In Mem­ory of Kenpo's

Black Belt - - EDITOR'S NOTE - FRANK TREJO — Floyd Burk

Frank Trejo was born on Christ­mas Eve in 1952, and the Amer­i­can- kenpo mas­ter died on Aéril 11I 2018. A leg­endary fig­ure in the kenpo world, he was larger than lifeK then you were around himI you knew that he breathedI lived and loved the artK

f was lucky enough to have séent time with him on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, and I en­joyed hear­ing his stories about the old days at the Ed Parker Kenpo Karate Stu­dio in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia. Trejo would of­ten talk about the rail­road tracks be­hind the school where he in­ter­acted with bik­ers and other char­ac­tersK ee had élenty of stories about his days doing body­guard work for the rock band san ealen and var­i­ous celebri­ties. I quickly learned that he was also very open to talk­ing about self-de­fense tech­niques and strat­egy.

'ur­ing one of our meet­ings, Trejo said he’d de­vised a hy­brid com­bat sys­temI and the news re­sulted in a visit to Black Belt for an in­ter­view and photo shoot. It was the first time he’d come to the mag­a­zine’s head­quar­ters as the prin­ci­pal artist for a story (although he’d as­sisted Parker in nu­mer­ous photo shoots). That was in late 2006. The ar­ti­cle I wound up writ­ing — ´Fu­sion Kenpo Karate” in honor of his mix of kenpo, grap­pling and box­ing — ap­peared in the May 2MMT is­sueK

The next year, Trejo went back to Black Belt to do a fol­low-up piece ti­tled ´Six-Pack: Kenpo Mas­ter Frank Trejo Teaches a Half-'ozen Self-'efense Tech­niques Ev­ery Black Belt Should Know,” which f wrote for the lcto­ber 2MM8 is­sueK Both stories proved pop­u­lar with read­ers be­cause of Trejo’s abil­ity to ar­tic­u­late tech­ni­cal aséects of his artK

qhe fact that his re­la­tion­shié with Black Belt was on the short side doesn’t mean his mar­tial arts ca­reer was short. When he vis­ited the of­fice in 2006 for that ar­ti­cle, he men­tioned to me that he’d been a black belt for 30 yearsK eis train­ing be­gan in box­ing when he was 8K iaterI he took ué shotokan karate and kick­box­ingK As a kick­box­erI he reéort­edly had a record of 14-M as an am­a­teur and 21-1 as a pro, and he won a Cal­i­for­nia state kick­box­ing ti­tle in 1969 — the same year he found a new home in Amer­i­can kenéoK

A quick learner, Trejo be­came the as­sis­tant man­ager of Parker’s school in 1970. From 1976 to 1991, he ran the place. Most peo­ple who’ve read about karate tour­na­ments in the 1970s and ’80s have heard about Trejo’s ex­ploits. He won hun­dreds of events and was the fn­ter­na­tional harate Chaméion­shiés winner many timesK ee also served as coach and caé­tain of the Bud­weiser fn­ter­na­tional harate qeamK

Then fate in­ter­vened. In 1983 Frank Trejo suf­fered a bro­ken neck as a re­sult of a freak ac­ci­dentK Af­ter a year of re­habI he made a heroic re­turn to comée­ti­tion and tri­uméhed in both forms and fight­ing at the IKC, a feat no one had ever achieved on the same dayK rn­for­tu­nate­lyI he was still feel­ing the ef­fects of his in­juries — and would for many yearsK

As an as­sis­tant to Parker, Trejo got to travel the world to helé him teach sem­i­nars and éer­form demon­stra­tions. Af­ter Parker passed, Trejo con­tin­ued on the sem­i­nar cir­cuitK ee made it clear when I first in­ter­viewed him that he wasn’t Ed Parker’s protégé or top guy. ´I’m a stu­dent of Ed Parker and noth­ing more,” he noted. That be­ing said, there’s no doubt that Frank Trejo was a pri­mary am­bas­sador for Ed Parker’s kenpo karate. His col­leagues of­ten said that he shared Parker’s vi­sion for the art and re­ferred to Parker as his ´kenpo fa­ther.”

When Trejo wasn’t con­duct­ing sem­i­nars, doing body­guard work or work­ing on moviesI he could be found at his masadena homeI lo­cated close to the old Amer­i­can-kenéo stu­dioI giv­ing pri­vate les­sons. He en­joyed be­ing a fa­ther and a grand­fa­therK eis lifeI f be­lieveI is en­caé­su­lated in a com­ment that came from one of his black beltsI a sen­ti­ment that will stick with me for­ever: ´There’s no per­fect life, per­fect re­la­tion­ship or per­fect thing; there are only per­fect mo­ments.” To me, that sums up Frank Trejo’s time on earth. I know that I en­joyed some per­fect mo­ments with the kenpo mas­ter, and I’m sure that ev­ery per­son who trained with him did, too.

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