master Chun to earn the privilege of continuing training with Professor Chow. This privilege was granted permanently in 1967. Professor Cerio would make several trips to Hawaii over the next four years to learn everything that Professor Chow was willing to teach him. The stories of the training with Professor Chow were met with shock and disbelief. They consisted of grueling horse stance training with added weights and full power punches numbering 500 or more (if you raised up in your stance, more punches were added). It wasn't long after training Professor Cerio that Professor Chow recognized the potential that Professor Cerio had as a martial artist and a leader. In 1968, Professor Chow told Professor Cerio that he should start to develop his own system of Kenpo which would be more practical in the States. Over the next three years, Professor Cerio continued his training with Professor Chow. This training further polished Professor Cerio's fighting ability while giving him a profound respect for Professor Chow that he would carry for the rest of his life (when asked "who do you think of when you put on your belt?", Professor Cerio answered, "I think of the Professor").

In 1971, Professor Chow bestowed two great honors on Professor Cerio. First, he awarded Professor Cerio his Godan (5th black belt) making him one of Professor Chow's highest ranking students at that time. Second, he presented Professor Cerio with his belt. It was shortly after this trip to Hawaii that Professor Cerio stopped training with Professor Chow on the mistaken information that Professor Chow was retiring from teaching.

In between his visits with Professor Chow, Professor Cerio established relationships with a number of other high caliber Martial Artists. Through his vast number of tournaments participated in, Professor Cerio met two other people with whom he would accept training from. The first was James Benko, a high ranking black belt in the Hakkoryu Jiu Jitsu system. Professor Cerio would obtain a Brown Belt from Mr. Benko in April, 1968 (Professor Cerio would continue his training in Hakkoryu Jiu Jitsu with Professor Larry Garron. Eventually earning a Shodan from Professor Garron). The second person was Mr. Ernie Lieb. Master Lieb had the fortunate experience of defeating Professor Cerio in the black belt fighting division. After the victory, Master Lieb approached Professor Cerio to congratulate him on his performance. He then opened his Ghi to reveal a set of black and blue ribs, courtesy of a Professor Cerio punch, and remarked "I think we both know who really won the fight". Professor Cerio was deeply touched by Master Lieb's humility and skill and began training with him a short time after. It was Master Lieb who would introduced Professor Cerio to another of his more famous instructors, Master Tadashi Yamashita.

In 1969, Master Parker tested Professor Cerio for his Sandan (3rd black belt) sanctioned by the IKKA. The rank was also sanctioned by the American Karate Association (AKA) of which Master Parker and Master Lieb were Directors.

Professor Cerio then concentrated on his studies with Master Yamashita learning the intricacies of Okinawan weapons and Self Defense techniques. In 1970, Master Yamashita awarded Professor Cerio his Yondan (4th black belt). During a seminar in Michigan in 1973 with both Master Yamashita and Master Lieb, Professor Cerio was told that he would be testing for his Godan rank the next morning. With shock and determination, Professor Cerio trained in his hotel room preparing himself for the next days event. During the test, Professor Cerio was asked to demonstrate his self defense techniques. After dispatching three separate opponents, rendering them unable to continue, this portion of the test was over. Professor Cerio was awarded his Godan in September 1973 sanctioned by the Midwest Karate Federation.

During the mid 70's, it was a common practice for Professor Cerio to visit the local Chinese restaurant after training and teaching was over for the day. It was in this unlikeliest of places that Professor Cerio would meet one of his most respected and most feared teachers. His name was Gan Fong Chin, master of the Sil Lum Kung Fu system. Not much is known about this teacher, other than his technique, speed and power were said to be phenomenal. Professor Cerio, after training long and hard with Master Chin, would be bestowed his Hachidan (8th Dan) and title of Sifu in August 1973. After this honor, Professor Cerio started wearing his white and red paneled belt. He would alternate between wearing this belt and the one bestowed on him by Professor Chow earlier.

Throughout this time, Professor Cerio continued his long relationship with Master Parker. It was throughout these years that Master Parker advised and coached Professor Cerio on how to establish and organize his system of Kenpo. A journey that started in 1968 with Professor Chow's urging came to reality in 1974 with Master Parker's guidance. In 1974, Professor Cerio officially proclaimed his new system to be called Nick Cerio's Kenpo. Professor Cerio would continuously modify, improve, and perfect his system throughout the rest of his life. His association with Master Parker also continued throughout the 80's. It was in March of 1983 that Master Parker bestowed the honor of Kudan (9th black belt) in 'Kenpo Karate', not American Kenpo as so many people have indicated. Master Parker was recognizing Professor Cerio's ability in the Martial Arts. Having not learned all of the curriculum for American Kenpo, Master Parker recognized Professor Cerio in their mutual art of Kenpo Karate.

After thirty-one years of training and devotion, Professor Cerio received two highly coveted awards in 1989. On April 22nd, Professor Thomas Burdine of the Kokonryu Bujutsu Renmei Association presented Professor Cerio with his 'Professor' title. At a banquet held in Professor Cerio's honor on September 23, 1989, Professor Burdine, this time also representing the World Soke Council, awarded Professor Cerio the title of Kaichi Yudansha Shihan. This title meant that Professor Cerio had obtained 'Above Ranking' status. The World Soke Council, after reviewing Professor Cerio's credentials, knowledge, and ability, deemed him worthy of status above that of the Dan ranking system and gave him the power to carry on his system with what ever ranking system he deemed appropriate. Professor Cerio, having great respect for the 'traditional' Kenpo ranking system, named himself Judan (10th black belt) of Nick Cerio's Kenpo by the power given to him by the World Soke Council.

Over the next ten years, Professor Cerio would be honored by many organizations and Halls of Fame. His devotion to his system and his black belts was tireless. He would continually give recognition to those whom he felt deserved this honor. This would not only include his black belts but many of his under ranking students as well. This is clearly evident by the number of under ranking students he included in his many videos, books, and magazines.

On October 7, 1998 at 2:50pm, the martial arts world lost a leader. Professor Cerio passed away peacefully on that Wednesday afternoon surrounded by his many friends and family members. Professor Cerio lived his life to the fullest. He never sold his reputation or his soul for monetary gain, although many people tried to convince him to sacrifice both. To Professor Cerio, his art and his reputation were all he had and everything he earned were from these two qualities that he created.

Rest in Peace Professor......we miss you.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Signature Uniform

This signature kenpo uniform came out quite a few years ago and is still available for purchase today on various websites selling martial arts uniforms and equipment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Short forms 4, 5, and 6

(from Sascha Williams' Facebook page, August 19, 2019)

To the question: Is there a Short Form 4? (Or Short Form 5, or Short Form 6?).

Here's what I remember:

Mr. Parker told me that we were supposed to create our own versions of these forms.

The argument was that those could be used for tournament competition, but could also be used to teach students prior to teaching them the Long Forms (Although I doubt anyone is actually doing that.)

We were supposed to use the right side of the first technique, the left side of the second technique, the right side of the third technique, etc.

Also, he told us to avoid turning our backs to the judges for the Circling Windmill part.

Mr. Parker also spoke about this at either the 1989, or the 1990 instructor camp (the ones he did in Ventura, at Barbara Hale's studio). I don't remember which one of the two camps he spoke about this, but it was one of them. I remember sitting there while he was discussing it with us.

Maybe Skip remembers more detail. He was there both times.

I just came across one of the Instructors' Journals (which came directly from Mr. Parker), and there's a mention in the 2nd black journal, so I took a picture to post it. Those are Mr. Parker's words. This was printed at Mr. Parker's house, long time ago.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Bubishi and Kempo Gokui

Karate's Sacred Tome: The Bubishi and the Evolution of Martial Arts

(by Sascha Matuszak

One of the most important transmissions of knowledge in martial arts history took place in the Ryukyu Kingdom, present-day Okinawa, when wandering martial artists from China made the crossing from Fujian, and brought with them the seeds of the Bubishi, karate’s bible.

The Bubishi is a collection of essays that deal with philosophical ideals tied to the martial arts, metaphysics, medicine, training methods and techniques, as well as a bit of history. Although considered one complete work, it is very similar to other “bibles” in that there is no one author, much of it was cobbled together from other sources over time, and it is considered a sacred treasure by those who hold it most dear: the karate masters of Okinawa who influenced generations of Japanese, Korean, and Western martial artists.

The Bubishi is Chinese in origin and is written 武备志, which basically means “Martial Manual”. In Patrick McCarthy’s seminal work, “The Bible of Karate: Bubishi,” the manual is translated and presented with notes and an introduction that explores the many modes of transmission that could have brought the text to Okinawa.

At this point, it might make sense to take a step back and recognize the incredible breadth of knowledge within China at the time. The Bubishi, karate’s most important text, is a patchwork of 32 essays taken from several sources, delving into a few martial styles (White Crane and Monk’s Fist) and was most likely compiled and transmitted by exiles in Fujian, one of the southernmost provinces of a sprawling empire that reached to Russia in the North, Malaysia in the south, and Afghanistan in the west.

To put it into context, another martial tome, also called the Bubishi, was put together at roughly the same time by a Chinese general named Mao Yuanyi. His manual cites over 2,000 books, contains 240 chapters over nine volumes, and touches on every imaginable aspect of warfare - unarmed, armed, armies, skirmishes, descriptions of kung fu techniques taken from an even earlier document written by a master named Qi Jiguan, who nobody has heard of outside of scholarly circles...

The Okinawan Bubishi that forms the basis for modern karate is basically one drop of blood, one collection in an ocean of Chinese martial writings that managed to make it’s way out, and spark a revolution across East Asia, and eventually the world.

White Crane becomes Karate

China and Okinawa have a long history together, dating back to the early 14th century, just before the establishment of what would become the Ryukyu Kingdom. Imperial emissaries from China would pass through the islands from time to time, fishermen and traders would make the trip back and forth, and Okinawan scions were sent to the Chinese Mainland to receive a proper education. Martial knowledge could have been passed along at any time during those centuries, but for us, the most critical time period is just after the fall of Ming dynasty (1644), when loyalists fled the burning ruins of the Shaolin Temple, and scattered across the newly formed Qing Empire.

According to the many legends bouncing around dojos across the world, one of these fleeing exiles was a kung fu master named Fang Zhonggong, who made his way to Fujian, on the southern coast of China. Fujian faces Taiwan and Okinawa, and has long been the jump off point for adventurous Chinese, as well as something of a haven for defeated rebels. Martial artists from the Shaolin Temple, like Fang, gathered here and created a community that would eventually give rise to the Southern Shaolin Temple, Wing Chun and, important to our story, White Crane style kung fu.

As one version has it, Fang Zhonggong was killed by bandits and his daughter, Fang Qiniang, took up her father’s martial banner, and swore revenge. While plotting, she saw two cranes fighting by the riverside. Entranced with their movements, she had an epiphany and mixed her father’s Shaolin kung fu (itself a mixture of Five Ancestors, Monk’s Fist, Tiger Fist and who knows what else) with the techniques she learned from the cranes, and White Crane kung fu was born.

In a sidenote, this story is remarkably similar to the Wing Chun creation story, and it’s interesting that the Fang family lived in Yongchun Village - Wing Chun is just the old phonetic spelling for Yongchun (永春) which means “eternal spring.”

White Crane kung fu split into a dozen component parts, Whooping Crane, Jumping Crane and several others, and spread out across Fujian and into the seas between China and Okinawa. McCarthy’s book lists ten different theories as to how White Crane kung fu, and the Bubishi manual associated with the style, made the trip across the straits and ended up in the hands of the Okinawan masters. The Okinawans then mixed the Chinese styles (and their interpretation of the Bubishi manual) with their own highly developed indigenous martial arts, and created proto-karate.

Some transmission theories are mundane: a young Okinawan scholar travels around China, picks up the book from a master, brings it back; and some are positively kung fu-esque: a wandering kung fu master named Ryuru Ko (which, in Chinese characters, could mean “wandering brother”) washes up on shore, teaches a version of White Crane, and passes on the sacred text. There were also many Chinese families in Okinawa at the time (36, according to legend) and they also practiced martial arts. That community may also have passed on bits and pieces of what eventually became the Bubishi.

However the transmission happened, the result was an entirely new martial art, based upon Chinese traditions, but already morphing into a unique style when the Meiji Restoration put a militaristic regime in place in Japan, and Okinawa (already occupied for centuries by Japanese forces) became an official part of the Japanese Empire.

Karate-jutsu becomes Karate-do

The Japanese had already developed kendo and judo (Way of the Sword, Way of the Hand) and for them the Chinese-Okinawan hybrid karate-jutsu, as it was often referred to, need to be made Japanese. The original characters for the martial art were 唐手道 which means “martial art of the Tang,” with Tang being a reference to the Tang dynasty, at the time a common way to refer to Chinese. Chinese still refer to Chinatowns as 唐人街, which means “streets of the Tang”. The character is pronounced “kara” in Japanese, but the Meiji officials decided to bring this hybrid into the fold and change the character from to , the latter is also pronounced “kara” but means “empty,” and therefore removes the Chinese reference (and ownership) and further morphs this martial style into something new.

A quick recap: Shaolin exiles bring their kung fu to Fujian; one of them sees cranes fight and develops White Crane; contact between China and Ryukyu result in the transmission of White Crane and the Bubishi, karate-jutsu is born; Japan sees the value in this Chinese-influenced island fighting style, and co-opt it into their own martial tradition, calling it karate-do.
But it doesn’t stop there.

When post-WWII Korean martial artists were seeking to organize their own martial style into a coherent system, they looked to Okinawa and the Bubishi. The karate forms from the islands became a foundation for what would eventually become Taekwondo, another martial art that has swept the world, and has seeped into the mixed martial arts kicking game - high kicks, front kicks, spinning back kicks, side kicks ... much of the improved kicking techniques we are seeing more and more MMA competitors use in the Octagon comes from a study of (and an adaptation of) Taekwondo. But that is another story for another time.

There is little resemblance between the Shaolin Five Ancestors kung fu and modern karate, let alone modern Taekwondo. At every step of the way, starting with the initial flight from the burning temple in 1644, the martial art has changed, and been adapted to the environment, the people, and the times. At the center of this constantly evolving tradition is a bible, the Bubishi, one of the sole constants over the centuries, yet itself an enigma cobbled together from old sources, copied down by uncomprehending disciples, interpreted differently by every master who manages to read its pages.

It’s interesting to note that the Bubishi spends significantly more time discussing metaphysics, medicine, and correct behavior than it does specific fighting techniques. But that too is another story, for another time.


The "Kenpo Gokui"(Secrets of the Fist Way), taken from the Bubishi's "8 Poems of the Fist".

Shimabuku Sensei reportedly received his Kenpo Gokui from his Goju-Ryu teacher, Miyagi Chojun.

This document was very important in the developement of Isshinryu.

Shimabuku Tatsuo would give copies to his early students.

1.A person's heart if the same as heaven and earth. Dragon (heaven) overhead and tiger (earth) in the headress.
2.The blood circulating is similar to the sun and moon. The dragon which leaves the water and flies overhead to return to the sea. The never-ending cycle.
3.The manner drinking (inhaling) and spitting (exhaling is either hard or soft. Open hand and fist of the Megami.
4.A person's unbalance is the same as a weight. There is a balance of the yin and yang in the symbol.
5. The body should be able to change directions at any time. The dragon flying overhead is Tatsuo who looked at change in a positive light.
6. The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself. This again is represented by the opened and closed fist, to strike only as a last resort.
7. The eyes must see all sides. Represented by the stars or teachers who light or guide the way.
8. The ears must listen in all directions. Megami is alert and listens. Listening is knowledge.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Path to Excellence

(from Mr. Skip Hancock's Facebook page, September 30, 2019)

Why are there so many 10th Degree Black Belts in Ed Parker’s Kenpo?

Since the death of Ed Parker, there has been an ever-increasing number of “10th Degree” Black Belts in Ed Parker’s Kenpo. So, many people have been asking “Why?” In this article I will begin to answer this question. In a subsequent article I will go deeper into the subject. In this first part I offer specific definitions of major titles to clarify the question.

Senior Grandmaster

The Senior Grandmaster is the founder of the Art.

There can only ever be one. No one else of that system may have this title. A Martial Artist is not promoted to Senior Grandmaster. He/She is recognized as one.

Knowledgeable individuals and groups of Martial Artists recognize that this individual has created his/her own, unique system of Martial Arts. The creator of this system also recognizes that he/she has actually created something new and that he/she is a Senior Grandmaster of the Arts.


The Grandmaster is the current head of a system.

When a Senior Grandmaster creates his system, at the same time, he becomes the Grandmaster o his system.

When the Senior Grandmaster desires to retire, he should promote one of his senior students to
Grandmaster of the system. The Senior Grandmaster does not have to, but should consult his senior students and promote a Grandmaster to lead the system. In the absence of his teacher the new Grandmaster should be promoted by the senior students of the system.

There can only be 1 Grandmaster at a time for any system. Other senior students may hold the same belt rank as the Grandmaster, but not the title. And, it is not necessary that the Grandmaster of the system be a 10th Degree Black Belt. This title indicates no rank, but rather that the individual is the head of the system.


Ed Parker organized the belt structure of his system so that there are different levels of Mastery:

8th Degree Black Belt is an Associate Master of the Art

9th Degree Black Belt is a Master of the Art

10th Degree Black Belt is a Senior Master of the Art

The structure of Masters, Grandmaster, and Senior Grandmaster allows for any number of 8th, 9th and 10th Degree Masters of the Art in Ed Parker’s Kenpo. But there can only be 1 Grandmaster of Ed Parker’s Kenpo – the current leader of the Art. There can only be 1 Senior Grandmaster of Ed Parker’s Kenpo, and that is Ed Parker.

No one else can ever claim this title in Ed Parker’s Kenpo.

It must be noted that Ed Parker did not ever name a Grandmaster for his system. Nor did his advanced students ever convene to name a Grandmaster to Ed Parker’s Kenpo. Thus, in the absence of the Senior Grandmaster Ed Parker, there is NO Grandmaster of Ed Parker’s Kenpo.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Origins of kenpo's "Two Man Set" ?

I think I have some reading ahead of me. I'd like to know more about the Tiger and Crane Sparring Set, which seems to me to be the basis of kenpo's Two Man Set.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Mr. Trias and Mr. Parker photo

Bottom Row: Robert Trias, Steve (Saunders) Mohammad, Ed Parker, Jim Miller

Photo from 1968 or 69, at the Arviso Brothers Southwest Tournament.

A rare photo with Mr. Trias and Mr. Parker together, two of the fathers of American Karate.

(photo from Rick Arviso's Facebook page)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Comparison of Rank And Knowledge

(by Mr. Richard Planas, from a conversation on Facebook)

The relationship between rank and knowledge varies from one martial art system to another. Many times, especially in Kenpo, it varies from lineage to lineage; sometimes from school to school. As I travel around the world I see people being promoted all the time to all sorts of ranks. I feel people need to know what the main requirements are for being promoted; time, age, and most importantly knowledge.

In many cases people are being promoted without meeting the minimum time requirements for the rank. In Kenpo, the minimum time between First Degree Black Belt to Second Degree Black Belt is two years. Then there should be three years between each rank from Second Degree to Fifth Degree. Finally, five years between each rank from Fifth Degree and up. Again these are minimum time requirements, not maximum! You are eligible after you have met the minimum time. It's like when you get hired for a job and they say in six months you're eligible for a raise. This doesn't mean you will get the raise. You have to do a good job otherwise there's no raise.

In addition to the time requirements there are age requirements to be considered for promotion. Thirty years ago a Black Belt meant a lot more than it does today. Now every ten year old is a Black Belt of various degrees. Originally it was established that a student must be sixteen years old to wear a Black Belt which at that point would be considered a Junior Black Belt. They would not be a Full Black Belt until the age of eighteen. As for the higher ranks, the age requirements were tied into the time requirements. It was said, "The gi just doesn't get old, you do along with it." Another consideration is the titles for each rank especially at the higher levels. At Fifth Degree the title begins to include the word Professor. That would suggest the individual bearing that rank would reflect the appropriate age. You rarely hear of a twenty something year old Professor!

In addition, you do not hear of a Grammar School Professor. This leads us to the most important requirement for being promoted; knowledge. Professors are found at the highest levels of education and once again the title would infer an appropriate level of knowledge. I see that there is a lack of knowledge in Kenpo. People need to learn the rules and principles. The main problem is they are not aware of what they don't know. They never completed their schooling. It's like a doctor can't drop out of medical school and call themselves a doctor. They need to complete the entire schooling to get the degree. However it's important to note that the person with the lowest grade to graduate from medical school is still called a doctor.

With all of that said, it really comes down to there simply being two kinds of Black Belts; good ones and bad ones. Which one do you want to be?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Beginning of Kenpo in Ireland

(by Tommy Jordan from the John McSweeney Facebook page, June 16th, 2013)

Ed Parker Snr. Stated in Infinite Insights Vol. 1. that John Mc Sweeney was the first of his black belts to bring kenpo outside of the United States and in doing so made the IKKA International when he went to Ireland to study in Trinity College in 1962, and after his schooling he had developed four black belts headed by John Conway under the umbrella of the IKKA. John Mc Sweeney brought with him his IKKA black belt certificate and the Constitution of the IKKA, which had been completed in December 1962, and the Officers were. Ed Parker. President. Mills L. Crenshaw. Chairman.  Stanley A. Hall. Vice President. Charles K. Sullivan. Sec. And Treasurer. The IKKA certificate was the only cert, which John ever displayed on the wall in Fitzwilliam St. and contrary to what has been said, there never was a Kenpo Karate Assn of America CERT displayed in Fitzwilliam St. in Dublin. I have a copy of a letter which John wrote in 1963 where he states that he came here to Ireland as the European Director of the IKKA and recommends Ed Parker as an Authority on Kenpo Karate, and his intention was to spread kenpo to the rest of Europe. I have business cards and grading cards, which were used from 1961 to 1969 by Al and Jim Tracy. John Mc Sweeney. Tommy Jordan. John Conway. Maurice Mahon. Jim Rice and Peter Whitney. Pete Presswell Phil Hegarty and Martin Sleeman and all have Kenpo spelt with an N as in kenpo, and in John Mc Sweeney’s interview with Frank Di,Maria he stated that he taught the same kenpo as Ed Parker did. I believe the above is sufficient to prove that it was kenpo which John Mc Sweeney brought and taught in Ireland, and could not possibly be as some people have claimed, an off-shoot of the Ed Parker American Kenpo system.? As the EPAK did not exist, and Ed Parker did not develop it until many years later. The above also makes it clear that the IKKA did exist since 1962, contrary to claims made by some that there was no IKKA until 1964.

If further evidence is required then please relate to the book, which Thomas Mitose wrote. WHAT IS SELF DEFENSE. Techniques in that book were taught to his students  including William Chow. Chow in turn taught the same techniques to his students and Ed parker was one of his students learning kenpo karate and in turn taught the same techniques to John Mc Sweeney and also wrote a book titled KENPO KARATE where the same techniques may be seen on utube, today demonstrated by Ed parker under old school kenpo. Mc Sweeney brought those same techniques to Ireland and Ronnie Gurey taught the same ones in England to Peter Presswell, Phil Hegarty , Martin Sleeman and Pete Whitney, beginning  in March-April 1965.

My question is. How can people who were not there at the time claim that it was KEMPO-GUNG-FU, or a distant OFF-SHOOT OF KENPO, which was being taught in Ireland and England.

John Mc Sweeney began teaching kenpo in Ireland on 26/Feb/1963 and that is the day I began as his first student. His intention was to spread kenpo throughout the rest of Europe, but when he finished his studies, I believe it was his wife who did not like the damp climate here, wished to return to the U.S.(but I may be wrong in that assumption) John selected his four best students, Tom Jordan, Maurice Mahon, Jim Rice and John Conway, and had us train extra hard and also showed us how we should teach and brought us up to black belt standard. Although he was qualified to grade us to black belt he tested us for that grade and recommended us to Ed Parker for black belt as we did not have sufficient teaching hours in, as required by the Constitution.

John and his family returned to the U.S. in Nov/1964 and it was in April 1965 that I received the black belt certs from Ed Parker. It was earlier that year when Ronnie Gurey who had trained with Mc Sweeney went to Swindon, England, and began teaching kenpo to Peter Presswell, Phil Hegarty, and Martin Sleeman. March/April 1965 in Old town. They later moved to the Ship Inn where Pete Whitney joined and as the classes became bigger they moved to Walcott Common Room.

It was 1966 when Phil Hegarty contacted Tommy Jordan  from the Irish Karate Assn with a view to getting further instruction and T. Jordan went to Swindon and graded them to brown belt. The British Kenpo Karate Assn was formed and Brendan Walsh, a black belt from the IKA went to Swindon for almost a year in 1967-68 where they sought and obtained membership of the IKKA and Brendan  became the British rep for the IKKA. Jim Rice also taught in Swindon for a while.

In 1968 Peter Presswell and his wife came to live in Ireland for a while so that Peter could train for and be tested for his black belt and he was tested by John Conway, Jim Rice and Tommy Jordan, when he returned to teach in Swindon as the first kenpo black belt in Britain.

It was in 1968 when Maurice Mahon first began to teach kenpo in Jersey. C.I. Where he also taught the local Police. Maurice continued to teach there until 1970 when he returned to Dublin and left the club in the capable hands of John Jacklin and Don Cassidy and he continued to return to Jersey for Seminars and gradings.

The IKA had represented Ireland in competitions in New York and Rhode Island.

In 1966 and formed the first multi-style Assn with Shoto-Kan Wado- Ryu and Kenpo styles, and had their first competition in 1967. The Irish Karate Assn gained entry to the European Karate Union in 1968 and took part in the EKU Championships in 1969

And were signatories at the formation of the World Union of Karate Organizations in Paris 1970 and continued to take part in the above events for many years.

The BKKA were very much involved in competition at that stage and were accepted as members of the British Karate Assn in 1970, which provided them with greater access to competitions.

It was in 1972 when John Conway and Jim Rice went to L.A and trained in the New Ed. Parker American Kenpo with many of the senior black belts, and John Conway developed a very good relationship with Ed Parker. John and Jim returned to Ireland in 1972 and opened two schools where they taught the EPAK professionally.

I trained in the then new system  but I preferred the style taught to me by John Mc Sweeney, and I have continued to teach, update and streamline the same kenpo I have been doing since 1963. It was in 2007 that Peter Coyle and I were asked if we would accept 10th degree black belt grade after training consistently for 44 years, and Al Tracy, who was one of the seniors that Mc Sweeney trained with. Tom Saviano a 10th degree with Mc Sweeney, Gregg Mathson and Becky Mornar came over from the US and awarded both Peter and I 10th degree black belts.

There has been a lot of misleading information placed on websites relating to the beginning of kenpo in Europe by people who were not involved in kenpo at that time, and others had not been born in 1963. However, I believe I should be given credit for at least knowing the style of karate I have been involved in for more than 45 years and that is Kenpo karate as taught to me by John Mc Sweeney, as a Martial Art, in the true meaning of the word Martial. I was there from Day one when it began here, and I can prove it with documented evidence, and Peter Whitney in Swindon, England can do likewise with regard to the beginning of kenpo in England as Peter has been doing kenpo techniques for more than 42 years.

I have asked of those who have claimed that John Mc Sweeney and I do an offshoot of kenpo, or Kempo-Gung Fu where and from whom they first heard the above, but I never received an answer and doubt if I ever will. As this year 2008 is the 45th anniversary of kenpo in Europe I hope that the above will help to correct some of the misleading information, which has been placed on the Internet over the past few years.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Kenpo Salutation

(by Ron Chapel Ph. D.

The Ed Parker Kenpo Karate Salute and Salutation are a combination of the "old and the new.” Divided into two parts (Salute and Salutation), that are interchangeable depending on the circumstances in which you choose to use them. The first part of the greeting or “Salute” was preserved in recognition and respect to the traditions set forth by the Chinese. The concluding portion was added to tie in the heritage of the "old" with the logic of the "new" and innovative fighting science. There is a misconception this came from Mitose.

The Salute honors the originators of the science, the Chinese.

Before the establishment of what was called "Shaolin," an open left hand resting on a clenched right fist was used as a greeting salutation or salute just before the commencement of a set or form. There were several meanings to this gesture:

1. Respect to the originator of the particular system, including all who had studied before him, with him, and presently study under him.

2. Respect to those who would observe the movements.

3. Respect to both scholars and warriors who were practitioners alike, since the left hand (open) of this salutation represented the scholar and the right hand (clenched), the man who actually executed the science.

During the period of the Shaolin in the Ch'ing Dynasty, the meaning of the gesture changed when two additional movements were added. The change was that the left hand represented the sun, the right hand the moon. With this change,the combination of sun and moon represented the Chinese character Ming, thus meaning "revolutionary defenders for the cause of the Ming restoration." The two additional movements that were added to the sun and the moon were formed by placing the back of the hands together with both palms out. The fingers at this point were in a claw-like-fashion and raised to the chest and heart. This gesture meant, "We are against foreign invasion and our hearts are for China." The last movement was to clench both hands and draw them to the sides of the waist.This pulling gesture meant, "By pulling and working together we can take our country back."

The Hungs, who were secret triad societies in China, perpetuated these movements. In short, the interpretation is;

"Scholar and warrior united together, back to back, pulling together, to defend against the foreign invaders.”

The execution of this can be seen in and is explained in the book, "Ed Parker's Secrets of Chinese Karate."

The first part of the entire greeting or the "Salute" portion was preserved in recognition and respect to the traditions set forth by the Chinese.

The Salute also has embedded within its execution self-defense movements as well, when it is executed with correct basics. 

These movements have always existed in one form or another in the Chines, and were not new. Although Mitose did come to use the hand gestures, they were usually used independent of each other, and not in the inclusive pattern of Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate.

The second part of the greeting is the “Salutation” and interprets as an explanation of the original Kenpo Creed by Ed Parker that did NOT use the word "karate" out of respect to the originators, the Chinese. With the creation of the commercial vehicle Ed Parker’s kenpo Karate, the word “karate” was inserted for public recognition. When I first learned it, the word “karate” was not present. In Mr. Parker’s book “Kenpo Karate published by Iron Man Industries in 1961, you can find the creed with the word “karate” inserted with double hyphenations to show the interpretation but it was not to be recited. With expansion and commercialism it became a part of the “Kenpo Creed.” I personally have never used it and my students were taught the original version.

I come to you with empty hands; (I am friendly and unarmed)

I have no weapons. (Both hands are place together as they form the shape of a

But should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor,
(I now cover my weapon, my fist that is my treasure, for I do not wish to use it. Your left open hand is used to conceal your right clenched fist.)

Should it be a matter of life or death or right or wrong, then here are my weapons, my empty hands.
Now that I am being forced to use my weapon, to momentarily become an animal, I pray for forgiveness for what I may do. (Both hands are placed together as if praying.)

The Salutation ends by outwardly circling the clawing hands and arms in an outward clawing movement coming to attention. (Warding away all evil in my presence and letting nothing deter me from my goal and moral convictions).

The reasons for the Scholar/Warrior analogy are important. Within the Chinese Culture there was a very strong caste system in place. The truly educated were privileged and considered too "valuable" to fight in wars and conflict. Therefore it was the "warrior" who fought but who was directed by the "scholar" in the ways of Martial Science. That is, the warrior didn't always understand the methods of his fighting; all he knew was that it "worked." The scholars devised the methods and manner and the execution of the training and the implementation of the "fighting sciences," while the "warriors" went forth and performed as instructed.

The combination of the "warrior and scholar" in a singular person was rare. Not because the scholar couldn't fight, (after all they had first hand knowledge,) but simply because the knowledge was so valuable, the chance could not be taken that they would be killed or injured in battle or conflict.

So, it is today. The truly scholarly teacher directs his students in the methods that will cause them to be successful, however because it is a true science, the student may not always understand "why" things work, only that they do. Some students will come to understand more than others based on simple things as intellect and personal conviction. The scholar and warrior insure the co-existence of each other. The warrior would not exist without the directions of the scholar, and without the warrior to train; the scholar would have no purpose.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Mr. Graham Lelliott with Mr. Parker

I like this photo because it is very yin and yang.

Mr. Lelliott has black hair and a beard, Mr. Parker has white hair and no beard.

Mr. Lelliott has a white gi and is a 1st degree black belt, Mr. Parker has a black gi and is a 10th degree black belt.

Mr. Lelliott's free hand is open, Mr. Parker's free hand is closed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tracy's Karate St. Louis

(from the Tracys Karate Saint Louis Facebook page)

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

Kenpo Forms: The Unifying Factor in American Kenpo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Billy Idol, Kenpo, Elvis, and Mr. Parker

(from a discussion on Facebook)

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

Frank Trejo, Billy Idol, Mr. Parker

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