american kenpo karate

4 Demonstrations That Changed Kenpo - #2 January 1957


This demonstration with Ed Parker and Harold Wong took place at the Beverly Wilshire Heath Club the first week in January 1957 where there were only about a dozen people present.

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4 Demonstrations
That Changed Kenpo

     BYU 1955
     January 1957
Kenpo Karate

Harold Wong was also part of the 1957 BYU halftime demonstration team, and graduated with Ed on June 1, 1956. Joe Hyams, wrote the article without a byline because he was a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune. The article appeared in the Sunday supplement on January 13, 1957, and it changed Kenpo history.
Ed Parker originally only wanted to teach Kenpo to his fellow Hawaiian's until the First Demonstration that Changed Kenpo at the halftime of the BYU/UCLA basketball game in December 1955. 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 today, adjusted for inflation. 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 adjusted for inflation.

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 Parker would write about the meeting in Inside Elvis p. 26.

"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."
Part of that is of course wrong, because Ed did not open his Pasadena studio until February 18, 1957. In other words, Ed could not have been remodeling his new studio because he did not have any studio when he first met Terry Robinson. The demonstration shown in the Los Angeles Examiner article of January 13, 1957 was at Beverly Wilshire Health Club, 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.

How This Demonstration Changed Kenpo

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.


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