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Bong Soo Han As I Knew Him
Kenpo Karate Training
Michael Chong
Apology to Ralph Castro
Jewel Shepard
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CONTACT: Kenpo

Apology to Ralph Castro

from
Will Tracy
7/29/2007


I have always recognized Ralph Castro as my senior, and I've considered him a friend from the time we first met, and I would never intentionally say or do anything to discredit him. But when I'm wrong, I admit it. I not only admit a great wrong to Ralph Castro, but I humbly apologize. Ralph Castro was Ed Parker's third Shodan (black belt). It was intendtion to leave Ralph Castro off Ed Parker's Shodan list, but it happened because of my own inattention to detail and for that I apologize.

I first heard of Ralph Castro in 1958 when Ralph Castro joined the Kenpo Karate Association of America. Ed was exuberant because Ralph Castro's Kenpo Karate school in San Francisco was the first to join the KKAA since Ed founded the IKKA in 1956. And along with Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Self Defense Studios they were the only two schools in the Kenpo Karate Association of America until the Tracy Kenpo Karate Self Defense Studios joined in 1962.

I first met Ralph when I went to San Francisco to join my brothers at our Ocean Avenue Kenpo Karate studio in 1962. Ralph's school was in Daly City and my brothers and I paid our respect to Ralph on more than one occasion. Ralph was always humble and gracious, and I considered him one of the best Professor Chow students I had ever known. It was Ralph who invited my brothers and me to the Autumn Moon festival in the fall of 1962 where we and Ed Parker first met Bruce Lee. After I returned to Los Angeles in January 1963, I didn't see Ralph again until Robert Trias' Chicago karate tournament which was held in August 1963.

Ed Parker and Ralph Castro put on a Kenpo demonstration at the tournament that brought the audience to a standing ovation. Ralph was at the meeting Ed called in Chicago that weekend, to discuss his plans for an International Karate tournament he planned for the following year. It was at this meeting that the formation of International Kenpo federation was also discussed. I don't recall if anyone ever used the term "International Kenpo Karate Association" at that meeting, but it was at that time the seeds of the IKKA were sown. Four months later (late December), Ed Parker called me into his office at the Santa Monica studio and told me the IKKA had just been formed, and he wanted me to go to Northern California to get Ralph Castro and my brothers to join.

I was excited about the new IKKA and left the next day for the Bay Area. I didn't recall just when that was, but at the Gathering of Eagles held in Las Vegas in February 1999, Ralph reminded me that I had come there in late December 1963.

I had gone to Ralph first, and when he asked if my brothers had signed on to the IKKA, I told him that I had not seen them yet because he was senior and I wanted to tell him about it first. Ralph Castro was the first to join the IKKA and my brothers signed on the next day. With Ralph Castro jogging my memory I then recalled that I had spent Christmas with my brother Al, that year. So that put the founding of the IKKA, or at least when Ed Parker said anything about it to sometime in December 1963.

Ed Parker turned the KKAA over to my brothers and me the end of January 1964, and gave us the KKAA records shortly after that, with Ed completely withdrawing from the KKAA in August 1964. It was at that time that I quietly withdrew from the IKKA. Ralph Castro played an important role in the advancement of the IKKA in the years to come, and we lost touch over the years.

When I began writing the History of Kenpo As I Saw it for the Web in 1996, I listed Ed Parker's black belts as

  1. James Ibrao
  2. Rich Montgomery
  3. Rick Flores
  4. Ed Tobian

I had seen Ralph Castor's name in Ed Parker's 1982 Kenpo Family Tree, but I didn't pay attention to the fact that he was listed as a First Generation black belt. I knew Ralph was Professor Chow's student and I knew both he and Ed Parker had told me Ralph had never studied with Ed. And I had seen Ralph Castro's name in the KKAA records, because, as I stated his school joined the KKAA in 1958. However, I didn't know whether Ralph had trained with Ed after the KKAA days (after 1964).

However, a few days ago a question arose as to who Ed Parker's second black belt was. Actually one of Ed Parker's BYU students was claiming to be Ed Parker's first Haole (non Island) Black Belt. Of course the person had no certificate to prove that. It was somehow lost, or maybe the dog ate it. And I knew Rich Montgomery was Ed Parker's second Shodan, and the first Haole, so I dismissed the claim offhand> However, to make sure I went through the KKAA records, and I confirmed what I have known since I was given the KKAA records 43 years ago. The only members of the KKAA were Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate Self Defense Studios, Ralph Castro's Kenpo Karate, and Tracy's Kenpo Karate Self Defense Studios. Additionally the only "Ed Parker students" who had been promoted through the KKAA between 1956 to 1964 where from his Kenpo Karate Pasadena Studio. There were Brown Belts and White Belts promoted from Ed's other Southern California schools, but no Black Belts.

There have been many questions since Ed Parker's death about his BYU students and whether he promoted any of them to Black Belt when he was at BYU. However, no Utah Ed Parker student is found in the KKAA records. This does not mean they were not students. But none of Ed Parker's BYU students were listed in the KKAA records. So to make this very clear, none of Ed Parker's BYU students received any rank (white, brown or black) through the KKAA as none are found in the KKAA records.

As I went through the list of early promotions, I found that Ben Otake was the first person listed in the KKAA record, and Ben was promoted to Gokyu (5th Brown) December 1956. ames Ibrao was the first KKAA Shodan in 1958. Rich Montgomery was promoted to Shodan in 1959, making him Ed Parker's second KKAA Shodan and first Haole to be given a Black Belt.

As I went through the records I confirmed that Rick Flores (a Haole) got his KKAA Shodan in 1960. But that's when I saw what I had missed before. Ed Parker had two KKAA Shodan recorded for the same day, Ralph Castro was listed first then Rick Flores. It was hiding in plain sight. Ralph Castro was promoted to Shodan the same day Rick Flores was promoted in 1960, and Ralph Castor's name came first.

That meant Ralph Castro was Ed Parker's third Shodan (black belt). However, Ralph Castro was not Ed Parker's student, and no instructor is given for Ralph, while Ed Parker is given as Rich Flores' instructor.

I was disappointed in myself because I had violated a cardinal rule of Kenpo, by not paying attention to trifles. I spent two days going over the KKAA records to make sure I had not made other mistakes like that. But I could find nothing that stood out. But if you don't know what you are looking for, it can be hiding in plain sight.

It is stupid to have to put this in such juvenile language, but James Ibaro was Ed Parker's first Island boy Shodan (Black Belt) and Ralph Castor was Ed Parker's second Island boy Shodan (Black Belt). Rich Montgomery was Ed Parker's first Haole Shodan (Black Belt) and Rick Flores was Ed Parker's second Haole Shodan (Black Belt). There is not record of any of Ed Parker's BYU students as ever having received any Black Belt under the KKAA. Charles Beeder was Ed Parker's permanent assistant at BYU, and he is not listed in the KKAA record. And although after Ed Parker's death, Mrs. Parker would claim Charles Beeder was Ed's first Black Belt, his son, Charles Beeder would later come forward to say his father was not promoted to Black Belt until 1963. Mills Crenshaw as one of Ed Parker's BYU students. However, he never trained with the Island boys, and none of them knew who he was. He did not train with Ed Parker's BYU law enforcement students, so I don't know when Ed taught him. But Mills Crenshaw is not listed as a KKAA Shodan or Black Belt, and like Charles Beeder, his name does not appear in the KKAA records.


So the correct list of Ed Parker's first Shodan as they appear in the KKAA records is
  1. James Ibrao
  2. Rich Montgomery
  3. Ralph Castro
  4. Rick Flores
  5. Ed Tobian
  6. Al Tracy
  7. Jim Tracy
  8. John McSweeney

I will take some time to correct this oversight on all the pages on this site because due to a serious neck and back injury it is difficult for me to use a keyboard or mouse for more than a few minutes at a time; but I hope if any of Ralph Castor's students read this they will convey my apology, and tell Grand Master Castro I meant no disrespect.


©1996, 1999, 2006, 2015 by W. Tracy. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without permission. The Law Offices of Michael Tracy.