The Beginning of an American Martial Art

John Bishop

Master Black Belt
MTS Alumni
Joined
Mar 21, 2002
Messages
1,157
Reaction score
73
Location
Southern Calif.
The Black Belt Society

[FONT=&quot][/FONT] From the immigrant groups of Hawaii came the five kajukenbo founders. Adriano Emperado and Frank Ordonez were of Filipino descent. Peter Choo was of Korean descent. Joe Holck (birth name: Joichi Matsuno) was of Japanese descent. And George Chang was of Chinese descent.
The idea for a meeting of the minds was first presented to Emperado by his neighbor, Frank Ordonez. He told Emperado that he had some friends who wanted to learn some kenpo from him. This brought together the five founders for the first time.
Growing up in the poor neighborhoods of Honolulu, these men were no strangers to street fights. From actual experience they had a pretty good idea of what worked on the street and what didn’t. One thing they all agreed on, was that one system of fighting wouldn’t fit every self defense situation. So they made a pack to workout together, and create a fighting system that would be useful in just about any street encounter.
When the founders first got together in late 1947, each of them had already trained for several years in various western and eastern fighting systems. Emperado, Choo, and Holck were also World War II era veterans. Emperado had been discharged in 1946, and Choo and Holck were still active duty, stationed in Hawaii.
More specifically, Adriano Emperado, Peter Choo, Joe Holck, and Frank Ordonez all had training in western boxing. In addition, Emperado brought with him some experience in jujitsu, judo, escrima, and kenpo jiu jitsu. Joe Holck also had several years of Danzan Ryu jujitsu, and Kodokan judo training. Peter Choo was the most experienced boxer in the group, and also had experience in Korean karate, kenpo jiu jitsu, and Danzan Ryu jujitsu. Like Holck, Frank Ordonez also had some experience in Danzan Ryu jujitsu and Kodokan judo. And George “Clarence” Chang had a background in Chinese Boxing (Sil-lum Pai kung fu), having trained both in China and Hawaii.
Although these five men were young, just barely into their 20’s, they approached the concept of creating a mixed martial art with great eagerness. And in their youthful enthusiasm for what would be their future role in the martial arts, they gave themselves the nickname: “The Black Belt Society”.
Their first workout together was in the backyard at Peter Choo’s mother’s house. Subsequent training sessions were held in various locations around the Halawa Housing area, and at the Kaheka Gym. At that time, the Halawa Housing area had military, veterans, and civilian housing sections. When the founders first met, Emperado was living at the Halawa Veterans Housing unit. Because World War II had ended the year before, many of the military housing units and barracks there were vacant. So the 5 young men moved their workouts around from building to building, in a attempt to keep their training secret. Much like an inventor hides his invention until it’s perfected.
Emperado, Choo, and Holck, did a great deal of the experimenting with the blending of techniques, and designing of combinations. While Chang and Ordonez assisted, and also recorded the training progress in writing and photographs.
“They tried each other out”, as they would say in those days. Boxer verses judoka. Kenpo man verses jujitsuka. Karateka verses boxer. And on and on. Having been boxers, they were use to fighting full contact at full speed. Emperado and Choo had quick punches and hand strikes, along with kicks. Holck was the “takedown man”, and knew how to lock, throw, and grapple. That was the way they found any gaps in their fighting styles. And then they started working on filling the gaps.
For close in work, they combined hand and elbow techniques from kenpo, boxing, karate, escrima, and kung fu. This gave them linear strikes, straight punches, roundhouse punches, and uppercut punches. Additionally, elbow techniques were used in really tight spots. And circular whipping and snapping strikes helped enhance the speed and flow of multiple hand strikes.
Kenpo, kung fu, and karate, also gave them their long range weapons. With the addition to various kicks, sweeps, stomps, and knee strikes. And they adopted the kenpo philosophy when it came to kicks, they kept them low, while using their hands for striking the upper body.
Grappling and joint locks were used to take the attacker down to the ground, where he would be more vulnerable. Joint locks and arm bars were also found to be superior techniques to use against knife and club attacks.
One of the most important things the founders did was to focus their training on their environment. They abandoned any thoughts of designing flowery forms or weapons katas. They agreed that their attacker would most likely be a street fighter or common criminal. Possibly armed with a knife or club. And if they did have any kind of formal training, it would most likely be in boxing, or possibly the Filipino stick and knife arts. So they geared their self defense technique development toward these kind of attackers.
Punching defenses were designed to counter all the common punching combinations that a boxer or street fighter would throw. A right cross. A left jab/right cross combination. A right cross/left hook combination. A grab followed by a punch. A grab from behind followed by a punch. Multiple punching combination attacks, and more. And these punches were thrown to the face. This deviated greatly from the common karate training of the day, where the student learns to block and counter against a attacker who steps in and throws a lunge punch to the chest/solar plexus .
Self defense combinations were also designed to counter the knife and club attacks of a street thug, bar room fighter, or a trained Filipino stylist. And of course there were defenses against grabs and chokes.
Eventually the founders realized that they had in fact created a new martial art. It was not a karate, jujitsu, judo, kung fu, or kenpo system. It was a mixed martial art, and it needed a name. They thought about some names and then decided that a acronym would be the best choice. They decided that the acronym should represent their main martial arts, karate, kenpo, kung fu, judo, and jujitsu. After considering some different names for their new art, they decided on the suggestion that Joe Holck made; Ka-ju-ken-bo. Ka represented karate. Ju represented judo and jujitsu. Ken represented kenpo, and Bo represented both Chinese and Western boxing. An American name for a mixed martial art founded on American soil.
 

Infinite

Brown Belt
Joined
Dec 14, 2006
Messages
497
Reaction score
3
Location
San Jose California
Excellent... I just was introduced to this system yesterday... and while it kicked my butt I did enjoy it.

Thank you for the knowledge.

--Infy.
 
OP
John Bishop

John Bishop

Master Black Belt
MTS Alumni
Joined
Mar 21, 2002
Messages
1,157
Reaction score
73
Location
Southern Calif.
Excellent... I just was introduced to this system yesterday... and while it kicked my butt I did enjoy it.

Thank you for the knowledge.

--Infy.

I see your profile says "Jeet Kune Do". Are you traning JKD and Kajukenbo with John Bono? If you are, your training with one of the best.
 

Infinite

Brown Belt
Joined
Dec 14, 2006
Messages
497
Reaction score
3
Location
San Jose California
I see your profile says "Jeet Kune Do". Are you traning JKD and Kajukenbo with John Bono? If you are, your training with one of the best.

I am actually... I just had my first class last night. My asthma if you read my other post is hampering me quite a bit.

I do not know John well yet but his students were quite well behaved and had great technique. I was beaten and bruised by all of them who happened to be half my age :p

I'll try to keep with it but the doctor will be the final verdict on that.

--Infy.
 

exile

To him unconquered.
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 7, 2006
Messages
10,669
Reaction score
247
Location
Columbus, Ohio
I have a question... Peter Choo, so far as I can tell, was trained in Tang Soo Do. I'm well aware that Tang Soo Do is basically a Korean `loan translation' of kara-te under its earlier sense of `China hand', before Funakoshi adopted the alternative transcription to appeal to Japanese nationalist sensibilities. But did Choo actually think of Tang Soo Do as, literally, Korean karate (as S. Henro Cho characterized TKD in his early classic textbook)? The fact that he contributed his art to the mix as `ka' rather than `tang' suggests that that's the case... Mr. Bishop, can you shed some light on this question?

many thanks! :asian:
 
OP
John Bishop

John Bishop

Master Black Belt
MTS Alumni
Joined
Mar 21, 2002
Messages
1,157
Reaction score
73
Location
Southern Calif.
I have a question... Peter Choo, so far as I can tell, was trained in Tang Soo Do. I'm well aware that Tang Soo Do is basically a Korean `loan translation' of kara-te under its earlier sense of `China hand', before Funakoshi adopted the alternative transcription to appeal to Japanese nationalist sensibilities. But did Choo actually think of Tang Soo Do as, literally, Korean karate (as S. Henro Cho characterized TKD in his early classic textbook)? The fact that he contributed his art to the mix as `ka' rather than `tang' suggests that that's the case... Mr. Bishop, can you shed some light on this question?

many thanks! :asian:


At the time that Peter Young Yil Choo Jr. learned Korean martial arts from his father, Tang Soo Do was not a formalized system yet.
The Korean striking/kicking system his father taught him would later be referred to by the founders as “tang soo do”,since that was the common name used after 1945 to describe many of the early Korean striking arts such as kwon bop, hwa soo do, kong soo do, taekwon, and soo bahk do.
Whether in fact it was one of the systems that officially went under the Tang Soo Do/Soo Bahk Do banner, we don’t know for sure.


 

exile

To him unconquered.
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 7, 2006
Messages
10,669
Reaction score
247
Location
Columbus, Ohio

At the time that Peter Young Yil Choo Jr. learned Korean martial arts from his father, Tang Soo Do was not a formalized system yet.
The Korean striking/kicking system his father taught him would later be referred to by the founders as “tang soo do”,since that was the common name used after 1945 to describe many of the early Korean striking arts such as kwon bop, hwa soo do, kong soo do, taekwon, and soo bahk do.
Whether in fact it was one of the systems that officially went under the Tang Soo Do/Soo Bahk Do banner, we don’t know for sure.



But the interesting thing is, judging from the name of the final new art they synthesized, it sounds as though he regarded what he was doing as karate. My suspicion has been that a lot of the early 20th c. MA masters—the kwan founders—and their first generation or two of students considered what they were doing in that light—not surprising, given their training background, with all the original kwan founders having studied Shotokan or Shudokan in the 20s and 30s. The ka- in Kajukenbo, which would have been Choo's contribution, seems to add a piece of evidence to support that suspicion...
 

SFC JeffJ

Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Mar 15, 2006
Messages
9,141
Reaction score
43
The only thing's I know about this system is from some old BB magazines. I was always interested in this style but never did get the opportunity to study it.

Thanks for the information!

Jeff
 

Danjo

Master Black Belt
Joined
Mar 31, 2004
Messages
1,378
Reaction score
60
Location
Fullerton, CA
But the interesting thing is, judging from the name of the final new art they synthesized, it sounds as though he regarded what he was doing as karate. My suspicion has been that a lot of the early 20th c. MA masters—the kwan founders—and their first generation or two of students considered what they were doing in that light—not surprising, given their training background, with all the original kwan founders having studied Shotokan or Shudokan in the 20s and 30s. The ka- in Kajukenbo, which would have been Choo's contribution, seems to add a piece of evidence to support that suspicion...

Could well be. Plus, it was Joe Holk that coined the name Kajukenbo, not Peter Choo. I remember even in the 70's TKD and Hapkido were referred to as "Korean Karate".
 

exile

To him unconquered.
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 7, 2006
Messages
10,669
Reaction score
247
Location
Columbus, Ohio
Could well be. Plus, it was Joe Holk that coined the name Kajukenbo, not Peter Choo. I remember even in the 70's TKD and Hapkido were referred to as "Korean Karate".

That's true, Danjo—Henry Cho's great early textbook on TKD explicitly identified it in the title as Korean Karate, and that was in 1968. He doesn't mince too many words in it, either, about the huge overlap in technical content between Japanese karate (Shotokan, I'm thinking) and TKD. The efforts to drive a huge conceptual wedge between TKD in particular and Japanese karate didn't really get rolling till a bit later. I'm just kind of curious as to whether Peter Choo regarded himself as a karateka...
 

BULLITTS

White Belt
Joined
Mar 17, 2007
Messages
1
Reaction score
0
My uncles learned Kajukenbo in Hawaii and became Sifu and Grandmaster(s).
 
Top