The “Renegade Pioneers, Choi, Hong-hi & Ed Parker” The Taekwon-Do-Kenpo relationship


See the similarities and differences of two martial art pioneers separated by race, religion, background and distance!  09/09/2011 08/22/2016

Choi Hong Hi (9 November 1918 – 15 June 2002) 83 at death

Edmund Kealoha “Ed” Parker (March 19, 1931 – December 15, 1990) 59 at death










Learn how and why these two men from different cultures, different backgrounds, and different religions found that they could profoundly change how the martial arts are looked at and shared and taught throughout the world today.  How each man came up with nearly identical theories without having ever met (as far was anyone can tell), how each man seemed to know about the others art just by its descriptions and how each man defined and redefined there martial art of choice that no other (nearly) martial artist has done. The journey that both of these great martial artist took was long ago, during different generations, from different nations, and even different styles.  The age difference (13 years) between the two is interesting in that both men “defined” their martial art about the same time. 

Both men sought to give new names, sometimes recycling older names and at other times just redefining terms for their martial art. There are also striking differences.  Grandmaster Choi was short, standing only about five feet (152 cm) and was always slight in build, while Grandmaster Parker was 6 feet (183 cm) and always had a stocky build.  Grandmaster Choi, commonly called “General Choi” (he was a General in the South Korean Army from it’s birth and until his forced retirement in 1962, Gen. Choi has also especially since his passing been referred to as “Founder Choi, or Ambassador Choi.” 

Grandmaster Parker was commonly referred to as Senior Grandmaster of the Art (referring to American Kenpo) but his senior students usually just called him by the humble moniker of Mr. Parker or the “old man” (just never to his face).

Grandmaster Choi started to learn Karate (Shotokan) while he was a student worker in Japan in the 1930’s and Mr. Parker started to learn his art of Kenpo after first studying Judo and western style boxing.  Gen. Choi learned more out of self preservation (as he was born in a occupied and later war torn country) as did Mr. Parker (who was brought up in a rough US territory or Honolulu, Hawaii, not a state when he was born there.  Gen. Choi lived in a world where his own country was occupied by another race of people and Mr. Parker lived in “paradise” but even paradise has its tough areas.

Much has been written about both, Ed Parker has been written about more after his passing by many of his direct students like Lee Wedlake and his books like “Lessons with Ed Parker” and Rich Hale and his “The Kenpo Journal” and many others.  More was written about General Choi while he was alive oddly enough, this site has what may be the most complete info and interviews of General Choi, GM Kimm, He-young had and extensive interview prior to his death in Taekwondo Times, and has a book on the history of Taekwondo since.

One of the most striking similarities is the use of Mr. Parker and his “Marriage of Gravity/Gravitational Marriage” and Gen. Choi’s “sine wave.”  Both had seemed to develop this concept in terms of use in the martial arts sometime before the 1980s but both define them in the late seventy or early eighty’s.  “Marriage of Gravity” is defined as “The uniting of mind, breath and strength while simultaneously dropping your body weight along with the execution of your natural weapon(s).  Timing all of these factors with the dropping  of your body weight greatly adds to the force of your strikes.  This combined action literally causes a marriage with gravity, and makes vertical use of BODY MOMENTUM while employing the dimension of HEIGHT. (ED PARKER’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KENPO 1992 ISBN 1-4392-4198-8) The term “Sine Wave” Sine wave motion is a movement unique to original Taekwon-do to create maximum force in every moment according to the theory of power. In almost every moment this sinewave is utilized. Sine wave is natural and simple, and often I heard an instructor say: “Simple and natural = beautiful”. 

IKKA Logo & Kanji for Kenpo ITF Logo & Kanji for Taekwon

IKKA Logo & Kanji for Kenpo ITF Logo & Kanji for Taekwon

What we actually do by performing this sine wave in Taekwon-do techniques is moving the center of our body mass by means of a motion, which would look like a sinus wave if we would draw it.

There are some key benefits to using sine wave that are linked to the training secrets of Taekwon-Do. Moving our center of mass in the motion of a sine wave requires us to keep our arms and legs bent while the body is in motion. To keep the arms and legs bent during motion we need to be relaxed. Relaxing the body adds speed to a technique because we are not all tensed up with one part of the body working against another. Small increases in speed produces large increases the power of a technique. 

Secondly, when employing a sine wave we have to use the knee spring properly. That is to say bending the knee is what moves our body up and down as we move forward. Using the knee spring while our body is in motion allows our center of mass to travel along a curve, which by definition is another form of acceleration, which then helps us accelerate into a target. Explanation of sinewave by the founder of Taekwon-Do – General Choi Hong Hi – during a seminar in Poland (1999).

Finally, when using sine wave we are dropping our body downwards at the end of the technique with helps us use gravity to our advantage and keep our acceleration building until the point of impact.  As you read the two, the concepts are similar, but yet, not exactly the same, although the end result is.  These two terms, tend to be the most striking, however, both gentleman, also defined or redefined the terms used.  Both sought to standardized the terms used in order to make teaching their arts not really more “simple” but more of an ability to teach as many as possible to promote their arts to the masses.


Both Grand masters were very protective of their art and both handled them differently but with nearly the same results.  Of course Gen. Choi being Korean had his belief system firmly based in the Neo-Confucianism thought of “teacher/student”, “father/son” etc.  And early on he did follow this code of conduct closely, but as time went by he learned and followed a loser version of that code and in part created some of the issues that befell his beloved ITF®.  Grand master Parker followed a more “family” or “extended family” concept in his art and it too served him well….until his passing and much to the dismay of many, the IKKA fell apart very quickly after his death, however, the ITF started to fragment prior to the Generals passing.


Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate Accumulative Journals photo Credit: Rich Hale Ohana Kenpo

Both Grand Masters used what they considered “encyclopedias” to help define their art.  General Choi used an extensive 15 volume with over 5000 pages and something around 29000 photos.  Grandmaster Parker used a five volume plus one an Encyclopedia of Kenpo which I believe was published after his death.  The Encyclopedia of Kenpo was about 140 pages in one volume and was an explanation of the terms he used to define his art, and the 5 volume set is called Ed Parker’s Infinite Insights Into Kenpo each set had about 130 pages, and he had also produced in limited numbers Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate Accumulative Guide binders to his instructors   I do believe Grandmaster Parker would have updated and produced more books to go with his publications as he was always trying to come up with new and better ways to communicate his art.  General Choi was just learning to use the internet to spread his martial art, I have no doubts Ed Parker would have been one of the first to embrace this medium.



Ed Parker & Elvis Presley 1974


Ed Parker Making Music Photo Credit Rich Hale Ohana Kenpo

Another interesting facet of these to gentleman is their love of music.  Both in their own ways were musicians, but they both loved music.  Anyone who spent time with General Choi at social events knows he at times would get out and “cut the rug” but he would always tap his feet to a music he liked and he himself talked about how in his youth he would sing and was quite good at it.  Ed Parker was known to sing and play the guitar and ukulele at his social functions and was of course a big fan and instructor/mentor to the “King” himself, Elvis Presley.

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