November 2022 Book Survey Part 1

 Welcome to the November 2022 book survey, part one. I decided to break this month's survey into four posts.


In November 2022, I (Richard) continued my reading plan. The major theme for this month is American Kenpo Karate, with Okinawan karate as a sub-theme. I've practiced both, so I'm a sympathetic reader. Read on to separate the wheat from the chaff.  

Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist and the Empty Hand, Ed Parker Sr, 1960/2010/2016

Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist and the Empty Hand appears to be Ed Parker Sr's first book, originally published in 1960. My copy is a print-on-demand black and white paperback measuring 5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches, with 156 pages. Aside from missing original front matter, the book appears to be a faithful reprint of the original.

The book includes sections on "history," "what is a gi?", a beginner's course, and an intermediate course. It appears to originate the practice of calling the art KENPO KARATE (in capital letters) throughout, and claims that the terms mean "the law of the fist."

This book suffers from the same historical inadequacies found in most martial arts books prior to the 21st century. It repeats the old trope that Chinese martial arts are "5,000 years old," as well as popular myths about "Daruma" aka Bodhidharma. The book credits professor William K. S. Chow on page 13 for Mr. Parker's instruction.

The first half of the book features simple line drawings, while the second uses small photos. 

Because most of the techniques show "large" motions, the small photos are not a major problem.

This book is an interesting snapshot into Mr. Parker's mindset several years after he began training (approximately 1949?). It's now available in Kindle format if anyone wants to add it to their library.

Secrets of Chinese Karate, Ed Parker Sr, 1963/2010/2016

My copy of Secrets of Chinese Karate is a print-on-demand reproduction of the 1963 original, measuring 6 inches by 9 inches. It's a black and white paperback with 240 pages, also missing the original front material from the first printing. 

This is a neat book because it features a foreword by Joe Hyams, author of one of the best martial arts books around, Zen in the Martial Arts. Mr. Hyams was a third year student of Mr. Parker when he wrote the foreword for Secrets. Mr. Parker was teaching about 200 students in the Hollywood area at the time, and had been practicing karate for 14 years.

Mr. Parker tries to lend an air of credibility to his history and background material by crediting Dr. William C. Hu and James Lee for translation and research work. Unfortunately, the reader still encounters a discussion of the mythical "Fukien" "Shao-lin monastery." 

After reading this book, it occurred to me that it could have inspired or at least served as background for Ed Spielman, creator of the Kung Fu TV series. The "Fukien" temple was a plot point in that show. The line drawings showing supposed animal inspirations for Chinese arts seemed familiar too.

All of the illustrations are line drawings with an artistic edge, created by James McQuade and Parker's brother, David.

I found almost nothing of combative value in this book. The artwork is pleasantly original and well done, however. It's another mile marker on Mr. Parker's development of American Kenpo Karate. 

The Woman's Guide to Self-Defense, Ed Parker Sr, 1968/2013

While researching for this post, I learned that Mr. Parker wrote The Woman's Guide to Self-Defense. Thankfully his estate has published a Kindle edition, so I bought a copy. At only around 84 pages and priced at $9.99 for either format, it's too little material for too many dollars. 

The book (really a booklet, at this size) offers five "courses" on techniques, rendered with simple line drawings. They reminded me of Krav Maga basics. A sample of the illustrations speak for themselves.

As you can see, there's a lot of striking to the groin -- especially with the "right back scoop kick" in figure 118.

There is no need for anyone to buy this book, unless it is for research purposes.

Ed Parker's Guide to the Nunchaku, Ed Parker Sr, 1975/2013

My copy of Ed Parker's Guide To The Nunchaku is a 2013 reprint of the 1975 original. My copy measures 5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches and is a black and white paperback with 152 pages.

I do not know what the story is with copies of this book. I looked at Amazon and it said the only edition available was the "Spanish edition," which I had purchased almost 7 years ago. I paid $14.95, and the book was in English.

Today, this title is apparently impossible to find, as can be seen by the $362 price! Three used copies listed elsewhere were priced from $48 to $132. 

The good news is that this is not a must-buy for anyone other than a Kenpo or Parker researcher. It somewhat humorously uses the term "CONCHAKU" (note the CAPS again), crediting friend Franciso Conde. Mr CONde provided plastic nunchaku for Mr. Parker and his students, hence the name CONCHAKU. 

The book reinforces the "unarmed Okinawan farmer versus samurai" myth and, for me at least, showed how impractical the weapon really is, compared to something like a simple stick. 

There's a lot of posing in this book, as you might expect.

I copied the photos from Eldridge Hawkin's 2015 black belt thesis on nunchaku and Kenpo (pdf).

It would be nice to see the Parker estate reprint this book in paper and Kindle formats.

Encyclopedia of Kenpo, Ed Parker Sr, 1992

The Parker estate published Ed Parker's Encyclopedia of Kenpo in 1992, after Mr. Parker passed away in December 1990. The book is still available in print and Kindle editions. The print edition measures 8 1/4 inches by 10 1/2 inches and is a paperback black and white book with 162 pages.

This book is really intended for Kenpo practitioners. The following excerpt shows the first and last of six (!) pages explaining "angle" in Kenpo.

When not breaking down topics into their smallest components, the book includes materials on the many analogies Mr. Parker used to explain his art.

This book is probably a must-have for Kenpo instructors and dedicated students, but those practicing other arts will probably find it tedious.


I have no recommendations for this month. In the next post we will continue this journey through American Kenpo Karate.

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