Where Do I Sign?

It was approximately 1966 when I saw the Kenpo Karate sign on Santa Monica Boulevard.  I went into the school, not knowing anything about Karate.  Sitting behind the desk, was Mr. Parker.  I walked in and asked him, “What is Karate?”  He looked at me and said, “What do you know about fighting?”  I said, “Well, I’m not sure what you mean?”  He said, “Have you ever been in a street fight?”  “Well, yeah.  I was born in the projects in Buffalo, NY and I remember, getting into 2 fights, when I was very young.  Then I moved to El Monte, CA. and really learned what fighting was all about.  The high school I went to was called Arroyo High School.  In 1957-58, there was a large fight that broke out in the school and the police were called.  Three days later, the principal called me into his office and said there were five Hispanic young men in the next room and they said you beat them up.  I said, Five of them? He said, ‘Yes, I’m very sorry but I will have to suspend you for 3 days’”.  So, Mr. Parker said, “I get the idea you can take care of yourself”.  “I guess I can”, I replied.  “So, what is Karate?”  Mr. Parker said, “Come into the mat area? And I will show you.  Ok now, I want you to hit me in the face as hard as you can”.  “You want what?” “You heard me.  Please try to hit me as hard as you can”.  Well, I threw a ½ speed punch to his face and Mr. Parker said, “My grandmother can hit harder than that”.  Well, I got it. At that point, I threw the old John Wayne punch from out of right field at high speed to his face.  The next thing I knew, I was on my back, looking up at Mr. Parker, smiling at me.  I said, “What was that?”  He said, “That was Kenpo Karate”.  I said, “Where do I sign?”

I’ve always been a very active and successful street fighter, but this was more than I could believe.   I was 26 years old, bought a gi and started training 6 days a week until 5 years later when I became an Ed Parker black belt ready to fight anyone, anywhere that Mr. Parker wanted me to fight. 

I remember what Mr. Parker said the first day I met him, “you are a very good fighter but I will make you a great fighter if you will become a loyal student of mine”.

Having an open mind doesn’t necessarily lead to perfection, it is your ability observing, analyzing, discerning and understanding the true essence that basic principles contain that point the way to perfection.

My white belt training started the very next Monday.  I had bought a karate gi the same day I had met Mr. Parker.  Back then there were no colored belts from white belt to brown belt, they just put a black stripe on your white belt until you got to brown.  I remember not too long after I started training, now mind you, I was training 5-6 days per week, I had received two black stripes on my white belt and Mr. Parker came into the west LA school and asked me to come out of the class for a minute.  He sat me down in the office and with that Ed Parker look, he said, “Jack, I know that you have been training very hard and I can see that you are moving up the ranks to brown belt very fast but, I have a very large favor to ask of you?” 

Well things got very quiet and I could not wait to hear what he was going to say.  Remember this was the only man that could throw me down onto my back after I tried to hit him as hard as I could,  I had so much respect for him, I guess I would do anything he asked of me.  He then said, “Jack I have just completed what I am calling colored belts.  I would like you to start all over again and learn my new material, yellow, orange, purple, green and then brown belt and we have three brown belts before you go to black belt.  I thought for a while and said that sounds like maybe 5 years to make it to black belt.  He said I think that sounds about right.  I said there is nothing in this world that I want more than to be an Ed Parker Kenpo karate black belt.  If this is what you want me to do, my answer is, yes sir, I will be very happy to start over again.  Now where is that new material?  He said, there is one more thing I would like you to do.  At that point, I could not wait to hear the next request.  I would like you, for part of your promotion to yellow belt, to write down every technique with every move, every block, every stance and every foot maneuver, this will be part of your test requirement to yellow belt.   I said, no problem, it was my pleasure.  He had such a presence about him that I could not say anything but yes, sir and it was truly an honor to do whatever he asked me to do.

All you Kenpo people that knew Mr. Parker know just what I am talking about.  There was something very spiritual about Mr. Parker of which I did not understand until after his funeral some 24 years later.  I cannot put into words how much I miss him and how much I love him and how much he changed my life for the better.  I wanted to be just a little bit like him but I could not until I found what he had and that was a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Thank you, my dear friend, for leading me indirectly to Him.  I cannot wait to see you on the other side of this life and eternity with Jesus.  For the bible says, if we truly believe in Him we will spend 1000 years here on the new earth with Him and all our loved ones that also believe in him.

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Jack Autry lives in Los Angeles, California. He is the father of 5 children: Jack Jr., Dan, Tammi, Anthony and Angelo. Jack received his black belt from Ed Parker. He currently holds the rank of 8th degree black belt and has been a practitioner in Kenpo for over 45 years.

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