Thursday, November 23, 2006

John Keehan and Ed Parker

I was doing some research tonight and came across a site about Ed Parker, Kenpo Karate Setting History Right 1960-1962.

I am really trying to get these origins and exposures right. I think understanding the basis of his martial arts education may give me some insight into how I will structure this part of the film. John Keehan was in the Marines from 1958-1961 and spent part of that time in San Diego. In an interview in Black Belt magazine with Mas Ayoob, Jan 1976, he talks about this.

The site explains a lot about the background of Edmund Kealoha Parker, considered the father of American Kenpo, and his association with Chinese martial artists. Opening his first school in the mid 1950s, he worked closely with experience Kung Fu and Tai Chi practioners and was friends with T.Y.(Tim Yuen) Wong, who introduced him to James Yimm Lee, who would become a close associate of Bruce Lee and have a great influence upon him.

When John Keehan talks about being in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 60s with James Yimm Lee it has a ring of truth to it. It explains why Keehan was so different as a martial artist. In the late 50s, early 60s he would have been exposed to a lot of Chinese martial arts as well as Kempo. It always seemed to be his core training.

John McSweeney, one of Ed Parkers first black belts, mentions John Keehan as being one of his classmates along with Dan Inosanto.

It seems to me from my brief readings this evening that Parker had an open mind, coming from Hawaii. His Kenpo seemed to easily blend into and accept the Chinese martial arts and maybe this could have only happened in San Francisco. It calls some history into question though. Non-Orientals were said not to be taught back before the coming of Bruce Lee. James Yimm Lee appears to be the bridge between the two communities.

According to some history Kenpo was not Karate, nor was it Okinawan. It seems to always have been on the move. Without going deep into it let me just speculate that the Kenpo/Kosho that came to Edmund Parker was already a blending, a fluid tradition.
More on this history can be found at Al Tracy's website.

As I mentioned before, John exposure to poison hand and even the "Dance of Death" are Chinese in origin. James Yim Lee published a book on Iron Palm and Poison Hand back in 1959. This is where John may have learned about Dim Mak and developed his incredible breaking skills.

John also talks about Spending some time in the Far East when he was out of boot camp. With his dad's support he could afford it, but boot camp is what, 12 weeks? Can''t investigate everything...gotta pick and choose. I only have 90 mins to tell this story. 5:33 am here now, I am going to sleep. I have lost my focus.

1 comment:

Joseph P. Rebelo II said...

Dear Sir,
I had informed you of many of the facts you mention in this particular blog entry many months ago, long before the recent information you mention. Having studied with both Ed Paker and Bill Aguiar, I had gotten many stories and insights from these men. Many times, Mr. Aguiar and myself would go out and talk of his instructor and his life with Count Dante. Also, I spoke extensively with John Mcsweeny at the 2001 Gathering of Eagles and had dinner with him that night to discuss his kenpo career and Count Dante's training with Mr. Parker. If you wish to find out more, simply contact me at
Thank you for your time,
Joseph P. Rebelo II