Ed Parker Sr.’s Influence on Martial Arts By: Charles Russo

A few years ago I began writing a book about you Bruce Lee and his time amid the pioneering martial arts cultures of the San Francisco Bay Area during the early 1960s. Early on in the process, something unexpected kept occurring during my interviews: no matter what my line of questioning, everyone I interviewed kept mentioning someone not from the Bay Area – Ed Parker Sr.

This was a peculiar mismatch that kept resurfacing. If I inquired about Bruce Lee in Oakland…Ed Parker Sr.’s name came up. If I asked about the Hawaiian roots of all those Bay Area practitioners in James Lee’s orbit (Wally Jay, Ralph Castro, Al Novak, Ming Lum)….Ed Parker Sr. was mentioned. Even when I was inquiring about the little-known masters from San Francisco’s Chinatown (such as Lau Bun and TY Wong)…..eventually Ed Parker Sr.’s name would surface there as well.

Going into my research I certainly knew of Ed Parker Sr., but I quickly realized I hadn’t understood the scale of his legacy. As one source characterized it to me, “Ed Parker Sr. is probably responsible for more than a million Americans taking martial arts classes.” Better yet, when I told this to another source not long after, he scoffed at the number and replied: “That’s probably a low estimate.”

It is in this sense, that even as I put a very cohesive regional focus on my book, Ed Parker Sr. still proved relevant. To have looked at his influence in terms of regional boundaries would have been to miss his historical significance entirely, because when it came to the martial arts, Ed Parker Sr. completely transcended those boundaries. Simply put – his effect on the culture was ubiquitous.

It is for this reason that in my book about Bay Area martial artists, Ed Parker Sr. is the only non-local figure that I feature. It wouldn’t have been a complete or accurate story without him.

 -Charles Russo 

Charles Russo is a San Francisco journalist. His book – Striking Distance – is now available on Amazon link: http://amzn.to/29vWISU and in most bookstores.