What is Kenpo?
The Bodhisattva Warriors
by Shifu Nagaboshi Tomio
published 1994 by Samuel Weiser, Inc.
"The art of Chuan Fa is what the media often, and incorrectly, calls Kung Fu. Proper Chuan Fa embodies a tradition from which most of the significant schools of Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Thai Boxing and other "martial arts" have developed their technique. It is also a vision of human potential that is desperately needed in modern times. Chuan Fa teachings have directly influenced and may have, indeed, created the Japanese Art called Jiu Jitsu, from which Judo came, and via this, the art of Aikido."
Fist Ken Chuan
Law Po Fa
China Kara Tang
Hand Te Shou
No Matter in which language, English -
Kenpo is a Japanese art of self-
75 years ago Kenpo was so well known as an effective fighting art in Japan that many Japanese styles that had no connection with Kenpo claimed their art was derived from the Yoshida Kenpo. Some even went so far as to claim their masters had been training directly under Chinese kenpo masters. Similar claims have continued to this day, even though there has not been a Chinese kenpo master for centuries.
Kenpo came to Hawaii, shortly after the turn of the century, when a Grand Master of Kenpo, Kiyoka Yoshida, was sent to the Islands by her family, to marry Otokichi Mitose. In 1920 Kiyoka sent her 3 year old son, James Mitose, back to Japan to be raised by her parents. There he studied Kenpo and became the first Mitose to Master his mother's family art of Kenpo. He returned to Hawaii only after his father's death in 1937. After the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, James Mitose began openly teaching what he called Kenpo Jiu Jitsu and continued to teach until his retirement in 1953. One of Mitose's top students was William Chow, who became his second black belt and Assistant Instructor. In the spring of 1949 Professor William K. S. Chow opened his own Kenpo club and coined the term Kenpo Karate to distinguish his system from Mitose's, even though the two systems were virtually identical.
Ed Parker was a student of Professor Chow in Hawaii, and was the pioneer of Kenpo to the Mainland. The system of Original Kenpo he taught in Pasadena, California from 1956 to 1960 was the same as that taught by Mitose and Chow. In 1961 Ed Parker and Chinese Kung Fu Master, James Wing Woo, co-
When karate began its rise to popularity in the mid 1960s, Tracy’s dominated the tournament scene and over the years nearly 80% of the world-
So what makes Kenpo so effective? First, Kenpo is not stylized, but incorporates the moves of kung fu, Jiu Jitsu and karate into a systematic system. Second, Kenpo has always recognized the difference between avoidable fights and being attacked, and has based its theories on the aphorisms of the great Chinese General Sun Tzu, that you win the fight when you do not have to fight, and most fights are avoidable. This is expressed in the Code of Yoshida:
I come to you with only open hands.
Other weapons, I have not,
But should Right or Honor require it,
My hands will bear me out.
As the name Jiu Jitsu implies, the techniques of Kenpo were designed for close range. This follows the two observable principles of unavoidable defense against an unarmed attacker:
1. 80% of all attacks begin with the attacker grabbing you.
2. Nearly all other attacks begin with the attacker at close quarters.
While it is popular for movies and television to have long, drawn-
And the important thing to know is that Kenpo, as it was originally taught in this country, is as effective today as it was in 1942, and it is an art which can be learned by nearly everyone.