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Who's Who in
Kenpo Karate

Ed Parker
John McSweeney
Jeff Speakman

Larry Tatum
Rick Fowler


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, American Kenpo.

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.

Kenpo Karate

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.

Chinese Kenpo

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.

American Kenpo

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 Links


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