Kenpo Karate Setting History Right
The Blackbelted Mormon
(second revision 8/8/99)
Both Ed and Professor Chow were Mormons, and Ed Parker was well known as the "Mormon Black Belt" (Black Belt Magazine's first issue had a picture of Ed Parker as the "Blackbelted Mormon"). The General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considered Ed Parker to be a great missionary tool;(Black Belt Magazine's first issue had a picture of Ed Parker as the "Blackbelted Mormon") and the General Authorities of the Church considered Ed Parker to be a great missionary tool."Ed didn't preach his religion. He hadn't gone on a mission like other young men did, and he felt an obligation to set an example that would influenced people towards the Mormon Church.
In 1958, seventeen of Ed Parker's students converted to the Mormon faith. But that was just the tip of conversions. Most of those converts had family members who also joined the Church; and those converts wanted their relatives to know about their new religion. These relatives where not just in Pasadena but scattered all over the country. In 1959 over 200 new members were converted in Pasadena Stake alone due to the direct or indirect influence of Ed Parker. When you consider that no mission in the Mormon Church converted 200 members in 1959, (and some converted fewer than a dozen) you can understand how important Ed Parker was for the Church.
Professor Chow was also well know to the General Authorities of the Church, but Professor Chow had problems living the Mormon religion. He was what was called a Jack Mormon. He not only drank, but he liked (euphemism) the women and had an explosive personality.
I had been training with Chow for nearly a year when I was called on a mission for the Mormon Church. I returned to Pasadena the end of December 1959, and went over everything with Ed I had learned from Chow and Oshita.
Brigham Young University opened the Church College of Hawaii in 1955, with fewer that 200 students. Ed’s father Arthur was a construction supervisor and was present at the dedication of its first buildings in 1958, and came to Pasadena to visit Ed shortly after that. The College was two years at the time and became a four-year college the next year. I was asked by Hugh B. Brown, of the General Authorities to try to get “Professor Chow” to teach at the college.
That was not an easy task. First, Professor Chow had long defected from the Church, but came back from time to time because of its welfare program. Chow and I got along very well after I began training with Fusae Oshita and after a week-long drunken binge late summer 1959, he gave up drinking - for the time being.
Chow was dissatisfied with Ed’s treatment of him. He had promised Chow a partnership in his studio which he opened in 1956, but never paid Chow anything. In September 1959 I told Chow that Ed’s studio only brought in $600 a month. I did not tell him that Ed’s money came from getting $100 an hour for teaching Hollywood Stars. (Marilyn wanted to pay me $300 for each session with her but I told her that Ed’s got everything, and she respected me for not taking anything on the side.)
I told Chow that Ed barely broke even on the school, and the agreement was that Ed would pay Chow $100.00 a month. Considering that the average person was paid a dolled per hour, $40 a week (about $9 per hour in today’s money) that worked out to be about $350 a month in today’s money. Ed would also open another school and they would split the profits 50/50. The Crenshaw Blvd Studio but never made a profit.
I arraigned for Processor Chow to teach as the Church College for $500 a month. He was there for one month, hated it, and returned to Honolulu. He went back to drinking, and when I left in 1961 he wanted nothing more to do with the Mormon Church.
Now this is from the horses mouth, Professor Chow was a Mormon - that does not mean he remained a Mormon. Now you can get it from the other end of the horse - those who didn’t know Professor Chow until ten years or more after I trained with him, who claim he was not a Mormon.
When I opened my school in 1965, I began sending Professor Chow $100 a month through Western Union, because I had made the deal with he and Parker, and I kept the bargain. I sent him his last payment in 1973 when I sold all of my schools.
As for Ed Parker, when I returned to Pasadena in late 1961, I was asked to work with Ed to keep him from joining an Apostate Mormon group, which had taken some of Ed’s best students. Mills Crenshaw took over that duty when I opened my Studio in Portland in 1965.
There are those who say Professor Chow was not a Mormon.
Added by Roarke Tracy: My Uncle Jim Tracy are in a group picture taken with Ed Parker and some of his students on either April 11 or 12, 1960.
The Church wanted Professor Chow to teach Kenpo at the BYU Church College in Hawaii, which had opened in 1955. (Ed Parker's father had been a construction supervisor there.) The college was on the other side of the Island, at Laie, and Professor Chow disliked the area, because, as he had told me, the winds blew the wrong way. Professor Chow taught there for a short time, then went back to Honolulu, where he lived a couple of blocks from Ala Moana Park. That's where he taught Kenpo.
I was released from my mission in mid October 1961, and met with Howard Hunter and Hugh B. Brown (two General Authorities of the Mormon Church who I had know since 1958)in Salt Lake, who told me they were concerned about Ed Parker. At least two, maybe more, of his students had joined a polygamous group, and the number of prospective members for the Church requesting missionary contact had fallen off to nothing. They wanted me to find out what was going on.
Ed Parker's studios were in financial trouble. The La Cienega school was losing money and the Pasadena school was barely making enough for Ed to live on. Ed was teaching more private lessons, and the royalties from his book gave him a good income. I told Ed about the Yudansha (Yuudansha) being formed in Hawaii, and Ed paid my expenses to fly to Hawaii for the formation, and to get his long sought after belt rank. I returned to Pasadena the middle of November, and Ed Parker was promoted to Sandan in December 1961. That was the last time Professor Chow ever promoted Ed Parker.
In late December 1961 I reported back to Howard Hunter in Salt Lake City, that the members who had joined the polygamous group had actually belonged to the group as far back as 1958. It was a group Howard W. Hunter was personally aware of. I told him there was not much I could do to help Ed Parker, other than getting his business running better because Ed no longer taught beginning students, and few beginners, or even intermediate students ever saw Ed. His effectiveness as a missionary tool for the Church would take some time to regain.