WRITTEN BY WILL TRACY (c)2007
Many people have contacted me asking if they can train with me. However, because of my back and neck injuries, I don’t and can’t teach Kenpo as it should be taught. There are several excellent Kenpo instructors and schools, most of which teach the Tracy’s System of Kenpo, thought there are many areas of the country where no training is available.
When Professor Chow began teaching Kenpo, he called his style “Goshinjutsu,” and coined the term Kenpo Karate, thus distinguishing his style from Mitose’s “Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu”. The two styles were, however, virtually indistinguishable. However, when Professor Chow later changed is style to make it Chinese, it was no longer Kenpo. Ed Parker took Kenpo Karate, and made it his own. He later changed the name to “Chinese Kenpo,” then to “Ed Parker Kenpo” and eventually after completely changing the style, to “American Kenpo.”
It’s interesting to note that when Professor Chow went to a Chinese style, he broke from the Japanese tradition where the new style developed from the new master, making it his own. This can be seen in nearly every Japanese and Okinawa style which has its origin and development after 1929, and as late as the 1940s. While the Chinese styles are always derived from a former master (often legendary) and hold the ancient secrets. Thus Professor Chow broke from Mitose to claim his “secret” knowledge actually came from his Chinese father.
Ed Parker on the other hand, went from the Mitose/Chow Japanese Kenpo to Chinese Kenpo, which actually adhered to the Japanese tradition of the master creating the style (in this case American Kenpo) and completely broke from its traditional roots. And ironically, while denouncing the Japanese systems in favor of the Chinese styles, he was in fact becoming more Japanese than Chinese in tradition.
In 1962, when my brothers opened our first school in San Francisco, we called the system Kenpo Karate because it was part of Ed Parker’s system. However, when I opened my own school in 1965, we changed the name to Tracy’s International Schools of Self-defense, to completely remove ourselves from the Ed Parker style of the time. I however called my school “Tracy’s Kenpo Karate,” and my brothers eventually followed suit and began using that name a few years later, so that today the system is called, after the Japanese tradition, “Tracy’s System of Kenpo Karate.”
I find it appalling and offensive that people who never trained in Kenpo Karate claim to be teaching this system. Equally offensive to Ed Parker’s memory are those who claim to be teaching “American Kenpo” while deviating from what Ed Parker established as the core elements of his new style. When people change the style, they should call the style either after themselves, or by some new name. This is true, whether it be a Chinese Kung Fu style, Tai Chi, Japanese Karate, Korean Karate, Kenpo, or whatever.
There is, therefore, only one system of Kenpo Karate being taught today, and that is the Tracy’s System of Kenpo Karate. No other style can trace its training roots back to Kenpo as it was taught by Mitose, Chow and Parker. They may teach some form of Kenpo, and there are as many forms of Kenpo as there are instructors, but what they teach is not Kenpo Karate.
While I teach Yang Cheng-fu style Tai Chi Chuan as it was taught by Yang Cheng-fu, I also do teach Kenpo techniques as they were applied in the Tai Chi fighting style of Yang Cheng-fu’s uncle, Yang Ban Hao. And anyone who has read any of my articles on Tai Chi will see that I apply the same standard to Tai Chi as I do to Kenpo, which is simply, any change to the original style changes the style; and, one must first master the style before it can be changed.
So where can you learn Kenpo Karate?
Tracy’s Kenpo Karate Studio – Forest Park
Mark Tracy Head Instructor
1102 A West Kemper Rd
Forest Park, Ohio 45240
phone: 513- 851-2112
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Tracy’s Kenpo Karate Studio
Roger Arpin, Rokyudan (6th degree Black Belt) Head Instructor
1131 N. Kings Highway Suite 2C
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
The best place to find an instructor is at tracyskarate.com. If there is not a school or instructor in your area, then Al has an excellent distance training (home study) course available.