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….
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.
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.
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.