The Case of the Dangerous Robin :
First Use of Karate on TV

headlines03.jpg (38519 bytes)I was offered a series at Ziv, an insurance investigator who worked big cases for ten per cent of the value of whatever he recovered. I said I would do the show if I could use Karate, not carry a gun. "The man," I proposed, "will be his own moving weapon."

They asked me to explain what Karate was, so I demonstrated a few moves.


My sempei (teacher) Ed Parker in makeup, stunt-doubling for an actor in The Case of the Dangerous Robin.

You see, early in 1956, a fellow named Ed Parker had come to the health club where I worked out. He’d recently moved stateside from Hawaii and opened a studio in Pasadena. He was trying to get students for private lessons at our club for a new kind of self-defense called Karate. I talked with him about it and signed up. He gave lessons on a large mat in the handball court. Ed taught Karate based on the Chinese school of Kenpo. Nobody had ever heard of it. He told me that when he’d first moved to Pasadena he went to the police station to register his hands as lethal weapons, as was required in Hawaii, where martial arts were more understood. The police didn’t know what to make of him.

Parker was a tough task master. I’ll never forget my first lesson with him. He pushed me against a wall of the handball court, dug his forefinger in my stomach and said, "Okay, I’m a holdup man and this is a .45 in your belly. I say, ‘Give me the money!’ What do you do?"

I said, "I don’t know. What?"

"You give him the money."

headlines04.jpg (48683 bytes)At the end of three arduous years of work with him, I was awarded a brown belt. I learned to break boards with the edge of my hand and when I learned how, he had me stop breaking them — said it would only lead to arthritis. Ed could break eight concrete blocks in one blow with his knuckles.

Thanks to my training with Ed, the executives at Ziv were impressed with my Karate and with the idea of martial arts on the show.

newspaperpic04.jpg (347627 bytes)I signed on as Robin Scott in the series The Case of the Dangerous Robin. We decided that we’d get a stunt man to do the long shots. I’d come in for the close-ups, thus saving me some time and a lot of energy. Just one problem: not one professional stuntman at the time knew Karate. There wereno more than six martial arts teachers in all the forty-eight mainland states.

The upshot was, I had to do all my own Karate fights. I got Ed into the Screen Actors Guild. Each Wednesday we would shoot the fights for both shows of that week; he’d come to the studio and we’d choreograph the action.

Ed went on to teach Karate to Elvis Presley, who turned out to be excellent at it, and Blake Edwards, director of the Pink Panther movies. Ed appeared in several pictures for Edwards doing Karate stunts. About five years ago, Ed was getting off a plane in Hawaii, and as he walked along the tarmac, he suffered a heart attack. He died on the spot — 59 years old.

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Text copyright 2000 by Rick Jason
Originally published by Argoe Publishing, July 2000.

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Last updated Jan 2012

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