The Moral Center of Ed Parker’s American Kenpo

by Melissa Huntley
Philosophy and Religion
Faculty advisor: Dr. Laura Bernhardt and Dr. Swasti Bhattacharyya

One of the largest ideological differences between the martial arts of eastern Asia and the United States is the religious focus that comes from being rooted in the Shaolin monasteries. This focus was largely responsible for creating the moral core in the arts of war, guiding them to non-violent paths and principles. Martial arts indigenous to the United States, like Ed Parker’s American Kenpo, lack this defined religious center, and are more inclined to deify their system creators in order to determine the proper martial path. One possible moral difficulty for martial arts that lack this spiritual core is the lack of specific religious principles in teaching nonviolence alongside an externally violent activity. This may lead to a lack of understanding of the internal non-violent message. However, with an closer look at Ed Parker as a man of American martial mythos, and as the creator of this western martial art, it is apparent that the non-violent path in Kenpo is still very prevalent. An in-depth look at American Kenpo as it has continued to develop reveals a similar finding. In a system based on scientific principles and the study of anatomy, Mr. Parker views the mind as the most powerful weapon a martial artist can wield and only promotes violent methods as a last resort.