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Country of originHawaii Territory of Hawaii; United States United States of America
CreatorAdriano Emperado, Peter Young Yil Choo, Joe Holck, Frank Ordonez
ParenthoodKosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo, Eskrima, Danzan-ryu Jujutsu, Boxing, Gung Fu, Judo,
Olympic sportno
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Country of originHawaii Territory of Hawaii; United States United States of America
CreatorAdriano Emperado, Peter Young Yil Choo, Joe Holck, Frank Ordonez
ParenthoodKosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo, Eskrima, Danzan-ryu Jujutsu, Boxing, Gung Fu, Judo,
Olympic sportno

Kajukenbo is an American hybrid martial art. The name Kajukenbo comes from the original arts of which it was composed: KA for Karate, JU for Judo and Jujutsu, KEN for Kenpo and BO for both Western and Chinese Boxing (Chu'an Fa Kung Fu) [1]

It was developed in the late 1940s and founded in 1947 in the Palama Settlement of Oahu, Hawaii. The art was created through the cooperative efforts of five highly skilled martial arts practitioners, each with a different specialty: Peter Choo (a welterweight Boxing champion and a Tang Soo Do stylist), Frank Ordonez (Sekeino Jujitsu), Joe Holck (8th Dan in Kodokan Judo), Clarence Chang (Sil-Lum Pai Kung Fu/Chinese Boxing), and Adriano Emperado (Kenpo and Escrima).[2]

Kajukenbo training incorporates a blend of striking, kicking, throwing, takedowns, joint locks and weapon disarmament. A driving principle behind Kajukenbo is transitioning smoothly from one specialty into the next to create an optimal response to any situation. This radical approach to training led to Kajukenbo being known as, "The First American Mixed Martial Art".[citation needed]

Today, Kajukenbo is practiced all over the world in many distinctive branches.[citation needed] Unlike many traditional martial arts, students are not required to mimic their teacher, but are encouraged to develop their own "expression" of the art. Each branch continues to evolve their training, adopting and taking in the techniques of many other martial arts. While different, each branch shares the view that self-preservation and defense is at their core.

Philosophical Meaning of Kajukenbo[edit]

"Through this fist style one gains long life and happiness." [3]


Kajukenbo was founded in 1947 in the Palamas Settlement on Oahu, Hawaii.

In the late 1940s, the Palamas Settlement was a violent area where fist-fights and stabbings were commonplace. Due to this environment a martial artist by the name of Tommy Tanaka introduced five martial artists from varying backgrounds with the goal of developing an art that would be practical and effective on the street, yet transcend individual style limitations. These founders sought to develop one style that would complement each of their individual styles and yet had to allow for effective fighting at all ranges and speeds. They called themselves the “Black Belt Society”.

In its conception, the founders followed a simple rule, if a technique worked consistently on the street (or against one another), then it stayed in the system, if it did not, it was discarded. This allowed the style to maintain its strong self-defense focus, while covering limitations found within each of their traditional arts. Although they had followed along with this while making Kajukenbo, they did not follow a real philosophy during this time.

The emerging style was named Kajukenbo. It was named thus by Joseph Holck because of the styles that formed it. KA for Karate, JU for Judo & Jujitsu, Ken for Kenpo and Bo for Boxing.

Emperado's Kajukenbo[edit]

One example of a Kajukenbo crest

Shortly after its conception, the Korean War broke out, and with it Joe Holck, Peter Choo, Frank Ordonez, and Clarence Chang left Hawaii as active duty military, leaving only Adriano Emperado to carry the system on.

Emperado and his brother Joe introduced Kajukenbo to the public by opening the Palama Settlement School in 1950. They called the school the Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute (K.S.D.I.). The training there was notoriously brutal. Their goal was to be invincible on the street, thus the students sparred with full contact. Emperado had a motto, "The workout isn't over until I see blood on the floor". He also said "the best teacher is pain". His philosophy was that if someone was afraid of pain they would be defeated the first time they were hit. Those who remained developed into tough fighters with a reputation for employing their art in street fights with little provocation.

In 1959, Sijo Emperado continued to add more Kung Fu into Kajukenbo, shifting the art to a more fluid combination of hard and soft techniques. Since then, Kajukenbo has proved to be an improvement-based, continuously evolving and open form, willing to accept whatever works. John Leoning, who taught Doug Bunda, the brother of Carlos Bunda, also helped bring out the "bo" of Kajukenbo. John Leoning pointed out that there should be no wasted motion.

The art slowly began to grow in popularity, and soon Emperado had 12 Kajukenbo schools in Hawaii, making it the second largest string of schools at the time.[citation needed] Joe Halbuna, Charles Gaylord, Tony Ramos and Aleju Reyes, who all earned a black belt from Emperado, brought Kajukenbo to the U.S. mainland in 1960. They each opened Kajukenbo schools in California. In 1969 Tony Ramos trained with and exchanged ideas and methods with Bruce Lee. Tony's version of Kajukenbo became known as the "Ramos Method" and is kept alive by numerous instructors. Aleju Reyes died in 1977.

In 1987 Ahgung Tony Ramos before retiring from his civil service job on Travis A.F.B. and moving back to Oahu Hawaii Ahgung Left his legacy with Oldest Son Grandmaster Anthony Ramos and Ahgungs many black belt.s Which they all continue his legacy. Tony Ramos was one of the five founders of Kajukenbo. Although it was founded in 1947 he had not started actual training until 1950 and earned his black belt in 1960.

In a 1991 interview with Black Belt Emperado was asked who some of the Kajukenbo tournament stars were and said "Al and Malia Dacascos won many tournament championships. Al Gene Caraulia won the 1st Karate World Championship in Chicago in 1963 when he was still a brown belt. Purple belt Victor Raposa knocked out world rated Everett "monster man" Eddy at the 1975 "World Series of Martial Arts". Carlos Bunda was the first lightweight champion at the Long Beach International Karate Championship (IKC) in 1964. Bunda once defeated TV star Chuck Norris in competition where he broke Chuck's cup involving a kenpo groin kick."[citation needed] According to Norris, in his book Against All Odds: My Story he won the middleweight title in 1967 at the Long Beach Internationals, then beat Bunda who had won the lightweight title.

Modern Kajukenbo[edit]

Kajukenbo continues to evolve with each generation and maintains its primary focus on realism and practicality. There are usually martial arts schools that will change along with time to fit into the day's society. It is generally thought that "unfair" moves, such as strikes to the eyes or groin, are perfectly acceptable, as is whatever else the practitioner feels is necessary to get home that day.

Training workouts emphasize cardio conditioning and functional strength. While individual schools may show variation, it would not be unusual to train with sandbags or boxing gloves. There are core self-defense techniques at the heart of Kajukenbo and Kajukenbo schools eschew impractical and flashy moves. Most kajukenbo curricula feature counter-attacks to punches, kicks, grabs, as well as using knives, sticks and guns to counter back. While this base of common knowledge will keep schools' styles similar, there is plenty of room for variation. This openness tends to encourage schools to incorporate other arts into their practice. Many schools of traditional martial arts concentrate on kata, Kajukenbo concentrates on self-defense movements because protecting one's self in a street-fighting situation is primary.

Some schools of Kajukenbo feature katas that are broken down into 13 "pinyans" (also called "Palama sets" in some schools). Pinyan translates into dance of death. These are used to usually practice your moves that you can use and to help with snap in your moves and sometimes stance. These Katas are incorporated into Kajukenbo to help the student refine their skill. Every movement in the katas has a function and reason.


Traditional Belt Colors
YellowJudo yellow belt.svg
OrangeJudo orange belt.svg
PurpleJudo purple belt.svg
BlueJudo blue belt.svg
GreenJudo green belt.svg
BrownJudo brown belt.svg
BrownJudo brown belt.svg
BrownJudo brown belt.svg
BlackJudo black belt.svg

Ranking hierarchies vary widely from school to school.

Traditional Japanese martial art ranking is often followed. One common belt order is as follows: white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, brown (3 levels), black, followed by the other various degrees of black belt. Some schools have "in-between" belts that feature a white or black stripe running down the center of the belt. Although the stripes used to be the case, the Ramos Method (founded by Tony Ramos) no longer does this at all.

Black belt rankings and titles can also vary, with most schools adopting either Chinese or Japanese titles. In KSDI (Kakujenbo Self Defense Institute) the established names are 1st degree or black tip brown belt is Sisok. BB to 2nd degree BB is Sibak. 3rd degree to 5th degree BB is Sifu. 6th and 7th degree BB is Sigung. 8th degree BB is Professor. And 9th degree BB is Grandmaster and Senior Grandmaster. 10th degree is only for the 4 co-founders and Sijo Emperado.



Kenpo "Emperado Method" or "Traditional Hard Style".

Tum Pai[edit]

The original style of Tum Pai was put together by Sijo Adriano D. Emperado, Al Dacascos and Al Dela Cruz in the early 60s to create an advanced style for the Kajukenbo system. In the mid-60s the developments that made up Tum Pai became incorporated into what was called "Chu'an Fa". In 1971 Jon A. Loren started incorporating the concepts of Tai-Chi and Southern Sil-lum into his Kajukenbo classes. This was called Northern Kajukenbo until 1976. In 1976, while staying with Sijo Emperado in Hawaii, he demonstrated his concepts and techniques and asked if he could call it Tum Pai and bring the name back to life. Emperado granted permission with the acknowledgment that the original Tum Pai followed a different path than the revised Tum Pai soft style. The name Tum Pai, which means "central way", fits the Tai-Chi concept blended into the Kajukenbo format.

Chu'an Fa[edit]

In Hawaii during the early 1960s Sijo Adriano Emperado, along with students Al Dacascos and Al Dela Cruz, incorporated innovations of the style Tum Pai and other martial arts into their Kajukenbo training. Later it became obvious that they were no longer doing Tum Pai and it would have to be named something else. In the mid 60s Al Dacascos moved to Northern California and continued training in the Northern and Southern styles of Sil-lum Kung Fu to enhance his Kajukenbo training. It was in 1965 that the name Ch'uan-Fa was introduced.

Wun Hop Kuen Do[edit]

Wun Hop Kuen Do was founded by Al Dacascos, in Cantonese Chinese Wun Hop Kuen Do means "combination fist art style" Wun Hop Kuen Do techniques identify with, and are based on, the Kajukenbo system. This martial arts style incorporates techniques from many different styles including Northern and Southern Kung Fu systems and Escrima. Since this style is always being developed it is not a fixed system. This means that practitioners of the style are always striving to improve it by the incorporation and improvement of useful methods or techniques. In addition the philosophy of remaining "unfixed" also applies to the defense techniques, in that there is no defined response to a given situation, and they attempt to fit the situation as it arises. This idea leads to self-defense that is creative and allows one to think about what is the best response. This is one of the primary things that sets this style apart from most others, it is a martial art that asks you to think for yourself and use your own common sense to actually see what you should do next. There are many drills to allow practice of this type of fluidity and creativity that lead to the ability to respond reflexively to any situation — which is in contrast to many other training methods where one is supposed to mimic techniques which are often not practical, except under very defined circumstances.

Matsuno Kajukenbo Kai[edit]

Matsuno Kajukenbo Kai was founded by Joseph Holck’s son Vinson Holck (A Jujitsu blackbelt under his father) to honor the teaching of his father and uncle Peter Choo, while adhering to the moral principles of Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki (Founder of Danzan Ryu Jujutsu), Joseph Holck’s Jujitsu Instructor. In Kajukenbo's tradition of melding styles and focusing on what works on the street, Matsuno Kajukenbo Kai focuses heavily on the throwing/take-downs of Judo & Jujitsu and the striking of Karate & American Boxing.

This branch is promoted through the Kodenkan Yudanshakai martial arts organization in Tucson, Arizona.

Ordonez Kajukenbo[edit]

The Ordonez Kajukenbo Ohana (OKO) was formed to perpetuate the art of Kajukenbo Self Defense through honoring the legacy of Kajukenbo Co-Founder "Uncle" Frank Ordonez.

The OKO was founded on February 15, 2008 and is composed of those who have been promoted by Uncle Frank but is open to all ranks and styles.

Kajukenbo Association of America[edit]

The Kajukenbo Association of America (KAA) was founded in 1967 by notable Kajukenbo masters: Aleju Reyes, Joe Halbuna, Tony Ramos, Charles Gaylord, and Al Dacascos. The KAA disbanded in the early 1970s, but it was brought back in 1980 under the leadership of Grandmaster Charles Gaylord who was committed to preserving the original Kajukenbo art and passing it down to all of his instructors and students until his death in August 2009. Charles Gaylord received his 9th degree black belt under founder Sijo Adrian Emperado in 1980. Fifteen years later in September 1995, the KAA and all of its black belts promoted Master Gaylord to the honorary rank of 10th degree black belt. Grandmaster Gaylord's traditional Kajukenbo curriculum continues to be taught by his chief instructors who operate Kajukenbo schools in Hawaii and other parts of the United States. [4]


External links[edit]