One may well ask, that with all the borrowing that occurs, would the individual styles -kenpo included- begin to lose their separate identities? Parker said he believes not.
“My art will not lose an identity because I have come up with concepts and principles nonexistent in other styles,” he claimed. “In other words, I feel the alphabet of motion is complete – most systems have only a small portion of the alphabet as opposed to the completed alphabet.”
Furthermore, Parker said he believes his system has much to add to others.
“They’re going to have an American shotokan, an American gojuryu, because these principles and concepts can be adapted by anybody,” he said.
Parker admitted he had encountered problems along the way in gaining acceptance for his American kenpo system, problems revolving around an Oriental mystique.
“If you were Oriental, you were the in thing,” he said. “If you were Caucasian, forget it!”
The kenpoist said his own inferiority complex was shattered during a visit to Japan. He said he found “the cream of the (martial arts) crop” were the ones who came to the United States.
“Those are the talented ones,” he said. “Little do we Americans realize it’s a small minority who we think is the majority.”
Parker quoted a passage from a book he is writing to elaborate his position:
“Authenticity is said to be based on one having Oriental heritage,” the passage goes. ‘.But how false this belief is, for talent is not a gift given to a particular race of people but to individuals. It can be adopted, cultivated and perfected by an individual who least expects to be able to do so.
Many are gifted with the seeds of talent, regardless of race. Cultivation and effort is the stimulus that makes them blossom. On the other hand, although you can buy talent or have the talent to buy, it cannot be ingrained if you do not have the capacity to absorb it or execute it.”
Another complex Parker has fought in propagating American kenpo is the twin concept of purity and tradition.
“How often have I heard members of other systems explain that their system is a pure system,” Parker said with a sniff. As if other other systems were contaminated.
“What is pure?” he asked. “Everyone keeps talking about the fact that what Gichin Funakoshi taught is pure. Yet, if you go back and study history, you find he studied from two individuals. He put together what he thought were the best elements to be taught to the Japanese. How can you say his system is pure?”
“I’m always told,” Parker said. “Well, here is a school directly from Japan. Their forms are authentic. I say that’s fine. But in actuality they’ve changed. That’s why you have shotokan and shudokan. If you want to study boxing, then don’t study with Ali,” Parker said, drawing yet another of his analogies. “Don’t study with Norton. Try to get some guy who has preserved the John L. Sullivan methods of fighting. Stick to the classical. From an historical point, I agree. From a practical standpoint, I would never use it. That style isn’t what we’re looking for in the United States.”
Parker closed arguments on the purity controversy this way:
“My philosophy in answering this question is when pure knuckles meet pure flesh, you can’t get any purer than that, regardless of who executes the punch, no matter what style he may be from.”
Parker the realist nevertheless dresses up his demonstrations and explanations with a lode of analogies. In addition to those already noted, he compares kenpo methods with an eclectic array running the gamut from aircraft carriers to the three natural states in which water may be found.
“Every time I put on a demonstration, I say it will be a little different from what the audience may be accustomed to,” he said, continuing that the emphasis is on sharing rather than showing. Parker said a kenpoist’s blow may be compared to the launching of an airplane from the deck of an aircraft carrier. The force of a punch in some karate is diminished by the practitioner’s pulling back with one fist while punching forward with the other.
“But if the lower half (of his body) is the catapult, the upper half is the force of my blow,” Parker said. “I then have the power and the force to keep this hand here (not pulling back as in shotokan karate).”
Parker called his kenpo a gaseous martial art, not for all the talk that goes into describing the methods used, but because he said he sees its possibilities expanding in all directions at once.
“Water comes in three forms,” he said. “While people are at the liquid level, I’m at the gaseous stage in kenpo. When you have a solid, that’s it-a solid. When you have a liquid, it seeks its own level. But what does a gas seek? Its volume. That to me is the highest level of the martial arts. When I can go three or four directions at a time, that’s the highest state.”
By way of comparison, Parker called shotokan a solid-Ievel martial art. He gives gojuryu and isshinryu styles a liquid rating. He does assent to hapkido’s gaseous state, “but there gas comes from one end basically-the feet.”
Even Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do rates only a liquid grade from Parker.
“You have to remember about Bruce,” Parker said. “He could come in and not even know what you know, watch you, do a move he had no idea of doing before, come out and look just as good as you the first time out and better than you the second time around. That was his forte.”
For all his willingness to share his art with students at demonstrations and clinics worldwide, Parker said he is not a publicity seeker.
“I’m not worried about publicity,” he said, admitting that his system had received lesser amounts of publicity than many others. “I’ve never called anybody to get me in. Many magazines have called me and asked me to talk to them, and I have refused, not because I’m antisocial. Many times, if you ask me what I’m doing, what I’m going to do, the minute I put it all down, people set up roadblocks. The less said, the more I can get done.”
“More” includes a book he said he put off completing when longtime student Elvis Presley died. But he said he is now ready to share his book and his knowledge.
“With what I have now, I’m going to just start to come out and hit heavy,” he said. “You guys came to me, fine. I’m glad to share my knowledge. What I’ve done, I’ve done. But I do care about what I’m going to do. I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to do. There’s a lot of jealous people out there.”
However, Parker did tell BLACK BELT a detail or two regarding his book on kenpo-concepts from which have been included in this article. The kenpo stylist added that he will include a chapter on the relationships of the martial arts.
“To me, judo is a more ethical form of jujitsu,” he explained. “Aikido is a more glorified version of jujitsu. However, all three could be considered an Oriental means of wrestling.”