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Where’s Kenpo’s Waldo?

Where’s Control Manipulation?


Ron Chapél, Ph.D.
Let’s talk about the four distances of combat as defined by Ed Parker in his Encyclopedia, and how they relate to each other and exactly where “Control Manipulation” actually resides, because clearly it is not included in the definition used by Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate.

I was taught there are subcategories to all four of the well known ranges of Kenpo-Karate, with each range as you progressively get closer to your attacker, encompassing additional concepts and principles, and still including all of the previous ones. Thus, the fourth range contains all of the other range principles of combat, as well as those exclusive to the fourth range itself.

This somewhat counters the “different stages of action” perspective some have adopted because of a lack of information regarding the full scope of Ed Parker’s Range definitions. Although it is true varying “ranges” can dictate the availability of various fighting tools at ones disposal, they do not dictate or restrict beyond simple physical limitations normally associated with human physical interaction.

Ed Parker Sr. defined the four ranges as 1; out of reach/range, 2; within reach/range, 3; Contact Penetration, and 4; Contact Manipulation. Each of these ranges in my teaching have extensive subcategory information that must be learned en route to a full, and advanced level understanding of the science.

From a motion-based Kenpo-Karate perspective, “Control” could be seen as a subcategory of “Contact Manipulation.” Because most of this information is not included in Ed Parker’s Kenpo-Karate, the subcategories become significantly important to the higher levels of the science of execution.

However, when the higher-level science is studied exclusive of the Kenpo-Karate interpretation, the subcategories actually exchange places with the more superficial simplistic range explanations of the encyclopedia, and “contact” is really a subcategory of “control.”

As an example and as previously stated, the first range is simply defined by Ed Parker as “out of reach/range.” The subcategory for “out of reach” however is “Psychology of Confrontation Theory.” As you can see, the subcategory is where the real knowledge and comprehensive understanding lies. Therefore, if you study the Kenpo-Karate level, “out of reach” is how the first range is defined. At higher levels of interpretations, “Psychology of Confrontation Theory” must be learned supplanting the obvious “out of reach” description.

One of those exclusive fourth range subcategory concepts is “Control Manipulation.” Although most are aware of “Control Manipulation,” its definition and its general function, most are unable to resolve its omitted relationship with the “Four Range” definitions, or its apparent contradictory descriptive similarity with “Contact Manipulation.”

This holds true for every range, where the conventional is well known, versus the in-depth unknown. Ed Parker Sr. only published the simplistic Kenpo-Karate versions of his range theory because his popular interpretation of Kenpo-Karate did not contain significant depth to warrant additional information he was not generally teaching anyway, or supporting in his Kenpo-Karate schools and students.

Take “Control Manipulation” as another subcategory example at the other extreme at distance four, which simplistically is defined as “Contact Manipulation.” This is a category of grappling” yet, popular Kenpo does not address grappling or control manipulation in its codified curriculum in any form.

In reality, the only concept Kenpo-Karate addresses in any range is “contact manipulation” and it only hints at Control Manipulation through techniques where victims are seized, grabbed, hugged, choked, and tackled with no clear instruction as to how to actually deal physically with these type attacks.

Because of the lack of information, most teachers of that information have addressed these attacks as “attempts” rather than actual completed assaults as they should be. Lacking the knowledge to address extrication from a significant lock means you must move before you are seized. They have no choice absent additional information.

The rare Kenpo-Karate Instructor addresses these issues by having training in other arts or disciplines, as well as trial and error to insure functional techniques. Most however do not because it is labor intensive, requires significant knowledge not contained in the system itself, and is not student friendly to the greatest percentage of Kenpo-Karate Clientele.

Thus, you see the origin of the term I coined based on my Ed Parker’s teachings and lessons, “SubLevel Four Kenpo,” shortened to SubLevel Kenpo. It is a level of Kenpo that embraces all the concepts of all the sub-level ranges, but draws its name from the fourth range because it is conceptually all inclusive as its teachings.

Now you also see why “Control Manipulation,” although defined by Ed Parker Sr., is not included in the Kenpo-Karate version of his range theory. Nevertheless, by defining it he hinted at its existence, while not including the “how” of any of its execution in the curriculum most learned.

Nowhere is a wristlock, throw, pin, offensively or defensively or any control concept addressed in any of his writing other than a description of “what” the action is, but not “how” either works offensively or defensively.

In the Infinite Insight series physical categorical breakdown, all of the tenants of SubLevel Four, are addressed in the category he nebulously labeled, “Other.” When I asked why he didn’t go into more detail, he suggested it would be even more labor intensive to write and explain. He went on to say, “Have you ever looked at a “Judo or Aikido book? What you see is mostly pictures because writing HOW to do a wrist-lock is very difficult without hands-on instruction. So Books are meant to supplement instruction, not teach it.”

Therefore, Mr. Parker’s Kenpo-Karate teachers with a background or experience in other arts like those that he had from the beginning, fill in the blanks on that material. Those that came up strictly in the Kenpo-Karate Curriculum who do not go outside the art to study, will not fare as well in teaching a great deal of the material.

The roots of all the versions of Ed Parker’s many teachings still lie in judo, jiu-jitsu, and the Chinese Arts, and those who do not have this experience will fall well short. When you examine Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate, and count all of the pushes and attempt pushes, grabs and attempt grabs, hugs and attempt hugs, locks and attempt locks, throws and takedowns, at least 75% of the Ed Parker Kenpo Karate System is some form of grappling. How could you leave that out? Easy if you’ve never been taught that way, and Mr. Parker didn’t generally teach that information. The system was designed to take experienced martial artist from other arts and integrate them into the Kenpo Karate Concepts of self-defense and was successful. Those who came later whose only experience began in Kenpo Karate, missed a great deal of information. The smart ones will seek it out, and the rest think the “manuals” contain everything you need to know.

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