On April 27th, 2018 I wrote an open letter to the fans of the Kenpo History Channel:
I was asked to give KAM IV leadership a consultation in 2015 on how to overcome challenges with communication in regards to the Kenpo community. I did three different consultations, all free of charge. In each, my recommendations and direction opted for a peaceful outreach, a separation from litigious tactics and to show compassion to the loyal followers of Mr. Parker. My final proposal was to have the family apologize to the Kenpo community for their legal tone and start fresh. This path was rejected. When I retired as a teacher in 2016 it was due to health concerns. Opposed to my public announcement that I was retiring my 4th degree as a personal choice of honor, in reality I did this because of the direction KAM IV Inc. was taking. By fading away quietly it allowed my students to integrate themselves into a KAM IV Inc. affiliated association without any political drama. Indeed it was a matter of honor, but it wasn’t honest. There is no longer a need to keep up the facade. I wish those on both sides of this issue my sincere hope that they will find peace and happiness.
A bigger problem presented itself that stretched beyond my work on the documentaries and interviews. Now my former students were left questioning what was going to happen next? If they stuck with a Kam IV school, how much would they have to pay? What would happen if they were ever kicked out? If they kept doing American Kenpo and they decided to step away from Kam IV would they have to forever go underground to avoid a copyright lawsuit?
With the entire system, names of techniques and forms, Mr. Parker’s name, patches and more being copyrighted it left my former students and past students spiraling. During my 25 years of martial arts, 16 of which was in American Kenpo, I was forced to go through seven different brand changes. On average, my students were forced to learn a different way to do techniques and forms every two years on average. If you are from outside EPAK this might sound strange. The reasons were seldom honorable. Usually it was because the instructor suddenly wanted thousands of dollars for belt tests, they wanted to change how they did the art to affiliate with another organization in order to gain a promotion or similar boon.
Every new instructor came with a change to the system. In general you would get the same speech, “Okay what you are doing is fine, but it isn’t how Parker showed me.” You would get left feeling dejected and sub standard. Your training time would halt forward motion, and months would be used in relearning past techniques. Many times I would have a portion of my class leave just out of frustration.
In response to this new problem I put out a letter to all my former students and all the students I had trained in my last 15 years of martial arts. Here is an excerpt:
May 31st, 2018
On March 2016 I retired from Kenpo after 25 years due to medical issues and relinquished my 4th degree black belt. I placed my students in the hands of one of the top American Kenpo teachers in the world. Due to changes in the landscape, I’m coming out of retirement and issuing new ranks to former students under a personal traditional karate program. Let me explain why:
As of this month the Parker family is re-instituting the I.K.K.A. (Parker’s original organization). They are making every school owner paying a percentage per student to the Parker family. If they refuse and still teach, the Parker’s will sue them. Judgments have already been awarded.
With that news I have made a decision. I’m coming out of retirement and reopening my school. It will NOT be an American Kenpo school, but a traditional Japanese themed karate program. For former students who wish to be ranked according to their time and energy they have put in, I will be doing an assessment and ceremony. This is a way of correcting the long and taxing year’s students put into the system without receiving the rank they deserve. If you are interested in being re-ranked by me, you only have to reply and a time will be set up for you to come in for ranking. This is free of cost and you do NOT have to join my class. You could simply walk in, take a non-physical assessment where I review your time in the system, then assign you a rank. The normal time it would take for an average Japanese student in a Karate program to attain a black belt is three years. I will be taking that into consideration when assigning rank. For those of you that wish to take a physical test to go with your rank reassessment, we can schedule a test. You will not be required to perform any material that you don’t already know. If you are already a member of another school, you must present a letter of recommendation from your current teacher for you to receive your rank reassignment. I want to emphasize, this is free of charge. I’m doing this as a matter of personal honor.
All ranking re-assignments, assessments and testing (if requested) will be conducted at my new school location located. You will need to contact me ahead of time before showing up. My number is XXXXXXXXX. If you have any questions, please call me.
Luellen Ichizoku Karate
The response to this move was very positive from my former student base and appreciative. Everyone made careful decisions on how they wanted to proceed. One such man was Johnny McLain. He had spent well over 14 years training with me. During this time he was deployed to Afghanistan to serve his country. He was injured and was forced to go into a limited disability. He wasn’t detoured and continued to train in American Kenpo when he returned. His path was cut short when the organization I was in did yet another political maneuver and changed associations. John was left having to relearn techniques. With his disability and a full time job, his body simply started giving out. His total time in the martial arts was over 23 years with no black belt to show for it. All because of Kenpo politics. He choose to get the assessment with me. I’m proud to say his long journey is over. He is a black belt. I could not be more honored to give out my first black belt of my career to this man.
I’m not sure how long my health will hold out, but I plan on hitting the afterburners until I slam into a wall. In this class, people are learning solid Karate without any risk of politics. They are learning in the traditional way I was brought up as a child from my original Sensai David Whisnant. The teacher shows and the student listens. Don’t worry about what your belt level requirements are, just train. Belts will come. All discipline and no politics.
In closing, I have a father and son in my school now. Seeing them bond together on the mat, that is the most honorable responsibility I could have as an instructor. These people will never again know politics, only Bushido.