The 1960’s represented a time when the martial arts were still undiscovered country for most people in the Western world. While many students were getting ready to enter their first Karate class or enter their first Judo contest, there were already some legends in the making. These geniuses would study and analyse hundreds of techniques and principles, so that they could present to the world something powerful.
Ed Parker was one master of the arts with that creative wizardry. But more than this, there was a toughness and larger than life presence to the man. He had grown up in Hawaii and had studied the art of Kenpo with William Chow. Then, as the years of training and teaching went by, he presented his own form of Kenpo to the world and today the late Ed Parker is seen as one of Kenpo’s most remarkable grand masters.
So what is Kenpo? Is it Japanese or Chinese? What are its techniques like? Watch footage of Parker in action and you’ll see that Kenpo contains many different hand techniques and kicks. But when you see Ed Parker move, you may have to watch the clip a few times- the man was seriously fast. You could say that there is both a Chinese and Japanese influence on modern Kenpo. But perhaps Ed’s Kenpo was also a product of his own experiences.
Rather like Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, there is something of East and West that can be seen in American Kenpo. Ed Parker knew Bruce Lee and there are some other similarities that have been suggested. Both have the incredible hand speed and both became martial art legends. But there is something else. Like Bruce’s approach, Kenpo seems to offer the individual practitioner the chance to select the techniques that work well for them.
There are many arts with fast and flashy hand strikes, but sometimes they lack the power and conviction found in a good boxing gym. Ed Parker’s hand strikes may have looked fast and graceful, but they had substance. He could flow from one strike to the next using different ways to generate the power. In short, his strikes could do damage! But if you’re thinking that Kenpo is all about the fast hands, think again.
In Kenpo, there are also locking techniques and takedowns, as seen in some of the traditional Ju Jitsu schools. In more modern times, some open minded Kenpo stylists have also taken the time to study grappling arts, to further develop their skills.
As a tall Westerner, Ed Parker had a very different build to some of the Chinese and Japanese masters and it seems that many of the techniques in Kenpo are very accessible to practitioners with bigger builds. Ed’s charismatic approach was certainly popular with martial artists. Even people working in Hollywood wanted to train with him. His most famous student was Elvis Presley.
Today, American Kenpo doesn’t appear to have such a big emphasis on internal training but it does maintain many of the traditions found in Japan’s martial art schools. And although Ed passed away in 1990, his contribution to the martial art world is still apparent.
As for Kenpo, it continues to flourish and its principles have been expressed by actors, fighters and martial artists, from all over the world. And if you ever get to meet one of the senior Kenpo instructors who knew The Founder of American Kenpo, ask them to tell you about the rapid hands of Ed Parker.
Koji, former Yokozuna [Grand Sumo Champion] of the Futagoyama Stable, was born Hanada Koji on August 12th 1972. He was a native to Tokyo, Japan, and second son of the 1st Takanohana Kenshi, who changed his name to Futagoyama Oyakata when he retired.
Koji joined the Fujishima Stable in 1988 with his elder brother Wakanohana Masaru, the former Yokozuna Wakanohana, before the institution changed to the Futagoyama Stable. Both of their combined popularity and success within the sumo elite meant an unprecedented ‘Waka-Taka’ era in the sport. Never had it been dominated by one family before. Becoming the youngest Makushita [third highest division] and Ozeki [rank below Yokozuna] champion, Koji gained quick success in the sumo rankings, beating all previously held records.
During the early years as a sumo wrestler, Koji fought under the name of ‘Takahanada’. It was his father’s sumo name, having been given to Koji upon his raise to Ozeki champion. In 1995 Koji was elevated to the supreme title as the 65th Yokozuma. His reign was marked with an impressive record of 22 Grand Sumo Tournament wins that built up his reputation in the modern game as the ‘Great Yokozuma of the Heisei Era’. During the Summer Tournament of 2001’, Koji fought while injured, and still won the contest.
Koji’s astonishing victory in that tournament further cemented his reputation. He retired two years later at the 2003 New Year Tournament, while changing his name to the 1st Toshiyori (Senior) Takanohana. Koji’s Makuuchi (top division) sumo record was 701 wins and only 217 defeats.
After his retirement, Koji became an elder of the ‘Japan Sumo Association’, as Takanohana Oyakata and took charge of his father’s training stable. Upon stepping down as Yokozuna, a ceremonial topknot cut was performed. It is a tradition that marks a turning point in all sumo wrestlers’ careers, especially that of Takanohana Koji,
“The topknot cutting ceremony is not such a sad affair. Rather, I think of it as being the first step into the future. The chonmage is more important than life itself to a sumo wrestler.”
Bas Rutten is one of the best known and most liked martial artists in the martial arts community. His fighting style is impressive, and his story provides inspiration to a whole new generation.
Bas Rutten was born in Tilburg in Holland on February 24th 1965. During his childhood he felt alienated and an outsider. He suffered a skin disease, asthma and rheumatism. This had a huge impact on the development of his psychology. Bas was determined never to be seen as weak again and the inner fortitude he developed as a child would serve him well as an adult in and out of the ring.
His martial arts training did not always run smoothly. At the age of 14 he broke another kids nose in a fight, and he would have to wait until the age of 21 before he was able to pursue his love of martial arts. Bas Rutten developed his martial arts skills by training in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts.
Bas built an impressive fight record, winning 14 Muay Thai fights in a row, all by knockout. In this time he earnt the Dutch Championship and a world No 2 ranking.
As so many of his Mixed Martial Arts fighting colleagues, Bas went off to Japan for his first fight in the Pancrase organsiation. Bas was a huge success here and won a streak of 22 fights becoming the King of Pancrase.
Bas then turned his attention to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and became the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
In recent times Bas has turned his attention to the movies. It may well be only a matter of time before Bas Rutten has a break through hit and becomes a leading martial arts movie star.
Lennox Claudius Lewis was born on September 2nd, 1965 to a Jamaican woman in London’s tough East End. His mother brought the family to Canada where Lennox took to boxing with some gusto.
Lennox had an amazing amateur fight record of 95-9 (with 52 KO’s). He took the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 1983 and the silver medal for Canada at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, only to claim the heavyweight fold in Seoul in 1988.
His professional record is nothing short of impressive, with 41 wins, 31 by way of KO, 2 losses and 1 draw. His earnings average $15 million a fight. He is a man of epic proportions, 6’5” tall, weighs 247 pounds, with mighty arms belying the power of this heavyweight champion.
He will long be remembered for his two epic battles with Evander Holyfield, the first of which was a controversial draw, the second which was a unanimous points victory for Lewis.
In June 2002 the world saw the fight it had been hungry for. Lewis – Tyson was on. After the drama of the famous pre fight biting incident Lewis dominated Tyson in the ring, knocking him Tyson down in the 8th round. Tyson was forced to admit, “there’s no way I could ever beat him … he’s just too big and strong.”
Lennox Lewis truly is a legend in our lifetime, and has been acknowledged as such by the greats including Mohammad Ali and George Foreman who described him as “beyond doubt, the greatest heavyweight of all time.”
In the ring Lennox is a pugilist, a man who can appreciate the beauty and science of boxing. Lennox is often described as publicity shy, but to all that know him he is a cool and confident man, clear in his thoughts and his goals. He is known as one of the true gentlemen of the ring, refusing to get drawn into the trailer trash world of boxing talk. Instead, Lennox walks the walk.
The world of boxing was sad to hear that Lennox announced his formal retirement from boxing in 2004. The sport of boxing will truly miss the Lion of the Ring, Lennox Lewis.
There are few fighters who can claim to have made as big an impact on their sport as Ken Shamrock. Ken did not have an ideal start in life; he ran away for the first time when he was 10, and was often out with his elder brother in Georgia, where he learnt to protect himself with his fists. He drifted in and out of several homes, and even served time in a Juvenile Hall.
It was not until he met Bob Shamrock, and joined his home, that he started to find meaning and direction in his life. Bob and Ken developed a close and supportive relationship, so much so that Bob adopted Ken when he turned aged 18. Bob was not a conventional father figure – he even allowed arguing kids to settle their disputes by boxing in the back yard if they all agreed – but he provided the stability that had been lacking in Ken’s life.
As the two realised they had found a talent, Ken started to develop his abilities as a fighter, through wrestling training, weight training and football. While not out to start fights, Ken earned a reputation as ‘One Punch Shamrock’ for obvious reasons. Ken started to enter Toughman competitions, and he demolished his opponents. Bob organised a tryout for Ken at the Buzz Sawyer Wrestling Academy in Sacramento, where he passed with flying colours.
Later Ken was offered an opportunity to join the Universal Wrestling Federation in Japan, and he developed an impressive fight record there, while also being humbled by the technical superiority of some of the Japanese greats such as Suzuki and Funaki.
However, due to infighting the UWF split and Ken returned to the US and set up the world famous Lion’s Den training facility in Lodi, California. Here Ken recruited only a select few of the applicants, by putting them through a trying 8 hour fight and training audition to test their limits. The program was designed to make people quit, not succeed.
In 1993 Ken saw an advert for a new fight competition, UFC, and entered. Ken came up against Royce Gracie, who surprised Ken with his grappling ability. Ken ultimately lost, but after recovering from a separate injury he later won through to face Gracie again in a later competition, only for Gracie to drop out to exhaustion. Ken never got the chance to revenge that loss, and at a later grudge match with Tito Ortiz, he lost while carrying an injury. Despite this, Ken will be long remembered as a true warrior.