The True Story of Kenpo Karate
What a thing to say, The Man Who Killed Kenpo.
But there is a story here, and this story has to do with what happened to Kenpo.
Mind you, I will be talking about people who are considered icons, and I won’t always be saying pleasant things.
But that’s the truth of real history. Accept the fairy tale and learn a little, or look at the truth, no matter how much it hurts, and learn a lot.
So here’s the truth: what happened to Kenpo to make it long and hard to learn, what certain people did to mess Kenpo up, and the one man who, though he is praised as an icon, actually did more to destroy Kenpo than any other person in the history of the art.
Here’s the story.
The Real Story of Kenpo…
In the early 1940s a young man name of James Mitose began teaching Kenpo in Hawaii. He had learned the art in Japan, and it was a combination of karate and jujitsu. His specific interest, however, was street self defense, so he tailored the art to reflect that.
A young man name of William Chow studied with Mr. Mitose. He would go on to teach, and he would call the art Kenpo Karate. Chow, whose nickname was ‘Thunderbolt,’ liked to street fight, so he altered the art for street fighting purposes.
So we have two pioneers, each of whom took the art and did what they wanted to with it, changing it from its original roots into something more.
But shouldn’t people be able to do that with a martial art? Make it work for themselves in their unique circumstances?
Shouldn’t you be able to alter Kenpo to fit yourself?
That’s what these pioneers did. Shouldn’t you be able to do that, also?
Then a young man name of Ed Parker began studying with Chow. He was a large fellow, talented, but he was also busy. He would study, then leave, then come back and study, then leave…and he made it to brown belt. (Years later Chow would give Ed a black belt.)
He was just busy, and he went as far as he went, then he left the Hawaiian Islands and went to school in Utah.
In Utah, Ed taught Kenpo. He was a good teacher, and his students excelled, and it wasn’t long before Ed ran out of material to teach them.
So Ed went back to the islands and asked Chow to teach him more.
But Chow refused!
One story has it that he was upset because Ed was teaching without permission.
At this point we have to ask what, exactly, Ed was teaching.
In one of his first books he demonstrates a string of techniques which represent the exact forms called the ‘heian’ forms in Japanese. So while he used the name Kenpo, he was actually teaching Karate. But that’s okay, because, remember, Kenpo was a combination of Karate and jujitsu.
The interesting question here is that while Karate, if that was Ed’s first taught martial art, worked, then why did he change it?
And he did change it. There have been at least five major variations of the art known as his Kenpo. The first of which was, as I have just stated, was actually karate.
The second art was Kenpo, and it was a string of techniques as taught by Chow.
So did Ed merely teach Karate as a prerunner to Kenpo? Was it part of Kenpo?
Interesting questions, but what is really important, at this point in time, is that the second version of kenpo was likely a string of hundreds of techniques. These techniques are still taught in their original form by the Tracy Brothers, who studied with Ed, but had a falling out with him, and who then went back to Chow as the source of their martial art. It is these techniques which are at the heart of this author’s books ‘How to Create Kenpo.’
Anyway, there are two distinct martial arts here, classical karate, and the strings of techniques which are true kenpo, and which are currently passed on by the Tracy brothers.
The third version of Kenpo came about because of a rather sordid situation created by Ed Parker.
Ed ran out of material to teach, his instructor refused to promote him or teach him anymore, and that gave Ed a problem: what was he going to teach his students?
So Ed looked around for somebody to teach him, and he found a fellow by the name of Jimmy Wing Woo.
Jimmy had studied Kung Fu in China for many years, and he was exactly what Ed needed: Jimmy was willing to teach without holding back.
Ed invited Jimmy to live with him, he was living in Pasadena now, and to help him write a book on Martial Arts.
Jimmy moved in, helped Ed write the book, and even began teaching his classes.
Some people noted that this was when Kenpo really began to look like Kenpo. The students got low to the ground, moved like panthers, and their techniques were crisp and shining.
Interestingly, it wasn’t that Ed’s art looked like Kenpo, if this occurence is accurately noted, but that Kenpo began to look like Kung Fu!
Ed finished the book and began working with a publisher. The story goes that Jimmy saw a proof of the book and noted that his name wasn’t on it.
When Jimmy asked Ed about this, Ed is said to have asked Jimmy to take a ride with him, and then abandoned him on a street corner in Hollywood.
Jimmy didn’t speak English well, and he only had a single coin in his pocket. He used that coin to call one of Ed’s (now his) students. The student came over and was outraged by what Ed had done.
And, the story goes, all of Ed’s black belts left him, and they helped Jimmy start a martial arts school where many of them went to study. Indeed, some of them are supposed to be still studying with Jimmy.
On his website Jimmy doesn’t tell this exact story, and politely deflects what happened with a reference to his refusing to sign the book deal. Other people have been more forthcoming in their descriptions of this incident. The truth, unless Mr. Woo wishes to elaborate, will probably never be learned.
The Jimmy Woo inspired teachings of Kung Fu are likely the third version of Kenpo.
And there are apparently a fourth and fifth version of Kenpo. The fourth being a stripped down version of Kenpo, so he could promote students faster, and then the final (fifth) version of Kenpo, which he is said to have been proud that it wasn’t Kenpo at all!
But the point here is that he had the power of Karate in his first version, real Kenpo in his second version, classical Kung fu in his third version, and one has to wonder why he kept changing his art?
It was working, and on several levels, so why change?
But change he did, and he called his new art American Kenpo, and was proud of the fact that there was little, if any , actual Kenpo in it. This was reported by Will Tracy, who wrote a brilliant series of articles concerning the real history of Kenpo, and who opened up and shared actual incidents in the history of Kenpo, incidents which he was present at.
In fact, Will made a statement to the effect that Kenpo didn’t leave Ed, Ed left Kenpo. Will was referring specifically to Ed creating a style other than Kenpo, and that the Tracy brothers preferred to remain true to the original Kenpo teachings of Mitose and Chow.
At any rate, we have a lot to consider here concerning the establishment of of kenpo, and how it changed.
It is apparently an art that is Karate or jujitsu, and has been slanted for self defense or street fighting, and then remade into Kung Fu, and finally…it wasn’t Kenpo at all!
And, if you are a kenpo student, where does that leave you?
Which version are you studying? And, importantly…
What the Heck has been done to it!
But, I hate to tell you, but that’s not the end of the story!
One more thing was to happen, and this was to prove to be the death knell for Kenpo as it was once known.
Many people accuse Kenpo of having ‘car contracts.’ They are almost right. The real Kenpo contract was designed by a fellow named Hal Bowen, who had worked at Arthur Murray’s Dance Studios, and originally implemented by the Tracy’s.
With the introduction of sales contracts Kenpo was reconfigured to forty techniques per belt level, and the time to black belt was lengthened to four years.
Mind you, before then people made black belt in a year or two.
Chuck Norris made it in a year and a half. Mike Stone, arguably the greatest tournament fighter of all time, made it to Black Belt in something like 7 months!
But restructuring the system so it would take four years to get to black belt made people money, so it was here to stay, and the students coming in had no idea that things had ever been different!
Okay, now you now what happened to Kenpo. You understand that it fell victim to people who wanted to slant it this way or that, who morphed it into other systems and even arts, and eventually put it to contracts.
Mind you, what happened isn’t always bad. For every abuse of contracts, there is somebody who joined and became life long involved. And Kenpo has become one of the most popular martial arts in the world.
The question now is what can you do to fix it. To return it to the original concepts. To make it work like it used to work, before it was murdered, mutilated, and proudly left behind.
And this is where we have to consider what, exactly, my books on How to Create Kenpo come in.
Matrixing and Kenpo
There are actually 11 specific points wrong with Kenpo.
Some of these are easy to spot: why are there two arts, the art of kenpo, and the art of freestyle?
Or, what do you do about ‘posers?’ Posers being those techniques in which the attacker has to stand still and wait while the defender does the technique.
And then there are things like the balance of right to left and the problem of being too ‘busy’ with one side or the other.
Or the problem of not being stable in your direction. In other words, moving in and out, in and out, which moves causes you to stop your direction, change it, stop your direction, change it, and so on, all of which is VASTLY inefficient and non-scientific.
And there are 7 other specific problems with Kenpo.
Matrixing can fix those 11 problems.
Matrixing is a form of logic. It is a science, and it is a way of analyzing motion so that it adheres to logical concepts, so that motion makes sense, so that the body can truly be used as one unit.
Here are just some of the things that Matrixing fixes…
Many kenpo techniques begin from a body part being grabbed. This means that you let a person touch you, when you should have handled it BEFORE contact occurred. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
Many Kenpo techniques rely too much on the use of only one hand. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
Many Kenpo techniques are unbalanced, not efficiently blending the use of the right and the left sides. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
Many Kenpo techniques do not effectively use the collapsing of distance (which is what really happens in a fight). MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
All Kenpo techniques are arranged out of order. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
The Kenpo forms are more akin to dancing. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
Most kenpo techniques do not work in tournament or on the street or in any REAL situation. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
Kenpo is two systems: freestyle and the library of techniques. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
Kenpo is learned through the ‘monkey see monkey do’ method, which is to say by memorization of a large number of random motions. MATRIXING FIXES THAT!
Many kenpo techniques are ‘posers,’ which means that the attacker has to unrealistically wait while the defender goes through the technique.
And the list goes on.
These are all VERY real concerns if you want to make your martial art work, if you want your martial art to really go somewhere.
But here is the real thing that matrixing does…by putting the techniques in the correct order, by getting rid of inconsistencies that are just not logical, Kenpo becomes easier to learn, easier to remember, easier to make intuitive, easier to use.
Further, and this is incredibly important, you are not memorizing a long list of random motions, hoping that some day they will become intuitive…you are resolving Kenpo in your mind so that it becomes your own!
This means that you are not putting somebody else’s martial art in a copy machine and copycatting them, and hoping that what worked for somebody else will work for you…but rather that you are ‘creating Kenpo’ in your own mind. Making the art from the ground up.
Look, when you matrix something you make it unique to yourself. It FITS your body and your mind. It FITS your ideas of what works and why.
So isn’t it easier to remember something you created? Rather than remember something somebody else created?
And the point is this: when you do How to Create Kenpo you stop memorizing, you make the techniques your own, you create them anew according to what you need, according to what is best for you.
But it’s not just the fact of you creating a new kenpo specifically designed for you…the simple fact of the matter is that the mind LIKES being stripped of distractions and illogical arrangements of motion.
The mind LIKES ease and simplicity.
It LIKES the scientific viewpoint.
It LIKES having the real reasons behind the techniques.
Look, the simple truth is this: the martial arts are a conglomeration, a random sequence of random moves. Nowhere is this more true than in Kenpo.
With Matrixing, for the first time, you can see a better logic, a way of organizing motion so that it doesn’t have to be laboriously memorized, but can easily be absorbed.
But, if you have read this far, then you understand that Ed ‘destroyed’ Kenpo back in the sixties, and that the Kenpo you have been learning might not really be Kenpo at all. You have been learning what Ed Parker created to fit the twists and turns of his own mind. And the real truth is that every person should create kenpo for themselves! This is the ONLY way to get to the heart of the art.
This is actually what Ed did with his 5 different systems of Kenpo, and it is what you should be doing. You should be evolving the art so it fits you…and my three Kenpo books show you EXACTLY how to do that.
How to Create Kenpo: The Real History
How to Create Kenpo: The Secret of Forms
How to Create Kenpo: Creating a New Kenpo
When you read these three books, when you DO these three books, you will definitely find the one true Kenpo Conept behind it all.
You will find that true art that drove people like Mitose, and Chow, and Edmund Parker.
You will find the one concept that drove Ed Parker to create five different versions of Kenpo, to create an at that was a true extension of himself.
You will find the one true Kenpo that is best for you, designed for you by you, that is scientifically true…TO YOU!
Here are the three books, guaranteed delivery through Amazon…simply click on the covers to go to the books on Amazon….
How to Create Kenpo Karate One: The Real History
The real history of Kenpo, including in depth analysis of James Mitose, thunderbolt Chow, Ed Parker, The Tracey Brothers, and more. Includes special chapters giving the exact 11 things that are wrong with Kenpo, and how to fix them! This book begins the scientific analysis of 150 kenpo techniques. Click on the cover to the right.
How to Create Kenpo Karate Two: The Secret of Forms
An example of how to analyze a classical kenpo form, and change it so it is quicker, more powerful, has even more techniques in it! Continues the scientific analysis of 150 Kenpo techniques. Technique by technique, belt by belt, you go through the whole system. Click on the cover to the right.
How to Create Kenpo Karate Three: Creating a New Kenpo
This book concludes the scientific analysis of 150 kenpo techniques. More important, it gives you the scientific method, known as ‘Matrixing,’ which enables you to take apart what you have learned and put it together in a brand new format, it helps you create a Kenpo that is true to you, that fits your body, your mind, your spirit. Click on the cover to the right.
66 thoughts on “Home”
CHA3 Kenpo in Hawaii is the true Kenpo and art of self defense.
Just a comment, from an aging kung fu practitioner… My purpose to practice, to teach, to learn, is to live long and well. Did Mr. Parker? My understanding was not. Fighting, defense, all well and very good, as far as they go. Lets explore the next level tho. I for one deeply appreciate more than fighting skill.
Your ignorance frightens me I am a practitioner of Kenpo Since 1967. You have the gull to imply that the length of a persons life mirrors their competence: “Practice, Teach and Learn? “Well fool take a look at Bruce Lee the finest how long did Mr. Lee Live he passes at the age of only 33 Ed Parker 59 both gone too soon prejudice idiot.
It was only the opinion of Valerie’s experience and you disrespectfully attacked her with words. Maybe the first few lessons of respect and humbleness were not shared with you. I too have many years in the arts..50 at the moment. I to feel its main purpose is to live long and well. Respect an opinion agreed with or not is something I teach to my beginners.
Kenpo has kept me in tune with Life when nothing else could.
I understand your thoughts.
very interesting , but it is the case of many martial arts , ossu , blessings
I study Kenpo Karate under Grand master Mr Mills one of Ed Parkers original students. I can tell you this that our style of kenpo is continually evolving . the depth of motion and understanding of body mechanics that we are taught is second to none. as for your remarks on the history of Kenpo I will refrain from commenting as I see no need to explain what is a never ending journey. where the past masters have chosen to stop evolving from the true kenpo as you say…they are by thier very action condemning their art to history. We are taught to embody the spirit of kenpo and evolve and strive for continual improvement..always asking why…this is I believe the only way one can be …….enjoy your journey…and stay true to yourself and your art….peace. Bill
I owe my life to this man and the art that he created many times over. Nobody will ever know how much and to what extent. Kenpo was there when I needed it most. Paying it forward is all I have to offer. You are more than welcome to explore the refinements of Kenpo with us at http://www.reddragonskenpo.com/ here in Arizona. My instructor is Clyde O’Briant. I have been practicing American Kenpo for 40 years. My name is Curtis Kipp. We are all over FaceBook.
I study martial arts and I love it no matter what it is and I have used my art on the streets so I know what works because there are no rules on the streets.
I’m Bob Yoder the Grandmaster/Founder of Tai Shu Do. I have studied various forms of Kenpo and have incorporated them into my art of Tai Shu Do as reaction drills. Tai Shu Do is a combination of American & Muay Thai Kickboxing, Kenpo, Aikido, Jujitsu, and Shaolin Iron Tiger Kung Fu. There are a total of 20 action drills. The first 10 action drills come from American & Muay Thai Kickboxing, the second 10 come from Shaolin Iron tiger Kung Fu, There are 20 reaction drills. The first 10 reaction drills come from kenpo which consist of countering holds and grabs, the second 10 also come from Kenpo and are reaction drills which consist of countered weapons such as the club (storm), the knife (lance), and the gun (rod). There are 10 zones which come from Aikido & Jujitsu and consist of learning to step of the line of attack, deflecting & redirected an attacker’s own energy, and then countering with strikes to the attacker. There are 10 line drills which come from Aikido & Jujitsu and consist of learning to step of the line of attack, deflecting & redirected an attacker’s own energy, and then countering with joint locks, take downs, throws, and if necessary strikes to the attacker. There are also 6 falls and rolls with come from Aikido & Jujitsu. There is also the Tai Shu Do version of three star blocking which involved striking with the forearms and shins. Sparring starts at white belt with slow sparring then increases in speed with each belt. Forms come from Shaolin Iron Tiger Kung Fu and 5 forms are required for each degree of black belt. The first 9 forms are required to be learned first then the student gets to pick which forms they wish to learn after the first 9 forms have been mastered. Of course there is much more to the art but this is the basic breakdown of Tai Shu Do. To learn more me, my art, and my academy please visit http://www.taishudo.com and feel free to contact me if you have any questions and or would like to learn Tai Shu Do. We are currently working on a Home Study Course which will consist of a Manual and DVDs. This will allow students to learn Tai Shu Do in the comfort of there own homes and or schools. Take care & God Bless!!!
The article serves as a great history lesson. I have underdtood that the art of chuan fa is the original form of Kenpo, even before Jimmy Woo got involved. I have seen material taught by Jimmy Woo’s black belts. Neither the material or energy in which it us taught resembles Kenpo. My 2 cents.
There may be some confusion between Jimmy H. Woo who taught San Soo in Elmonte, Ca., and James Wing Woo who taught Kung Fu and Tai Chi in Hollywood.
You don’t know what you are talking about. Sifu Woo doesn’t give belts.
Nope, only ranks…
Tiger, Leopard, Snake, Crane, Dragon…
When I competed throughout the 80’s, I wore my own black sash with my saam…
Although, I got my 4th black in 1986, and my diploma said:
4th Black, Hawk Cup
(Hawk is between Crane and Dragon) who knew???
Got my 5th black in 1997 (Dragon) just Dragon 😉 no color, no in-between, just graduation 🙂
You are truly a complete idiot. Your facts are completely wrong, and for you to discredit a highly educated man. A Pioneer in the Art of Kenpo. Its completely beyond me why you would do this. You obviously never studied Martial Arts. your botched history of fact is a total ignorant move. Question? How do you keep and idiot preoccupied? Figure it out genius!
LOL. I love it when people call other people idiots while spelling incorrectly and misusing grammar.
PHD in psychology “We all misspell words it is the truth that matters not how a message is packaged.”
Hi Charles Remley. Easy to accuse, please state facts.
go on youtube and watch enter the dojo episode one …. this is what you remind me of
I’ve studied a ch’uan fa system for 60 some years.i studied with two grandmasters of tiek soo chang ch’uan fa.i do know the true and original orig.of kenpo .i do have some problems with whats been written here.
State your problems. My material came from a variety of sources, but the main one was the Tracy’s Kenpo site. Always open to new material or differing opinions. Al
i have studied and taught kenpo for forty five years you get out of it what you put into it. what hurts kenpo is all the so called masters that think they are the chosen ones. parker left no one in charge. willie pineda wyo,
CHA-3 Kenpo is the closet you will get to the teachings of James Mitose. Universal Kenpo is a close second. There are way to many self proclaimed Grand Masters and other self given titles. CHA-3 has one Professor and all are under him.
My opinion about Ed Parker is that he is all Hollywood and not a true representation of Kenpo.
The information here is pretty shocking. I wouldn’t just rip into Mr. Case like some have done here. If Case is slanderous, I think it is pertinent to ask, “did Parker really leave Mr. Woo “holding the bag” out on Hollywood Blvd?!?” That says a lot right there. That is absolutely scandalous. If that really happened it demonstrates a degree of fraud and a kind of Martial Arts-Plagiarism: Parker is taking credit for something that he didn’t really create, slapping a name-brand on something that isn’t authentic. He knew he couldn’t market “Kung Fu” because it was laughable back then: just watch some interviews from the 1960s with Bruce Lee’s caucasian co-stars– there’s at least one instance where the Interviewer chuckles at the very term, “Kung Fu”. Granted, that’s one case, but the whole Bruce Lee reality in America testifies to Chinese and Kung Fu marginalization. Parker definitely knew about this and probably capitalized on the image and culture of Kenpo– a Hawaiian-Japanese background more palatable to American masses. Granted, Parker accepted Bruce Lee’s demonstration in the early 60s in Long Beach, but that is different than mainstream appeal. It’s quite likely that Mr. Parker was intensely motivated to market something fresh and Kenpo as a brand was very opportunistic. At the end of the day, I think no matter what side the reader lands on– pro Parker or contra Parker, it comes down to the science of motion we can glean from Parker’s concepts and techniques and also other great instructors. Thanks so much Sensei Case-
It’s tragic, and as I said in another comment here, Jimmy was already writing the book when they met; I’m just grateful that Jimmy called my father when Ed betrayed him. My father was livid, and he kept Jimmy in LA with him. He then went to the other students and organized the jettison…
Ed called my father a traitor, while he was the one who was lying and thieving from the man my father respected more than anyone, BIG MISTAKE!
They pooled their money, and rented the old Hollywood Mausoleum on Hollywood Blvd., some of them couldn’t afford the rent their and at their apts., so they slept in the embalming room, where they had a couple heavy bags that would swing back and forth by themselves, yep!
They believed in Jimmy like you cannot believe, and that group was tight, all through the 60’s…
Ed kept his mouth shut about any of them from then on…
I am the only offspring of that group (named in another comment here) who has carried on this system as Jimmy largely stopped teaching the heart and soul of this system after my father’s group trailed off, until I surpassed my father’s knowledge at 18, and began training privately with Jimmy 🙂
Hope this helped your understanding in some way 🙂
The study of Kenpo though out my life has been a wonderful journey. Kenpo is fine Art Form that has attracted some of the very best of humanity. My brothers that I have found in Kenpo have been and always well be a wonderful family.
You really think Ed Parker studied under Professor Bill Chow? and got a brown belt? It’s a shame many don’t know the real truth including the Tracey’s! They also wrote fake stories about Mitose when they don’t even know the real truth about Mitose, Parker and Kenpo! Only the real martial artists Old Timers know! How sad!
And yet, the story is not out there. Hey, Old Timer, why don’t you tell the real story? Seriously, I would love to hear it. There is so much criticism of the stories that are out there, but nobody ever writes a different story.
Okay, Killa…I think you’re whole comment is sad and dubious.
So as a ‘real martial arts’ “Old Timer”, please enlighten us as to the truth? Did Ed Parker study under Professor Chow? What IS the truth about Mitose, Parker, and Kenpo.
Way back in the early 1960’s Oriental Martial Arts were a mystery. Very few publications addressed the history & techniques. Dozens of companies sprung up overnight offering “true” manuals or correspondence courses. So the market was open for everyone. Ever since then I have pursued my study of the Martial Arts. it is a fascinating Journey Path !
I have practiced Kenpo for many years. And as with all martial arts there have been, are now, and always will be purists, rather like religious fundamentalists who may believe there is one and only one true practice, one true method… theirs! Such a mindset is, in my view, not understanding at all, but rather ideology and cult. Yet even ideologies and cults evolve and change with time. In contrast, martial arts are by definition “art” which, like the images and shapes captured in a painting represent the mind, spirit, and experience of the artist in the moment of creation. Many persons will learn the techniques and skills needed to paint a human hand, but no painting of a hand will be like any other. Combat, like life, is chaos. It is inevitable then that a martial artist will infuse her own nature into her practice, her unique strengths and weaknesses, and so art is always changing, always evolving, reacting to the chaos, never the same. And who would want it to be? How boring and how dangerous! I salute Sensei Case and will be honored to read his meditations on Kenpo.
I studied kenpo off and on for a couple of decades. And found that the reason for my leaving was that there isn’t anyone teaching or practicing a cohesive method for actually working the techniques against resistance, especially when it comes to realistic punch attacks. It’s a fun martial art, but I found in the end I was nothing more than a paper tiger kata dancer. So I went on to other more sport based styles and found practical ability. I wish I wouldn’t have chased my tail in kenpo for that long.
Killa ?…….No Response ?………WOW !!
Wow.. This article is the most accurate history of Kenpo that I have seen. I would like the author and other readers more into the background of Kenpo\Kempo.
A lot of long time Kempo or Kenpo practitioners do not the real truth in regards to the real origin of Kenpo. I have practiced original Kosho Ryu Kenpo and also Shaolin Kempo Karate for several years, going way back and I am sharing this knowledge openly in the public. Some instructors do not want the truth out as they have told their students fantastic tales of the origin of this style. Some think this below discredits them as well as who they learned the style from, but in reality it does not.
The beginning of Kosho Ryu Kenpo came back over to Hawaii from James Mitose visiting Okinawa / Japan. In Hawaii the style and teachings was refined by James Mitose. He renamed the style a few times before ending up with Kosho-Ryū (Old pine tree school).
Here is the differences on the original Kosho Ryu Kenpo style and the West Coast Ed Parker Kenpo modified style and the East Coast Fred Villarii Shaolin Kempo Karate style… and it most important to read and under what techniques are in each of them
The system of Kenpo taught by James Mitose employed hard linear strikes and kicks from Okinawa based Karate, and pressure point manipulation, circular movement patterns, and joint locking and breaking from Japanese Ju-Jitsu. William Kwai Sun Chow (known more commonly as William Chow) was a student of James Mitose. James Mitose trained Chow, who would go on to instruct Ed Parker and Bobby Lowe.
Ed Parker again, was a student of William Chow in Hawaii, Ed Parker moved to the US mainland to and around 1957 (some say a different year), he began teaching the Kenpo that he had learned from Chow, and throughout his life modified and refined the art until it became Ed Parker’s American Kenpo. It employs a blend of circular movements and hard linear movements. Ed Parker also created techniques with “classical like” Chinese names such as Thundering Hammers, Five Swords,Prance Of The Tiger, ECT…
Ed Parker’s Kenpo was modified and taught originally in the west coast of the U.S.A., and then in the early 1980’s Fred Villari who was a student of Nick Cerio and William Chow (some say Fred Villari knew Kajukenbo but is was solely Chinese Kenpo that Nick Cerio learned from William Chow and later was award black belt in 1983 by Ed Parker himself), modified the Kenpo style more, and named it Shaolin Kempo Karate which still employed the same hard linear strikes and kicks of Okinawa Karate, but also added Shaolin Kung Fu Five Animal hand strikes, Jujutsu (some say Aikido), China Na, and Mongolian Wrestling. He also added the Kempo with the “m” to make the name more Chinese based and to separate it from the Okinawa based Kenpo with the “n”. There is countless variants off of both Ed Parker’s and Fred Villari’s styles, as well as the original James Mitose Kosho Ryu Kenpo style.
The two last facts are this:
1) Any of the Kenpo or Kempo style ARE effective IF the style is practiced in a real world self defense mind set… reality based self defense in which “all three” noted styles must be modified for that purpose, including modern self defense weapons.
2) Kenpo and all of it’s variants are 100% made in the U.S.A! The style again is Okinawa Karate and Japanese Ju-jitsu or Chinese techniques and / or sounding combinations blended together with the Okinawa Karate and Japanese Jujitsu.. but it was originally put together and refined right in Hawaii and the style IS 100% American!
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MrX did a fairly good job with the above description the issue I have though is that James Mitose never went to Okinawa as ni sei his family had roots from the Yoshida clan and the Shaolin temple he went to train was at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The art of Kenpo he learned was a blend of Chun Fa, Jujutsu and his own interpretations since he wanted to share the art with the United States specifically. I studied this version if Kosho-Shorei Kenpo in California my Sensei studied from his Sensei who learned directly from Mitose while he was incarcerated in the Folsom Penitentiary. While what is learned did, in fact, have a lot of hard linear blocks and strikes. There are several elements including circular motion, energy collection, push/pull, Japanese yoga, meditation, kata, prayer, throwing, joint locks, pressure point manipulation. It is interesting to me to hear these opinions based on thinly-veiled facts and more to separate people from one another. If what you are doing works, then keep doing it. If you have been shown one corner of the room, find the other three. Kosho-Shoei Kenpo Kai Desert Dragon. With Respect, Faith, Endeavorance, Salty Gray RN
Ed Parker taught at a time and into an American culture where it was, and still is believed that “more” is better. This together with the marketing aspect of the system sets the backdrop to a large, complex and and in some areas, a disjointed martial arts system. The only problem with this approach – and a major criticism from a lot of Kenpo practioners – is that Kenpo introduces confusion into what should be seen and delivered as instinctive and explosive techniques. After all, how many different ways does a Karateka need to respond to say – a roundhouse punch? I recall participating in a tournament where I Ko’ed a guy. It just seemed as though he took off and landed a few feet away on his back and out cold. Afterwards I was asked what I hit him with and my response was “you tell me as I haven’t a clue – I didn’t even think”. Counter attacks in this way may be launched at amazing speed with no thought – and that is the way they should be delivered, and not should I hit him with this technique or that technique, and what if he varies the levels or angles of attack. Kenpo has a ridiculous number of self defense techniques, and while some are really good, others are just plain flashy or flat out would not work. Take for example Five Swords considered one of the corner stones of the Parker Kenpo system – Responding to a right roundhouse punch by stepping in with the right foot and double block (parry and block). Really! – Such a move is just short of suicidal as that second punch is almost certainly coming. Compare this defender response with the simplicity of a Wing Chun counter. Onto Kenpo tournament or competition fighting. Show me any Kenpo guy that uses Kenpo techniques that are different to a standard Karate system such as Shotokan. They become indistinguishable to other systems techniques with the possible exception of the lack of kicking ability of the Kenpo stylist which is understandable considering that Kenpo is not a kicking art. A cursory analysis of the forms in Kenpo will reveil that up to Short 3 there is some definite structure however, at Short 3 the forms morphs into something else. The two man set is an anachronism to the rest of the system and was clearly taken from another Chinese system being similar to Hung Gar.
Lastly – As I understand it – Ed Parker left Hawaii as a Brown Belt in Kenpo although Ed Parker was elusive as to how he progressed through the Black Belt ranks claiming in more than one interview that William Chow promoted him to Shodan. Something that William Chow flat out denied! According to Al Tracy, one of his earlier students, William Chow promoted Ed Parker to 3rd Dan around 1961. Now for my perspective! But first read this extract from a Black Belt Magazine interview with William Chow.
Chow: (pulls out another old photograph of himself and Ed Parker) you know who this guy is?
BB: Yeah, Ed Parker.
Chow: (upset that I recognized him) Yes, that right. Parker big shot on the mainland, right?
BB: Oh, yeah. Everyone knows him. They call him the Father of American Karate.
Chow: Well, I tell you something, and you remember this: Elvis Presley is the King of Rock ’n’ Roll; and Bruce Lee, he the King of Kung Fu, yeah?
BB: I guess.
Chow: (loud and clear) Ed Parker think he the King of Kenpo, but he wrong! There is no King of Kenpo. There is only the professor!
BB: Yes, of course. But I don’t think he thinks he’s the king.
Chow: Yes, he does.
BB: But he’s one of your black belts.
Chow: No, he’s not! He tell people that to make himself look big. Everyone says they black belt under the professor just to make money.
BB: So he didn’t train under you?
Chow: He trained under me, but he only make it to purple belt. He work more with professor Emperado than me. Go talk to him.
Chow denies giving Ed Parker any rank above Purple Belt. Probably Emperado ranked him to Brown Belt but I think that Ed Parker awarded himself the Black Belt Shodan ranking. Al Tracy is hardly going to admit to this if was true, as it would undermine his own credibility and ranking. Lastly – In an interview in 1971 Ed Parker stated that he earned his black belt from William Chow (Official Karate October 1971 – V-3 No. 15).
Just to add more to the flames here Professor Emperado A.ka. Thomas Yong is James Mitose’s biological son, so take that however you like.
That is interesting. I have photographs of Thomas Young and of Professor Emperado.
They don’t look like the same man, and Young is older than Mitose.
That is incorrect, Professor Emperado is referring to Sijo Adriano Emperado. One of the 5 founders of Kajukenbo and a completely different person.
In the early 1980’s just prior to professor Chows death I travelled to Hawaii and was invited to train with professor Chow and his one and only remaining student, Walter Lu. Walter was a new white belt. This was when professor Chow was teaching from a Catholic church near Pearl city Hawaii. I had many conversations with Professor Chow over the next two years. I lived in the mainland and visited Hawaii several times prior to Professor Chow’s death. I spoke with Professor Chow weekly via telephone we became quite close. In short professor Chow denied being an actual student of James Mitosie. He indicated that they were partners and not a student teacher relationship. He also indicated that Parker was in fact his student. That he advanced Parker to the rank of brown belt. He denied ever giving Parker his black belt. I provide this information as a personal first-hand witness to Professor chows last claim. The techniques and movements that professor Chow was teaching to student Walter and myself were completely different from the Ed Parker curriculum. As a particular note my name on this post is not my real name because I prefer to keep my real identity private. I do not want to get involved and petty disputes as to the real history of kenpo.
I see no mention of Kara HO Kempo or Sam Kuoha, who was Professor Chow’s top student! Why is that?
That was my question as well. And the story I hear from the Grand Master pretty much corroborates this story too. Ed Parker wanted to bring Professor Chow’s teachings to the mainland, and the Professor refused. Parker left the system, and did his own thing with it. My son and I were involved in the Kara Ho system, but moved away to where there was no school. We were told when we got here that the closest thing to Kara Ho was Ed Parker’s American Kempo school, because he trained under Professor Chow. When I went in to check out the school, I was met with some bad vibes from the instructor (can’t remember his name) after I told him we came from Kara Ho. His whole demeanor changed, and made me feel unwelcomed. I then went and checked out a Castro Kempo school, because I had heard Ralph Castro studied under Professor Chow as well. They were much more pleasant there. They closed soon after that, so we never were able to go.
One day we’ll all be dead and others will be able to claim their titles. 🙂
Your articles about Ed Parker sheds a lot of light in his lifeet great articles indeed
ed Parker was a color belt when he left hawaii the first time. Prof. Chow was losing his memory in his old age, so what you he said at a advance age was only Partially the truth. Hawaii martial artist know the most, and if you are a legitamate martial artist from hawaii you got closest to the truth. PERIOD.
Greetings Factual Basis: “No one can do what Ed Parker Could Do
Kenpo Karate is Alive only the BRAIN DEAR would say otherwise. There are millions of practitioners whom live, grow and prosper in the Are of Kenpo!
Kenpo continues to grow and the liquefied morons whom say it is dead are brain dead.
I once saw a man cut his eye out with a jigsaw.
This is some of the most poorly written garbage that I have ever read. You cite no sources and your understanding of American Kenpo seems to come from watching a single beginner lesson. I actually have the books advertised here, they were in a box of Black belt Magazines that was given to me in Wisconsin. They contain more hearsay and opinion than actual fact and one has to wonder if they were drafted in crayon. They clearly were not proofread nor had an editor. I haven’t been involved with Kenpo for 10 years, there are no schools in Arkansas and few schools in the Midwest. I have kept n contact with many of my former peers and instructors. I studied both EPK and Tracy Kenpo. I’ve met the Tracy’s, I’ve met Ed jr, I was instructed at Mike Pick’s school in Humboldt county California, I played with his kids. I can’t find anyone, anyone at all, that will back up anything stated here. I’ve reached out to people spoken of here about the incidents mentioned, of those that responded, none corroborated your interpretation of history. The closest anyone would say is that you fall victim to the pass along game. Your information is so far from the original sources that it simply cannot be trusted. Kinda sad what some people will do to sell a shitty set of books. It’s like history by Trump! It’s all “alternative facts” bullshit and it’s bad for ya.
Oh and my opinion on the books comes from my experience as a writer, editor, and proof reader for over 2000 self published books, ebooks, and independent comic books. They read like bad third hand translations from Cantonese.
Ed Parker ripped off Sifu James Wing Woo on the the book deal for secrets of Chinese Karate. Look in the book at the drawings. That’s Sifu Woo in the drawings. He had the originals in his kwoon in Hollywood. That’s the facts man.
Facts, but even worse, Jimmy was already writing the book when they met!
The deal was that Jimmy teaches Parker’s black belts, and Ed helps Jimmy get his book published…
Ed retitled the book from Kung Fu’ to Karate (face-palm), and the person Jimmy called was my father, and he organized the jettison from Parker, and being that my father was from also from Hawaii, he was called a traitor by Parker.
My father never looked back, and he and the others: Rich Montgomery, Bart Volk, Ted Tabura, Dick Tercell, Rick Flores, Leo Whang, Elroy Vohes (Bones), and Gus Hoeffling all kept Jimmy in LA, as he was heading back to SF, yep!
Of the group of students that left Parker, I am the only offspring who has carried on Jimmy’s amazing system, and will for the rest of my life…
Ed Parker prostituted Jimmy’s system, never understanding it’s alignment, it’s breathing, lifting and lowering the spine, the three circles, etc…
One student couldn’t hack it when they moved and he went back to Kempo where he was king, and tried taking some of our more basic forms with him, doing them ALL wrong, hence “prostituting” Jimmy’s art…
Jimmy was and always will be my grandfather, and his Wing Woo Gar will continue to flow through me and my students and hopefully their students and so on…
When we talk about Mitose and how he learned from Japan. Yes a traditional kenpo. If part of discussion is this then traditional kenpo is from Okinawa Japan and the master until he died in 2003 was master Odo. He learned from the originator of Okinawa kenpo and was appointed upon death that he would take over the system as the leader over the masters own son. This lead to a division in the traditional system. The original master chose him because he had the right heart for being the future master besides being a great fighter and weapons practitioner well respected on Okinawa by other masters of systems. Master Odo was technically 9th degree. Odo made Richard Gonzales his 1st eighth degree was appointed as U.S. Representative and leader of the system in America. Terry Higa that came to New York from Okinawa who went under the son of the original masters camp because he did not like an American being appointed the leader of USA. So he went his own way. Richard Gonzales was a marine during Vietnam and serve active duty and was stationed in Okinawa Japan as a military policeman while studying directly under master Odo for over 25 years becoming his number one student and great friend loyal to teaching Odo’s traditional form of Kenpo. Other well know and ranking practitioners in Ameeica took advantage of Odo when he visited them. One other ranked black belt in the system said he wanted to protect the name of Odo’s system so he applied for Odo’s systems legal name and when Odo understood what was happening he did not want him to do that and had no right to do that. When Richard Gonzales found out and other ranking factions in the system in America found out they tried to help Odo and file suit to over turn this. They unfortunately lost. Odo never forgot this that a ranking member of a traditional system had in the end no respect for tradition and his master. So there became a division in America within traditional Okinawa Kenpo and is still there some 30 years later. So the truth has now been spoken regarding traditional Kenpo in Okinawa and America. The ranking member that did this had other noted system American so called masters name home a master. He well knows he is not the master but I’m sure he has told a stretched version to his peers and plays it off in interviews like he was doing Odo a favor. The truth is what matters and that is what really counts. Richard Gonzalez does not make public like I do as he doesn’t waste time on such things. Mr Gonzales has stayed true to his form and has not changed his ways or his responsibility to passing on the knowledge of traditional Kenpo in America. He resides in Golden gate area of Naples, FL. At last knowledge. He is a gracious and kind person that teaches not for the money because that’s not how he makes a living, he teaches from the heart and is honest to what his responsibilities. When he was stationed in Okinawa for all those years he would frequently be invited to go with Master Odo to visit other Dojos of the old and famous masters and there regarded students. He became friends with many. He is a walking history book. He teaches were Victor Ortino has a teaching Dojo in Golden gate Florida. He was aging and has slowed down some and I believe is still alive as of last known in late 2011.
I hope this was interesting to read.
I am from the Kyokushin Kai Kan/ Kempo Jiu Jitsu lineage of Shihan Edward Bobby Lowe. I also have known many of the Americans that are spoken of here. No one, no one talks of Solomon Kaihewalu of Lua vis Hawaiian Art Of Bone Breaking Kapu Kuialua of King Kamemameha and that Parker’s family is from that lineage or that he was intorduced to Bruce Lee by another Hawaiian by the name of Wally Jay at his Luau who was student of Seishiro Okazaki of Danzan Ryu after combining the 6 Schools of Jiu Jitsu from Japan together.
Or that ALL…., these people were training and cross training together.
As far as the Mitose brand goes Mitose’s mother was a Komatsu-
Ko- Matsu (Ko old or small) Matsu (Pine Tree) a Samurai who was introduced as an Emissary to Commandant William Perry . Komatsu lost his Samurai Hood because he told the Tokugawa Shoganate “These are evil men and must be expelled because they are evil but before we must learn the use of these firearms.”
This was rejected so Komatsu attempted to stow- away on Perry’s ship to learn the use of firearms. He was caught and thrown off the ship taken to the Shogun who instead of asking Seppuku Hiri Kiri because Komatsu was a Kawakatsu Kamekura. Tokugawa said,” you are now a teacher.”
Komatsu opened his school just outside of what is now Nagasaki. Only to be blown from it’s pillars by the Atomic blast in WWII. By the way the school was called “The Old Pine Tree School” .
Mitose told people he was not lying that the information was out in the open but “you must look for it.”
I believe the same goes here.
Parker was a “Good Mormon” and James Woo was a Chinese Tong Member, he learned his art after his father fled with his family to Canton and this is where Woo learned his Gung Foo. But you need to realize that Parker saw the abilities and the system with his BB in Judo and a working Knowledge of Lua and Kempo saw the usefulness of learning what Woo had to offer.
Problem for Parker”I am trying to build a business not a gang. This guy is wanted by the gangs in Oakland (Like the Hop Sing one ran and still is in Frisco that Bruce Lee another friend of Parker’s was fighting.” So maybe, just maybe that is why he did what he did?
For Woo’s part it is not his fault his Father was affiliated with the Tongs. He was just a victim of it.
Hop sing was a busy man, between running a tong and cooking for the cartwrights
I can’t believe how many people are so concerned about the history of a crap system. American Kenpo, Chinese Kenpo, Kosho Ryu, Shaolin Kempo…..who cares, they all suck. There is clearly no hope for any of the fools on here but do your kids and your grandkids a favor. Bring them somehwere so they can learn how to really fight and save all the choreographed bullshit for the movies.
And spare me the make believe tales about how you used it to save your life countless times. Nobody cares that you smacked some drunk in a bar once.
lo mas triste de todo esto no es la historia ni su veracidad a que todo aquel que haya o este haciendo kenpo esta viviendo su propia historia , lo mas triste de todo esto es que esperaron a que mr parker muriera para dar esta información en mi filosofía de vida no estoy de acuerdo con destruir aquello que se a establecido y se a difundido como un arte efectivo y comprobable en todos los ámbitos deportivos y callejeros , pero eso lo sabemos aquellos qeu ya hemos probado la realidad de nuestro arte y nuestra legado heredado no solo de Edmund Parker si no otros tantos qeu ya no están al igual qeu el , para terminar no me parece de caballero difundir algo de lo cual no hay certeza y mucho menos cuando los perjudicados o acusado de tal crimen no están presente para defenderse o emitir su opinión y versión de los hechos toda esta historia debió darse cuando parker estaba vivo y ver en que paraba, por otro lado esto me parece una vulgar publicidad para promocionar y vender unos libros .
It is bullshit nonsense such as this rubbish why we have McDojo’s all over the world. Grammatically incorrect and not sited op-eds are as substantial as donald trump. AFter watching your motion and attempts at online martial curricula, I’m currently interested in speaking with you in person and face to face. Please provide a physical address to your facility
8303 Washington St. Chagrin Falls, Ohio.Nothing like kicking the binky out of the mouth of a anti American leftist liberal
I studied with the Tracy system it was not to bad had hard time with the instructor Mr. Ericson. 11 yrs later I found kenpo in chico I was surprised in how good the Epperson brothers are, it took 5 months of hard work to get a yellow belt, I’m a 3rd generation ed parker kenpo system and I’m very humed to train there.
I’ve been a Martial Artist for over 50 years. I find all of this very interesting. What I can tell you is you get out what you put in. Confused? Good. Kenpo/Kempo has many faces as do we all. If you are willing to work and learn with an open mind it will work. It has for me. Stay strong keep training. Enjoy the journey. If your here for the long haul , it will pay off.
You cannot kill Kenpo because it is eternal, like all martial arts that have been created. The problem with Kenpo is not its different versions, but the way it wastes so much time and energy. For anyone who doesn’t know, Kenpo is basically Kung Fu done wearing a Karate suit.
In Kenpo, you learn how to do 10 moves to defeat an opponent, whereas only 3 would have been sufficient. This is a real problem with regards to self defence, as we should only do what is necessary to defend ourselves. If you have been trained to hit the opponent 10 times every time he throws a punch, then we are not using reasonable force, are we? That is why Kenpo fails.
And that guy who said how Bruce Lee was the best in an earlier comment- way to show the world how little you know about martial arts. It’s far easier to say ‘Bruce Lee was the best who ever lived’ than it is to train for years in martial arts and admit that’s not TRUE, is it? Bruce Lee never had one rank in any martial art style on this planet: a fact that should never be ignored. On paper and in real life, no matter how many push ups or one inch punches Bruce Lee could do, he was not a martial artist: no rank, no grounding in any styles except a tiny bit of Wing Chun. A yellow belt kid in Karate is technically better than Bruce Lee was. What next- ranks aren’t important? Can you imagine an army without ranks?
People who want to learn the strongest martial arts on earth need to ignore weak styles like Kenpo and learn at my friend’s club here
I practiced Kenpo for many years and I earned my black belt in Kenpo. As I grew older and decided to learn more about the art, I realized that Kenpo was always a bastardized art and in fact, its roots are nothing more than fictional. Now then, with respect to your article, James Mitose was a con man and a murderer, those are facts. That’s the part you are conveniently avoiding in your article. The truth tis that there was never any lineage to Mitose. Mitose could have never learned or much less, had been proficient in Karate, because Karate, emerged out of the early portions of the past century. At the time, the only school would have been Shorinji “Kempo” and even through his many embellishments, Mitose could never made a claim that he studied at that temple because he would have been unveiled.
Parker took what he learned and applied concepts that in many ways are ineffective as a result of the people he learned from. James H. Woo who taught his own created art of Kung Fu San Soo, whatever that is, Bruce Lee, a great actor, but one with no recorded fights. So, he took what he learned from KS Chow and re arranged it, and I am sure that by his second generation of black belts, Parker Kenpo was very distinct from Chow’s Kara Ho Kenpo Karate. Now as a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I can tell you that there are a plethora of techniques in the Kenpo system and especially those purportedly countering chokes, bear hugs, double legs, and head locks to name a few examples that are absolutely worthless. Thankfully, guys like Jeff Speakman have seen the light and are incorporating a much more realistic approach to the Kenpo System.
Back to our topic, to glorify the Tracy Brothers is quite humorous. First, the Tracy Brothers earned their brown belts with Parker, left and then came back stating that they had learned the complete system of Kenpo and which according to them Parker did not know. There is no indication much less, evidence that this ever occurred or that they ever trained with KS Chow. Even the Tracy Brothers either were completely aloof of Kenpo’s true origins or more than likely, figured out that this system was born out of a fib and simply wanted to capitalize on all of this ancient, mystical mumbo jumbo that had been plaguing the martial arts back then and in some ways continues to do so today. in fact I recall as a young boy, advertisements from Tracy schools claiming lineage to the Hung Gar System, just they could not point to which one. There is even a video of Al Tracy doing a poorly executed piss poor version of the Tiger and Crane form. Which he incorporated into his system and you had to learn at brown belt, I believe.
Look, the whole point is that Kenpo was born out of a lie. Mitose had no background in Karate because his age does not fir the time line and he much less had any background in Jujitsu because at the time, that art was taught to the very privileged in Japan and more importantly, for the most part, by the time Mitose would have been of a proper age to study martial arts, he would have been learning Jigoro Kano’s Judo and not Jujitsu.
Parker did the best he could with what was given to him and he tried to evolve Kenpo according to what he felt would work. The funny thing is that Parker’s first generation of black belts never learned the style of Kenpo his second generation of black belts and thereafter learned. So, the Tracy Brothers could have reverted to those roots when they claimed to teach the original kenpo system, whatever that meant.
Parker did not kill Kenpo. Kenpo was born out of the mind of a con man and it has been bastardized and continues to be. In fact, there is no greater reflection of this than the boisterous claims of Kenpo being over 2,000 years old or having ties to the Shaolin Kenpo through the Hung Gar system. Parker changed Kenpo or altered it, true, so did the Tracy’s. Ask yourself, how many Kenpo organizations exist today. If you feel that you earned a rank and the organization you belong to refuses to acknowledge you, you just hop to one that is willing to rank you, or create your own.