GM Ed Parker: Early Footage

Ron Chapél has a Martial Arts library of computer files, books, film, patches, cards. You name it he probably has it. It turns out he's been hanging onto the original 16 mm print of Grandmaster Ed Parker, considered the man who is responsible for proliferating the Martial Arts across America, performing some very, very early techniques. 

I'll leave it to the man himself to setup the video:

The film depicts Ed Parker Sr. and Chuck Sullivan performing vintage techniques from the 50/60's era, and represents information found in Mr. Parker's book, "Kenpo Karate," published in 1961, placing the film in the late 50's early sixties in content, at the very beginning of the "Chinese Kenpo" era, and Mr. Parker in his early thirties. Chuck Sullivan was one of Mr. Parker's best students of the era, and one of the very few to begin with and earn a Black Belt under Mr. Parker. Later in the sixties and seventies, Mr. Sullivan had the distinction of heading up and running what was considered, the only "fighting school" amongst followers of the Ed Parker Kenpo Karate System.

The techniques are straight out of that book, but also demonstrates the "jiujitsu connection" as taught by Kwai Sun Chow from his training with Henry Okazaki, creator of Dan Zan Ryu Jiujitsu, and the bulk of the techniques are variations on Jiujitsu Methods. Techniques were also performed with the attackers required to practice their "break-falls" as they trained in Jiujitsu.

The Japanese "Karate" influence is also apparent as we see Mr. Parker executing basic blocks much differently, and much lower in height than later methods, modeling Japanese Karate execution in many cases as well as defending against the typical step through punch, but yet the "Kenpo" influence is most prominent in the punching attacks in the response after the initial block. So we observe the "Karate" method of blocking, the Kenpo philosophy of punching technique execution, with the Judo/Jiujitsu execution of "hands on" techniques.

This was truly the fusion between  "Kenpo," "Jiujitsu," and "Karate" William Chow called "Kenpo-Karate," and was indicated this way on Mr. Parker's Sho-Dan (1st Black Belt) certificate, as having been ranked in the three different arts, and not in the singular "Kenpo-Karate."

Mr. Parker evolved away from many of these methods, but students often did not evolve with him. That confusion still exists today and demonstrates how, even though Mr. Parker evolved, many are still stuck in the era of where the head of their lineage was at the time they took their lessons.

It is not unusual to see students today performing a Kenpo Karate Form, Short Form One, executing their blocks the same as in this film of the early sixties Japanese Style, ignoring the different methods demonstrated in Mr. Parker's next book, "Secrets of Chinese Karate," in 1963 (with a greater assistance from Jimmy W. Woo than many are aware), and beyond.

When Mr. Parker became immersed in the Chinese Arts completely and associated with Grandmaster Ark Y. Wong, he dropped the term "Kenpo-Karate" completely for the more descriptive and proper "Chinese Kenpo." This was more appropriate as "Kenpo" in Chinese is "Chúan Fa as depicted on Mr. Parker's original patch design. The right side of the patch translates in English to "Fist Law, Chinese Hand."

Later in the sixties after a failed magazine attempt forced Mr. Parker to take a more "business" perspective to his teaching at large, he returned to the "Kenpo-Karate" name for his commercial art for public recognition, because "Kenpo" was generally unknown to the American Public, and name recognition was a part of his overall business plan to proliferate the art.

Although Mr. Parker personally continued to evolve his "Chúan Fa until he passed away in 1990, his most recognizable contribution to the general public is his namesake "Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate," based on the study of abstract "motion" to allow students all over the world to develop quick martial skills based on his ideas of self defense.

The film represents Ed Parker at the most primitive time in his evolution in the arts, when he first came to the mainland and opened his first school(s), as he began to transition to Chinese Kenpo, as evidenced by the inclusion of the Chinese Two-Man Set at the end of the film.

Dr. Ron Chapél

Here is part one (part 2 coming soon) of the video:

In my lineage the words "Karate" are not in the creed so, as I typically do, asked about this and Ron Chapél's reply was:

The Original Creed as placed in Mr. Parker's 1961 book "Kenpo Karate," included the word "Karate" but was double hyphenated front and back just before the Japanese Translation, "empty hands," but was never intended to be a part of the spoken creed. It was only included to draw reference to the meaning of "empty hand." Of course this changed completely when Mr. Parker moved to the Chinese Perspective of "Chinese Kenpo" and the Chinese Translation, which is "Chinese Hand," not the Japanese "empty hand." When students recited the creed from the book, they read and learned it literally, not recognizing the significance of the wording. In my lineage, we have never included the word "karate" in the creed.

Special Thanks

This unbelievable conversion was provided by Peggy Bank. There aren't to many places that can reliably perform a 16mm conversion for a resonable price. Thanks to them we were able to have it done painlessly. Check them out on the web:

Peggy Bank - Save your memories


There are currently no comments

New Comment


required (not published)


Get Involved!

We never share, spam, or otherwise pester you. Join for the latest and greatest.