Roy Travert - American Kenpo 


"Motion for Motion's sake"

6th May 2020

Let me say before you start to read this article I am an American Kenpo black belt and proud of it, my mother art is Kenpo. I received rank from the I.K.K.A up to my 3rd Degree; I tested twice under Mr. Parker. This is my personal view of what I learned and its effectiveness on the street after working night clubs for 15 years.

I have read a great deal lately about the Kenpo syllabus and how it was laid out and taught by Mr. Parker and how it should be adhered to rigidly.

So let’s talk about the syllabus I learned, I started training at the beginning of the 80's under the 24 techniques per belt system. It was at a time when Mr. Parker was still continually developing and changing belt level requirements. For my yellow belt, I learned the first 12 techniques of what is now orange belt (24 techniques) and the remaining 12 for my orange belt, 24 in total. There was no Delayed Sword in the system at that time which was added along with the other 9 techniques a short time later, so we learned them as well. I learned all the techniques, some with extensions, but most without.

I also learned all the sets (there were no 2nd sets at this point) and up to Long Form 5 for my 1st degree black belt test. There was no Long Form 7 yet or 2nd sets which were added much later.

From my 1st degree to my 3rd degree I learned everything that was required, including Long Form 7. Below is my brown belt test with Mr. Parker. I am 2nd in from the right at the bottom of the picture.

My Brown belt test with Mr. Parker

The point I’m trying to make is regardless of what some instructors want you to believe about Ed Parker’s Web of Knowledge, and the order he wanted techniques taught, there are some glaring gaps in the system that are filled with useless motion or un-useful motion.

This is only one example, but I have yet to see anyone do Gift in Return (handshake technique) in a live environment on the street, if you know the technique, the chances of you ever being able to stick an opponent’s hand between his groin and complete the rest of the technique is nonsense. So why is the system full of techniques like this one?

Having worked in a real world violent environment for 15 years, I can truly say its Hollywood make believe. There is a simple rule when working on the door; you only shake hands with people you know. You never shake anyone’s hand that you may consider a threat; it is as simple as that.

Do not shake someone's hand if you have had an argument with them.


A handshake is a friendly gesture that you offer to people you know, it is a greeting and socially accepted sign of respect. If someone is squeezing your hand tight and will not let go, punch them in the face with your free hand.

I never understood why the handshake techniques were in the system when most people couldn't even apply a solid front choke in Locking Horns. Instead of learning, the correct way to apply a choke that could not be escaped from, people spent hundreds of hours learning extensions and make believe techniques that were nothing more than “motion fillers.” Which goes against all the teachings of Mr. Parker who reiterated the need to apply logic to everything we do in Kenpo. What students need to understand is that the system Mr. Parker started to teach to people in the 50's was not the same system he was teaching at the end of the 80's.

There is no need to sacrifice all of Kenpo’s basic principles by attempting to do a technique that will not work. I have trained for over 40 years and been involved a number of serious altercations working on the door, that ended with someone going to hospital. At no point did I ever think about adding an extension on a technique or what part of a technique I was doing. I simply applied what was needed in the situation I was in.

The reality is that it does not matter the order the techniques are learned in or the number of techniques for each belt level. So long as you have a solid foundation of basics to draw from. What is important is the content of the techniques being learned and the delivery of weapons to targets on your opponent along with your ability to defend yourself against an attack.

It is not being disrespectful to Mr. Parker to analyze and change elements if you think they simply do not work, because some of the techniques do not work. They are motion for motions sake. There is nothing wrong with that, but adding extensions on the end of techniques that should have finished your attacker after the first 2 or 3 moves is a waste of time and energy.

In fact Mr. Parker positively encouraged the changing of techniques to fit individual needs which he did all the time. He continually repeated the fact that they were no more than idea’s which should be changed as the situation dictated. The techniques must work in part or in full under pressure, if they are to survive analysis.

What should remain constant throughout your training as a Kenpo practitioner is the basic delivery system that is used to defeat your opponent. Does it really matter if you learned extensions to the ideal phase techniques, my experience is that is doesn't make any difference in your ability to defend yourself, other taking up a ton of time to learn something that someone else created.

Most of the black belts preaching that you should learn the extension’s received their ranks without knowing any of them in the I.K.K.A.

So make your own mind up if you wish to learn them or not. It is up to each individual if they wish to spend the time, they are not an indication that you can fight; they are a reflection of an individual having a good memory in remembering them all. I learned the extensions then came to the realization that I had just wasted hundreds of hours trying to remember sequences of motion that someone else had invented. They felt awkward and disconnected and in many cases added nothing to the sequential flow of motion I had already learned.

It is rare that students are encouraged to analyze the “What if” and “Formulation phase” of a technique, which should be a major part of their training as they strive to develop spontaneous reaction. The attack should be generating the stimulus for the response.

It is far more important to train these aspects of the system than learn extensions to the base. The student never moves out of the “Learning Phase” of training by continually learning more and more material. There is enough material already in the system to be able to fight with.

If the guy was still standing after I hit him that many times after adding extension's to the techniques, there is something seriously wrong with my training.

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