Joseph Directo Emperado was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 23, 1929. At the age of 14, Joe was taught boxing by his older brother, Adriano. Sijo Emperado say’s that Joe was a great boxer, and that “no one his age, could beat him”. A lot of the neighborhood boys looked up to Joe, and joined up with him to improve their boxing and fighting skills. After a while they started calling themselves the “Auld Lane gang”, taking the name from the street that many of them lived on.
At age 16, Joe joined Professor William Chow’s Kenpo school, where his brother Adriano was Chow’s assistant. He trained at Professor Chow’s school up to green belt.
In 1950, he started assisting Sijo Emperado at his school at the Palama Settlement Gym, in the Kalihi-Palama District of Honolulu. He, along with Woodrow McCandless, were the first instructors of Kajukenbo. Followed shortly by Marino Tiwanak.
In 1952, Joe was promoted to black belt by Sijo Emperado. Kajukenbo was starting to grow and expand into other areas of Hawaii. When Sijo Emperado started teaching classes at the Kaimuki Y.M.C.A. and Wahiawa Y.M.C.A. , he put Joe in charge of instruction at the Palama Settlement school. Joe taught there along with Woodrow McCandless and Marino Tiwanak.
From 1950 to 1958, Joe taught at the Palama Settlement school. Many of the first generation pioneers of Kajukenbo were trained by Joe at the Palama Settlement school. Joe Emperado, Woodrow McCandless, and Marino Tiwanak, filled the void that was left when the other four Kajukenbo founders were called to serve in the Korean War. A lot of what Kajukenbo was to become was a result of the teamwork between these men and Sijo Emperado.
Although Sijo Emperado was responsible for the development of the majority of the Kajukenbo katas, Palama Set's #4 and #7 were the creation of Joe Emperado.
During the day, Joe worked at the Hawaiian Pine Cannery as a boiler attendant. He was married to Edith Yuen, and has a daughter named Jodi Emperado. Jodi and her husband live on Maui, and have a son who is a Police Officer for the Maui Police Department.
Tragically, Joe died on May 30, 1958. While trying to prevent a fight between some friends and some people they were arguing with, Joe was stabbed in the back and chest.