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Ed Parker

Ed Parker
Born Edmund Kealoha Parker
(1931-03-19)March 19, 1931
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
Died December 15, 1990(1990-12-15) (aged 59)
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
Heart attack
Style American Kenpo
Teacher(s) William Kwai Sun Chow, Gene LeBell
Rank Senior Grand Master of American Kenpo
Notable students Benny Urquidez, Dan Inosanto, Elvis Presley, Jeff Speakman, Chuck Norris, Robert Culp

Edmund Kealoha "Ed" Parker (March 19, 1931 – December 15, 1990) was an American martial artist.


  • Life 1
  • Parker's training 2
  • Skepticism of Parker's Claims 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Parker was born in Hawaii in 1931 and began training in the martial arts at a young age in judo[1] and later boxing. Sometime in the 1940s, Ed Parker was first introduced to Kenpō by Frank Chow who then introduced Ed Parker to William Chow, a student of James Mitose. William trained Parker while serving in the Coast Guard and attending Brigham Young University. In 1953 he was promoted to the rank of black belt. Parker, seeing that modern times posed new situations that were not addressed in Kenpo, adapted the art to make it more easily applicable to the streets of America and called his style, American Kenpo Karate.[2]

Parker opened the first "Americanized" karate school in the western United States in Provo, Utah in 1954.[3] By 1956, Parker opened a Dojo in Pasadena, California. His first brown belt student was Charles Beeder. There is controversy over whether Beeder received the first black belt awarded by Parker. Beeder's son has stated for the record that his father's black belt came after Ed Parker had moved to California.[4] The other black belts in chronological order up to 1962 were: Rich Montgomery, James Ibrao, Mills Crenshaw, authorized by Ed Parker to open a school in Salt Lake City, UT in late 1958 (That school later became the birthplace of the International Kenpo Karate Association; or IKKA.), Tom Garriga, Rick Flores, Al and Jim Tracy of Tracy Kenpo, Chuck Sullivan, John McSweeney, and Dave Hebler.[5] In 1962, John McSweeney opened a school in Ireland, which prompted Parker to give control of the Kenpo Karate Association of America to the Tracy Brothers and form a new organization, the International Kenpo Karate Association.

Parker was well known for his business creativity and helped many martial artists open their own dojos. He was well known in Hollywood where he trained a great many stunt men and celebrities; most notable was Elvis Presley, to whom he eventually awarded a ninth degree black belt in Kenpo. He left behind a few grand masters who are known around the world to this day such as Al Tracy, head of the world's largest system of kenpo, Bob White, Huk Planas, Larry Tatum, Ron Chapel, and Frank Trejo who runs a school in California.[6] He helped Bruce Lee gain national attention by introducing him at his International Karate Championships. He served as one of Elvis Presley's bodyguard during the singer's final years, did movie stunt-work and acting, and was one of the Kenpo instructors of martial arts action movie actor Jeff Speakman. He is best known to Kenpoists as the founder of American Kenpo and is referred to fondly as the "Father of American Kenpo". He is formally referred to as Senior Grand Master of American Kenpo. Parker can be seen with Elvis Presley in the opening sequence of the 1977 TV special "Elvis in Concert". Parker wrote a book about his time with Elvis on the road.

Parker had a minor career as a Hollywood actor and stunt man. His most notable film was Kill the Golden Goose.[7] In this film, he co-stars with Hapkido master Bong Soo Han. His acting work included the (uncredited) role of Mr. Chong in student[8] Blake Edwards' Revenge of the Pink Panther and again in Curse of the Pink Panther.[9]

Edmund K. Parker died in Honolulu of a heart attack on December 15, 1990. His widow Leilani Parker died on June 12, 2006. Of their five children, his son, Ed Parker Jr., founded his own self-defense system known as Paxtial Martial Arts. Ed Parkers four daughters, Darlene Parker Tafua, Beth Parker Uale, Yvonne Parker Autry and Sheri Parker Pula are joint officers of Ed Parker Sr.ʻs Kam IV Inc. The family business, formerly known as Ed Parker Enterprises (including Ed Parkerʻs American Kenpo Karate Studios, International Kenpo Karate Association [IKKA], International Karate Championship Tournament, and DELSBY publications), was renamed "Kam IV Inc." and turned over to Ed Parkerʻs daughters just before Leilani Parkerʻs passing in May 2006. Kam IV Inc. holds the exclusive legal rights to all of Ed Parker Seniorʻs Intellectual Property.

Parker's training

Ed Parker's father enrolled his son in Judo classes at the age of twelve. Parker received his Shodan in Judo in 1949 at the age of eighteen.[1] After receiving his brown belt in Kenpo, he moved to the mainland to attend Brigham Young University and began to teach the martial arts. Mr. Parker's kenposhodan diploma is dated 1953.

It was during this period that Parker was significantly influenced by the Japanese and Okinawan interpretations prevalent in Hawaii. Parker's Book Kenpo Karate, published in 1961, shows the many hard linear movements, albeit with modifications, that set his interpretations apart.

All the influences up to that time were reflected in Parker's rigid, linear method of "Kenpo Karate," as it was called. Between writing and publishing, however, he began to be influenced by the Chinese arts, and included this information in his system. He settled in Southern California after leaving the Coast Guard and finishing his education at BYU. Here he found himself surrounded by other martial artists from a wide variety of systems, many of whom were willing to discuss and share their arts with him. Parker made contact with people like Ark Wong, Haumea Lefiti, James (Jimmy) W. Woo (who developed many of the American Kenpo forms still used today), and Lau Bun. These martial artists were known for their skills in arts such as Five Family Fist Kung Fu, Splashing-Hands, San Soo, T'ai Chi, and Hung Gar, and this influence remains visible in both historical material (such as forms that Parker taught in his system) and current principles.

Exposed to new Chinese training concepts and history, he wrote a second book, Secrets of Chinese Karate published in 1963. Parker drew comparisons in this and other books between karate (a better known art in the United States at that time) and the Chinese methods he adopted and taught.

In the 1991 martial arts film The Perfect Weapon, starring his student Jeff Speakman, Parker helped with the fight choreography shortly before his death.[10]

Skepticism of Parker's Claims

After Parker's death, some martial artists have begun to question the authenticity of Parker's training and qualifications, in a number of articles including Dan Djurdjevic's article "What did Ed Parker Study ?".[11] Skeptics such as Djurdjevic have suggested that Ed Parker was not actually a master-level martial artist by the early 1960s but developed an undeserved reputation as a master at a time when the American public had little knowledge of authentic martial arts and were unable to verify his claims.

Djurdjevic's article includes links to footage of Parker appearing on Lucille Ball's "The Lucy Show" in 1963,[12] when Parker was already the head of the Kenpo Karate Association of America. In the footage, Parker demonstrates some Karate-type movements, but makes fundamental mistakes in demonstrating front kicks, without hip involvement and incorporating a flailing arm movement, and demonstrates a completely uncoordinated and off-target spinning back kick that would not be expected from a high-level expert. Parker also demonstrates a seemingly uncoordinated finishing move involving a jump behind a prone opponent, a twisting motion to the head, flailing arm movements and an uncoordinated close range kick to the head that he was to use throughout his career, the same moves appearing in 16mm footage from the 1960s and Chilean television footage from the 1980s, including a repetition in the Chilean footage where Parker slips and falls over during the jump behind his prone opponent.[13] Djudjevic's website also links to 16mm footage from the early 1960s that appears to show Parker at a relatively elementary level of skill in the martial arts at this point, rather than the master-level instructor that would be expected from his claims.[14]


  • 1960, Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist and the Empty Hand. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-47-3
  • 1963, Secrets of Chinese Karate. Prentice-Hall ISBN 0-13-797845-6
  • 1975, Ed Parker's Guide to the Nunchaku ISBN 0-86568-104-X
  • 1975, Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Accumulative Journal. International Kenpo Karate Association.
  • 1978, Inside Elvis. Rampart House ISBN 0-89773-000-3
  • 1982, Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 1: Mental Stimulation. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-00-7
  • 1983, Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 2: Physical Analyzation I. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-02-3
  • 1985, Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 3: Physical Analyzation II. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-04-X
  • 1986, Ed Parker's Infinite Insights Into Kenpo, Vol. 4: Mental and Physical Constituents. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-06-6
  • 1987, Ed Parker's Infinite Insights Into Kenpo: Vol. 5: Mental and Physical Applications. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-08-2
  • 1988, The Woman's Guide to Self Defense
  • 1988, The Zen of Kenpo. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-10-4
  • 1992, Ed Parker's Encyclopedia of Kenpo. Delsby Publications ISBN 0-910293-12-0


  1. ^ a b "Kenpo Karate – Setting History Right 1949–1954". 1997-03-08. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  2. ^ "History of Kenpo". 
  3. ^ Corcoran, J.; Farkas, E. (1988). Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People. New York City: Gallery Books. 
  4. ^ "Ed Parker's First Shodan". 1997-03-08. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  5. ^ "Kenpo Karate Family Tree". 2000. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  6. ^ The Godfather of Grappling (authorized biography of Gene LeBell) by "Judo" Gene Lebell, Bob Calhoun, George Foon, and Noelle Kim. 2005.
  7. ^ Kill the Golden Goose
  8. ^ Beaver, W. (April 1991). "My Friend, Ed Parker". Black Belt Magazine. 
  9. ^ IMDB list for Ed Parker
  10. ^ "The Perfect Casting?".  
  11. ^ "What did Ed Parker Study ?"
  12. ^ "Lucy and Viv Learn Karate"
  13. ^ "SGM Ed Parker en Chile"
  14. ^ "Ed Parker 16mm footage"

Further reading

  • Parker, L. (1997). Memories of Ed Parker: Sr. Grandmaster of American Kenpo Karate. Delsby Publications. ISBN 0-910293-14-7.

External links

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