Red Dragon Karate Studio
BRIEF HISTORY OF GRAND MASTER EDMUND K. PARKER

From Freestyle, Targets, Basics and Glossary
by Gary Ronemus (9th degree black belt)

Edmund K. Parker (10th degree black belt) is the undisputed "Father" of American Karate having opened the first commercial Karate studio in 1954 at the age of 23.  He was a native of Honolulu, Hawaii and a graduate of Kamehameha High School.  In 1956 Grand Master Parker graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a B.S. in Psychology. As grand Master Parker learned Karate in Hawaii, he realized the need for new innovations to combat modern day methods of fighting.  To fulfill this need, he developed revolutionary concepts, theories, and principles  that are practical - not classical.  Because of this, his innovative concepts and ideas have greatly enhanced the Martial Arts in the United States and throughout the world.  After graduation from BYU, Grand Master Parker moved to California and opened his second school in Pasadena; at this time he was a 3rd degree black belt.  Due to his skill and prowess as a martial artist, within two years Grand Master Parker was teaching many well known entertainment personalities.
 
Time Magazine referred to Grand Master Parker in 1961 as the "High Priest and Prophet of the Hollywood Sect."  Grand Master Parker taught many well known screen personalities including, Robert Wagner,  Blake Edwards, Robert Culp, Robert Conrad, Darrin McGavin, Jose Ferrar, George Hamilton, Warren Beatty, Dick Martin, Elke Sommers, Joy Hymans, Joey Bishop, the late Elvis Presley, Audie Murphy, Jeff Speakman, and many others.
 
Quoting Black Belt Magazine, "Many Kenpo stylists refer to Ed Parker as the last word on the proper way to do their techniques" (February, 1975).  Similar praise for Ed Parker appeared in a special issue of Inside Kung Fu, commemorating 20 years of Karate in America.  "You don't become the father of American Karate by being second in line.  Universally acknowledged as the man who introduced Karate to America some twenty-nine years ago, Ed Parker has been one of the most innovative and successful influences in the develpment of the Art in the new environment" (May, 1974).  Karate Kung-Fu Illustrated quotes Ed Parker's Kenpo as being "America's logical and unstoppable fighting system ... Discovered in America, it's Karate's gold mine of motion" ) September, 1986).
 
The interest Mr. Parker had in employing logic dates to his beginning Martial Arts studies in Honolulu.  He approved of the exciting methods that he learned as a novice in Kenpo, but, as an experienced street fighter felt that innovations were necessary in order for the classical concepts he learned to become practical concepts on the street.  As a result of his research, Mr. Parker generated innovative answers by comparing Kenpo to other fields of endeavor.  By relating past experiences with the functional aspects of Kenpo, he has revealed astounding breakthroughs in body motion as it applies to martial arts, power shifting and strength concepts.  Because of his formal education, Mr. Parker was able to extract principles from physics, geometry, mathematics, and alpha-numeric systens and compare them to life experiences that caused a new Kenpo discipline to emerge which is without equal in the world today.  As a result, his use of analogies, short stories, and quotes has created distinctive methods to convert verbal language into physical body motion.  His unique ability to communicate Kenpo and other Martial Arts information remains unparalleled.
 
Through formal martial arts training under William K.S. Chow, experience, experimentation, and thought provoking study, Mr. Parker developed the Parker Kenpo Systen as we know it today.  The Parker Kenpo System has achieved a steady growth and with it Mr. Parker developed a timeless Martial Art.  The Parker Kenpo System was effective yesterday, is effective today, and will continue to be effective in the future.
 
Since the time of GrandMaster Parker's death on December 15, 1990 at the young age of 59, many have sought to degrade both Mr. Parker and the Kenpo system whe he extensively innovated.  These people have gratuitously attacked Grand Master Parker making many false clains.  The attacks have been basically to discredit Parker, his honor, system of Martial Arts, and his integrity as an individual.  It is interesting to note that these people claim to have been intimately associated with Mr. Parker and becasue of this feel they have every right to condemn and criticize.  However, most of them were not associated with Mr. Parker at all.  It is particularly interesting that these people only surfaced after Parker's death, when, as we all know, he can no longer defend himself.  Also, why do they make such claims now?  It seems very clear that they are making such claims to bring greater attention to their own system of Martial Arts or for other selfish desires.  Such claims could have been made as early as 1960 or any time before Mr. Parker's death in 1990 in the numerous magazines which printed articles about him and his Art.  But no one stepped forward, nor did they step forward in 1963 when Mr. Parker published his book "Secrets of Chinese Karate" which traced the roots of the Ed Parker Kenpo System back to Tamo in the Shaolin Monastary in 515 A.D.  As a matter of fact, this single event even made it possible over the next decade for other systems to trace their ancestry back to their Chinese origins for which many Martial Arts masters were very grateful.
 
If the reader will investigate the references listed above from Black Belt Magazine, Time Magazine, etc., one will see that the Martial Arts community  in general and the Masters of various systems were very impressed by Parker and his contribution to the Martial Arts in America.  He has received praise from some of the most well known Masters including Tak Kubota, Tadashi Yamashita, Fumio Demura, Tino Tuiolosega, Jhoon Rhee, Chuck Norris, and many others.  Mr. Parker was similarly praised by many columnists, film producers, and actors including Curtis F. Wong (former publisher of Inside Kumg Fu Magazine), Joe Hyams, Ricardo Montalban, Blake Edwards, Robert Culp, Rick Jason, Nick Adams, MacDonald Carey, Darren McGavin, Rory Calhoun, and others. During all this time, these individuals had the utmost respect for Mr. Parker and he respected them as well for who they were and what they did. Perhaps Chuck Norris put is best when he was once asked how many styles of Martial Arts were available, to which he replied, "a lot". He was next asked if he had to defend himself against a particular style or system which one could he least like to defend against? The style he named was Ed Parker Kenpo System because of its principles and philosophies. Mr. Norris did not degrade Mr. Parker, nor by answering this question in such a manner did he degrade his own Art. He simply made a factual statement which he felt was honest. The conduct of Chuck Norris was that of a true champion and one which we should all follow. It never serves the best interest of any individual or group to condemn others for what they believe; it only brings about enmity and animosity. Respect will never be earned by those who consciously seek to bring disrespect and ill repute upon others in order to serve their own selfish designs. Thus, be a true Martial Artist and "choose the right".

Critics who do not understand Kenpo often ask why Mr. Parker did not release videos or films of him personally demonstrating his system. There were several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he would have to slow down so people could see his moves. Mr. Parker knew from experience that his students would mimic whatever they saw him do, and one thing Mr. Parker was not, he was not slow.

But more importantly, he realized that no two people are alike and the new system was to be tailored to the individual. After all, it was the individual who would advanced through American Kenpo to where he met the standards of Ed Parker Kenpo. There were also many different ways to doing a movement. Many of his black belts would find that the way he taught them was completely different from all the others. To put a technique on film or video would freeze the technique for all time. The move or technique was a framework within which the individual worked. A video would freeze frame the move which would become the way the Master did it; and the only way it should be done. The 5 foot, 98 pound woman would have to emulate the 6 foot, 220 pound Ed Parker. This would go against one of his fundamental principles, that he would teach correct principles and let the individual govern himself. The way Mr. Parker moved was right for him. The way his students should move would not be the same. Thus, he taught his new system differently to each person, and each way was right for the student. Just as he realized that there was only one Bruce Lee, or one Mohammed Ali, there would only be one Ed Parker. He did not want his students to mimic him, or to become puppets. He wanted them to become great in their own right.