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. 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 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 I had learned from Chow and Oshita with Ed Parker. Then I reported to the Church mission home in Salt Lake City, where I was told there would be other plans for me, and I was temporarily assigned to another mission.
I arrived in the mission field in mid January, and in late March, 1960 I was called back to Salt Lake where Howard Hunter, (one of the Church 12 Apostles) with whom I had been close in Pasadena, told me that the General Authorities were concern about Professor Chow. They believed he could be as great an influence for the Church as Ed Parker, and I was reassigned to serve my mission in Hawaii so I could work with Professor Chow. This was like throwing me into the briar patch, and I was able to work close with Professor Chow for the next year and a half.
I left Salt Lake city for Hawaii a day or two after April 10, 1960, (the Church General Conference) and flew into Los Angeles late in the afternoon. The flight to Hawaii didn't leave until the next day, so I called Ed and told him I would be at his studio that night to pay my respects. I was a brown belt at the time and my brothers were promoted to brown belt a day or two after that.
Added by Roarke Tracy: My Uncle Jim Tracy are in a group picture taken with Ed Parker and some of his students when my Dad was on his way to Hawaii 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 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 me.
I remained in Hawaii until late 1961 and a day or two after Oshita promoted me to Shodan, I was called back to Salt Lake City. When I told Chow I had to leave, he promoted me to Shodan.
I met with Howard Hunter and Hugh B. Brown (two General Authorities of the Mormon Church) 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. I was reassigned on a special mission to spend the remaining three month working with Ed Parker.
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, and was officially released from my mission. 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.
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Next: Setting History Right: 1960-1962