Mar 12, 2022

Ed Parker

An early pioneer of American karate, Parker promoted one of the largest tournaments in Long Beach, the Internationals.

PARKER, ED (1931-1990) American karate pioneer, promoter, actor, instructor, and author. Parker founded the first commercial karate school on the West Coast, in Provo, Utah, in 1954. A student of William K.S. Chow, he left Hawaii in 1951. After presenting a karate demonstration during a basketball game, he began teaching local law enforcement officers. After graduating from BYU, Parker moved to Pasadena and opened a karate school in 1956, where he taught kenpo karate. In Aug. 1964 Parker originated the annual International Karate Championships in which the late Bruce Lee first attracted notice. Named “Outstanding Contributor” to karate for the years 1961-70 by the U.S. Championships in Dallas, Parker also received a Golden Fist award as a karate pioneer in southern California. He was named to Who’s Who in the Martial Arts in 1975.

Ed Parker (left) with his private student Elvis Presley.

Parker, who was the first showman to combine a Hollywood flair with his exhibitions, has staged demonstrations for such dignitaries and celebrities as President Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, and Mae West, just to name a few. Some of the celebrities Parker instructed in the art of karate and self-defense include the late Elvis Presley, Blake Edwards, Nick Adams, Robert Culp, Robert Wagner, Audie Murphy, Joey Bishop, Warren Beatty, Frank Lovejoy, and author Joe Hyams. In 1974, Parker took an American team, sponsored by Elvis Presley, to compete against contingents in England and Belgium. Fighters accompanying him were Benny Urquidez, John Natividad, Darnell Garcia, Ron Marchini, and Tom Kelly. As an actor or stunt choreographer, he has worked in: The Wrecking Crew, Money Jungle, The Devil’s Choice, The Revenge of the Pink Panther, Seven, and Kill the Golden Goose. He has appeared in numerous television shows, including The Rebel, I Spy, I Love Lucy, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. He wrote Kenpo Karate; Secrets of Chinese Karate; The Woman’s Guide to Self-Defense: The Basic Booklet; Ed Parker’s Guide to the Nunchaku; and Manual for Training of Law Enforcement Personnel.

Ed Parker’s book: Law of the fist and the empty hand.

The feature image shows Ed Parker centered between two students, one of them being Rick Avery (left). Image courtesy of Rick Avery.

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