Tracy Kenpo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Tracy’s Kenpo Karate
Date founded 1961
Country of origin United States United States
Founder Al Tracy, Jim Tracy
Arts taught Kenpo, Karate, Jujitsu
Ancestor arts American Kenpo Karate Chinese Kara-Ho Kenpo Kosho-ryu Kenpo
Descendant schools Over 1,000
Practitioners Jay T. Will, Ray Arquilla, Bart Vale, Kenny Garner, Shawna Garner, Jeff Lira, Ted Sumner, Roger Greene, Steve Finn, Dave Hopper, Joe Simonet, Henry Childers
Official website Tracy's Kenpo

Tracy's Kenpo is a Kenpo martial arts style with historical roots through Ed Parker back to William Chow and James Mitose.


Kenpo is an unarmed fighting style that came to Japan from China around the twelfth century.[citation needed] Kenpo continued to evolve separately in both countries over the centuries. The Tracy's Kenpo style derives from the Japanese branch, brought to America through Hawaii by James Mitose.[1] Mitose began teaching kenpo to family members in Hawaii in 1936. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Mitose began to teach Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu more openly and, for the first time, outside his family and to students outside the Japanese community. A student, William K.S. Chow, opened a kenpo karate studio in Hawaii. One of his more notable students, Ed Parker (founder of American Kenpo) moved to the mainland United States, and was the kenpo instructor of Al and Jim Tracy, the Tracy brothers.

Tracy's Kenpo was founded by the Tracy Brothers, Al and Jim. The Tracy brothers began their martial arts training in fencing, boxing, and wrestling. They embarked on their study of Kenpo with Ed Parker and his black belt student James Ibrao in 1957, while attending Pasadena City College.{*Jim Tracy} Over time they developed a close relationship with Parker, and soon after Parker turned the teaching of all beginner and intermediate classes over to the brothers.[citation needed] They developed an order in which the techniques would be taught; the advanced classes were run by Ibrao.

[2] On January 2, 1962, Al Tracy was the fifth person promoted to black belt. Clicking the reference will take you to a photo of his shodan diploma.[3] Jim Tracy was the sixth person promoted to black belt (January 2, 1962). Both certificates were dated January 7, 1962 and signed by Ed Parker and Mills Crenshaw. The third Tracy brother, Will Tracy received his black belt in 1961, under both William K.S. Chow and Fusae Oshita (James Mitose’s sister).[1]

Opening Their Studios and Systematizing Their Style[edit]

In the spring of 1962, the Tracy brothers opened their first studio in San Francisco, which they named the Kenpo Karate Studio. As the northern branch of Ed Parker’s organization, it was there that the Tracy brothers created the three new Kyu ranks and the Kenpo "colored belt system".[4] They sorted the techniques into groups of 40 and divided the white belt into four levels instead of two. There would be two katas per belt. The color system for belts was due in part to the availability of belts from Japanese distributors.

As stated on their website, "But what would we use as the 4th color? Our suppliers from Japan contacted us with an offer for 'orange' belts that had come about as a mistake in the dying process. Originally we would never have considered an "Orange" belt.- Back then we were all pretty 'macho' - and what adult male would wear an Orange Belt? As fate would have it, they offered us such low price on over 1000 orange belts we could not turn it down."[4]

Ultimately, the colored belt system became: Orange Belt - Shichikyu; Purple Belt - Rokkyu; Blue Belt - Gokyu; Green Belt - Yonkyu. Later, the Tracys added a Yellow Belt - Hachikyu - as a Youth Belt, with 10 self defense techniques as opposed to 40 for other belts. Ed Parker rejected the colored belts until finally converting to the Tracy color belt system in 1966. The Tracy brothers also created belt manuals (which contained 40 techniques per belt at that time) and gave the techniques names, like "Attacking Circle", "Raising the Staff", etc.

The Tracy brothers opened a second school, in Sacramento, in 1962, and a third, in San Jose, California, in 1963. They later changed the name of the schools to Tracy’s Kenpo Karate. Ed Parker turned the Kenpo Karate Association of America (KKAA) over to the Tracy brothers and then formed the International Kenpo Karate Association (IKKA). The Tracy brothers agreed to join the IKKA on the condition that they could keep the teaching standards of the KKAA for their own students.

Ed Parker promoted Al Tracy to 3rd degree black belt on December 4, 1964.[5] The certificate is from the IKKA and is signed by Ed Parker, Mills Crenshaw, Stan Hall, and Charles Sullivan[disambiguation needed], and witnessed by Charlotte Connor, the wife of Tom Connor.

The Tracy brothers later opened more schools throughout California and other states, forming Tracy’s International Studios of Self-Defense. By 1982, Ed Parker had changed the Kenpo he had originally learned and taught so much as to make it, in Parker’s own words, "no more than 10% Kenpo", so that he changed the name to American Kenpo. It was around this time that the Tracys completely broke from Ed Parker. Some students stayed with one group and others with the other; Jay T. Will, a noted martial arts referee, held high ranks from both groups.

Tracy's Kenpo Karate today teaches what they describe as "Original, Traditional" Kenpo, as taught to Al and Jim Tracy by Ed Parker, and to Will Tracy by William Chow and Fusae Oshita. Al Tracy and Ted Sumner, the senior black belt in the organization, have spent many years and considerable resources researching the history of the Kenpo system, tracing its roots from the Yoshida family of Japan to its present western incarnations. Tracy's International Studios of Self Defense is a worldwide organization of over 1,000 schools, based out of Lexington, Kentucky. It is the largest system of affiliated schools and the longest-running self-defense chain in the world.

In February 1999, Al Tracy organized the “Gathering of Eagles”, the largest gathering of Kenpoists in the world, which took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Gathering brought together over seventy masters, representing Kenpo, American Kenpo, Shaolin Kenpo, Wun Hop Kuen Do, Lima Lama, Kajukenbo and included some of the biggest names in Westernized Kenpo. James Ibrao, Thomas Mitose, the son of the late James Mitose, Roger Greene, Ted Sumner, Ray Arquilla, Al Dacascos, Ralph and Rob Castro, William Chun, Jr., Sonny Gascon, Bart Vale, Larry Tatum, Adriano Emperado, Richard Lee, Sig Kufferath, Tino Tuiolosega, and John McSweeney all attended. Between 1100-1200 people attended the event, coming from all over the globe, with a choice of five seminars at any one time and eighty overall.

The second Gathering took place in 2001 and was attended by approximately 1500-1600 people. The event also included the son of Choki Motobu, Chosei Motobu, Koshiro Tanaka, Ron Sanchez, Steve Labounty, and Bob White.

In June 2007, Tracy's International Studios of Self Defense hosted the 3rd Gathering of Eagles and the inaugural induction ceremony for the International Kenpo Hall of Fame. A list of Charter Member Inductees may be found by following the link.

In 2006, Al Tracy was featured on the cover of "Art of the Warrior Magazine," under the heading, "Grandmaster Al Tracy, Founder of the world's largest system of Kenpo, renowned Kenpo historian, and business scholar." Black Belt Magazine named Tracy's Kenpo 10th degree black belt and founder of the "International Shootfighting Association," Bart Vale, its 2006 Full Contact Fighter of the Year.

In 2013, Al Tracy hosted the 4th Gathering of Eagles and International Kenpo Hall of Fame. At this event, Grandmaster Tracy awarded 11 of his senior students the rank of "Judan (10th degree black belt). He also presented his top instructors with the Spirit of the Warrior Award, which came with the expectation of these instructors carrying on the legacy of the Tracy System. Thirty-eight (38) new members were inducted into the International Kenpo Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ a b The Origins of Kenpo Karate
  2. ^ Parker, Ed (1982). Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Vol. 1: Mental Stimulation. Delsby Publications. ISBN 978-0-910293-00-6. 
  3. ^ Al Tracy's Shodan & Sandan Certificate
  4. ^ a b The origin of colored belt system in Kenpo
  5. ^ Sandan Promotion

External links[edit]