Testing for Rank
Nothing is more controversial than testing requirements. Most often requirements are based on what we had to do. Not that we even agree with those requirements, but tradition seems to play a big part in testing requirements. Too often I hear things like, “I had to make up a form for ever belt test, so I require that of all my students as well.” Or, “I had to learn all the extensions, so I require my students learn all the extensions.”
“I'm a strong advocate of what we might term "tailoring." I believe systems are for individuals, not the reverse. When a person finishes, he should have the art designed to meet his own specific needs. I emphasize that although a sensei begins teaching a technique a certain way, he is offering a student a point of reference so that he may tailor the technique to fit him tightly. Even if a person alters the technique, so long as it is for his own good, I say, so much the better. Now that I have said that, I should add that I do not advocate the helter-skelter approach. You must have a base to start off with or you have nothing”.
Ed Parker, Official Karate Nov. 1975
I believe this clearly states that there is no single way to perform the art of Kenpo, but Mr. Parker does state, "You must have a base to start out with or you have nothing. I believe each school should have a curriculum, but it may not be the same curriculum I use, or my teacher used. The curriculum itself is the number one personal preference in Kenpo. On the other hand, in order for it to be American Kenpo, the curriculum must be based on the principles Mr. Parker used while teaching his own personal curriculum.
The easiest way to understand these principles is through studying Mr. Parker's Encyclopedia of Kenpo. Within its pages, Mr. Parker took the time to explain each of the principles of his art.
The Encyclopedia of Kenpo covers many generic terms that people use in every-day English and every-day martial arts. Working your way down to the core principles of Kenpo takes dedication and a considerable amount of time. And when you’re done, don't expect your list to match my own, or anybody else’s. It will be your own interpretation of what you believe the core principles are. A list that will likely change, to one degree or another, as you learn and understand more and more about the art.
My own study has brought me to the conclusion that when I'm testing a student for rank, I'm looking for those principle that Mr. Parker talked and wrote about the most when he was actually teaching his art of American Kenpo. When I'm evaluating a student I look for how well they understand these principles and how well they can apply these principles within their art.
Aside from this, I believe that the forms (katas) of Kenpo are essential to the learning, understanding and development of our art. As I've stated many times, "In regard to promotion, you will live or die based on your forms."