Who's Who in
Ed Parker�s American Kenpo is a style of
martial arts characterized by the use of quick moves in rapid-fire
succession intended to overwhelm an opponent. It is largely marketed as
a self-defense style, and is derived from traditional Southern Chinese
kung fu and other martial arts found in the cultural melting pot of
Hawaii. Parker introduced significant modifications in his art,
including its theories and its terminology, throughout his life. He left
behind a large number of instructors who teach many different versions
of American Kenpo.
Once Parker had received his brown belt
and decided to create his own "art", he decided to title it "American
Kenpo" because the system was created on American soil. Although the
word 'karate' was later less favored by Parker, the general public
better understood that word than it understood 'Kenpo'. Continued
efforts to shape the art into a distinct form led to replacing most
Asian language terms with English terms. This also involved inventing
entirely new principles to express ideas that had previously been
encapsulated within traditional metaphors such as qi, but which Parker
aimed to harmonize with Western principles and American culture.
Parker also heavily restructured American Kenpo's forms and techniques
during this period. In many cases, he moved away from methods that were
recognizably descended from another art (such as forms that were
familiar within Hung Gar) and established a more definitive relationship
between forms and the technique curriculum.
Ed Parker continued to grow. He experimented with the use of film and
video as a training tool, leaving records of his work. In the final 4
years of his life Ed Parker Sr. put down the final version of his art,
Evolution of American Kenpo
Although there were varying degrees of crossover from one evolving
method to another, there were at least three clear and distinct
philosophies or styles created by Ed Parker Sr.
Ed Parker initially called his art Kenpo Karate. He opened a Kenpo
Karate school in Pasadena around 1954 and published a book of the same
name in 1961. This has been characterized as having a very Japanese
influence, including the use of linear, "focused" techniques and
jujutsu-style locks, holds, and throws.
When Ed Parker embraced the Chinese Arts he began to refer to his art as
Chinese Kenpo. Based on this influence he wrote Secrets of Chinese
Karate, published in 1963, only very shortly after Kenpo Karate. The
technical syllabus has recognizable similarities to Hung Gar, Choy Li
Fut, and other Southern Chinese Martial Arts, including two forms,
Tiger-Crane and Panther (or "Book Set"), and one training practice
("Star Block") that can be traced back to Hung Gar.
Parker began codifiying his early understandings of Chinese Kenpo into a
distinct and evolving personal interpretation of the art. Here he
dropped all Asian language elements and many traditions in favor of
American English. During this period, he de-emphasized techniques and
principles organized in the same manner as in Chinese and Japanese arts
in favor of his own curriculum of forms and techniques.
Parker took his art through continual changes. Parker always suggested
that once a student learns the lesson embodied in the "ideal phase" of
the technique he should search for some aspect that can be tailored to
his own personal needs and strengths. Furthermore, Parker's students
learned a different curriculum depending on when they studied with him.
Some students preferred older material to newer material, wanted to
maintain older material that Parker intended to replace, or wanted to
supplement the kenpo they learned from a particular period with other
martial arts training.
American Kenpo Karate Books
American Kenpo Karate Videos
American Kempo Karate Links
American Kenpo Karate