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Kajukenbo Founders

Professor Adriano D. Emperado is credited for the founding of the Kajukenbo Self-Defense Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii between 1947and1949. This was accomplished with the aid of other Masters of various aspects of the martial arts. These men and their contributions are as follows:

Peter Y.Y. Choo – Tang Soo Do Karate             (KA)

Frank F. Ordonez – Sekeino Ju Jitsu               (JU)

Joseph Holck – Kodokan Judo/Danzan Ryu Ju Jitsu (JU)

Adriano D. Emperado - Kosho Shorei Kempo/Kara ho Kenpo (KEM)

George “Clarence” Chang – Sil Lum Pai Gung Fu   (BO)

During these two years, these instructors struggled together and came up with the first working origin of the Kajukenbo system.Their prime objective was to form the ultimate in self defense. Not limited to any one particular style or form. Since no man is the same in fighting techniques, variations in style become more and more evident as more schools were open.

At first, Kajukenbo was a combination of the arts with a heavy accent on Kempo Karate. The most major change occurred in 1959 when Sijo Emperado incorporated “Ch’uan Fa” Kung Fu into Kajukenbo. This art, a soft style, stresses more emphasis on the “Ken-Bo” segment of Kajukenbo and its’ basis is the combining of both the Northern and Southern styles of the Chinese martial arts.

The roots of the Kempo system can be traced back to Hawaii in the early 1920’s and a man named James Mitose. He brought his family’s art, “Kempo JuJitsu” (Kosho Shorei Kempo) to Hawaii and taught select students in a strictly traditional manner. His personal style was rigidly classical and very conservative in expression, never deviating from what exactly taught to him.

One of Mitoses students was a man named William Kwai Sun Chow. Chow had prior training in his father’s own Kung Fu methods as well as extensive Judo experience. This background allowed him to combine principles of combat with more creative freedom than his teacher, Mitose.

Chow also taught small classes and in it was a young protégé, Adriano D. Emperado. Emperado had come to him an already polished martial artist, having begun his training in the late 1930’s with Filipino Escrima, first with “Isaac”, then “Alejandro” and finally “Alfredo Peralta”.

In 1943 Emperado began his study of “Kodokan Judo” with Sensei Taneo at the Palama Settlement Gym. Then he advance his studies to Kenpo JuJitsu with Professor Chow, first at the Catholic Youth Organization, then later at the Kaheka Gym on Kaheka Lane. Sijo Emperado received his martial arts training from Professor William K.S. Chow and Professor James Mitose. From these men he received his 5th Degree Black Belt on August 10, 1950.

He attended instructor’s advanced training given by Professor Mitose in 1951. These classes were held at Professor Mitoses residence and at the gym located on Emma Street, which was then known as the “Official Self-Defense Club”. He received his Instructors Certificate from Professor Mitose in 1952.

During this period, Emperado was training 8-12 hours a day, pursuing a convergence point for all that he had learned. Always hungry for more, he used the tough streets of the notorious Palama District for his laboratory.

Kajukembo in its early days was noted as a brutal and rough-house style of self defense. In the early days of tournaments, some of the more classical Karate systems referred to the Kajukembo fighters as “Brutish Street Fighters”.

In an article written in the November 1966 issue of Black Belt Magazine, there is an article about “Lua”, a bone breaking form of personal defense. It was the martial art of the body guards of the Hawaiian Kings. Some say it was the deadliest form of unarmed self-defense ever invented. The late Professor Henry S. Okazaki (Joseph Holck’s instructor), was quoted as saying, “While Lua had many similarities to JuJitsu, the Hawaiian art was more effective”. It is now considered to be a lost art.

In the same article, the last paragraph is quoted;

But while Lua and other arts gradually died out, the legacy of violent defense form still hangs on. A recent example was the famous, or infamous, depending upon how one looks at it, EMPERADO SCHOOL OF KARATE which was so prominent only a short time ago. This type of lawless karate was so rugged that some of the students were reported to have to fortified themselves with several stiff belts of liquor before class in order to be able to endure the rough going over they got from their instructors. With this type of background, it is little wonder that today’s Hawaiians are so proficient in the modern, and more disciplined forms of Japanese martial arts”.