Kenpo Karate Setting History Right 1956-1959by
(second revision 8/8/99)
After graduating from BYU with a degree in Sociology in June 1956, (not in both sociology and psychology as some claim) Ed Parker moved to Pasadena, California. Three months before Ed had tested for a position with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and got a job with their Probation Department. Ed wanted to work with troubled youth, but because of his size and martial arts skills he was assigned to supervise the most hardened parolees. Ed saw no future in this and asked Roy Woodward for advice. Roy Woodward had encouraged Ed to come to Los Angeles where he had a body building gym. (Roy would sell this to American Health Studios and become their regional manager) Roy had paid Ed's expenses so he could go to Los Angeles to take the Civil Service examination for the Sheriff's Department.
Ed Parker published Inside Elvis Rampart House 1978 which was the year after Elvis died. On page 25 he wrote:American Health did not allow outside trainers, so Roy introduced Ed to Bert Goodrich who had a gym on Fair Oaks Street in Pasadena as well as his popular gym on Hollywood Blvd. where Steve Reeves and many of the body builders trained. Bert Goodrich and Roy Woodward took Ed to meet Terry Robinson who was athletic director at the Beverly Wilshire Health Club. Terry, who was billed as "The Deadliest Marine" who taught self-defense as "Kill or Be Killed" was so impressed with Ed that he set him up teaching private lessons to the Hollywood elite."Graduation was decision time ... should I further my education or seek employment? Roy Woodward was now the manager of a health studio in Southern California. He extended an offer, which I accepted: however, through a chain of circumstances, I suddenly found myself unemployed."It is quite different from what Ed would later write about having planned with Chow on opening Kenpo school on the mainland after he graduated from BYU. And becoming unemployed (leaving the Probation Department) was what Ed always told my brothers and me.
Ed has his meeting with Terry Robinson wrong where he wrote, "Roy called one day while I was renovating my new studio. He invited me to American Health's Hollywood Gym. He wanted me to meet Terry Robinson a World War II "kill or be killer" combat instructor...'if I had the time.' It was an afternoon well spent and concluded with Terry inviting me to the Beverly Wilshire Health Club where he was the physical director." (Inside Elvis (1979) Rampart House, Ltd. Page 26.
Ed did not open his Pasadena Studio until February 18, 1957, and had been teaching at the Bert Goodrich Bar Bell Gym for about a month when Bert and Roy introduced Ed to Terry Robinson. It's a minor detail, but when taken as a whole, Ed was ignoring how he got started teaching Kenpo for a more determined from the beginning approach.
The Beverly Wilshire Health Club was not a health studio like American Health, but rather more like a spa, social club and health club combined. Its members included most of Hollywood's movers and shakers. Ed did not teach classes as many believe, but rather simi-private lessons to small groups of two or three friends, and many of these had Ed come to their homes to teach private lessons.
NOTE: Many in American Kenpo believe Ed Parker held some secret knowledge which he only imparted to a select few. In a way, that was true. But it had nothing to do with Kenpo. How to make a sawdust mat was a "secret" Ed only showed to his inner circle. Everyone in Ed Parker's Inner Kenpo Karate Circle knew how the mat is made, the type of canvas used and the details of its construction. This was the type of mat the Tracy brothers used in their first studio in San Francisco, and anyone who does not know how it was made was never in Ed's Inner Circle. NOTE: The tatami mats were standard 35.5" wide X 71" long and 2.25" thick. They had a vinyl covering to protect the rice straw, and cost $100 each. There were 20 mats in the workout area, and 14 mats used to protect the wall and a couple of extra in storage. That's over $3500 with shipping for mats, (in 1956 dollars = $14,000 in today's money) and they arrived less than three months after Ed opened his studio. These were a gift to Ed from his close friend in Japan.Ed was concerned about how Professor Chow would take his opening a school and wrote Professor Chow in 1957, requesting his permission to open the studio in Pasadena. This was such an important request that Professor Chow showed the letter to Adriano Emperado, and it was Emperado who finally convinced Chow to allow the studio to be opened. But Chow did not give his permission until later 1957.
NOTE by Roarke Tracy: My father and Uncle Jim began training in October, 1957, and my Uncle Al was in the Air Force. About two weeks later Uncle Al had over two months of leave time and came went Pasadena where he began training. He came back on another thirty day leave in mid 1958, before going discharged from the Air Force, when the began training each week.
I trained with Ed Parker until the March 1959 and having access to Ed Parker's Kenpo techniques he kept on 3x5 index cards in his desk my brothers and I copied them by hand because there were no copy machines back then. As my brothers an I went through the cards to pick out the techniques he would teach the advanced class each night it became obvious that Ed had taught us just about everything he had on the cards; which was everything he knew. I told Ed I wanted to go to Hawaii to train with Professor Chow and Ed liked the idea, because he knew from the Island boys who had come over, that Professor Chow was not happy with him. Ed wanted to make amends, and he wanted Professor Chow to promote him to a higher rank. But Ed also wanted to add forms to his system. All of the Japanese karate demonstrations were getting great response from their forms, but Ed didn't have any. I suggested that we go to San Francisco where I knew several Kung Fu men, and Ed could see what Chinese forms were like.
Ed had turned the Pasadena studio over to Al and Jim Tracy in August 1959, to finish the photographs for his book so he could go to Hawaii, and Al and Jim raised the first months gross receipts from its usual $600 to over $1,000. When Ed returned from Hawaii in late September 1959, he found the school doing so well that he saw no need to go there to teach, and that gave him time to go over the final draft for his book. Over the next few weeks, Ed taught private lessons to the Beverly Hills students, and train Al and Jim in his back yard each day when they brought the studio receipts to him. By the end of the year, December, which was always the worst month for money in the school, Al and Jim brought in $2000.
August 1959: Rich Montgomery - brown belt
Chuck Pranke - two tips April 1963: Chuck Pranke All existing One Tippers were advanced to Two Tippers (but not given certificates because they would have gone from Gokyu, to Rokkyu [5th to 6th]), and all Two Tippers, including Chuck Pranke, and my brothers, Al and Jim, were advanced to Four Tippers which was still Yonkyu. There was an immediate response to this. Students who had learned more than thirty techniques were now One Tippers, and they began signing up their friends. Unfortunately, Ed Parker never fully grasp the concept that Kenpo students did best when their progress was rewarded. San Francisco was a great success for Ed Parker. He not only met with several more Kung Fu instructors, but from what he saw, he knew he could write a second book - this one on Kung Fu.
Rich Montgomery, Ed Parker
T.Y. Wong, James Ibrao
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