Family Martial Arts Center

The Original "32-Technique System"

When requested for information regarding the history of Ed Parker's American Kenpo, Mr. Parker shared the following information with his Black Belts in the New England Region of the International Kenpo Karate Association.

According to Mr. Parker, during the late 1960's he decided to formally systematize the principles and movements of his Kenpo system and create the first American Kenpo teaching manuals. To assist him in this project he selected two of his Black Belt students, Mr. Richard "Huk" Planas and Mr. Thomas Kelley. When the manuals were completed, Mr. Parker gave them to the Instructors of his Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate franchises as a means of standardizing the order and method of teaching American Kenpo. 

In these first teaching manuals, American Kenpo was divided into four belt groups: Orange Belt, Purple Belt, Blue Belt, and Green Belt. Each of these groups were comprised of a number of basics, forms and/or sets, and 32 self-defense techniques (thus the term: "32-Technique System"). In addition to these four groups, Mr. Parker used a Green-Orange group which consisted of adding extensions to each of his 32 Orange Belt techniques. That is, in the original system compiled by Mr. Parker, there were only extensions for his Orange Belt techniques. 

In time, new traditions, belts, techniques, forms, and terminology were added to this original system. For example, black uniforms were introduced as a means of distinguishing the Instructors from the students (who remained in white uniforms). The Karate belt knots were slid to the right hip for women and to the left hip for men. The belt colors were expanded to: Yellow, Orange, Purple, Blue, Green, 3rd Brown, 2nd Brown, 1st Brown, and Black (with a total of ten degrees). 

To have enough material to teach within each of these new belt groups, the original 32-Technique System was divided into the 24-Technique System. To complete the number of techniques required by the belt groups some of Mr. Parker's students pulled motion out of Forms 4, 5, and 6 and created techniques such as: Circling Windmills, Reversing Circles, and Circling The Storm. Of note, these movements were not originally designated by Mr. Parker to be considered as techniques. For example, Circling The Storm was created to complete a category of various checks that could be applied to hinges and joints of the body. When a student discovers this knowledge, the Circling The Storm motion can be run with equal effectiveness on the front or back of an opponent's body. As further evidence of this new interpretation of Mr. Parker's original motion, Circling The Storm does not follow his weapon protocol of "Divert, Seize, Control, and Disarm." 

In addition to new self-defense techniques, new forms and sets were also necessary to complete a teaching structure for the new system. As in the creation of the new techniques, some of Mr. Parker's students compiled various sets such as the Striking Set, Stance Set, and Kicking Set. In time, each of these sets would come to have a #2 version (e.g., Blocking Set #2). Since these sets were not created by Mr. Parker, he was only minimally aware of their content. When asked to teach them in New England, Mr. Parker selected a student who had learned the sets from other Kenpo Instructors and had him demonstrate the sets for the seminar class. Mr. Parker would then add his insights to the movements of these sets as the class learned them. These seminars were videotaped and exist in the libraries of several New England martial artists. Finally, additional advanced forms were also added to demonstrate how one might run various standard Kenpo techniques with either escrima sticks or knives. 

While the new techniques, sets, and forms clearly had the blessing of Mr. Parker, they were not created by him.  Since this newer material adds nothing unique to what is covered in the original forms and techniques, I have chosen to teach only the sets, forms and techniques actually created by Mr. Parker.  I believe that within this motion exist all of the opposite and reverse motions to which Mr. Parker often referred.  I also believe the newer sets, forms and extensions offer historical value in the development of American Kenpo, and are worthy of study.

Remember what Mr. Parker taught: a person's mind is like a parachute, it is only useful when it is open. 



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