American Kenpo
True Kenpo Techniques
The Kenpo Patch
Belt Requirements
IKKA Black Belts
Kevin Lamkin
That Changed Kenpo

     BYU 1955
     January 1957
     Robert Trias' first karate tournament in August 1963
     Long Beach Ed Parker's tournament August 1964

Kenpo Karate

american kenpo


American Kenpo died with Ed Parker, on December 15, 1990. At his funeral his wife, Leilani Parker, announced that Ed Parker left no successor. Thus the death knells toll not only the passing of a great man, but proclaimed the slow death of the martial arts style he had created. Within twenty years of his death American Kenpo had deteriorated to such a deplorable state that by 2010 only two Ed Parker students, Kevin Lamkin and Erick Lamkin, were teaching American Kenpo as Ed Parker established it. Both stopped teaching American Kenpo in 2011.

At his death, belt rank and fees (the cash cow of American Kenpo), was up for grabs. Who had authority to promote, and to what rank became a cottage industry with more than 50 organizations coming into existence to unite Kenpo (for a fee). Low ranked students claimed authority to promote their instructors, and the instructors eagerly claimed that worthless rank with the promise to promote anyone who would unite under them. Mrs. Parker brought in marginal black belts, &secret weapons," who feigned authority for what had for a decade already been questionable rank. What she failed to realize was a branch from a dead tree is still dead.

American Kenpo quickly became a term of exploitation. Honor was given to Ed Parker in name only while diluting his system; and, as the concepts of American Kenpo failed, many of those pretenders began calling what they taught, "Ed Parker Kenpo Karate." Likewise in Europe, American Kenpo was completely abandoned while still claiming direct authority from Ed parker. The standards for belt rank in those systems is so lax, that a 3rd degree black belt would not qualify as a green belt in true Kenpo. Additionally, some of Ed Parker's writings contained inconsistencies, errors and misstatement's that gave rise to dishonesty as the hallmark of the new pseudo American Kenpo.

Miyamoto Musashi wrote in A Book of Five Rings, The Ground Book, "If you are following the true Way and diverge a little, this will later become a large divergence." Ed Parker diverged a little in 1982, when he wrote that he intended to make Kenpo Karate his life's ambition when he was with Professor Chow. After his death that divergence became so great as to raise serious questions about the integrity of American Kenpo and the man himself. The fact is, when Ed Parker returned to college at Brigham Young University after being discharged from the Coast Guard in September 1954, his goal was to get a degree in sociology and work with troubled youth. It was only through a series of circumstances that his goal changed over the next ten years, as is presented in Four Demonstrations That Changed Kenpo

This was a minor divergence, a slight rewrite of history and along with other misstatement's, which seemed unimportant in 1982, when Ed Parker wrote Infinite Insights into Kenpo : Mental Stimulation Delsby Publications, by 1997, those misstatement's were fueling the lies upon which American Kenpo based its knowledge and authority. 27 years later, those misstatement's had bread a generation of deceitful and dishonest martial artists who were deluded into thinking what they believe was reality. Good examples of this dishonesty are shown in Ed Parker's Original Kenpo Techniques, the creation of forms, and in the origin of the Kenpo Patch.

Kenpo was a fighting style, an Art. There were only the Old Man Set and the Bear Set in James Mitose's style. Ed never taught them, and for good reason. He said, "We can all debate who the greatest boxer was, but no one care who the greatest shadowboxer is," and those forms and the ones Ed Parker created were only shadowboxing. Even the Hung Gar Tiger and Crane, which is a powerful skill development form, was shadowboxing the way it was done in Kenpo. But forms had a greater purpose for Ed. Short Form One was worth $100 in private lessons, Long Form One was $200, Short Two was $300, and they increased in value to thousands of dollars. The little divergence, turned American Kenpo into a style of slap dancing, that was destined to fail.

The Parker Patch, as it is traditionally called, has become the hallmark of American Kenpo, however, the patch (from the original plates) was designed in 1960 by Dick Tercell for the Kenpo Karate Association of America (KKAA), which predated Ed Parker's American Kenpo by two decades. The patch became the emblem for the International Kenpo Karate Association four years later (1964) when Mills Crenshaw created the IKKA, he printed belt certificates with the emblem and presented Ed Parker with the new association. However, the emblem continued to also be used by the KKAA until 1978. Kenpo Karate Association of America Emblem

The KKAA was founded in 1956 with Ed Parker and the Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Studios as the only member. The KKAA emblem was a depiction of the "overhead club" technique, and this was used on all KKAA belt certificates until 1961, and on all Kyu rank certificates below brown belt from 1960 until January, 1964.

The original KKAA emblem was used on the sign over Ed Parker's original 1840 Walnut Street studio, his letterhead, business cards, as stated, belt certificates. Only schools were members of the Kenpo Karate Association of America, which in turn authorized their instructors to award KKAA belt grades (kyu) and rank (dan). Ralph Castor's Daily City (San Francisco) school joined the KKAA in 1958, and Tracy's Kenpo Karate Studios joined in 1962. The following year (1963) the Tracy brothers opened a second school in Sacramento, and Ed Parker began calling his organization "Kenpo Karate Studios in America." At the same time, John McSweeney, who opened a school in Ireland in early 1963, called his school, "Karate School of Ireland," was the last to have a KKAA school. These were the only members of the KKAA, and while Ed Parker had a promotion committee at his school, the head instructor of each KKAA school appointed "Authorized Members" to award belts and sign KKAA certificates. Students in the KKAA schools wore the Kenpo Karate Fist Club Patch.

Original Kenpo Karate Association of America belt certificate

The transition from the KKAA Emblem and the Club Patch began in June 1960 when Ed Parker joined with Kung Fu master, James (Jimmy) Wing Woo, who began adding his Chinese style into Kenpo Karate. This association with Woo has led many in American Kenpo to claim Ed Parker trained in different Kung Fu styles and under some notable Kung Fu Masters, one of whom they claim was San Francisco Kung Fu Master, Lao Boon. It was, however, James Wing Woo who was with San Francisco Kung Fu Master Lao Boon for over 20 years; and Ed Parker never trained with Lao Boon. Will Tracy had introduced Ed Parker to Lao Boon in early 1959 and the Kung Fu master was cordial and polite, and he and Ed Parker talked, but that was all. Ed Parker returned to San Francisco in December 1959 where Lao Boon introduced him to several of his students. Then, in June 1960 some of those students, as well as James Wing Woo, came to visit Ed Parker. They stayed at Ed Parker's home on State Street while in Los Angeles, and Ed Parker asked Woo to stay. Ed Parker then trained with Lao Boon's student, James Wing Woo, but not with the master himself.

In 1962, Will Tracy was at Lao Boon's school two or three night a week for nearly a year doing paper work of Master Lao. Lao did not teach non Chinese, but placed the desk so Will Tracy could observe the class each night as he worked. Lao, was furious with Ed Parker over how Parker had treated James Wing Woo, and Lao and Parker never met again after their 1959 meeting. (The first non-Chinese to study with Lao Boon, was the actor Anthony (Tony) Quinn, whom Will Tracy introduced to Master Boon in 1963.

Kenpo Karate Club Patch

There is also the claim by those in American Kenpo that Ed Parker trained in Hung Gar. Will Tracy, who was a close friend of Ed Parker for 33 years trained with Seattle Hung Gar Master John Leong. Will Tracy would demonstrate some of the Hung Gar forms for Ed Parker in the 1980's. James Wing Woo had taught Ed Parker the Tiger and Crane form in 1960, and it was a required black belt form at that time. However Ed Parker's later version omitted several moves and he went through the moves as though they were Kenpo, and not Hung Gar.

During the entire time Will Tracy knew Ed Parker, Parker never once claimed to have trained with Lao Boon or to have trained in Hung Gar, other than to learn the Tiger and Crane. Aditionally, Ed Parker did not know Moi Fa Kuen (the beginning Hung Gar from) Lao Gar Kuen, which is the basis of Hung Gar, and is always taught in Hung Gar Training, or Gung Gee Fuk Fu which always comes before Tiger and Crane; and Ed Parker had never seen Tiet Sin (Iron Thread - MOre correctly Five Animals, Five Elements).

It would seem reasonable that anyone in American Kenpo who claims Ed Parker trained in Hung Gar, would be able to demonstrate the Hung Gar forms. After all, if Ed Parker had deemed Hung Gar training important enough for him, then he would have passed his training on to his American Kenpo students. This was certainly the way Ed Parker taught in 1960-61 when he was associated with James Wing Woo, and the Kung Fu forms required back then were Tam Tui, 2 Man Tam Tui, Book Set, Tiger and Crane, 5 and 18 section punching set, and the Black Belt Set

It was Woo's influence that inspired Dick Tercell to design what would become the KKAA patch. This is more fully documented on his The first KKAA black belt certificate that used the Tercell emblem was awarded for Shodan beginning in January 1961.

The most famous KKAA Shodan certificate is the January 7, 1962 Al Tracy Shodan Certificate. Some in American Kenpo, including the actor Jeff Speakman have claimed that the Tracy brothers were only brown belts when they left Ed Parker. That is completely false. But truth for many in American Kenpo, is not what is true, but what they believe, even when confronted with the truth. Jim Tracy also received his Shodan on January 7, 1962 and left Ed Parker to open an Ed Parker School in San Francisco in April of 1962, while Al Tracy left later in May. Will Tracy was an Ed Parker Ikkyu when Ed Parker suggested he go to Hawaii to train under Professor Chow in 1959. Will Tracy returned as a Chow Shodan in late 1961, and was promoted to Sandan by Professor Chow shortly after that. Will Tracy was with Ed Parker until June 1964. As Will Tracy has stated, "What I give on the rise of American Kenpo is from the horse's mouth. But since Ed Parker died, what you get from American Kenpo is from the other end."

When Ed Parker and Woo parted company in April, 1961, all of Ed Parker's black belts went with Woo, as did most of his brown belts and Dick Tercell. Al and Jim Tracy were the only brown belts to remain with Parker. (Will Tracy was still training with Professor Chow in Hawaii, and did not return until October, 1961.) Many in American Kenpo have claimed that those who left Ed Parker were disloyal, but their loyalty can be found in the fact that Ed Parker had taught his black belts everything he knew, and those black belts, James Ibrao, Rich Montgomery, Rick Flores and Ed Tobian have remained students of Master Woo to this day.

When Dick Tercell died in 1962, Ed Parker began calling the patch the "Parker Patch," but he knew Tercell's family had assigned their son's rights to Will Tracy, and Ed Parker never attempted to copyright the patch.

Ed Parker remained the head of the KKAA until 1964, when the International Kenpo Karate Association (IKKA) was formed, and the KKAA was turned over to Ed Parker's senior black belts. While Ed loved the design of the KKAA patch, it was not his original design and he could not copyright it.