Mr. Thomas Connor began martial arts training at the age of 7 in the local Wing Chun and Hung Gar schools located in Newark, New Jersey and New York City. He studied continually until the age of 15 years at which time he enlisted in the U.S. Army by falsifying his age to fight in World War II. At the end of the war he returned to the United States to study linguistics. During this educational period, he honed his fighting skills and proceeded to win a series of Golden Gloves awards.
Being a World War II veteran, a linguistics expert and having extensive knowledge of the fighting arts, Mr. Connor was the ideal candidate for intelligence work. From approximately 1950 to 1959, Mr. Connor worked for the U.S. Government as an operative in Central America and Mexico. As an agent for the U.S., Mr. Connor was able to broaden his martial arts training to include Jujitsu. In 1960, an exhausted Thomas Connor moved to Mexico with his young family to retire. With time to meditate on life, Mr. Connor decided to return to the United States to begin teaching the martial arts.
By 1965, Mr. Connor was running a very successful self-defense school and dance studio in San Jose, California. That same year, he formed a partnership (COPAR Kenpo) with Mr. Ed Parker, Sr. and the two proceeded to open a series of Kenpo schools in San Jose, San Francisco, and Phoenix, Arizona. It was during his time in California that Mr. Connor continued his involvement and training in Chinese Wushu. He frequently visited Chinatown in San Francisco to meet and train with other Wushu practitioners. It was in Chinatown that he learned how to use the two-headed chain and many other Chinese weapons.
By the early 1970's, the partnership between Mr. Connor and Mr. Parker had expanded to include the Tracy brothers (TRACOPAR Kenpo). Mr. Connor's interests has also expanded to include bodybuilding (He won numerous titles in bodybuilding including the Master's Division of Mr. America). However, by the late 1970's the partnership has dissolved and Mr. Connor remained as owner of a great many Kenpo Schools (TRACO International).
Mr. Connor's mastery of Chinese Martial Arts, boxing, Jujitsu, and professional bodybuilding were incorporated into what was to become a very strong, yet highly artful form of American Kenpo. This unique system would later be named "American Kenpo Karate Association" by Mr. Bill Packer, one of Mr. Connor's original students.
He passed away in 1989, with his system still being presided over by Mr. Bill Packer.