American Kenpo Karate

IKKA Black Belts

Since Ed Parker's death in December 1990, many people have claimed to have been promoted to high black belt ranks that are not supported by either IKKA records, or authentic IKKA belt certificates. The "Official Newsletter of the International Kenpo Karate Association Volume 4 Edition 5 September 1991 (published 9 months after Ed Parker's death and avilable here in PDF) lists all the IKKA "UPPER RANKING BLACK BELTS" (third degree and above) that were on "the IKKA computer files" as of September 1991.

The newsletter states:

"If your rank listed is incorrect, please submit to our membership office a copy of your most recent certificate verifying your present rank. Corrections will be published in the next IKKA newsletter."
There were no corrections published in the next IKKA newsletter, although John MsSweeney did present his 8th Degree Black Belt certificate.

There are some who claim to have been 7th Degree at the time of Ed Parker's death and were to be promoted to 8th Degree had Ed Parker not died, thus making them the true successor to Ed Parker's Kenpo. Ed Parker intentionally left no successor, and the black belts listed below are the only 7th Degree Black Belts in the IKKA at the time of Ed Parker's death.

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It is interesting that some of those claiming high rank are not even listed with any rank in the official IKKA records; and, some who are listed as 3rd and 4th Degree Black Belts, are the ones claiming they were 7th Degree and would have been promoted to 8th Degree had Ed Parker not died. Again, they (and their supporters) claim because they would have been 8th Degree, they are the true successor to Ed Parker's system. This is not surprising as much of American Kenpo has become so dishonest that facts are ignored in favor of personality and false claims that "feel" true.

It should be noted that most of the 7th Degrees listed have sense left the IKKA, but that does not diminish the rank they once held in that organization.


Almost as soon as this was posted, there was criticism, "That list is very incomplete.... I mean, where is Dave Hebler, Joe Palanzo, Huk Planas, and Larry Tatum?"

While that may not be dishonest thinking, it is close to it and is at best careless thinking which shows a complete lack of understanding of the IKKA and how belt rank was given through the IKKA under Ed Parker. First, this was a list of the IKKA black belts in September 1991. It was not a list of all black belts who received rank in the IKKA.

The 1968 photo shows Bill Marcerelli being kicked by Professor Chow as he strikes Nick Cerio. Mick Cerio was promoted to 9th Degree Black Belt (provisional) by Ed Parker in 1983. Cerio was awarded Shodan by Professor Chow in 1966 upon recomendation by Bill Chun Sr, and Will Tracy, and received Godan (5th Degree Black Belt) in 1971 where Will Tracy was present at the promotion. Nick Cerio received an IKKA 3rd Degree Black Belt in 1969, and Provisional Kudan by Ed Parker in 1983. Nick died in 1998.

By Will Tracy: Shodan was the highest rank in Kenpo Godan (5th Degree) was added in December 1961. I received Shodan from Professor Chow in October 1961 and advanced to Sandan 2 months later when Professor Chow took Godan, and he took Judan (10th Degree) two years later. Professor Chow promoted me to Godan in March 1965 when I opened my first Kenpo studio in Portland Oregon. I met Nick Cerio shortly after that, and while Nick had seen Ed Parker at tournaments, I formally introduced him to Ed Parker in 1965. In late summer 1966 Professor Chow asked me to come to Hawaii to witness the Shodan test of Nick Cerio. The requirements were far less than when I made Shodan, but then Shodan in 1961 was equivalent to Sandan.
Despite claims to the contrary, the highest rank Professor Chow awarded Ed Parker was Sandan. The relationship between Ed Parker and Professor Chow became strained in 1957, and they had complete falling out in 1962. The IKKA was formed in late 1963, and Ed Parker was promoted to Godan by the IKKA with Mills Crenshaw and Stanley Hall who held no Kenpo belt rank. Ed Parker was later promoted to Hachican (8th Degree) Sterling Peacock, my brothers and me. Ed Parker through the IKKA promoted Nick Cerio to Sandan in 1969. I don't know who promoted Ed to Judan, or when that took place.
In 1971 I told both Professor Chow and Nick Cerio that I was giving up teaching and recommended that Nick be promoted to Godan; and I was present when Professor Chow promoted Nick to Godan and gave him his personal black belt just as Professor Chow did when he promoted me to Godan.
Unlike those in American Kenpo who attend seminars with Ed Parker and claim to be his student, Nick Cerio never claimed to have been Ed Parker's student, but rather said that Ed Parker was his mentor. And Nick never tried to capitalize on the names of either Ed Parker or Professor Chow, but rather called his system "NCK". Ed Parker promoted Nick Cerio to Kudan (9th Degree) in the IKKA in 1983, making him the highest ranked IKKA belt under Ed Parker.

Second, even though Dave Hebler and Larry Tatum were once officers in the IKKA, they had been removed from those positions, (either by resignation or appointment of other officers) and were not IKKA members at the time of Ed Parker's death. They were, therefore, as anyone who thinks correctly would know, not member of the IKKA in September 1991. Again, the newsletter only lists IKKA black belts on "the IKKA computer file." As for Joe Palanzo and Huk Planas, they had started their own Kenpo organizations shortly after Ed Parker died and were no longer part of the IKKA. To make this very clear, anyone who says the list in incomplete is calling Mrs. Parker a liar. It was she who gave the list for the newsletter, and it was she who stated that if the ranks listed were not correct, it would be changed. It is doubtful that Mrs. Parker lied about who the top IKKA black belts were at that time, and she gave anyone who disputed the list the opportunity any "actual" member of the IKKA to correct it.

Third, the general rule for belt rank in the IKKA was, a person had to have a given time in is/her rank before being promoted to the next rank. Generally, (not absolute) one had to have as many years in rank as the rank itself. That is 1st degree required 1 year, second degree - 2 years, 3rd degree 3 years etc. Sometime a different standard was applied, with years in rank to the next promotion being the rank of the next promotion. That is, from 1st degree to 2nd required 2 years, 2nd to 3rd - 3 years, etc. This time-in-rank requirement could be waived for provisional rank. That is, one could be promoted from 5th degree to 7th degree provisionally, skipping 6th (or any rank) but that rank would end - terminate - on a specific date. In other words, it was an acting belt rank. Also the time could be waived for as much as 2 years for provisional rank. Therefore a 3rd degree black belt could be promoted provisionally to 4th degree after being a 3rd degree for only one year. However, that provisional rank would terminate after two years (or whatever date was set for termination) unless the person qualified for full rank.

This allowed for unqualified IKKA members to receive belt rank they did not earn. This was particularly true when a high ranking black belt was needed to represent the IKKA in various regions of the country, or world. In 1984, Bill Hensell wrote Ed Parker criticizing, inter alia, IKKA belt rank. In response, Ed Parker wrote:

"In regard to IKKA black belts being purple belts in your eyes, if (sic) it for that very reason that I have accepted new black belts into the IKKA. It is so I can bring them up to the standards that they should be. Those are not my students." SEE HENSEL LETTER

IKKA rank could be cut off when a person left the IKKA. The "Parker Patch" (displayed on most pages on this site) has many meanings. The bottom shape with the K in it is a hatchet - Specifically an Ax. Ed Parker in Infinite Insights Into Kenpo Mental Stimulation 1982 Delsby Press, page 39 states:
"The BOTTOM forms the shape of an ax -- it represents the executioner -- in the event a member is influenced by evil ideas and thoughts contrary to our philosophy, or shames the IKKA organization, he is cut off, never to co-exist with u again."
The IKKA newsletter makes very clear, "IKKA members may belong to more than on Martial Arts organization but not to another Kenpo organization other than the IKKA." And there is no reason to speculate on why anyone who was once a member of the IKKA was not listed. They simply were not members in September 1991, and if they were, it was up to that person to present his or her reason, along with a valid IKKA belt certificate. To that end, anyone who has a LEGITIMATE IKKA 7th Degree Black Belt certificate (or higher) signed by Ed Parker, may submit it along with all other IKKA belt certificates 3rd Degree and above, and they will be posted on his site. SUBMIT BELT CERTIFICATES No individual certificate will be posted - you must have all verifiable certificates 3rd Degree and above.
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