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Kenpo Karate - Setting History Right 1954-1956

by
Will Tracy
3/8/97
(revised 1/11/98)
(second revision 8/8/99)

Professor Chow promoted Ed Parker to brown belt before Ed returned to Brigham Young University in the fall of 1954. Ed's three years in the Coast Guard made him eligible for the GI Bill that paid $110 a month to go to school. That wasn't enough for all Ed's expenses, but the Church was preparing to open the Church College in Hawaii, and everyone from the Islands got their tuition and fees waived, so Ed was in a much better position than when he first went to BYU.
There has been a great deal of controversy over who Ed Parker's first black belt was, mostly because those who don't have any knowledge of when Ed Parker taught Haolies (non Island - whites) at B.Y.U. have tried to show their imagined knowledge to make Charles Beeder Ed Parker's first blackbelt. Ed Parker always referred to his Utah students as just that, students, until about 1963 when he mentioned his Utah brown belt - singular.

What is beyond dispute is that Ed only taught Island boys for the first year (1954-1955); and Ed claimed it was only after a demonstration Ed put on during half-time at a BYU, UCLA basketball game that he began teaching Haolies.

Ed Parker stated in his 1982 book, Infinite Insights into Kenpo: Mental Stimulation (P. 26-27)
"While completing my education at B.Y.U. I formed a closed club teaching only students from Hawaii...I was asked to put on a Kenpo Karate demonstration during the basketball half-time intermission (early in December 1954) between B.Y.U. and U.C.L.A. The success of this demonstration launched an entirely new dimension in my life...In a matter of weeks I began teaching commercially in downtown Provo...."
What Ed Parker consistently stated was he did not teach outsiders until after the BYU/UCLA game, but the December 1954 date is impossible, because BYU (The "Y") never played UCLA at BYU until December 2, 1955. (SEE: B.Y.U. Basketball All Time Results). Rich Montgomery, Ed Parker's second black belt played on the 1949 BYU national championship team, so BYU basketball was a hot topic in Ed's Pasadena studio, and the first BYU/UCLA game was a significant step in making BYU a national team.
Ed Parker gives a somewhat different perspective of returning to BYU in Inside Elvis, first where he wrote (p.23),
In September of 1954, I resumed studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. It was difficult to readjust. Self-discipline now had to replace regimentation. There were some rough moments, but I managed to weather the first few months before finally getting back into the swing of things."
This coincides somewhat with what Tom Loura told me, that Ed first began training at the Church Polynesian Ward (late 1954) and several months later went into the BYU wrestling room where they could practice Judo mat work. And it was there at the wrestling room that Ed stated that "outsiders" were not allowed. Ed would change this slightly Infinite Insights into Kenpo: Mental Stimulation (P. 27):
"Although I conducted a closed class, the fact that the wrestling room (where I conducted class) was a B.Y.U. facility I could not restrict other students from watching."
And writing of this change in policy Ed wrote Inside Elvis p.24:
Not too long after its inception, one of these spectators, who was in charge of half time activities for all sporting events, asked me to demonstrate at a B.Y.U. v.s. U.C.L.A. basketball game.
Ed Parker's wife, Leilani Parker, confirms the BYU/UCLA game but also gives the year wrong in her Memories of Ed Parker, Delsby Publications 1997 (page 27) and stated of Ed Parker,
"...He started to teach a select, closed group of interested fellow students from Hawaii...Ed was invited to demonstrate his skills during intermission of a basketball game between BYU and UCLA early in December 1954...."
All this is of course from Ed Parker and his wife's perspectives. written 23, 27 and 42 years respectively after the fact. The objective facts are somewhat different.
First: This was an officially sponsored culb, which is the only way groups could use BYY facilities. And the Faculty sponsor was Dr. Wayne Wright.

Second: This was not a Kenpo Club. It was the Y Judo Dojo.

Third: The club was for advanced Judoka, which included several Haolies.

Fourth The Club first used the wrestling room in the fall quarter, 1955.

All this can be seen in the Brigham Young University 1956 Year Book (The Banyon) Page 242.
The significance of this is that Ed Parker did not start teaching Kenpo Karate until January 1956, and he graduated in June 1956. That means no one in Utah (other than the Island boys and Judoka) trained with Ed Parker for more than 6 months.
What is misleading is the fact that Ed Parker did not teach in the "wrestling room" his first year after returning to BYU. Rather he worked out with his fellow Hawaiians in the Mormon Church Polynesian Ward (building) Cultural Hall. Actually, not all of the students were from Hawaii. Some were from the Philippines, but they had all trained previously under various martial artists in Hawaii.
I had been training with Ed about two months when three "Island Boys" came into the studio in late December 1957. These were tough looking characters and they demanded to see Ed Parker. I had just opened the studio for the day class and was alone, so I called Ed at home and he came in about half an hour later. During that time I had a opportunity to talk with Tom Loura and the Mohoui brothers, Frank and Ralph, who had trained with Ed at BYU. And I had the opportunity (or misfortune) of having them show me some of their techniques. In other words, they uses me as a punching bag. Tom and I became friends, and I stayed with him when I first went to Hawaii in early 1959. These were some of the men I knew as the "Island Boys" Ed Parker taught at BYU.

Ed had always told us it was the half-time demonstration of the basketball game between BYU and UCLA that opened the door for him to teach Kenpo Karate to law enforcement agencies and led to him putting on Kenpo demonstrations throughout Utah, and that is what Ed Parker wrote in his book.

That BYU/UCLA game was the only basketball half-time demonstration Ed put on at BYU, and it was the last public demonstration Ed put on at BYU, as it was that demonstration that brought Ed to the attention of the Provo, Utah law enforcement agencies and the BYU administration. Tom Loura, (who died in 1998) was one of Ed's student in that demonstration.

Tom Loura was a Thomas Young brown belts when he returned from a mission for the Mormon Church and went BYU in the Fall of 1954. He and Ed Parker met at a church MIA (Mutual Improvement Association) meeting at the BYU Polynesian Ward (church building) about three weeks after classes began.
Tom played the ukulele and was entertaining the group when Ed came up with a weathered ukulele and asked Tom (in front of the group) to teach him how to play. Tom showed Ed how to hold the "uke" and when Ed tried to strum it, his fingers went through the strings and into the opening. Ed was a complete klutz, very body laughed, and Ed looked embarrassed. Then Tom began showing Ed first one note, then another, and Ed seemed to be a fast learner. Tom then played a fast string, and Ed followed, then Ed went even faster. Tom related this to me shortly before he died, and said it was like "Dueling Banjos" and he knew Ed had suckered him. Tom had heard the best Uke players in Hawaii, and Ed was better than any of them. In fact, Ed Parker taught the ukulele to earn money when he was at BYU back in 1949.
Ed and Tom became fast friends and began practicing together in the Polynesian Ward recreation hall in early 1955. Kip Kiphunna (who trained with Sonny Emperado) had been Tom Loura's missionary companions and Kip joined the Club (although it wasn't a club yet). Ed Parker was a natural leader and the three men practiced with Ed leading the group. About three months into the new year , Frank Mohoui and his brother Ralph, who were Mitose brown belts, joined the group. The five trained in the church recreation hall until Fal Quarter 1955, when two Judo black belts, Mark and John Kalima joined them, and Ed got permission to use the wrestling room at the Smith Fieldhouse for the Y Judo Dojo Ed formed.
NOTE: BYU was on the quarter system, with four quarters (not the usual three of most colleges) because all Mormon young men were expected to go on missions for two or two and a half years, when they were nineteen. This made it easy for them to end or start college within any three months of the year.

All young men were expected to go on missions when they turned nineteen, and it was at that time they were ordained Elders in the Mormon Church. Anyone who really knew Ed Parker knew why he did not go on a mission, even though he was ordained as an Elder.

NOTE: The freshman female students outnumbered the combined freshman through senior student body at BYU - it's where a girl went to find a husband.

There were three rules to join the club: You had to be from the Islands; you had to have already trained in the martial arts (no beginners); and, the rest of the group had to agree to your entry.
Most of the new members had trained either with Professor Chow, Sonny Emperado or Thomas Young, or Judo. Ed caught the attention of the BYU Athletic Department and was asked to put on the half-time demonstration at BYU-UCLA basketball game.

That demonstration didn't take place in 1954 as Ed and his wife wrote. There was no B.Y.U. - U.C.L.A. game in 1954. The first B.Y.U. - U.C.L.A. games ever played at Prove was on Friday, December 2, 1955 (BYU won 75-58) and Saturday, December 3, 1955. (BYU won 67-65.) This was THE game, as it put BYU in the spotlight of the basketball world.
The first game ever played between BYU and UCLA was during the 1929-30 season, (December 21, 22) at UCLA in Los Angeles. The two teams met again during the 1949-50 NCAA Championship game at Kansas City (BYU beat UCLA 83-62), and Rich Montgomery, who would become Ed Parker's second black belt, was on that B.Y.U. team. It's a matter of public record (SEE: B.Y.U. Basketball All Time Results) that 1955 was the first year in the history of BYU basketball that BYU played UCLA at BYU (Provo) and they only played two games that season on December 2 and 3.
Ed Parker had the game right, but the year was wrong.
It was a week or two after the UCLA game (not the next day as some claim) that Ed put on a demonstration for the Provo, Utah law enforcement officials; and, that launched Ed's career as a Kenpo Karate instructor.
NOTE: BYU hired Ed as an adjunct instructor for an 055 Extension class in self-defense for law officers. This meant law enforcement students could get college credit for the course, though the credits were not transferable and did not count towards a degree - 100 and above courses were transferable.
In February, 1956, Ed Parker began teaching Kenpo Karate commercially on Tuesday and Thursday night at Roy Woodward's Body Building Gym in Provo Utah. Roy let Ed have a corner where he taught two or three students. This didn't last long as Roy sold the gym to American Health Studios, and moved to Los Angeles where he took the position of Regional Manager for American Health Studios.
About a year ago (1996) I asked both Tom Loura and Frank Mohoui what rank Ed Parker was when they were in the BYU club. They both said he was a Judo Sandan, and a Kenpo black belt. But when I asked for more detail, they said they really didn't know what his Kenpo rank was. He wore a black belt, and since they were all Mormons, they assumed Ed Parker was a black belt. However, Ed never promoted any of the club members. They had their rank from their instructors, and while Ed taught them a great deal, he didn't want to anger their instructors by promoting their students. Shodan was the only black belt rank in Kenpo at the time. When I told them that Professor Chow had only promoted Ed to brown belt, they both said that was probably true, but Ed should have been a black belt because he was far better than any of them. I asked them about Ed Parker planning on teaching Kenpo Karate professionally, and they both told me that Ed made very little money teaching in Provo, and that he had always planned on going into law enforcement, and they both knew Ed had gone to Pasadena to work for the Probation Department. He never mentioned anything to them about opening a school until after it was open, and they said Ed told them even he was surprised that the school was making money.
Ed Parker graduated from BYU the first half of June, 1956 and moved to Pasadena at that time. It is worth repeating, Ed Parker, only taught Island boys, prior to the UCLA game in December 1955. Or put another way, Ed Parker never taught anyone who was not from Hawaii, until early 1965. This means Ed only taught his Utah students for a maximum of six months before going to California, and that is not enough time for anyone to earn a black belt. Ed seldom talked about training his Utah students, other than the experiences he had with the different law enforcement people he knew there. It was not until 1963 that he even referred to any of them as his Utah brown belts.
NOTE: Many in American Kenpo have questioned why any criticism of Ed Parker was not published until after his death. Everything I have written on Kenpo has been published on the Internet. Ed Parker died in 1990. The World Wide Web was not chartered by CERN until 1992. The InterNIC was created by NSF in 1993. My writings began in 1995, and were originally posted on tracyskarate.com.
For those who are incapable of understanding this time line, Ed Parker died before the World Wide Web was created. What I have written is of interest to only a handful of people, those who want to know the history of Kenpo as one who was there saw it; and, there is certainly not enough interest to justify a book. Additionally, some of the information I have presented in the past was known only to a handful of people. However, with the Gathering of Eagles earlier this year, most of what I have written was confirmed by Sonny Emperado, Ralph Castro and others. But more importantly, some things that didn't seem important in the past have proved to be quite significant, especially in light of the out and out lies that have been presented by many in American Kenpo.
There's another fallacy in the argument against saying anything about Ed Parker after he died. Others are writing about him, and not only repeating inaccuracies, but creating a whole new line of lies. Then there are those like Leilani Parker who wrote in Memories of Ed Parker, Delsby Publications 1997 (page 27) "...Ed was invited to demonstrate his skills during intermission of a basketball game between BYU and UCLA early in December 1954..." that date is impossible, since the first game ever between BYU and UCLA at BYU was in December 1955. Yet this error is repeated by many in American Kenpo, and the perpetuation of this lie promotes the assertion that Ed Parker taught his Utah students for eighteen months, instead of the six months he actually taught. And that additional year has given credence to the absurd claim that Charles Beeder was Ed Parker's first black belt.
Then there is an interview Ed Parker gave for Karate International magazine, that was not published until after Ed died. Speaking from the grave, Ed stated, "The Tracy brothers were students of mine back in the late 50's and early 60's. When they left me they were brown belts." That is patently false, as will be shown later.

©1996, 1999, 2006 by W. Tracy. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without permission. The Law Offices of Michael Tracy.

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