Edmund Kealoha Parker
3/19//31 - 12/15/90
Ed Parker began his martial arts training studying Kenpo in Honolulu. His basics came from the Chow brothers, for whom he had great respect, but the balance of his system of American karate was developed through his own investigations over the years that follow.
Coming to Los Angeles after World War II, Mr. Parker settled in Pasadena. His first job was with a bodybuilding studio but was soon out on his own, planning to open a commercial studio. Through his teaching contacts, he was introduced to members of the health club at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, a crowd which consisted mainly of directors, producers and movie stars.
After opening his first karate school and introducing his art to the media, he created an international chain of Kenpo Studios, sponsored major tournaments, wrote books and made films. He became more than a teacher, he became a communicator of ideas. In the process, he became larger than life - he became a legend.
Knowledge is bound when confined to tradition; knowledge is endless when tradition is bound.
Ed Parker, The Zen of Kenpo
The business side of it started slowly, beginning in 1964 and accelerating in the 1978-1980 period, eventually culminating with 170 karate schools throughout a dozen countries by 1990. During this period he was involved in other ventures: seven films, roles in TV shows, and 11 books on his approach to his art. One of his foremost publications is the Encyclopedia of Kenpo, designed as a guide for students and instructors in his system.
Mr. Parker had success in smaller but equally meaningful ways, among them teaching disabled youth in helping young people find themselves.
"I found a lot of kids who don't get any recognition in their home, did it by belonging to the tough group on the street corner," said Parker. "But once you give a kid confidence he becomes independent. He becomes capable of doing his own thing without the need to congregate with this element. These are the kind of stories that are more meaningful to me than some guy who went down to the local bar and cleaned out 10 guys."
Getting the lesson across may just sum up what Mr. Parker's career was all about. No other martial art exists that is so well explained and documented for the benefit of the students. Mr. Parker's art of American Kenpo is truly a masterpiece.
Inside Kung-Fu July 1977
He was the first major commercial karate school owner, the first major promoter, the originator and also head of one the largest karate organizations in the world.
Black Belt November 1985
Ed Parker is often credited with opening the first commercial karate school in the continental U.S. in the 1950s, and his International Kenpo Karate Association is one of the most successful martial arts organizations worldwide.
Below is the biography of Ed Parker, as written by Ed Parker on
December 28, 1987. Click the title and it will expand for reading.
The Personal Biography of Ed Parker . . .
December 28, 1987
NAME: Edmund Kealoha Parker
BIRTHPLACE: Honolulu, Hawaii March 19, 1931
EDUCATION: Kamehameha High School (Graduate 1949) Brigham Young University (Graduate 1956 Bachelor of Arts Psychology and Sociology)
MARITAL STATUS: Married Leilani Yap 1955
CHILDREN: Darlene Leilani, Beth Piilani, Edmund Kealoha Jr., Sheri Pilialoha
MILITARY STATUS: United States Coast Guard 1951 – 1954 Honorable Discharge 1954
Mr. Parker’s introduction to the martial arts commenced in Honolulu, Hawaii where he was born and raised to early adulthood. The sixth child of seven children, Mr. parker is of royal blood. His great-great-great grandfather was King Kamehameha. In Hawaiian genealogy Mr. Parker is a prince to his people. When he was sixteen, a friend from church mentioned how he had beaten the local bully. Since this friend was small in stature, Mr. Parker was highly skeptical. “He’s lying in church, Parker announced on the spot. However, his views soon changed when his friend demonstrated his martial arts skills. With this rather brisque introduction to karate, Mr. Parker commenced studying with the late Professor William K.S. Chow, attaining the level of black belt before departing from the Hawaiian Islands in 1949.
Traveling to Provo, Utah, Mr. Parker entered Brigham Young University. His studies were interrupted, however to serve his country during the Korean War. Following his honorable discharge in 1954, he returned to his college studies and graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and sociology.
During Mr. Parker’s college years, he began teaching karate on a commercial level, and is credited with opening the first commercial martial arts school in the United States. Moreover, having earned the reputation of being the elite of experts in karate, he soon drew the attention of Utah county lawmen and began instructing City Police, State Highway Patrolmen, Sheriff’s Deputies and even Fish and Game Wardens. In that Mr. Parker’s instruction took place on the BYU campus, he is credited with the distinction of being the first martial arts master and faculty member to instruct the art as a college accredited course.
Following his graduation from Brigham Young University, Mr. Parker traveled to California where he opened his second martial arts school, which incidentally is still in existence over thirty years later, in Pasadena. Within two years he was teaching many well-known celebrities and ins credited with having been the first karate technical advisor for television and motion pictures in the United States. In 1961 TIME magazine referred to Mr. Parker as the “high priest and prophet of the Hollywood sect”. To date, Ed Parker has taught such notables as Blake Edwards, Robert Wagner, McDonald Carey, Robert Culp, Darin McGavin, Jose Ferrer, Elke Sommers, George Hamilton, Warren Beatty, Rich Jason, Dick Martin, Bronisaw Kaper, Joey Bishop, Vic Damone, William Shatner, Fabian, Billy Idol, the late Elvis Presley, Natalie Wood, Nick Adams, Frank Lovejoy, Audie Murphy, and many others.
Mr. Parker has schools throughout the United States Europe and South America. Unquestionably, no one person throughout the history of the martial arts has compiled a more comprehensive instructional program which not only teaches students the physical aspect of the art, but also extends to them a living code of morals and ethics. Moreover, Mr. Parker is credited with having developed the first, and only, multipurpose visual aid for the teaching and learning - - the “Universal Pattern”. Its use in relationship to body motion is unlimited and has been adopted by many students of ballet, modern dance, fencing, boxing, and others.
The following is a list of books authored by Mr. Parker: Kenpo Karate, Secrets of Chinese Karate, A Women’s Guide to Self-Defense, Ed Parker’s Guide to the Nunchaku, The Basics Booklet, Inside Elvis, and five volumes of Infinite Insights Into Kenpo. Additional books presently in the works include: The Zen of Kenpo, The Encyclopedia of Kenpo, Kenpo in the Street, Everyday Gestures That Can Save Your Life, Ed Parker’s Answer to Multiple Attacks, and a revolutionary book on club and knife fighting Speak with a Club and Speak with a Knife.
It is universally accepted that Mr. Parker has done more than any other person to advance and elevate the art in the United States. In previous years he has lended assistance to such martial arts notables as Dan Ivan in starting his schools, Tak Kubota in obtaining a sponsor to remain in the United States, Mike Stone in financing his first karate school, and Chuck Norris in helping with the blueprints necessary to stage his first Las Vegas tournament.
Perhaps one of Mr. Parker’s greatest contributions to the world of martial arts was his establishment of the Long Beach Karate International which began back in 1963 and will celebrate its 25th silver anniversary in August of 1988. As a footnote nearly 25 years ago the Internationals was the first of its kind and even today continues to rank as the number one tournament throughout the world.
Mr. Parker has been credited with many first steaming from the early years of the Internationals, including:
* Established the first highest paying cash awards Pro-Am tournament in karate history, which also included cash prizes for women.
* Formulated, Published, and copyrighted the first Rules Booklet for karate freestyle competition.
Many of the existing rules presently in use today throughout the United States stem from this booklet.
* Was the first to commence with the printing of pre-tournament information to establish tournament credibility among practitioners and parents.
* Developed the first tournament logo.
* Distributed the first tournament patch using the logo to competitors and officials.
* Was the first to introduce weight divisions in tournament competition.
* Created the first karate figurine for tournament trophies.
* Created the first custom trophy for karate tournaments.
However, consider by most to be Mr. Parker’s greatest contribution to the martial arts world was the aid he extended to the late Bruce Lee. The vehicle responsible for Mr. Lee’s beginnings with the Long Beach Karate Internationals. It was at this tournament back in 1963 that Bruce Lee’s demonstration was filed and later shown to Bill Dozier, who subsequently hired Bruce Lee to play Kato in the Green Hornet television series.
Mr. Parker’s friendship, conversations, and observations of Bruce Lee were those of respect and he was convinced that Bruce’s charisma and unique abilities would greatly boost the entire martial arts world in their own time.
On a highly personal level, Mr. Parker’s most memorable association was with the late Elvis Presley. Seventeen years of extremely close, personal friendship with Elvis as both a karate instructor and protective companion provided Mr. Parker with the wealth of insights and anecdotes that have gone into his highly acclaimed book Inside Elvis. Although both were from opposite parts of the world and varied cultures, they shared remarkably identical qualities and similar thoughts and view, and ultimately became as tangible as brothers.
Today Mr. Parker is in great demand for lectures, demonstrations, clinics, seminars, and work in television and motion pictures. With a long list of television and film credits to his name, Mr. parker is best known as the unforgettable character “Mr. Chong form Hong Kong”, which he portrayed in “The Revenge of the Pink Panther”.