Kenpo is widely recognized as a martial art that has its roots in Hawaii. It was however Dr. James Mitose, a Japanese-American who was largely responsible for spreading Kenpo throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Born in Hawaii in 1916 Mitose was sent to Kyushu, Japan at the age of five for schooling in his ancestral art of self-defense called “kosho-ryu,” said to be based directly on Shao-lin kung-fu. Mitose returned to Hawaii in 1936 and five years later he organized the Official Self-Defense Club in Honolulu.
Mitose emphasized the attacking of vital areas by punching, striking, chopping, thrusting and poking. Similar to Japanese atei-waza in that it also employed throws, locks and takedowns, it differed technically and philosophically. It employs linear and circular moves, using intermittent power.
The art of Kenpo continued to flourish and grow under the leadership of Mitoseís five senior students: Thomas Young, William K.S. Chow, Paul Yamaguchi, Arthur Keawe, and Edward Lowe.
William Chow played a significant role in the evolution of Kenpo in the mainland. Chow trained a great number of students to the rank of black belt, including Adriano Emperado, Ralph Castro, Bobby Lowe, Sam Kuoha and Ed Parker.
Ed Parker became a leading figure in the development of Kenpo in the United States and was dubbed the “Father of Kenpo Karate” in America. Parker systematized and categorized all the basic Kenpo elements into a step-by-step instruction Adriano Emperado co-founded kajukenbo system. The name is an acronym derived from the five disciplines of its founders: ka from karate, ju from judo/ju-jitsu, ken from kenpo, and bo from Chinese boxing.
Sam Kuoha also continues the Kenpo tradition as head of the Kara-Ho Kenpo Karate system worldwide.