Thursday, March 21, 2019

My memories of Ed Parker

by J. T. Will

Those of us who were fortunate enough to have known Ed Parker on a personal level, have fond stories about the “old man,” as many of us affectionately called him.

While serving in the US Coast guard in Long Beach California one of my shipmates told me about a sport he was involved in called karate. He really liked the workout and the fighting. I asked him where he was training and he told me Ed Parker’s Kenpo school in Inglewood, California. Upon discharge from the Coast Guard in 1965, I had asked my buddy Wayne if there were any Ed Parker schools in the Santa Monica area where I was living, and he sent me to Parker’s Santa Monica School.

I decided to stop in and see what this Karate was all about. I remember walking into the Santa Monica School to get information and I was greeted by a big man with a strong but pleasant personality. Just the kind of teacher I would like. It was Ed Parker. I told Ed that I had just gotten out of the military and he asked me which branch and I said the Coast Guard. Since the Coast Guard is such a small branch of the service it’s unusual to meet someone that had served in the Guard, but Ed told me that he too had served in the Coast Guard. From that moment on, we became more than just student and teacher. We became friends. A friendship that lasted more than 28 years.

The training was very tough at the Santa Monica School. Ed taught on Tuesday nights and Scott Loring taught on Thursdays. Tuesday was technique night and Thursday was fight to survive night. Having played football all my life, including division 1 major college football as a linebacker. I enjoyed the contact and this school was right down my alley. It was tough, but I lived it. Ed took me into his small office one night and told me that I should consider Karate as a life’s work, that he felt I would do well as a teacher. It made my feet come off the floor. Ed knew how to motivate students. It worked especially well for me.


In 1969 Ed came to Cincinnati, Ohio as a special guest at a karate tournament being held there. Ed called me to say he was coming to the area and thought he would be doing a demonstration and asked me to assist. Since I was planning to fight at the tournament, it would work out fine for both of us.

In early 1969, not many people in the Mid-West were that familiar with Ed and Kenpo. Some of those in attendance were Bob Yarnall, Glenn Keeney, Bill Wallace, Parker Shelton and Ken Dnudson and John Norman of Chicago.

I assisted Ed with the demo, and the crowd of top karate black belts were amazed at this speed and technique. The only thing I didn’t like about Ed’s memos is that he always hurt you, especially if you were big. Ed thought if you were big, somehow it didn’t hurt. Well, take it from me, it always hurt!

Since this was one of the first demo’s he did for Midwest black belts, he wanted o show the effectiveness of Kenpo. Ed was one of the strongest and toughest men I knew, and I’ve worked out with some very strong and tough fighters. Joe Lewis to name just one. Ed hurt you just the way Joe could. Even after almost 30 years, I’m not sure if Ed really “knew” how much he hurt you. I would never tell him it hurt, but it did. More on that in a later issue. Several of the back belts in attendance asked me after the demo “did that hurt?” I said, “What do you think? Of course it hurt!” But I loved it.


I must begin by explaining that what I’m about to say is not for the purpose of self-gratification, but only to qualify my opinions. With almost 30 active years teaching Kenpo karate and as a professional kickboxing referee with over 7000 rounds of fights under my black belt, I have a pretty good idea of what a tough fighter is. Having said that, I fell I’m as qualified as the next black belt to judge who the really tough characters are. I’ve been in the ring with them all, at one time or another.

If there ever was anyone Ed Parker respected enough not to fight, it was Scotty Loring. I don’t want to say Ed feared Scotty, I don’t think Ed feared anyone, but I always felt he knew it would be a tough row to hoe in the street with Scott Loring. There are a few of you out there that knew Scotty, and I’ve talked with most of you over the years. The one conclusion that you all have agreed upon, is that Scotty is a very dangerous person on the mat, and could be a mean as a snake.

Some of you know that Joe Lewis and me have trained together from the time I was a brown belt back in San Jose, and Joe told me, and Back Belt magazine in 1969, that Scott Loring was one of the toughest black belts he ever fought. That is a serious endorsement indeed.

In 1970, I was at the name of Ed Parker on one of my return visits to California. Ed and I were discussing fighting technique and the top fighters when the name Scott Loring came up, as it often did. The way Ed spoke of Scotty, I knew that Scotty was his pride and joy. Ed told me that Scotty was no better as a 2nd degree black belt than he was the day he walked into the Ed Parker Kenpo school for his first lesson. “Scotty was born to be a black belt,” Ed would say.

One night during class, Scotty was running a sparring workout, as he always did, when a visitor entered the school and wanted to talk with the instructor. The visitor informed Scotty that he was an accomplished boxer and wanted to see if this karate worked. Scotty was very polite and said he would be happy to demonstrate for him. Scotty then took me onto the mat to show the boxer some techniques against a boxer’s right hand and a boxer’s jab. The boxer said “no, no.” I want to see if this karate will work against me” Scotty was happy to oblige and invited him to step, without shoes, onto the mat. The boxer began to dance around the mat with his hands in a boxer’s defensive stance. Scotty did a step through sidekick to the rigs of the fighter and he folded over like a slice of bread. The kick drove him back and down to the mat and he skidded across the mat and skidded under the spectator’s bench where he laid for what seemed like a minute or so. Scotty, without a word or hesitation, resumed the class. I couldn’t help keep one eye on the boxer as he pulled himself out from under the bench and walked, bent over at the waist, out the door without a word. scotty (never) mentioned it again. It was just one of those things.


In 1977, I was working a PKA world light heavyweight title fight between Jeff Smith and Keith Haflick, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The fight was a tough one for both fighters. Smith won a decision over the very determined Haflick. I don’t think anyone expected Haflick to give Smith the fight of his life.

Ed Parker attended the fight and wanted to talk to me afterwards. As most of you know, 1976 would be considered the ‘early years’ in full contact karate (kickboxing). Ed wanted to discuss the effectiveness of different techniques, Particularly Kenpo, in full contact karate, (as it was called back then).

Ed said to me, “Jay, you’ve seen this fighting up-close and personal, will our techniques work?” I told him that the safety equipment (hand pads & foot gear) changed some of the striking techniques almost 100%, and that the rules made many of the techniques (eye pokes, strikes to the throat, as well as forearm, knees and elbow strikes) unusable.

Ed listened intently, as I gave him my views, and I had a feeling I was telling him something he didn’t want to hear. At the conclusion of my thesis, ed concurred. I was somewhat surprised, but pleased that he saw the realism of my observations. Ed was pro Kenpo, as was I. He was also very practical, which was one of his strong points. His practicality and ability to make anyone understand what he was saying.

We talked for hours discussing which technique would and wouldn’t work. I was pleased that we agreed on almost everything.


While a student at the Ed Parker Kenpo Studio in Santa Monica, California I recall that preparations were being made for a ‘demo’. A demonstration of karate techniques for a group of high school students being brought to the Santa Monica studio. Scott Loring would be leading a demonstration of self-defense techniques by using the students as cannon fodder. Ed was going to demonstrate the power of the front kick.

During the class Scotty worked techniques with us ‘dummies’, and after about 20 minutes of sparing (a lifetime with Scotty) Ed came out of the office to go over the front kick. Ed would demonstrate the power of the front kick by kicking and breaking a 1 inch pine board. I must point out that these were no the dry brittle boards that are used today, but damp almost green pine boards. That was not the intent, it’s just that they were the only boards available. There were only about five boards available for the demo, as none would be broken on the run through.

As many of you out there who worked ‘directly’ with ed know, Ed didn’t have the best kicks in the world. Let me explain what I mean by that. Ed was not very flexible, and consequently his kicks were not very high. I trained directly with Ed for almost 30 years and I never saw him throw a side kick or a wheel kick (commonly known as a round kick). Ed used a heel kick in a scooping manner in 95% of his techniques. Don’t misunderstand, he cold wound you with one of these ‘heel’ kicks or front kick with those cement block feet of his.

Now back to the demo run through. Ed had Scotty hold one of the pine boards and Ed showed the motion of how he intended to kick the board. He barely touched the board and it broke! I couldn’t believe it. There was very little noise, but that green board broke. It seemed that when he got his kick moving, it just wouldn’t stop. We chuckled nervously, and Ed gave us one of those looks. He saw no humor in it. The demo went off without a hitch and most of us limped home that evening. I knew one thing for sure. I never wanted to be on the receiving end of one of Ed’s kicks.

(Karate International magazine)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Example of the IKKA newsletter

(photos from Mr. Quintin Chaney on the Ed Parker Photos Facebook page)
The IKKA News from Winter, 1986
It is interesting how times have changed. Now communication is instant thanks to the internet and email, Facebook, etc.
Back in the old days everything had to be done by mail and communication (and life in general) moved at a slower pace.
It is amazing Mr. Parker was able to keep an organization going for as long as he did.