Tendou's Kenpo Karate
Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly
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Tom Kelly


Tom Kelly



Friday, August 10, 2012

Lee Wedlake

Sibok Tom Kelly, 9th degree

A kenpo legend passed away yesterday at his home. Tom Kelly was Mr. Parker's right hand man for many years. He was on the American team that trounced the European team and those fights are seen in a video called The New Gladiators.
Mr. Kelly was called Sibok, a Chinese term for senior student. He was the senior. Mr. Kelly was Mr. Steve LaBounty's first black belt. He was Huk Planas's first kenpo teacher. He served as the Executive Vice-President of the IKKA and was the tournament coordinator for the Internationals.
Sibok is credited with creating the Kicking Set, now called Kicking Set One. He added the tradition of turning belt knots to the side. I'm told he created or influenced some of the other sets, too. It was he, along with Huk, that helped Mr. Parker create the first manuals for the 1970 curriculum that all others are based on today.
In the years after Mr. Parker passed he worked with many groups but had a strong association with Mr. Joe Palanzo and the WKKA. He could be found at their yearly gatherings in Baltimore.




I began my martial arts study in Judo in 1963. Upon achieving a brown belt in this discipline, I realized it was not very practical to incorporate the moves I had learned into everyday uses and self-protection. I wanted to learn, a better, more effective fighting system.

I changed to Kenpo after seeing it demonstrated. I saw not only the practicality of this system, but also the many ways to apply it effectively in a street confrontation. This style, one of the most difficult of the martial arts, is also one of the most functional. I began studying with Mr. Steve LaBounty in 1964. A year later, at the second International Karate Championship Tournament, I met Mr. Ed Parker Sr.. I was with him until his death in 1990 and continue teaching his system and promulgating his legacy.

The following occurred while I was managing Mr. Parker’s Santa Monica (West Los Angeles) studio from 1969 to 1972. During this time, I was responsible for;

Having Mr. Parker implement the business procedures used by most Kenpo people to this day,

Getting Mr. Parker to put the yellow belt into his system,

Developing the color belt chart,

Getting Mr. Parker to design the large black belt diplomas (the first one printed #1001, I received),

Having the universal pattern used as a patch (Universal Patch Tournaments),

Influencing Mr. Parker to wear a black gi,

Putting tips on the black belts,

Starting the I.K.K.A. (International Kenpo Karate Assoc.) testing board,

Mr. Parker, Richard Planas and I put together the original yellow, orange and purple belt packets. I still have the original manuals.

My own personal accomplishments include:

Originating Kicking Set #1 and the Leg Exercise Set in the Ed Parker Kenpo System.

I was Executive Vice President of the I.K.K.A. from 1970 to 1981 as well as the Tournament Director for the Internationals during that same period.

In 1972, after 7 grueling matches, I was the second I K K A black belt to win the heavyweight division and went on to fight the infamous Joe Lewis for Grand Champion.

I was the second black belt (Steve Saunders was the first) to win their weight division at both the Internationals and at the California State Championship in the same year.

I was the first 7th degree black belt promoted in the “Ed Parker System” by Mr. Parker himself.

I was co-captain and a member of the “Original Undefeated I.K.K.A. Black Belt Team”. The team consisted of Steve Saunders, Lou Oliva, Chris Armstrong, John Henderson and myself. The team fought undefeated five times in the United States.

I was a member of the “Undefeated Open Black Belt Team” in Europe, specifically England and Belgium. That team included John Nativada, Ron Marchini, Darnel Garcia, Benny (The Jet) Urquidez and myself. A documentary film was shot and was to be narrated by Elvis Presley. The film was finally found and released by George Waite: It is named “THE YOUNG GLADIATORS”.

I wish to especially thank my mentor and teacher Si-Gung Steve LaBounty for being as hard as a teacher as he was. He taught us to be warriors. Senior Grand Master Ed Parker taught me how to teach and communicate the art of Kenpo to others in a special way.

I have made Kenpo Karate my life’s work and pleasure. Although I no longer fight on the circuit, teaching Kenpo has rewarded me in ways I never thought possible: Each time a new student walks through the doors of my Dojo; each new belt a student advances; every time one of my students wins a tournament, or fights with style and honor according to the rules.

With every incident, my commitment to Kenpo is renewed. I still teach the traditional spirit of Kenpo that is no longer taught or was learned by the “new age” Kenpo instructors. Kenpo was and is a combat art and I will continue to teach it as such. I have 44 years in and at the art of Kenpo and I will continue to teach until its no longer fun. But don’t expect me to quit very soon. IT’S STILL A HOOT.