MY INSTRUCTORS & LINEAGE
I am truly blessed to have been a part of a succession of martial arts masters and dedicated professionals. They have passed down to me an ancient art, that I will have with me throughout my life, and have the privilege of passing down to others.
Considered the "Father" of Kenpo Karate in the United States and one of the pioneers that introduced the martial arts to the western world. He was a student of Professor William Chow, who had studied under James Mitose. The style he learned was called Kosho-Shorei, the Old Pinetree System, which had its roots in China and then Japan before being introduced by Mitose upon his return to Hawaii.
Mr. Parker was a dedicated innovator who took what he learned and organized a complete system, which progressively developed skills in a more individualized and efficient manner, using colored belts as a device to measure progress.
He promoted the Kenpo system throughout his life and leaves a legacy of motion pictures, the Long Beach Internationals, and a large family of black belts that owe their success directly to his efforts.
The Tracy bothers started studying Kenpo with Ed Parker in 1957 and Al and his brother Jim were the 5th and 6th students of Ed Parker to be awarded their black belts. In 1960, they moved to San Francisco and opened their first studio. They met Tom Conner, who introduced them to the importance of private instruction, which became the centerpiece of their success. Tom and Al opened another studio in San Jose in 1964. After another studio in Phoenix, they then formalized a franchised business system to promote Kenpo on a larger scale. They created a chain of karate studios in the United States and Canada that was one of the most successful karate organizations of its generation. They brought many innovations to the karate business and the Kenpo system, specifically emphasizing the importance of change rather than remaining in a traditional mode or philosophy.
Ray was an early student of Al Tracy. He won numerous West Coast championships and fought on a Tracy team that was nationally recognized. He developed and ran a series of successful karate studios in the Midwest and South.
Dick began his training in the early 1960’s at the Tracy Kenpo Karate Studios in both San Mateo and San Jose. Studying under both Al Tracy and Ray Klingenberg he received his black belt in 1968. He then moved to San Diego in 1968 and opened a Tracy's Kenpo Karate Studio, which continues to operate today. Over the next few years, he established eight Kenpo studios in the San Diego area and also was responsible for the opening of additional studios in the Southern California region. Dick was promoted to vice-president of the Tracy’s nationwide franchise organization that encompassed over 100 studios and a training school.
In 1971 with the assistance of his senior black belt, Mike Roberts, he established and presided as president for a subsidiary corporation, Kenpo Services, to maintain specific standards of operation supported by an ongoing series of business management and instructional seminars. Having seven individual franchises and managing several more in Southern California, it eventually became the organization responsible for opening and managing Tracy’s studios nationwide.
In 1980, Dick decided to take an individual path and create the AKKA (American Kenpo Karate Association) with the endorsement of Joe Lewis. The AKKA was formed to maintain the art of Kenpo and also to continue the refinement and improvement of American freestyle. It was with these goals in mind that Joe Lewis was brought into the organization as a director.
Over a period of 25 years, Mr. Willett was personally responsible for developing some of the best black belts and tournament competitors in the country. He is a devoted teacher and friend to all of us. Today, as a counselor working with troubled and at-risk youths, he continues to utilize the martial arts philosophy in facilitating their social and individual adjustments.
Orned "Chicken" Gabriel
Chicken was one of Dick's first and most successful black belts. Along with trophies too numerous to count for kumite and forms, he was on the American team that competed in Tokyo at the "Asian Championships" in 1978. He was the first American to win at this event of the previous 39 entries. His knockout of his opponent brought the Asian title to America.
He taught and developed some of the finest tournament and full- contact fighters of that era. One notable student was Steve "Nasty" Anderson, a black belt hall of fame member, and winner of Ed Parker's International several times. He is also 9-time U.S. heavyweight point fighting champion.
"How much better is it to get wisdom than gold: and to