american kenpo karate

KEVIN LAMKIN
in his own words

After having achieved Shodan in Tracy's Kenpo, in 1979, under the tutelage of several incredible instructors, Jim Stewart, Gary Avery, Tracy Schiller, Roger Lee, and Henry Childers, an economic downturn forced our Kenpo studio to close. I contacted Al Tracy to continue training. Mr. Tracy had just released the 1st home study videos in Kenpo, perhaps the 1st in any martial home training. I began running a full-time Tracy's Kenpo Studio in Louisville, KY while finishing my undergraduate degrees in chemistry and physics. Before the Internet, the only way to acquire information in Kenpo was through seminar, lessons, magazine articles and books. In, the mid 80s, Ed Parker had released his Infinite Insights Into Kenpo, five volume book series. These books were well-written and contained a great deal of information that I did not know. By the time volumes 4 and 5 were released, I was in graduate school, working on my Masters degree in physics and teaching some undergraduate physics courses and the University of Louisville.

I found that the Infinite Insights books worked very well with all of the Tracys material that I had learned. There were a few items that I had difficulty with, regarding the physics of some of the concepts and principles that Ed Parker had written about. These items were 'reverse motion' and 'marriage of gravity'. I wrote to Ed Parker, detailing my thought about these concepts. I wanted to be sure that the principles of Kenpo did not contradict the Universal Laws of physics. Either, I was wrong in my understanding of what Ed Parker was writing about, or he was wrong about physics. I did not expect a response from Ed, however, one night after coming home from teaching classes, my brother, Eric, gave me the phone and whispered, "Its Ed Parker!"

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Mr. Parker, spoke for about 45 minutes with me. He said that he was taking a break on set while he was choreographing the fighting sequences on Blake Edwards' remake of Peter Gunn. Our conversation covered many topics. Ed Parker wanted a very serious study of Kenpo, with the relation to physics. Ed helped to clear up the misunderstanding of the two topics mentioned in my letter. He explained that 'reverse motion' should best be described as 'reverse path'. The usual illustration of reverse motion is a trust punch. "When the motion of a thrust punch is reversed", he said, "you get a rear elbow strike". However, in physics, that would not be true. The reverse of a thrust punch with be the chambering of the fist. For reverse motion to be true, ALL motions must be 'conserved' to be true. Ed explained that he was very aware of that, having studied physics in college, and a science buff on the side. However, he said that most of his students would not get it. The term reverse motion was simply an allegory so that his students could better visualize what he normally stated as 'reverse path'.

The other concept we discussed was 'marriage of gravity'. I explained to him that we have no possible way to physically manipulate gravity to assist our strikes. He said that he understood this, and that he knew that gravity has very little contribution to the power that is generated while we strike. He stated that he used to always use the phrase, "put your weight into it", when striking. But he maintained that it was his dream to lift Kenpo out of the stigma that the general public has about martial arts - that martial artists are a bunch of brutal pugilists. Instead, he encouraged the phrase, "the art of scientific fighting". So, the phrase Marriage of Gravity was a more poetic way to describe to utilize more body momentum with each action.


He said that he was impressed with my grasp of the concepts of Kenpo and would like me to write for his IKKA newsletter. I wrote several articles for the newsletter in a column that he entitled, Kenpo Physics. These articles continued for about three years after his death. It was his aim for me to write the series in a progressive manner to show the scientific concepts behind the relationship of speed, power, momentum to final arrive at a definition of 'focused power'. Some of these articles are still available for download at, http://www.arnis.org/downloads/downloads.htm . I continued to research and experiment on many of my students to finalize the work, Kenpo Physics, which is a two DVD set, with detailed notes. This project easily explains the physics of Kenpo motion with regard to generating power, and maximizing focus. In formation of this series can be found at this link: http://www.arnis.org/products/physics1.htm

Ed Parker and I had numerous conversations over the latter part of the 80s. One topic that my brother, Eric, and I worked on was the Family Groupings of the Kenpo self defense techniques. We had worked on them after learning about the concept from the Tracys Instructor Manuals that Al Tracy had released in the early 80s. We had broken down all of the Tracy techniques into their families, and wanted to do the same for the Parker techniques. So, we worked through the American Kenpo techniques and always bounced the ideas off of Ed Parker. What resulted was the "Master of Kenpo Workbook - Family Grouping of American Kenpo." This workbook is still available for free download at http://www.arnis.org/downloads/downloads.htm . This is a topic that few have completely grasped and has been a popular seminar topic over the past two decades.

We also worked on a complete breakdown of principle, concept and theory of each self defense technique in American Kenpo as part of my black belt thesis in American Kenpo. In 1988, Ed Parker had granted me my 4th degree black belt. By the time Ed Parker had died, we had finished through Green Belt. We continued the project and finally finished the project 1,800 pages later with the Unabridged Library of Contemporary Kenpo. This item is still available at http://www.arnis.org/home_study/library.htm

In the late 1980s, Ed Parker announced that he was going to begin filming a Home Study Course of Kenpo. He said that he planned to film the entire system in about 35-45 tapes. He offered a sponsorship program, where the sponsors would help to finance the filming of the program. In return for the sponsorship, the sponsors would get their names in the credits of the tapes, exclusive teaching rights, and he would send some extra material showing the progress. Eric and I became sponsors for the program. In total, only eight names appear as sponsors in the credits of the only two tapes that were released. He sent me one particular tape of Yellow Belt, from the 'dailies'. This was a silent tape showing one of his black belts going through the yellow belt techniques. The other, non-released tape was with two of his black belts going through all of the techniques from yellow-3rd black, filmed and narrated by Mr. Parker, in his back yard. Some of the movements were slightly different than what he had published in his "Accumulative Journal" - known and "the Red Book" or "Big Red". I asked Mr. Parker if the tape were to be followed or the manual. He said that what was presented in the tape is what his new tape series is to follow. It is from that statement that Eric and I have always held to when teaching American Kenpo.

Throughout the 90s, Eric and I continued to develop more reference resources for American Kenpo. We had noticed a few Kenpo associations springing up that were teaching American Kenpo not consistent with the curriculum guidelines that Ed Parker had listed in his Infinites Insights Series, vol. 5. We filmed a series of study tapes for our direct students. These went over very well. Eventually, we filmed all of the material in American Kenpo to be available as a Home Study Course. The intent of this course was to present the material, as it was being taught prior to Ed Parker's death, and to preserve the 'Base Technique Method' of studying Kenpo. According to Ed Parker, after the base technique method (Ideal Phase) is learned, the student should then progressively continue to refine the techniques to individualize the Kenpo System. This 'tailored' system is to be individually practiced; however, the base system is what should be first taught.

In the mid 1990s, the Internet became a commercial success. There were very little martial arts on the Internet. We found the Tracy's website to be the first Kenpo website available on the Internet, and it is still very active today: http://www.tracyskarate.com Eric and I thought that getting a website on the Internet would be the best way to promote some of our material. We had filmed a Home Study Course for Arnis de Mano, the Filipino system that my father-in-law had taught me. I contacted Al Tracy to see how it would be possible to get a website for our material. He had me to contact his brother, Will Tracy. Will Tracy literally taught me, and walked me through every step in creating web pages. We was very patient, spending hours, and hours over the next few months teaching me how to create web pages, and to make them appealing for the viewer. The website, being focused only on arnis de mano was given the address, http://www.arnis.org and is still my main webpage today. Both Al and Will knew of my American Kenpo resource materials and kept encouraging me to put the material on the web. After a few months, I did start a section on the arnis website for American Kenpo. It became successful, and numerous instructors began seeking out our resource materials. We still research and produce many Kenpo resources today.

I have always found it to be rather strange and frustrating, regarding the rivalry that so many practitioners try to wedge between Ed Parker's American Kenpo and the Tracy System of Kenpo. Over the past 20 years I have always taught both systems. I have always been very careful not to mix the curriculum for either system into the other. I always explain that it is not that difficult to keep the curriculum separate. I speak German and Japanese, and do not find it difficult keeping the languages separate. Why should it be different in the martial arts? However, I sometimes get criticized by the immature Kenpoists, for not taking sides. Ed Parker told me that he felt that over the years a cult had formed around him. He said, had he known that things would have turned out as they did, we would never have pursued Kenpo as a career, and instead, pursued a career in law enforcement.

One thing that a lot of people complain about is that all the associations want is money. Do you know how much Will Tracy charged me while teaching me about web pages? In the 90s, website designers were making a mint and retiring wealthy within a couple of years. Yet, Will Tracy charged me nothing at all. How much did Ed Parker charge me by guiding me through his system and critiquing my writings? Also, he charged me nothing. How much does Al Tracy charge for belt promotion tests? Go to his website, or call him. He charges nothing at all for these tests. In 2007, Al Tracy inducted me in the Inaugural Kenpo Hall of Fame. Eric and my other brother, Brian, was inducted in 2009. How much did Al charge us? He charged nothing at all. He said that he wanted to recognize us for our contributions to the art of Kenpo It's because of this generous spirit that I have also always maintained that promotional tests should not contain a test fee.

Also regarding the Kenpo rivalries, what many do not know is that Ed Parker was in communication with Al and Will Tracy quite a bit prior to Ed's death. Whenever I spoke with Mr. Parker, he would comment on their communications and talk about some of their plans. One idea Mr. Parker had planned, after his new tape series was complete, is to teach via satellite to his affiliate schools. Both Ed and Will talked to me about this project.

Throughout all of my interactions with Ed Parker, Al and Will Tracy, I had never heard any of them to put down the other. I Ed Parker's words, "I do not build my reputation up, by tearing someone else's down." The bottom line for Ed Parker, and the Tracys, is that Kenpo should be taught in the right spirit. True Kenpo spirit is what most schools lack today and it is what I try to impart to my students through lessons and resource materials. There will always be good and bad instructors in both systems of Kenpo. However, it is my mission to help to preserve the spirit of Kenpo that was taught to me by these great pioneers of our arts.


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