Author Topic: Okinawan Karate and it's relationship with Kajukenbo  (Read 490 times)

Offline Fatal Rose

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Okinawan Karate and it's relationship with Kajukenbo
« on: April 30, 2017, 11:22:27 PM »
I currently study Shotokan Karate and have a deep background in Gongfu San Soo.

I felt Kajukenbo has far more similarities to Karate than king fu does. In terms of sparring, stance, footwork, strikes, and overall movement. Can someone get into the relationship of the two for me please? I think the similarities are very interesting.

Online Dave Jones

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Re: Okinawan Karate and it's relationship with Kajukenbo
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2017, 01:27:23 PM »
The similarity in appearance is because Kajukenbo and almost every verifiable kenpo system (especially anything in Ed Parker's lineage) is based on the same Okinawan karate style(s), to various degrees.
By "verifiable" I am referring to a lineage that can be traced back to a root system somewhere.
The "Okinawan karate" is easier to see in Parker's earlier kenpo "versions" or in some "Traditional hard-style" Kajukenbo schools, for example. 

People such as Ed Parker, Adriano Emperado, William Chow and more all descended from James Mitose in Hawaii and/or trained with him in varying amounts.
James Mitose almost certainly trained under Motobu Choki's lineage and learned Okinawan kempo / karate despite his later claims to the contrary.
The story of Mitose inheriting some secret Japanese family system has been proved to be bogus. 
The "family temple" Mitose (later) claimed to have trained at in Japan never existed.
This is confirmed by people who went looking for it and who also asked people about it who lived in the region their whole lives.
People who knew Mitose in the early days -such as Sijo Emperado himself- have said publicly that Mitose started telling the story of his "family temple" and the"Kosho-Ryu Kenpo" system around the time he went to prison, not in the years beforehand.

The roots of all "verifiable" Kenpo / Kempo and Kajukenbo lineages are based at least in part on Okinawan Karate / Ryukyu Kempo (whatever you want to call it) or -very rarely- on the RyuKyu predecessor Ch'uan-Fa / Te styles.
Likely suspects for Mitose's teachers (or merely training partners...) include people like Motobu Choki himself, Mizhuo Mutsu or even, Kamesuke Higashionna.
It helps if you can read a little Japanese or Chinese.

Here are some rough translations to consider:
(Mitose, in prison) Kosho Shorei-Ryu: Old Pine Tree School of Inspiration
(Okinawa) Shorei-ryu: "School of inspiration" (Naha-Te style from Okinawa)
(Okinawan) Shorin-ryu: Little (Small / Young) Forest School
(Japanese) Shorin-ji: Small / Young ("little") Forest Temple
(Chinese) Shao-Lin: Small / Young ("little")  Forest Temple
Ken-po / kem-po / Quán Fa / Ch'uan-Fa: Fist Law

Notice that even Mitose's "Japanese family system" name is merely a derivation of other, older Okinawan systems.
Yes, "shorin-ryu" was/is technically "kenpo".  Shorin-ryu is based on the original RyuKyu system(s), and can be traced back to the Ch'uan-Fa / Te hybrid taught by Matsumura Sokon.
The teachings of Matsumura Sokon are probably the "original" Okinawan kempo.  After Sokon trained in China he taught a blend of Shaolin Ch'uan-Fa and native Okinawa Shuri-te.
Important students of Matsumura Sokon's "Shorin-ryu Kempo-karate" include people like Choki Motobu (Okinawan Kempo), Choshin Chibana (shorin-ryu), Gichin Funokoshi (shotokan) and Anko Itosu (Shorin-ryu, Shuri-te).

What gets me is how many people do not understand this, including shorin-ryu and "kenpo" people.
I think Ed Parker and his descendants are the main cause since they "took ownership" of the term "kenpo", but that is a different topic.

Without reading Kanji, you can just look at the pictures in Motobu Choki's original book that Mitose later copied, shot-for-shot in "What is Self-Defense."
Isn't it interesting that Mitose names Motobu Choki from Okinawa as "the great master of karate kenpo" in his book about his Japanese "family temple" style"?
Just like Mitose has pictures of makiwara training in his book about the "Japanese" system in which he was the "21st consecutive bloodline kenpo master".  Makiwara training is from Okinawa, not Japan.
Besides that, 21st generation?  Really?  Do the math sometime.  It comes out to around 700 years.
Stick with me, it gets better. James Mitose only taught the Naihanchi kata – at least in the early days with people like Chow & Emperado.
The oldest known reference to Naihanchi are in the books of Motobu Choki.  Naihanchi was thought to be about 200 years old at the time.
So... Why would Mitose's Japanese "family system" that was supposedly around for about 700 years use a 200 year old Okinawan kata?
"Motobu learned the kata from Sokon Matsumura, Sakuma Pechin, Anko Itosu and Kosaku Matsumora.  Motobu taught his own interpretation of Naihanchi, which included Te (Okinawan form of martial arts which predates karate) like grappling and throwing techniques." -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naihanchi
Talking story and embellishing is one thing.  Outright lies, fraud and plagiarism is another.

Where "kajukenbo" may differ from what people recognize as "kenpo" the most is how hard the contact / training is, the amount of other influences a kajukenbo lineage may have adopted -Danzan Ryu / jujutsu (an important part), Kung-Fu, FMA, boxing, JKD, BJJ, etc- and/or the amount of "pressure testing" a lineage does.
Under many circumstances saying things like "kajukenbo karate" or "kenpo karate" is simply redundant.
Kajukenbo is "kenpo" (or at least was in some cases) but kenpo is not necessarily "kajukenbo"; it is usually a matter of lineage.
Most "verifiable" kenpo and all of kajukenbo can be traced back to Mitose and/or Chow.
But not all of "kenpo" can be traced back to Kajukenbo's "Black Belt Society".

There are some distinctions to be made with ch'uan-fa (quan-fa) but it is literally the same characters for kempo (kenpo) pronounced in Chinese instead of Japanese.
Calling something "Chinese kenpo" might be an oxymoron and/or redundant at the same time.
Kenpo & Kempo are also the same thing.  It is merely a matter of pronunciation due to a Japanese language quirk called "rendaku" and leads to confusion going from Romaji to English.
Those are subjects for a different discussion.

Remember: "karate" is originally Okinawan, not Japanese.
That is why some people are adamant about the distinction between karate-do (often Japanese) and karate-jutsu (often Okinawan).
"Japanese" Shotokan karate-do acknowledges it's roots in Shorei-ryu & Shorin-ryu, both Okinawan styles.
Again, people like Choki Motobu (Okinawan Kempo), Choshin Chibana (shorin-ryu), and Gichin Funokoshi (shotokan) all trained under Anko Itosu and/or Matsumura Sokon in Okinawa.
The point is that Kajukenbo *is* Okinawan Karate at least in part.

All "legitimate Ken-Po" styles in the world can trace their roots back to either RyuKyu / Okinawa or China in some rare cases where it may still be called (or based on) "Ch'uan-Fa" / Quán Fa.
One such case is Japanese "Shorinji Kempo", founded after WWII but acknowledging it's (alleged) roots in Chinese Shaolin Ch'uan Fa.
For an enlightening read, look up the "Shorinji Kempo" founder (Doshin So) and compare his habit of walking around like a Buddhist to Mitose's habit of walking around like a minister.
Also compare Japanese-born Doshin So's claim that he inherited the title of the 21st master of the Chinese Giwamon-ken (Yihe Mén Quán) system to Mitose being the 21st master of Kosho Ryu.
What are the odds that *two* Japanese martial artists were both not only inheritors of obscure quan-fa / kenpo systems but each also 21st generation master of that Quan Fa / Kenpo system?
How could a Japanese person inherit a Chinese system at all, especially in that day and age?
Even Donn Draeger himself questioned why Doshin So would inherit a Chinese system, so I am not alone in this.
This sort of thing is not widely discussed and/or understood for various reasons.
Again, that is a whole other topic.

Hopefully that made sense and cleared things up for you.

Watashi ha nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu.

Yes, I am rather pedantic about this sort of thing.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2017, 04:20:13 PM by Dave Jones »
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Offline Fatal Rose

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Re: Okinawan Karate and it's relationship with Kajukenbo
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2017, 08:00:35 AM »
It is because Kajukenbo and early "American" kenpo (before Ed Parker's dozens of "modifications") are both based on Okinawan karate, to various degrees.
People like Ed Parker, Adriano Emperado, William Chow and a bunch of others were all trained by James Mitose in Hawaii in varying amounts.
James Mitose almost certainly trained under Motobu Choki's lineage and learned Okinawan kempo / karate despite his later claims to the contrary.
The story of Mitose inheriting some secret Japanese family system has been proved to be bogus. 
The place he (later) claimed to have trained at in Japan never existed.
This is confirmed by people who went looking for it and asked people who lived in the region their whole lives.

The roots of all "verifiable" Kenpo / Kempo and Kajukenbo lineages are based at least in part on Okinawan Karate / Ryukyu Kempo, or whatever you want to call it.
Likely suspects for Mitose's teachers (or merely training partners...) include people like Motobu Choki himself, Mizhuo Mutsu or even, Kamesuke Higashionna.
It helps if you can read a little Japanese, but you can just look at the shot-for-shot pictures in Motobu Choki's original book that Mitose plagiarized.
Isn't it interesting that Mitose names Motobu Choki from Okinawa as a "master of kenpo" in his book about his "secret Japanese family style"?

Where "kajukenbo" may differ from what people recognize as "kenpo" the most is how hard the contact / training is and the amount of other influences a kajukenbo lineage may have adopted; Danzan Ryu / jujutsu (an important part), Kung-Fu, FMA, boxing, JKD, etc.
Under many circumstances saying things like "kajukenbo kenpo" or "kenpo karate" is simply redundant.

There are some distinctions to be made with ch'uan-fa (quan-fa) but it is literally the same characters for kempo (kenpo) pronounced in Chinese instead of Japanese...
Calling something "Chinese kenpo" might be an oxymoron and/or redundant at the same time.
Kenpo & Kempo are also the same thing, it is a matter of pronunciation and spelling due to a Japanese language thing called "rendaku".
Those are subjects for a different discussion.

Remember: "karate" is originally Okinawan, not Japanese.
Shotokan acknowledges it's roots in Shorei-ryu & Shorin-ryu, both Okinawan styles.
It is no secret that both Choki Motobu and Gichin Funokoshi both trained under Anko Itosu in Okinawa.

The point is that Kajukenbo *is* Okinawan Karate at least in part.
All "legitimate Ken-Po" styles in the world can trace their roots back to either RyuKyu / Okinawa or China in some rare cases where it is still called "Quan-Fa".
This is just not widely discussed and/or understood for various reasons.

Hopefully that made sense and cleared things up for you.

Watashi ha nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu.

Yes, I am rather pedantic about this sort of thing.



Wow thanks so much!!! You explained it clearly and without bias. Thanks!


Online Dave Jones

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Re: Okinawan Karate and it's relationship with Kajukenbo
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2017, 10:37:52 AM »
Happy to help.
This is a fascinating subject to me and I have spent about 20 years studying it.

Three things I have learned:

1) James Mitose was a liar, a fraud, a con man and probably worse -he did die in prison- but he helped spread "kenpo"

2) Choki Motobu does not have the respect or recognition that he almost certainly deserves

3) Choki Motobu and Gichin Funokoshi did not like each other much...
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 10:44:31 AM by Dave Jones »
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Offline Fatal Rose

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Re: Okinawan Karate and it's relationship with Kajukenbo
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2017, 10:04:47 AM »
Happy to help.
This is a fascinating subject to me and I have spent about 20 years studying it.

Three things I have learned:

1) James Mitose was a liar, a fraud, a con man and probably worse -he did die in prison- but he helped spread "kenpo"

2) Choki Motobu does not have the respect or recognition that he almost certainly deserves

3) Choki Motobu and Gichin Funokoshi did not like each other much...


Why'd they not like each other?

Any major differences in striking techniques between Okinawan karate and Kajukenbo?

Online Dave Jones

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Re: Okinawan Karate and it's relationship with Kajukenbo
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2017, 03:31:52 PM »

Why'd they not like each other?

Any major differences in striking techniques between Okinawan karate and Kajukenbo?

As an oversimplification, I believe Funakoshi claimed and/or thought Motobu was an ignorant thug who just wanted to fight and teach people to fight ("karate-jutsu") instead of embracing his message of peace and harmony ("karate-do").
Meanwhile, Motobu seems to have felt Funakoshi was a wimp and some sort of sell-out.  Motobu even challenged Funakoshi to a duel, if I recall correctly.  Funakoshi declined.

To make things more complicated, Motobu was actually part of the Okinawan royal family and some people say he did not know how to speak & write mainland Japanese.
Others say he deliberately refused to do so in protest to Japan's forced annexation of Okinawa.
Either way, this would play right into claims that he was just an ignorant thug.

As I remember it, part of it stemmed from newspapers at the time getting their names mixed up or something.  Funakoshi got credit in a newspaper for winning some of the exhibition fights that Motobu had.
I would have to read the source material again to be sure.

Even the names of some of their books point towards the differences in mindset.
Funakoshi's c1957 "Karate-Do Kyohan" [["Karate-Way Teaching Method"]] focuses on his "Way of Karate", the spiritual philosophy and 19 kata of his now "Japanese" style.
Motobu's c1932 "Watashi no Karate-Jutsu" [["My Karate Techniques"]] focuses a more on the fighting applications and tactics of his Okinawan training methods. I think it has 1 kata (Naihanchi) in it.  I'll have to double-check when I have some time.

You can compare Funakoshi's c1957 "Karate-Do Kyohan" (Japanese) to his much earlier "Karate-Jutsu" c1922 (aka "To-te Jitsu") to see the sort of stuff was changing to turn the Okinawan RyuKyu Kempo he was taught into Shotokan karate.
Even the idea of a schoolteacher spreading karate to kids in school came from Funakoshi & Motobu's teacher Anko Itosu in Okinawa.
Funakoshi simply did what Itosu recommended in a published open letter in 1908.
Gichin Funakoshi gets credit for spreading karate to grade school and university students in Japan, but Itosu had started doing it in 1901 on Okinawa.

As for differences in the striking techniques it depends on the lineage, as I mentioned previously.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 02:22:43 PM by Dave Jones »
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