Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ed Parker and American Kenpo

I've been wanting to do a piece on the legendary Ed Parker, and how he transformed Karate to a much higher, more efficiant level. Much of his old film footage isn't clear enough for this format, but the sample above is a gem.
Many martial arts were funneled through Hawaii, where asian masters were more accepting about training non-asian students. Kenpo Karate is perhaps the best example of how the reality of streetfighting transformed traditional and static Karate to a flowing blur of striking techniques.
When Japanese and Chinese immigrants moved to Hawaii, they brought with them their traditional martial arts. While these fighting systems worked fine within certain cultural boundries, they were no match for the robust native Hawaiians, who could take the punishment and dish it right back out. A revision of techniques developed under pioneers such as James Mitose, Adrain Emperado and others. The hybrid art became leaner, meaner and known as Kempo (with an "m").
Ed Parker was a product of this new fighting system, went on to make further refinements and used a very scientific approach. Parker moved to the mainland and ended up in California, changing the spelling to "Kenpo" to seperate his art from the original Chinese-Hawaiian. He is remembered for sponsering huge tournaments back in the bare-knuckle 1960's era, and revolutionizing Karate as self-defense.
Parkers' approach was to link striking techniques together in a way traditional karate had not recognized. Much more of the flow of Chinese arts is used. Parker introduced concepts such as tracking up the opponents arm, from hand to shoulder as a "highway" to the target, the head. More of the techniques were set up by touch, or feel rather than by visual ques. He also emphisized check-blocks, minor strikes to vital targets and extreme over-kill after the opponent is disabled.
When I moved from Tae Kwon Do to a Hawaiian Kenpo style I quickly recognized the utility of eye gouges and bouncing a guys head on the floor like a basketball. This stuff wasn't found in TKD.
Much of the old footage is pretty rough, but I'll review what's available and try to post some more examples of Ed Parker at work.

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