Senior Grandmaster Edmund Kealoha Parker

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Senior Grandmaster Edmund Kealoha Parker

Happy Belated Birthday Sr. GM Parker

Senior Grandmaster Edmund Kealoha Parker – Father of American Karate, Founder of American Kenpo Karate, born March 19th, 1931.

Note: I will be using GM to abbreviate Grandmaster, I mean no disrespect by this.

Anyone who studies Kempo in America has probably heard of Ed Parker’s name. A father of Kempo, a massive player in the North American martial arts world.

GM Parker learned Kenpo Karate in Hawaii. GM Ed Parker learned under Professor William Kwai Sun Chow. Professor Chow had learned Kosho-Ryu under The Honorable Great Grandmaster James Mitose. Professor Chow was awarded one of five black belts under Great GM Mitose. Professor Chow later combined his knowledge of Kosho-Ryu and Karate to create an art that eventually was renamed Kara-Ho Kempo. Professor Chow’s system consists of rapid strikes to vital areas, uses hands and feet equally, and teaches self-defense against weapons and multiple attackers.

Professor Chow stressed a system that evolved to meet the needs of people. This mindset led GM Parker to constantly experiment and evaluate his techniques to determine effectiveness.

Ed Parker eventually left Hawaii and moved to Provo, Utah. Later Parker moved to California and taught martial arts at the Beverly Hills Health Club. While there he founded the KKAA (The Kenpo Karate Association of America) in August 1956. In Pasadena, California GM Parker opened his first commercial martial arts school, credited as the first commercial martial arts school in the United States. One of the things that drew students to his style of Kempo was that they did not need to learn any Japanese or Chinese vocabulary. They didn’t need to learn terms like “ne waza” or “ukemi”. English words were used instead.

Parker started the Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1964 in Long Beach, California. A tournament that is still going on today. A number of famous martial artists when through this tournament, including Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Joe Lewis, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Bill Blanks, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, as well as others.  

Ed Parker created the Universal Pattern, famous in American Kempo schools. Or it should be considered the concept. This pattern represents all of the movements within the Kempo system. Every strike, block, movement, EVERYTHING can be found within this pattern. This pattern is meant to be visualized in a 3-D space. This website has great visuals on understanding the Universal Pattern (I have read that the 3-D version of the Universal Pattern is actually called the Universal Sphere, but I really haven’t seen that claim in any places).

Senior Grandmaster Ed Parker taught Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley’s Kempo uniform is on display at the Martial Arts Museum in Burbank, California. Elvis became interested in Karate by Juergen Seidel while Elvis was in Germany for his army service. Elvis had seen GM Parker gaining recognition has America’s preeminent Kenpo expert and sought GM Parker out. Elvis met GM Parker in 1960 at the Beverly Wilshire Health Club while GM Parker was putting on a demonstration for a group of doctors. And apparently Elvis Presley. According to a 1985 November issue of Blackbelt Magazine Ed Parker claims that Elvis came over and said, “I don’t think you know me, but my name is Elvis Presley. You’re very innovative. I can see you’re a rebel in your field. I am a rebel just as you are.” GM Ed Parker spoke highly of Elvis calling him an attentive listener and learner.


GM Parker put out a ton of informational material from books to videos. Not to mention he was on the cover of multiple magazines including Self-Defence International, Black Belt Magazine, Masters of Kung Fu, and Inside Kung Fu.

GM Parker played Mr. Chong in several Pink Panther movies as a recurring henchman. He was in Curse of the Pink Panther, Revenge of the Pink Panther, and Trail of the Pink Panther. He was also in The Secret Door, Dimension 5, The Money Jungle, The Wrecking Crew, Seabo, Kill the Golden Goose, and Seven. He also appeared in The Lucy Show in the “Lucy and Viv Learn Karate” episode.

While doing this research I also found a number of disturbing claims from multiple sources. Never put your Grandmaster or Great Grandmaster or anyone like that on such a pedestal that you fail to remember they are human. Unfortunately, you sometimes find things that seem to be more than simple human stupidity. And that is something that I found out during this research. We will be discussing it on the podcast at some point soon. But for now… I mean it’s easy enough to find online.

In regards to the famous “Parker Patch” there appears to be a common misconception that this was designed by Senior Grandmaster Ed Parker himself. The design was actually created by Dick Tercell for the Kenpo Karate Association of America (KKAA) and while the KKAA had been founded by Ed Parker, he did not design it, nor did he have the rights to the original patch. The original design included a yin yang between the tiger and the dragon (instead of the circle with a cross hatch). Ed Parker did not like the yin yang and wanted it replaced, hence the change.

The symbolism involved in the patch is very easy to find, but I’ve pasted it here from Wikipedia below.


    Represents bravery, power, and physical strength. It is the early stage of a martial artist’s training. It is important to work on the basics (e.g., to have a good horse stance) to prepare the body for later advancement. Also, the Tiger in Chinese culture represent the celestial guardian of the West cardinal direction. The yang aspect of individual.


    Represents quintessence, fluidity, and agility, but also spiritual strength. It is the later stage of a martial artist’s training. The dragon is placed above the tiger in the crest to symbolize the importance of mental and spiritual strength over physical strength. This does not mean that physical strength is unimportant. What it does imply is that martial artists need to have a good conscience to guide their physical action. Also, the Dragon in Chinese culture represents the celestial guardian of the East cardinal direction. The yin aspect of individual.


    The circle represents continuity.

Dividing lines

    The lines within the circle represent the original methods of attack first learned by ancient practitioners of the Chinese martial arts. They also demonstrate the pathways which an object could travel.


    The colors are representations of proficiency within the art, alluding to the colored belt ranking system. The white represents the beginning stages, black represents expert, and red represents professorship.

Chinese characters

    The writing acknowledges the art’s Eastern roots. The characters on the right of the crest translate to “Law of the Fist, “Tang/Chinese Hand (唐手)” or “Empty Hand”(空手)” a.k.a. “Kenpo Karate”. The characters on the left translate to “Spirit of the Dragon and the Tiger.”


    The shape of the crest represents the structure of a house. The walls and roof are curved to keep evil from intruding. The ax at the bottom of the crest is a solemn reminder that should a martial artist tarnish the reputation of the organization they will be “cut off” completely. 

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