Parker said he takes many pieces of granite, cuts them to size and assists his students in carving them; in other words, the kenpoist tailors his methods and techniques to suit the individual needs of his students.
“Many of us appear normal and/or alike,” Parker said, “but structurally, our muscles differ in size and strength. There is a definite need to adapt a system to the individual and not the individual to the system.”
The kenpo instructor said he will alter the timing of a combination of moves or of a technique with more than one specific move in it to fit the need of a student.
“Whichever one works best is the one I’ll pick,” he said. “If you really look at it, the underlying principle has not been changed or altered. It’s just the timing that has been altered.”
Parker admitted that many kenpo students appear more awkward than students of other styles-at first. He attributed the problem to the greater numbers of techniques which comprise his complete alphabet or vocabulary of motion.
“That’s the problem!” he said. “That’s why some of my guys at the early stages of learning look worse than a shotokan student. I’ll admit that. But the shotokan student, because of his limited knowledge, has more time,to work at it (techniques).”
No matter how many techniques a student may study, Parker emphasized the importance of the student’s understanding why moves are made certain ways.
“When learning English,” Parker said, “the alphabet forms the basis of our language. From them, words are created, phonetics added, pronunciation, along with definitions to give words meaning. I feel that over the years many students are going through their kata, but they don’t know what the kata are for.
“It’s just as if you and I were learning French,” he continued. “We say beautiful words just like a Frenchman, but we don’t know what the darned words meant. That’s idiotic!
“How can you place proper emphasis on kata if, in fact, you don’t know what they mean or know that a certain kata has more than one meaning?” he asked.
Parker said that a single move may be at one time purely defensive, then again, it may be a defensive move finishing as an offense, or the move may be used as a really aggressive technique. He gave as an example an arm thrown out above the head as an upper block. The kenpoist explained that the move may be used to thwart an overhead punch, later used for the same defense and then brought down against the opponent or used purely for offense. He admitted the precise positioning and timing of the move may be altered but insisted the basic technique remained the same.
“That’s like words that have one spelling having three or four definitions,” Parker said. “Can’t that also be true of motion? I found it to be true.”
Just as motion may have several aspects, Parker says he believes different points of view also are important to understanding and mastering the moves employed in kenpo.
“When I teach, I teach certain moves,” the instructor said, “and before that man leaves, I tell him what the possible defenses could be. I want him to see visually what he did and why he did it when he leaves. When he goes home, he will think about it.”
Parker said most martial artists concentrate on what they must do in a sparring or fighting situation.
“We never take the time to take his (the opponent’s) position to see what opening exist,” he said. “At the time I’m executing a move, what could he hit back with? Also, could a spectator see an additional thing that could occur but you can’t because you’re too close to the subject?”
Yet another viewpoint seldom studied but which Parker values is motion reversed. “I studied my moves in reverse (on film), and then, 10 and behold, all the answers came to me,” he said. “Motion is motion, going forward and reverse. Therein lie your answers.
“If a punch comes, I can parry before I elbow. Reverse the motion, I can use it not as a defense but as an offense. That’s how my vocabulary of motion increased tenfold.”
Corollary to the importance of taking in several viewpoints, Parker stressed what he terms his black dot concept. He explained that whereas many other systems utilize a white dot focus in which students concentrate all attention toward a target area, kenpoists focus on the black dot target and the peripheral white area as well.
“They (stylists who follow other systems) concentrate on maximum force or power, and very little thought is about defense,” he said. “But there are two things you’ve got to watch for -what a guy intends to do and what he does not intend to do.”
To explain, Parker brought up Newton’s theory of action and reaction, explaining that by devoting all attention on the attack -the white dot- the attacker may not notice what the opponent’s reaction is. He said this could prove dangerous by giving an opponent an unexpected opening. In another area, Parker again stressed the value of readiness.
“The one dirty word in my vocabulary is the word ‘and,’ ” he said ” ‘And’ to me is a commercial break. You can get nailed during a commercial. Don’t block and hit. Block with, no and. If you grab and twist, your face will get filled with a fist during the ‘and’ “.
By drawing on philosophy, Newton geometry, the structure of the atom language and other concepts, Parker has developed a kenpo art and a teaching method of a very personal nature. He admits as much.
“Kenpo is the system I teach,” he said. “If, however, we were to examine my methods carefully, the system could very easily bear my name.” Though the system bears his stamp, the kenpoist still gives credit where it is due. He is careful to note the source of his methods in the teachings of James Mitose and William Chow.
“If you look at my articles, I always give credit to him (Chow),” Parker said. “You have to remember that Chow has been belittled by a lot of people. He was the first person who started my thinking on our position regarding tradition.”
Parker also credited Chow for getting him to consider the notion of master key movements.
“Chow and I swapped a lot of information,” he said. “He noticed a lot of things didn’t work in an American environment. He was the guy who started me thinking about master key movements and increasing my knowledge.”
Parker explained that kenpo was not alone in undergoing modifications in the United States – at the expense of tradition and in favor of simplification.
“You find a lot of styles still stick rigidly to their particular kata,” he said, “but when you see them freestyle, they’re a different breed. They look like they’re from different schools. Each and everyone borrows like hell from each other.”