american kenpo karate

4 Demonstrations That Changed Kenpo - #1 BYU 1955

When Ed Parker's father, Arthur Parker, came to Pasadena in 1959 he told Ed Parker's early Kenpo students that Ed Parker was twelve years old when he enrolled Ed in Judo. Ed lived in a tough area of Honolulu and took up boxing his first year in high school just to keep the bullies at bay. He received his judo brown belt when he was 16 and he earned his Shodan when he was 18, the year he graduated high school (1949. That same year he enrolled at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo Utah.

Shortly after the Korean War broke out (June 1950) Ed Parker joined the Coast Guard where he met Ralph Castro in boot camp. Neither had trained in Kenpo at that time, and the two "Island Boys" became good friends. (Ralph Castro would become one of the early Kenpo instructors in the United States.) Ed was stationed in Hawaii, where he resumed his Judo training in early 1951. Shortly after that he began training in Kajukenbo with Sonny Emperado, where he learned of Emperado's instructor, Professor Chow. Ed was only with Emperado a short time before going with Professor Chow where he trained when his ship was in port. Ed earned his judo Nidan (second degree black belt) by the time he was discharged from the Coast Guard in September 1954, and despite claims to the contrary, and a forged black belt certificate, he had not yet received his Shodan from Professor Chow.

Ed Parker returned to BYU in September 1954 to complete a bachelors degree in sociology. Ed was not from a wealthy family, and he told his early students that he had an scholarship that paid for tuition, and got $135 a month on the GI Bill, so he and his wife, Leilani, went hungry many times. Ed spent most of his time outside class and studies with fellow Hawaiians, and he and fellow Hawaiian, Harold Wong, started a martial arts group that trained in the Mormon Church Polynesian cultural hall. As Ed would write in Inside Elvis (1979) Rampart House, Ltd. Page 23 "In retrospect, there may have been a touch of 'Polynesian Chauvinism', though I did not view it as such at the time." One of the few non Hawaiian's Ed and his wife associated with was Dr. Wayne Wright who was the faculty advisor for the BYU Hawaiian Club, and Dr. Wright had Ed and his wife over for dinner each Sunday.

American Kenpo
True Kenpo Techniques
The Kenpo Patch
Belt Requirements
IKKA Black Belts
Kevin Lamkin
That Changed Kenpo

     BYU 1955
     January 1957
     Robert Trias' first karate tournament in August 1963
     Long Beach Ed Parker's tournament August 1964

Kenpo Karate
One year later, September 1955 Dr. Wright helped Ed and Harold Wong create the (BYU) y judo dojo, so they could use the BYU wrestling room. The judo club was originally closed to all but advanced Judoka, who were mostly from Hawaii. On December 2, 1955 Ed Parker, Harold Wong, and several of the other Hawaiian boys, put on a Karate demonstration at the BYU UCLA basketball game half time. This was the demonstration that changed Kenpo.

A great deal of controversy has arisen over when the demonstration took place because Ed Parker and his wife, while stating the demonstration was during BYU UCLA game gave the year for that game as as 1954. That of course is impossible because the first game ever played between BYU and UCLA in Prove was December 2, 1955.

Rather than focusing on what game it was, or the year, it is necessary to know what the events were that transpired after that demonstration, and compare that with BYU records.

The 1956 Banyan (BYU yearbook) clearly states four important things that took place in the fall 1955, and winter 1956:
  1. "y judo dojo was organized for the first time during fall quarter 1955."

  2. "At first, membership was limited to advanced 'judokas,' but beginner's classes for men and women were started winter quarter."

  3. Sponsored by the Extension Division Y Judo Dojo offered instructions to law enforcement agencies in Utah County and representatives from the Provo Police Department and the Utah State Highway Patrol. (Also winter quarter - January 1956)

The BYU 1956 academic year began with the first quarter in September 1955 until December 1955. Winter Quarter was January - March 1956 and Spring Quarter was April - May 1956, with graduation on June 1, 1956.
Ed Parker wrote about three events that took place after the "demonstration at the B.Y.U. v.s. U.C.L.A. basketball game" Inside Elvis (1979) Rampart House, Ltd. Page 24. Ed gives no date for that demonstration, only that the game was between BYU and UCLA.
"The success of this demonstration launched an entirely new dimension in my life. Law officers witnessing the performance requested that a class be be taught at B.Y.U. The university agreed, and suddenly I was both a faculty member and a student.

"As interest in the martial arts blossomed, I re-examined the policy of confining the class to the select group from Hawaii and law enforcement officers.... I began to accept the fact that there were other deserving individuals who needed self-defense skills."

Ed goes on to say that he began teaching at Roy Woodward's gym in Provo. Then on page 25 Ed writes, "Interest on campus increased as well. To satisfy the demand, a Judo club was organized on the B.Y.U. campus... The results were astounding. There was an overabundance of female applicants." Inside Elvis Page 25)

And in Infinite Insights into Kenpo: Mental Stimulation (1982) Delsby Publications P.27 Ed states: "The success of this demonstration launched an entirely new dimension in my life. Drawing the attention of Utah County lawmen, instruction offering University credit was soon initiated at the B.Y.U. campus for City Police, State Highway Patrolmen...and Sheriff's Deputies. In a matter of weeks I began teaching commercially in downtown Provo...."

The Banyan makes no mention of the demonstration, and with regard to Judo, only lists Ed Parker as a member of the "dojo." However, it is clear that BYU did not offer a law enforcement class until January 1956 (Winter Quarter), and the Judo club was also open to everyone during Winter Quarter.

Although Ed Parker gave 1954 as the date of the "B.Y.U. v.s. U.C.L.A. basketball game," in Mental Stimulation the B.Y.U. Basketball All Time Results) document that there was no B.Y.U. v.s. U.C.L.A. in 1954, and that the first time BYU ever played UCLA was on December 2, 1955.

The UCLA game, and Ed Parker teaching the law enforcement class as well as teaching at Roy Woodward's gym in 1956 was well known among Ed Parker's early students. However, that meant Ed Parker's non Hawaiian students in the law enforcement class only studied with Ed for a maximum of 5 months (January through May 1956), as Ed graduated on June 1, 1956, and began his job with the Probation Department in Pasadena on January 4, 1956; and, that means that his his non law enforcement students only trained for a maximum of 4 months.

One of those student's Mills Crenshaw, has recently come forward to claim Ed Parker not only taught him and others beginning in 1954, but that Ed taught Short and Long forms 1 and 2 as well as Short 3 at that time. That claim is absurd. However, Mills Crenshaw held no rank in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Association of American; and when Crenshaw founded the International Kenpo Karate Association in late 1963 he promoted Ed Parker to Godan and himself to Sandan, which, with only four months of Kenpo training, doesn't say much for the IKKA's authority.

It should be noted that Inside Elvis was not about Kenpo, and therefore no date for the game was necessary. However with Mental Stimulation Ed Parker must have known that four months training would have raised serious questions about Mills Crenshaw's rank, and therefore he deviated slightly from the true path and put the date as 1954 - this would give his BYU students nearly a year and a half training, when in fact they only trained for 4 to 5 months.

The BYU/UCLA halftime demonstration was by all accounts impressive, and had there never been that demonstration, Ed Parker may never have taught outside the Hawaiian community, and most certainly he would not have begun teaching "outsiders" at that time. He never would have made friends with law enforcement officers who helped him get his job with the Probation Department in Pasadena, and he never would have met Roy Woodward who was instrumental in developing Ed Parker's Kenpo career. Had it not been for Roy Woodward, there would have been no Ed Parker Kenpo Karate, and no American Kenpo.