dragon Warrior Kenpo Karate

Karate History

Most Western students of Asian martial arts, if they have done any research on the subject at all, will surely have come across references to Bodhidharma. He is known as "Daruma" in Japan and as often as not, this Indian Buddhist monk is cited as the prime source for all martial arts styles or at the very least, for any style which traces its roots back to the fabled Shaolin Temple. However, the question of his contributions to the martial arts and to Zen Buddhism and even of his very existence has been a matter of controversy among historians and martial arts scholars for many years (Spiessbach,1992).

As legend has it, the evolution of karate began over a thousand years ago, possibly as early as the fifth century BC when Bodhidharma arrived in Shaolin-si (small forest temple), China from India and taught Zen Buddhism. He also introduced a systematized set of exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body, exercises which allegedly marked the beginning of the Shaolin style of temple boxing. Bodhidharma's teachings later became the basis for the majority of Chinese martial arts. In truth, the origins of karate appear to be somewhat obscure and little is known about the early development of karate until it appeared in Okinawa.

[map of china] Okinawa is a small island of the group that comprises modern day Japan. It is the main island in the chain of Ryuku Islands which spans from Japan to Taiwan. Surrounded by coral, Okinawa is approximately 10 km (6 mi) wide and only about 110 km (less than 70 mi) long. It is situated 740 km (400 nautical mi) east of mainland China, 550 km (300 nautical miles) south of mainland Japan and an equal distance north of Taiwan. Being at the crossroads of major trading routes, its significance as a "resting spot" was first discovered by the Japanese. It later developed as a trade center for southeastern Asia, trading with Japan, China, Indo China, Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines. 
[chart] In its earliest stages, the martial art known as "karate" was an indigenous form of closed fist fighting which was developed in Okinawa and called Te, or 'hand'. Weapons bans, imposed on the Okinawans at various points in their history, encouraged the refinement of empty-hand techniques and, for this reason, was trained in secret until modern times. Further refinement came with the influence of other martial arts brought by nobles and trade merchants to the island.

Te continued to develop over the years, primarily in three Okinawan cities: Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Each of these towns was a center to a different sect of society: kings and nobles, merchants and business people, and farmers and fishermen, respectively. For this reason, different forms of self-defense developed within each city and subsequently became known as Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Collectively they were called Okinawa-Teor Tode, 'Chinese hand'. Gradually, karate was divided into two main groups: Shorin-ryu which developed around Shuri and Tomari and Shorei-ryu which came from the Naha area. "It is important to note, however, that the towns of Shuri, Tomari, Naha are only a few miles apart, and that the differences between their arts were essentially ones of emphasis, not of kind. Beneath these surface differences, both the methods and aims of all Okinawan karate are one in the same" (Howard, 1991). Gichin Funakoshi goes further to suggest that these two styles were developed based on different physical requirements Funakoshi, 1935). Shorin-ryu was quick and linear with natural breathing while Shorei-ryu emphasized steady, rooted movements with breathing in synchrony with each movement. Interestingly, this concept of two basic styles also exist in kung-fu with a similar division of characteristics (Wong, 1978).

The Chinese character used to write Tode could also be pronounced 'kara' thus the name Te was replaced with kara te - jutsu or 'Chinese hand art' by the Okinawan Masters. This was later changed to karate-do by Gichin Funakoshi who adopted an alternate meaning for the Chinese character for kara, 'empty'. From this point on the term karate came to mean 'empty hand'. The Do in karate-do means 'way' or 'path', and is indicative of the discipline and philosophy of karate with moral and spiritual connotations.

​​The concept of Do has been prevalent since at least the days of the Okinawan Scholar Teijunsoku born in 1663, as this passage from a poem he wrote suggests:

No matter how you may excel in the art of te, 
And in your scholastic endevours, 
Nothing is more important than your behavior 
And your humanity as observed in daily life.


The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917 by Gichin Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto (Hassell 1984). This, and subsequent demonstrations, greatly impressed many Japanese, including the Crown-Prince Hirohito, who was very enthusiastic about the Okinawan art. In 1922, Dr. Jano Kano, founder of the Japanese art of Judo, invited Funakoshi to demonstrate at the famous Kodokan Dojo and to remain in Japan to teach karate. This sponsorship was instrumental in establishing a base for karate in Japan. As an Okinawan "peasant art," karate would have been scorned by the Japanese without the backing of so formidable a martial arts master (Maliszewski, 1992).


​William K. S. Chow first met and taught the well-known and undisputed "Father" of today's American Kenpo Karate, Senior Grandmaster Edmund Kealoha Parker, Sr., in the Hawaiian Islands.

Mr. Parker realized the need for new innovations to combat modern day methods of fighting. He developed new concepts, theories, and principles that are practical in today's environment. Every action from your opponent creates a opportunity for you where you can use an unending flow of motion. Every block is a strike and every strike is a block.

Parker Kenpo Karate is fit to the individual. It is very self-defense oriented and allows flexibility for you to draw from all of your body's natural weapons in a overwhelming flow of circular and linear motions. This art can be practiced by anyone regardless of height, weight, age, or sex, against single or multiple attackers.

In 1954, Mr. Parker moved from Honolulu to Provo, Utah, and opened the first commercial karate studio in the United States. Mr. Parker graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology and Psychology. During his days at BYU, he opened a class on campus and began teaching. After some exposure at a basketball game, he was recruited to teach local police officers various techniques. He taught them and they came back to him with feedback, having used those techniques in real combat.

It was there that he began to analyze how techniques are put together and the balance between circular and linear motions. A circular motion becomes a linear move and a linear move becomes a circular motion. Mr. Parker then moved to California and opened his second school. Within two years, he was teaching well-known Hollywood and entertainment personalities and had actors using martial arts in movies. From his schools came a variety of well-known individuals and from his tournaments, many got much-needed exposure.

For example, Bruce Lee was discovered at Mr. Parker's first International Karate Championship (IKC) tournament. Mr. Parker was influential in helping Bruce Lee get the role of Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet. Elvis Presley was a student of Mr. Parker's and would often use karate kicks and moves while on stage. Mr. Parker was a close friend and confidant of Elvis, as well as his personal bodyguard. A good movie that will show the power and flow of motion of Parker Kenpo is "The Perfect Weapon" featuring Mr. Parker's student, Jeff Speakman. Mr. Parker designed and choreographed the fight scenes. Other actors that were Mr. Parker's students in Hollywood include Robert Conrad, Warren Beatty, Robert Culp, George Hamilton, Joey Bishop, Dick Martin, and the World War II hero Audie Murphy. Grandmaster Parker passed away on December 15, 1990 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Mr. Parker was a genius and pioneer that shared his vision with all who listened.