Saturday, September 26, 2020

Hanshi Turner from United Studios of Self Defense

 Hanshi Turner demonstrating a round house kick during the USSD's 2014 Laws of Kempo seminar. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

A salute to Sifu James Ibrao

(from Mr. Carl Totton's Facebook page, September 12th)
Sifu James Ibrao has passed away. Many respects and blessings to the memory of this most significant and legendary martial artist.
Here is the chapter I wrote on Sifu James Ibrao for the Kenpo Continuum, Vol. 2, in 2012. I co-edited this book with Amy Long.
James Ibrao: Kenpo Pioneer
By Dr. Carl Totton
Grandmaster James Ibrao was born in 1937 in Hawaii. A naturally gifted athlete, Ibrao studied some judo and played many sports but excelled in basketball, quite a feat since he was only 5’, 9’’ tall. After moving to the US mainland, in 1956 he had the opportunity to witness Ed Parker teaching a kenpo karate class and he was amazed at what he saw. Mr. Parker’s speed, power, and sheer presence were astonishing and he enrolled the very next day.
Ibrao immediately took a great liking to this deadly art form and found his body rapidly responding to Mr. Parker’s innovative teaching style. His speed, power, and self-confidence seemed to increase exponentially with each workout and he quickly rose through the ranks and has the distinction of becoming Ed Parker’s first black belt! What’s more, he accomplished this singular feat in only nine months on training, setting yet another unbroken record.
Ed Parker was later to comment that among all of the many students he taught, James Ibrao was the most naturally gifted martial artist he ever met.
Mr. Ibrao was present for the formulation of many of the techniques, sets, and forms which have become standard in kenpo, and he helped Mr. Parker with the creation of many of them. Ibrao in fact accompanied Mr. Parker on a trip to San Francisco in 1960 where they observed many Chinese kung fu stylists and were especially impressed with the skills demonstrated by Grandmaster James Wing Woo. Woo would move to southern California where he helped Mr. Parker with the writing of his second book, Secrets of Chinese Karate, and helped to develop some of the early kenpo forms, leading Parker to even begin referring to his art as Chinese Kenpo for a time.
From 1962 to1964, Ibrao was recruited onto the global basketball demonstration team the Harlem Globetrotters, yet another testimony to his impressive athletic skills. He traveled around the world demonstrating his incredible ball handling skills with them, and when he returned, he decided to continue his study of the Chinese martial arts with James Wing Woo. He studied many forms of kung fu and tai chi chuan with Woo and eventually began teaching his own students these ancient art forms. Today he continues to innovate and has put together a system allowing others to progress in martial arts under his guidance.
James Ibrao was one of the crucial contributors to Al Tracy’s first Gathering of the Eagles event in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1999. Indeed, the four legends who signed my certificate of participation were the esteemed grandmasters James Ibrao, Al Tracy, Tino Tuiolosega, and Ralph Castro. Ibrao’s command of kenpo’s unique history and innovations made for an especially powerful learning experience which was appreciated by all who participated.
Mr. Ibrao has remained committed to preserving kenpo’s unique history by continuing to teach many of the original kenpo sets which have fallen into disuse today. These include the Book Set and Tiger-Crane forms which he sometimes teaches at workshops to a newer generation of kenpo practitioner, as well as to older generations who want to learn the forms as they were originally taught. Having learned many of these forms directly from Woo, he is in a unique position to offer them in their pure and unadulterated state.
Today, James Ibrao is often found presenting at martial arts seminars, or teaching and training at his home in South Pasadena, California. He continues his own study and research into the Chinese martial arts and continues to train and refine his skills with Grandmaster James Wing Woo. He is a highly sought after consultant for his encyclopedic knowledge and ability in the martial arts. And in spite of the many systems he has learned, James Ibrao always credits Ed Parker and kenpo karate for giving him his start and providing the principles upon which he has been able to grow over the years.
Beyond his obvious skills in the martial arts is James Ibrao’s personal warmth and extremely caring and respectful personality. In his presence, old and new friends alike immediately feel welcomed and respected as he is the very embodiment of a perfect gentleman, scholar, and warrior. At age 75 he continues to astonish with his speed, power, knowledge, and skills as a modern martial arts warrior-scholar-teacher who seems to have stepped out of history to give current generations a glimpse of the distant past to show how to innovate by returning us to our roots.
James Ibrao lives in South Pasadena. He can be reached at
Dr. Carl Totton teaches martial arts in Southern California. He can be reached at

Friday, September 11, 2020

Is there a nunchaku set in kenpo?

(from a recent conversation on Facebook)

There is a nunchaku set in the Parker system I learned it when I was a second degree black belt. But now a days not too many people know about or even were taught it. Personally I think the first and second day generations Parker black belts were taught it but after second generations black belts it was a lost set. Before Parker died he even was developing a grappling set. - Corey Boren

The nunchaku book and set was based on Rick Avery demonstrating the nunchaku as part of his black belt test! I learned the form from Sascha Williams in Pikesville Maryland many years ago. It was confirmed from students of Larry Tatum as well. You can see elements of the set in the film "Kill the Golden Goose" where Mr. Parker demonstrates it with a chain!

In all my years in kenpo I have yet to see a write up on the Nunchaku set.

I should clarify that I have never seen an accurate version of the nunchaku set ever written up. There is a version out there written up but it is not the actual set. I recently saw a video of one alleged version. They started with a salutation which is inaccurate from the start. "You bow on sets,you salute on forms".  - Joe Rebelo

Without a correctly recorded version the Set will die and become lost. Already I can see various versions on the net all claiming to be the One. - Matt Snell

Ed Parker was a genius in many ways. I'm pretty sure that most of you don't know that when Ed decided to introduce chucks to his Kenpo curriculum...he himself didn't know how to use them. He just looked at chucks as an extension of his hand and worked it out with a tiny bit of help from a few people who were proficient. - Dave Hebler

Take the underlying concepts and principles based on the three master principles ie; rotational force,
Marriage of Gravity, and directional harmony (alignment)
of kenpo with and knowing the nature of the
weapon to create your own Form.

Fallow the planes of motion ie; diagonal, horizontal, and vertical and the patterns they travel around these planes, forward and reverse.

Then explore all the methods of launching the chucks and retrieving them back to point of origin or moving on to a new point origin or moving from a point of origin after the first strike.

Make sure the weapon travels through all depths zones (7) and three heights zones and four width zones.

Build it upon defense and offense with one precept built upon another....the easiest to learn first and so on to more sophisticated techniques.

Preface your form with the patterns you want to cover from the Universal Pattern and which will give you patterns to facilitate the basics of the weapon.

Or index the form with that information.

In short complete all categories of motion.

This is a format not hard to understand but time consuming in creating.

You can simplify this by using just a few patterns, and basics of the weapon much like Short Form One and then add to your first form and so on.

Also you can follow the numeric progression of the forms within the system.

Short one ,long one, short two etc;

This would take a lot of thought and work and time but would in the end could become a addition to the Art.

 I hope this shades some light on how to create your own form, or at least a start in the right direction... - Larry Tatum

I advised Mr. Parker they were illegal under the newly passed law that incorporated them into PC 12020 as "dangerous weapons." The law has been updated to PC 16950 prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony as a "wobbler" in California where we lived. The law is tricky because it allows their possession at a "licensed" Martial Art School, however, the law makes no provision as to how you get them there or for traveling with them. After he did the book he saw no reason to pursue it further, not to mention the interest at the time was very little. Briefly, Los Angeles Police used a law enforcement version but backed off after complaints of excessive force on so-called "passive" civil disobedient suspects. They did, however, work really well as "come-a-long" devices. Ultimately they fell into the area of "art' and not self-defense because they could not be commonly carried. My partner and I carried a set until they became illegal and no provision had yet been made for law enforcement. By the time they became legal for cops, we had all moved on to the PR-24 or "side handle" Baton which was a modified Okinawan Tonfa that was quite effective. I was the first in State Police Service to carry one and was in the first Los Angeles County Sheriff's Instructors class prior to any agencies adopting it. Memories start flowing. - Ron Chapel


It is/was so easy to "tailor" nunchaku into Kenpo back in the 70's. 

I think that we all did it back then. The same with the Sai...with the knife...with the sword...with the butterfly knives...yada yada yada.

Since nunchaku are NO LONGER of interest to most, it has fallen to the side of the road.

I also carried the PR-24 on duty during the late 70's.

(Still got it around...somewhere)

Was taught it's use by Dr. Joe Truncale. Also had the Tonfa which I used to teach the students. 

Very "boring" to carry and use. Awkward to use.

Thank you for the reminder of things gone by.
- John La Tourrette

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Conflict De-Escalation

(from the USSD Facebook page)

Often, conflict arises not in a self-defense situation, but in the small moments of everyday life. Whether with strangers or those closest to us, we can benefit from learning tactics that de-escalate conflict, rather than exacerbate it. Below are some simple methods to employ when coming into a conflicting situation with a partner, friend, customer and so on.


Most often, when someone is upset, they are first and foremost looking for anyone to understand their frustration. Often, we may try to eliminate the issue, but lack empathy for the conflict. In this case, it may surprise us that our efforts meet a proverbial wall. Whether you’re resolving conflict for a client or someone close to you, it’s crucial to first make them feel heard and understood. A simple method for this is to repeat their issue back to them in an understanding tone, avoiding the tendency to try and solve their problem immediately.


If the conflict is directed towards us, it is important that we approach the issue with humility. Often, whether we instigated the conflict or not, the other person might be looking for a simple apology. If we let ego get in the way, we may wish to do anything but apologize. If we apologize, we express that we understand their frustration, and admit guilt for the likelihood we may have caused it. Remember, the goal is not to win, but to de-escalate.


Once we’ve established empathy and understanding, we can pivot to a positive alternative. Using collective terms, such as ‘We and Us’ will be welcomed far more than ‘You’. Rather than ‘You should do this’, we can use phrases such as ‘How about we…’ and so on. Make the person feel that you are on their team. Sometimes, in our effort to ‘win’ a conflict, we create a larger problem than we started with.