The True and Factual beginnings of Ed Parker's Kenpo in Ireland,
England and the Channel Island of Jersey
by Tommy Jordan in association with Peter Whitney
Ed Parker Senior. stated in “Infinite
Insights Vol. 1” that John McSweeney was the
first of his black belts to bring Kenpo outside of the United States
and in doing so made the IKKA international, when he went to Ireland
to study in Trinity College in 1962, and after his schooling he had
developed four black belts by John Conway under the umbrella of the
John McSweeney brought with him his IKKA black belt certificate and
the Constitution of the IKKA which had been completed in December
1962, and the Officers were Ed Parker (President), Mills L. Crenshaw
(Chairman), Stanley A. Hall (Vice President), Charles K. Sullivan
(Secretary and Treasurer).
The IKKA certificate was the only certificate which John ever
displayed on the wall in Fitzwilliam Street. and contrary to what has
been said, there never was a Kenpo Karate Association of America
certificate displayed in Fitzwilliam St. in Dublin.
I have a copy of a letter which John wrote in 1963, where he states
that he came here to Ireland as the European Director of the IKKA and
recommends Ed Parker as an Authority on Kenpo Karate, and his
intention was to spread Kenpo to the rest of Europe.
I have business cards and grading cards, which were used from 1961 to
1969 by Al and Jim Tracy, John Sweeney, Tommy Jordan, John Conway,
Maurice Mahon, Jim Rice, Peter Whitney, Pete Presswell, Phil Hegarty
and Martin Sleeman and all have Kenpo spelt with an “N”
as in “Kenpo”, and in a John McSweeney interview with
Frank Di’Maria, he stated that he taught the same Kenpo as Ed
I believe the above is sufficient to prove that it was Kenpo which
John McSweeney brought and taught in Ireland, and could not possibly
be, as some people have claimed, an off-shoot of the Ed Parker
American Kenpo system, as the EPAK did not exist and Ed Parker did
not develop it until many years later. The above also makes it clear
that the IKKA existed since 1962, contrary to claims made by some
that there was no IKKA until 1964.
If further evidence is required then please relate to the book, which
Thomas Mitose wrote called “What
is Self Defense?”. Techniques in that book were
taught to his students, including William Chow. Chow in turn taught
the same techniques to his students and Ed Parker was one of his
students learning Kenpo karate and in turn taught the same techniques
to John McSweeney and also wrote a book titled “Kenpo
Karate”, where the same techniques may be seen
on “You Tube”, today demonstrated
by Ed Parker under old school Kenpo.
McSweeney brought those same techniques to Ireland and Ronnie Gurey
taught the same ones in England to Peter Presswell, Phil Hegarty,
Martin Sleeman and Pete Whitney, beginning in March-April 1965.
My question is - how can people who were not there at the time claim
that it was Kempo-Gung-Fu, or a distant off-shoot of Kenpo,
which was being taught in Ireland and England?
John McSweeney began teaching Kenpo in Ireland on 26th
February 1963 and that is the day I began as his first student. His
intention was to spread Kenpo throughout the rest of Europe, but when
he finished his studies, I believe that his wife didn’t like
the damp climate in Ireland and wished to return to the
U.S.(but I may be wrong in that assumption). John selected his best
four students - Tom Jordan, Maurice Mahon, Jim Rice and John Conway -
and had us train extra hard and also showed us how we should teach
and brought us up to black belt standard. Although he was qualified
to grade us to black belt he tested us for that grade and recommended
us to Ed Parker for black belt, as we did not have sufficient
teaching hours - as required by the Constitution.
John and his family returned to the U.S. in November 1964 and it was
in April 1965 that I received the black belt certificates from Ed
Parker. It was earlier that year when Ronnie Gurey, who had trained
with McSweeney went to Swindon, England, and began teaching Kenpo to
Peter Presswell, Phil Hegarty and Martin Sleeman in March/April 1965
in Old Town. They later moved to Walcot Common Room where Pete
It was 1966 when Phil Hegarty contacted Tommy Jordan from the Irish
Karate Association, with a view to getting further instruction and T.
Jordan went to Swindon and graded them to brown belt. The British
Kenpo Karate Association was formed and Brendan Walsh, a black belt
from the IKA went to Swindon for almost a year in 1967-68, where they
sought and obtained membership of the IKKA and Brendan became the
British representative for the IKKA. Jim Rice also taught in Swindon
for a while.
In 1968 Peter Presswell and his wife came to live Ireland for a
while, so that Peter could train for and be tested for his black belt
and he was tested by John Conway, Jim Rice and Tommy Jordan, when he
returned to teach in Swindon as the first Kenpo black belt in
It was in 1968 when Maurice Mahon first began to teach Kenpo in
Jersey, Channel Islands, where he also taught the local Police.
Maurice continued to teach there until 1970, when he returned to
Dublin and left the club in the capable hands of John Jacklin and Don
Cassidy and he continued to return to Jersey for Seminars and
The IKA represented Ireland in competitions in New York and Rhode
Island in 1966 and formed the first multi-style Association with
Shoto-Kan, Wado- Ryu and Kenpo styles, and had their first
competition in 1967. The Irish Karate Association gained entry to the
European Karate Union in 1968 and took part in the EKU Championships
in 1969 and were signatories at the formation of the World Union of
Karate Organizations in Paris 1970 and continued to take part in the
above events for many years.
The BKKA were very much involved in competition at that stage and
were accepted as members of the British Karate Assn in 1970, which
provided them with greater access to competitions.
It was in 1972 when John Conway and Jim Rice went to Los Angeles and
trained in the new Ed Parker American Kenpo with many of the senior
black belts, and John Conway developed a very good relationship with
Ed Parker. John and Jim returned to Ireland in 1972 and opened two
schools, where they taught the EPAK professionally.
I trained in the then new system but I preferred the style taught to
me by John McSweeney, and I have continued to teach, update and
streamline the same Kenpo, as I have been doing since 1963. It was in
2007 that Peter Coyle and I were asked if we would accept 10th degree
black belt grades after training consistently for 44 years, and Al
Tracy, who was one of the seniors that McSweeney trained with. Tom
Saviano a lOth degree with McSweeney, Gregg Mathson and Becky Mornar
came over from the US and awarded both Peter and I 10th degree black
There has been a lot of misleading information placed on websites
relating to the beginning of Kenpo in Europe, by people who were not
involved in Kenpo at that time, and others who were not born in 1963.
However, I believe I should be given credit for at least knowing the
style of karate I have been involved in for more than 45 years and
that is Kenpo karate as taught to me by John McSweeney, as a Martial
Art, in the true meaning of the word “martial”. I was
there from day one when it began here, and I can prove it with
documented evidence, and Peter Whitney in Swindon, England can do
likewise. With regard to the beginning of Kenpo in England - Peter
Whitney has been doing Kenpo techniques for more than 42 years.
I have asked of those who have claimed that John McSweeney and I do
an off-shoot of Kenpo, or Kempo-Gung Fu where and from whom they
first heard the above, but I never received an answer and doubt if I
As 2008 is the 45th anniversary of Kenpo in Europe I hope that the
above will help to correct some of the misleading information, which
has been placed on the Internet over the past few years.
Our best wishes to all in Kenpo.