The soft flowing hands of Tai Chi Chuan, are not unlike the brush stroke of the calligrapher, the movement of the sword, or the strike of the Kenpo master. Each is an art, and each teaches the student a different perspective. However, the student must first know his own art, and the student must distinguish what was art at the time of Musashi from that which is called art today. He must understand not only the techniques for attack and defense, but he must practice them and become skilled in every facit of Kenpo.
I had the good fortune of having the great musical composer, Bronislaw Kaper, as one of my close friends. His music compositions set the themes for hundreds of movies, yet his art extended to the saber which he learned and became Poland's Junior Saber Champion in the early 20th Century. Kenpo was an extension of these arts and as Bronie watched the new music arts deviate from the classics to undisciplined popularity, he declared to me that people, like their music lose their way. Then as he saw Kenpo deviate from the Way he told me he saw the very essence of Kenpo dissipate into absurdity.
Bronie and I watched one day as our Kenpo master demonstrated a new staff set one of his students had created. Bronie picked up a staff and watched as the master moved and twirled the staff, then as the master approached, Bronie moved his own staff just slightly and sent the staff of the master flying out of his hands. Bronie was greatly disappointed by what had happened and told me that when an inept student is better than the master, art is debased. Kenpo, like Tai Chi and classic music is, "boundless as the sea and sky," yet when any art is narrowed by lack of knowledge or technique it deviates from the Way. Likewise, to become acquainted with every art is, a broad principle that the student must train in the Way in order to master strategy.
The student cannot know Kenpo if his teacher does not know Kenpo, or is inept, worse yet Knows Kenpo but changes it and in the process looses it. Nor can one know a few Kenpo techniques and really know Kenpo. This can best be seen in the Chinese Kung Fu styles. Each style was developed to defeat the master of another style. But in order to do this, the master of the style, the one who created it, first had to know the style he wanted to defeat. It is axiomatic that the best swordsman in all of France never feared the second best swordsman, because he knew everything the latter knew. No, what he feared was the swordsman he did not know, the one who had not trained in the schools in which he trained, or as has been said, the worst swordsman in all of France.
Kenpo Karate was coined by Ed Parker, and taken from James Mitose’s Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu. Professor Chow, Sonny and Joe Emperado took Mitose’s techniques to the streets and worked out, what was for each, the best fighting style. There was a saying among boxers back then, “everyone has a plan until he gets hit,” and Ed Parker drilled that into the minds of all his early students. For me it meant, “don’t think, just do it.”
I had demonstrated the Yang Tai Chi Set when I first met Ed Parker in 1957, and he told me “We can all debate who the greatest boxer was. But no one cares who the best Shadow Boxer is.” But he admitted that Tai Chi would be good for very old people. When Ed changed Kenpo Karate to Chinese Kenpo, he incorporated Jimmy Wing Woo’s Book Set, and his version of the Tiger and Crane, Hung Gar Set. Then came the forms. They were, for lack of a better word, Crap. But Ed explained the reason for teaching his forms. “Short Form One is worth $100, Short Form Two is $200, Long Form One is $300, Long Form Two is $400.” The Staff Set that was created by one of Ed’s students was $500. By the time one got to Form Seven, it was $1,000.
The difference between the Parker Forms or Sets and Hung Gar, was in how they were taught. Each move in Hung Gar is done with isotonic contraction, while Kenpo is done with speed and snapping motions. Yang Style Tai Chi is done “Once for the body, once for the mind and once for the Spirit, and the Li Set is don isotonicaly, much like the Iron Wire Set. Whereas in Tai Chi Intent (Yi) is directed to Jing Shen, (mind and spirit of vitality).
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