November 2022 Book Survey Part 2

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


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. This post focuses on a five volume set of books by Ed Parker Sr on American Kenpo Karate.  

Infinite Insights Into Kenpo, Volumes 1-5, Ed Parker Sr, 1982-1987

Rather than address these books individually, I will treat them as a set. I see no reason why a Kenpo practitioner or fan would not buy all five of them, especially now that all five are available on Kindle

The five volumes include the following:

  1. Mental Stimulation, 1982, 131 pages
  2. Physical Analyzation I [sic], 1983, 151 pages
  3. Physical Analyzation II [sic], 1985, 206 pages
  4. Mental & Physical Constituents, 1986, 189 pages
  5. Mental & Physical Applications, 1987, 241 pages

In addition to being in Kindle and print editions, volumes 2, 3, and 5 can be borrowed from the Internet Archive.

From a style point of view, I love the branding and art. It didn't occur to me until I wrote this survey that I used a similar color scheme when I published my last set of cyber security books.

My copies of Ed Parker's titles are 2009 print on demand reprints from Amazon, which I purchased in 2016. All five measure 5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches, and are black and white paperbacks. All feature line drawings, small photographs, and a glossary. Each begins with a great portrait of Mr. Parker by his son Ed Parker Jr. 

This image is from the Kindle edition of volume 4, which I purchased. It faithfully reproduced the material in the print edition.

Over two decades ago when I was studying American Kenpo Karate in Texas, these books were hard to come by. My instructor had a set, so I knew of them but didn't read them.

Volume 1 is mostly background, introduction, philosophy, and justification for the system. (Some of the history repeats the same origins myths mentioned in the previous post.) Volume 2 begins with more history, then moves to stances and maneuvers. Volume 3 covers blocks, strikes, and specialized moves and methods. Volume 4 addresses target areas and zone theories. Volume 5 is the first book to mention "sparring" -- but it's more of a selection of combinations. There are a few forms and self-defense techniques as well.

I'm going to use a few excerpts from the series as a way to express my concerns with the material.

The previous three images are "organizational charts" on "whipping (snapping) (foot and leg)," "slicing (glancing) (foot and le)," and "hammering (hand and arm)." American Kenpo Karate, at least as presented here, seems to have an obsession with categorization and taxonomy. Is this a biology class or a martial art? Mr. Parker is determined to present AMERICAN KENPO KARATE as a "science," supported by research like watching films of fights in reverse (Vol 1, page 2). However, there doesn't seem to be any effort into pressure testing the style to determine how well this approach plays out in live conflict.

Consider these images next:

Here we see another obsessive view of the geometry of symbols associated with the style.

Finally, consider an excerpt from the "sparring" section:

This sort of material may be helpful for film and TV fight choreography, but there is zero chance it will be applicable in any free-form scenario. It was a tragedy that Mr. Parker passed away at the age of 59 in December 1990. I would have loved to hear his interpretation of Kenpo's place in a world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts. Even so, he had seen and had students competing in full contact kickboxing. How could Kenpo be so disconnected from pressure-tested styles?


If you study American Kenpo Karate, you probably need these books. I bought them to better understand what I had learned during my brief time in the style. Otherwise, they might serve as a warning against overthinking and categorization at the expense of effectiveness in real conflict.

In the next post we will continue this journey through American Kenpo Karate.

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