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CONTACT: Kenpo Contact

Ed Parker's 1957 Studio

by
Will Tracy
9/9/2015
Ed Parker originally only wanted to teach Kenpo to his fellow Hawaiian's until the his December 1955 Demonstration at the halftime of the BYU/UCLA basketball. Within a month, he was teaching a law enforcement class for BYU, and a month later he began teaching at Roy Woodward's Gym in Provo, Utah. He graduated from BYU on June 1, 1956 and had a job waiting for him with the Los Angeles Probation Department in Pasadena. His law enforcement students had primed Ed on taking the civil service examination which he passed, and with the 5 points for being a veteran he received the highest score that year. He began his job on June 4, 1956 and held that job until April, 1957.

Ed had chosen Pasadena because Roy Woodward who owned the Provo, Utah Health Studio where Ed taught for three months in 1956 had moved to Los Angeles with American Health Studios. Roy's good friend, Bert Goodrich, rented space for Ed to teach at his Pasadena Bert Goodrich Barbell Gym (7 N. Fair Oaks -- corner of Colorado Blvd).


The Probation department job paid Ed Parker just over $4,200 a year. That would be equivalent to about $33,000. But Ed Parker had greater ambitions, which did not include teaching Kenpo. Two members of the Mormon Church Pasadena Ward (church) were Helen Hinckley Jones and her husband Ivan who both taught English at Pasadena City College (PCC). I was taken under wing by Ivan (Charles) who would tell me "You're not yet Hemingway," and my good friend, Gary Ballard, married their eldest daughter, Jacque'. Helen Hinckley Jones was famous as a Mormon writer, and she and Charles told Ed they could get him a position teaching sociology at PCC if he had a master degree. The starting salary at PCC at that time was $24,000 a year. That's $190,000 a year in today's money.

The problem was, Ed Parker needed a master's degree, and it would take four years (going nights) for Ed to get his degree at U.C.L.A which was across town, and Ed didn't have the tuition, let alone the time. In September 1956, Roy Woodward introduced Ed Parker to Terry Robinson, who was the athletic director at the Beverly Wilshire Health Club. (Ed founded teh Kenpo Karate Association of America KKAA at that time.) Ed Parker would write about the meeting in Inside Elvis p. 26.

As I stated, Ed met Terry Robinson in 1956, and he had been teaching at Roy Woodward's gym. In January, 1957 Ed put on a demonstration shown in the Los Angeles Examiner article of January 13, 1957 at Beverly Wilshire Health Club.Ed did not open his Pasadena studio until February 18, 1957, and Terry Robinson is the person to the far left of picture, standing on a workout bench. At that time, (as the article states) Ed was teaching at the Beverly Wilshire Health Club, and the Goodrich Gym in Pasadena.

This article is also significant because Ed Parker stated Kenpo, "combines Judo, jiu Jitsu, boxing, some wrestling and much of the rough and tumble of street fighting." In other words, Kenpo Karate was not a single fighting style.

The Examiner article came out on a Sunday, and Monday morning Louie Vega, manager of the Burt Goodrich Barbell Gym was inundated with calls about Kenpo Karate.
There were no Yellow Pages in 1957. In fact there were no phone directories. To find a business you called the Operator who answered with, "Number please." There were so many calls to the gym that Louie called the phone company and gave then Ed Parker's phone number, and within a couple of days whenever a person called the operator and asked for the Goodrich gym, the Operator would ask if they were calling for the gym or Kenpo Karate.
Ed Parker was an overnight sensation, and he had so many students signing up at the Pasadena Gym that Burt Goodrich told him he would have to get his own place. Ed found a small building at 1840 Walnut Street and borrowed $300 from friends and opened the studio a month later, on February 18, 1957.
Ed held the One-Year anniversary at the studio on February 18, 1958. That was the date I was promoted to Yonkyu, 4th kyu.

Had it not been for the demonstration, and more importantly, Joe Hyams' article in the Los Angeles Examiner, Ed Parker may well have remained just another part-time karate instructor.


©2009, 2015 by W. Tracy. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without permission.