Ed Parker, often referred to as the creator of American Kenpo, was a man of many talents as well as peculiarities. One of the most troublesome of the latter was his failure to name a successor to his style, a failure that has led to much in-fighting in American Kenpo and has had repercussions throughout the martial arts world in general. Ed Parker As a quick background, American Kenpo has a lineage of five phases: Kenpo Style Generations - Ed Parker's American Kenpo Fist Generation 1954-1961 (Original Kenpo - True Kenpo) Second Generation 1961-1963 (Traditional Kenpo) Third Generation 1963-1969 (Chinese Kenpo) Fourth Generation 1970-1981 (Ed Parker's Kenpo) Fifth Generation 1982-1990 (American Kenpo) Parker never appointed a style leader by the time of his death on December 15th, 1990. One site presents an apologia for his actions concerning the lack of appointment of a successor, stating that: This raises a few questions in my mind: why did his students move onto Kung Fu? Was it because he himself was so heavily influenced by Chinese arts? How did he train his black belts, that they would reject or forsake the new system? Did he have so little faith in his own students? Or didn't he think they understood what he was doing? American Kenpo Karate Al Tracy mentions the rush to fill the void left by Parker's death on his site, telling how so many of Parker's students promoted themselves as being the only true successor to the Parker Kenpo legacy. Thus, in part, if Mr. Tracy is correct this would appear to be just another example of greedy, power-hungry people jockeying for a high position in an organization. Nothing new there. The parallel problem of the scattering of students who wished to be known as the standard-bearers of American Kenpo only makes things worse. Mr. Parker never made films or videos of himself performing the full set of American Kenpo techniques. He DID leave written descriptions of belt-level requirements including self-defense forms, for yellow-belt level through 3rd black level, in his book Infinite Insights Into Kenpo Vol. 5, so it would be logical to assume that anyone professing to teach American Kenpo would include all of these techniques in their curriculum. Yet to this day there are “American Kenpo” schools that have modified Mr. Parker's syllabus to the point of non-recognition. They add and subtract techniques seemingly on a whim, yet few have the common courtesy to at least rename their style. Larry Tatum, an early student of Mr. Parker, has gone on to open his own schools in over 25 countries under his Larry Tatum Kenpo Karate Association banner. He has produced over 40 videotapes for Panther Productions that encompass the spirit if not the form of American Kenpo as taught by Mr. Parker. Larry Tatum Yet even with that accomplishment there is strife in the Kenpo community – all because Mr. Parker did not give a piece of paper to one person. The saddest part of this story is that American Kenpo is not alone in this struggle – many other schools and styles have experienced and still are experiencing political division. What about YOUR style? Is it free of politics, or do you just ignore the battles and do what you do? Do you take sides or do you strive to maintain the middle ground, choosing to see both the good and the bad of both sides? Does your Master have a named successor, or will your style experience the same trauma that American Kenpo has?