What Is KaJuKenbo?

Imagine yourself walking through the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii in the late 1940s, where a unique martial art form, Kajukenbo, is taking root.

The martial art of Kajukenbo was formed in the Palama settlements of Hawaii between 1947 and 1949 by The Black Belt Society. The five society members, Walter Choo, Joe Holck, Frank Ordonez, Clarence Chang and Adriano Emperado, developed Kajukenbo to complement each other’s styles of Karate, Judo, Kenpo, and Boxing. 

This hybrid style integrates the fluidity of Karate, the strategic grappling of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, the quick, responsive movements of Kenpo, and the raw power of Boxing.

The aim was to create a practical, effective street-fighting art that adapts and evolves with each generation.

Intriguing, isn’t it? Well, let’s peel back the layers to better understand Kajukenbo, its origins, techniques, and distinct branches.

Key Points

  • Kajukenbo is a combination of various martial arts styles developed in the late 1940s.
  • The founders aimed to create a practical and effective street fighting art that complemented their individual styles.
  • Kajukenbo incorporates grappling techniques, throws, and a fusion of different defence techniques.
  • It maintains a focus on realism, practicality, and enhances students’ skills through kata and sequences.

What is Kajukenbo and why is it unique among martial arts?

You’re about to uncover the intriguing world of Kajukenbo, a unique martial art born in Hawaii.

This hybrid system, a fusion of Karate, Judo and Boxing, stands out for its practicality and adaptability in real-world situations.

Let’s explore the roots of its name, its distinct classification among martial arts, and the contributing arts that mould its form and philosophy.

Kajukenbo: A Classification in Martial Arts

Diving into the world of Kajukenbo, you’ll discover a unique martial art that stands out for its amalgamation of various fighting styles, each contributing to its practicality and effectiveness in real-world combat situations. This Hawaiian hybrid martial art was developed in the late 1940s, making it a relatively new addition to the martial arts spectrum.

  • Kajukenbo’s history is a testament to its adaptability and relevance in modern self-defence.
  • The martial art of Kajukenbo combines elements of Karate, Judo, Kenpo, and Boxing, hence the name.
  • Kajukenbo training focuses on practicality, preparing you for real-world combat scenarios.
  • The Kajukenbo system is continually evolving, embracing new techniques while respecting its roots.
  • Kajukenbo: A classification in martial arts that represents a truly effective hybrid system.

Kajukenbo: The Hybrid Martial Art from Hawaii

Stepping into the realm of Kajukenbo, you’re encountering a truly unique hybrid martial art hailing from Hawaii that masterfully combines different fighting styles into a practical, adaptable, and continuously evolving system.

Born in the gritty Palama Settlement on Oahu, Kajukenbo was created by five martial artists who meticulously blended elements from karate, judo, kenpo, and boxing into a robust martial arts program.

Their objective? To cultivate a form of self-defense that was as dynamic and unpredictable as the streets they walked.

What sets Kajukenbo apart is its adaptability, drawing from a variety of martial arts systems to meet any challenge head-on.

It’s not just a fighting style, it’s a survival tool, making Kajukenbo an irreplaceable gem in the martial arts world.

Kajukenbo Meaning

The name Kajukenbo is a portmanteau, each syllable representing a unique martial art discipline: KArate, JUjitsu, KENpo, and BOxing. These were the arts that the original founders studied and incorporated to form a new mixed martial art.

Kajukenbo was developed in the late 1940s by five martial artists, each with their unique expertise. These artists wanted to create a practical fighting style that could adapt to any situation. The art of Kajukenbo focuses on practical self-defence, incorporating elements from its parent styles. Kajukenbo practitioners are trained to adapt to changing circumstances during a fight. The philosophy of Kajukenbo is about adaptability, making it a dynamic and evolving martial art.

Karate and Boxing: Contributing Arts to Kajukenbo

While understanding Kajukenbo’s philosophy and adaptability gives you a glimpse into its distinctive nature, appreciating the profound influence of contributing arts like Karate and Boxing truly reveals its uniqueness among martial arts.

It was five men, each master in their own rights, who combined arts from which its style was born. The ‘Ka’ for Karate in Kajukenbo signifies the significant karate influence in this art, drawn primarily from Kenpo Karate.

The swift strikes, kicks, and defensive manoeuvres of Karate blend seamlessly with the dynamic footwork and powerful punches of American Boxing. The fusion of these arts, along with others, created a martial art that’s as versatile as it’s potent.

That’s how this unique art was created, making Kajukenbo an impressive example of martial arts synergy.

Kajukenbo History

Let’s journey back to 1947, the year Kajukenbo was born, and explore its rich history together.

You’ll get to know the five martial artists who founded this unique system in the rough neighbourhood of Palama Settlement and how they formed the Black Belt Society.

We’ll also touch on the crucial roles Adriano Emperado and Frank Ordonez played in pioneering Kajukenbo and the expansion of this martial art from Hawaii across the globe.

The Year 1947: The Birth of Kajukenbo

In the tumultuous setting of Palama Settlement in 1947, Kajukenbo was born, a martial art form that would revolutionize the world of combat and self-defence. Behind Kajukenbo were five martial arts masters: Adriano D. Emperado, Joseph ‘Joe’ Holck, Peter Choo, Frank Ordonez, and Clarence Chang. They combined their knowledge of Karate, Judo, Kenpo, Boxing and Kung Fu to create a unique and effective fighting style.

  • Kajukenbo was founded in 1947 by five martial arts masters.
  • Joe Holck and Peter Choo were among the founding members.
  • Kajukenbo also teaches a Kata, or form, that combines various martial arts techniques.
  • Kajukenbo students learn practical self-defence and combat skills.
  • The martial arts ranking is often followed in Kajukenbo, signifying a student’s proficiency and experience.

The Palama Settlement: Where Kajukenbo First Took Shape

Steeped in a rich history, the Palama Settlement of Honolulu, Hawaii, was the birthplace of Kajukenbo – a martial art that would soon take the world by storm. In the late 40s, it was founded by five martial artists, each master of various arts including Kenpo, Judo, and Hawaiian Lua. Their aim? To create a practical, effective martial art incorporating the best techniques from their respective disciplines.

This fusion birthed Kajukenbo, a blend of traditional martial arts and street-fighting practicality. Its ranking system, often following traditional Japanese norms, set a new precedent in martial arts. Later, the Wun Hop Kuen style was incorporated, further diversifying Kajukenbo’s repertoire.

From the Palama Settlement, this unique and dynamic martial art has spread worldwide, capturing the hearts of countless practitioners.

The 5 Founders of Kajukenbo: The Black Belt Society

Building upon the rich tapestry of Kajukenbo’s origins, we turn our focus to the five martial artists who united by a common goal, pooled their knowledge and skills to form the Black Belt Society.

These pioneering figures include:

  • Adriano D. Emperado: Known for his expertise in Chinese boxing.
  • Joseph Holck: Adept in traditional Japanese martial arts ranking.
  • Peter Young Yil Choo: Master of martial arts schools’ training methods.
  • Frank F. Ordonez: Proficient in defence techniques and art ranking.
  • Clarence Chang: Specialist in second and third stripe belts, typically found at the centre of the belt.

Their collective wisdom created a martial art that blends hard-hitting defence techniques, innovative training methods, and a ranking system often followed in traditional Japanese martial arts.

Adriano Emperado and Frank Ordonez: Pioneers of Kajukenbo

As you delve deeper into the rich history of Kajukenbo, you’ll encounter the invaluable contributions of Adriano Emperado and Frank Ordonez, two of the art’s pioneering figures who played instrumental roles in its evolution and propagation.

Emperado, with his expertise in escrima, a form of stick fighting, and Ordonez, an adept of jujutsu and Chang, shaped an art that would later be renowned worldwide. Their unique approach often termed the ‘Gaylord method’, led to the creation of third stripe belts that feature a white line. This was an innovation in martial arts, symbolizing a constant journey of learning.

However, unlike many traditional arts, students aren’t required to earn these belts before progressing, a testament to Kajukenbo’s emphasis on practicality and adaptability.

The Expansion of Kajukenbo schools from Hawaii

The journey of Kajukenbo, from the gritty streets of Palama Settlement to the world stage, is a testament to the tenacity and spirit of the martial art. From its origins, Kajukenbo has grown and evolved, with schools now spread across the globe. It’s the combination of Ka, the kick and punch of karate, Ju, the throws and locks of judo and jujitsu, Ken, the punch and kick of Kenpo, and Bo, the circular movements of Chinese boxing, that sets it apart.

The unique blend of Northern and Southern styles

The emphasis on the punch and fa of Kajukenbo

The incorporation of Chuan Fa and Hop Kuen

The expansion of Kajukenbo schools from Hawaii

The founding of Kajukenbo in the Palama Settlement

Your journey in Kajukenbo can be as unique as the art itself.

Kajukenbo Techniques

Kajukenbo combines the most effective techniques from Karate, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and Boxing into a highly effective self-defence system. 

You will learn a diverse array of punches, from quick jabs and crosses to powerful hooks and uppercuts. Kicks range from fast front kicks to disable your opponent to roundhouse kicks that strike with immense force. Each strike is delivered strategically for maximum impact.

Grappling techniques allow you to off-balance and control your opponent. Blending judo throws and jiu-jitsu groundwork, you will learn takedowns to bring an attacker down and control positions to neutralize the threat. Joint locks teach precision control of wrists, elbows, and shoulders to restrain without causing undue harm.

Proper footwork and stances form the base for executing techniques with power and stability. Quick foot manoeuvres allow you to evade attacks, while strong stances provide the foundation to block and counterstrike.  

Anticipation and fluidity are key for defence and counters. Pivoting off blocks and parries, you will launch seamless counterattacks, using your opponent’s momentum against them. Precision timing allows you to capitalize on brief openings to neutralize the threat efficiently.

Kajukenbo melds the most practical techniques into a cohesive self-defence system tailored for real-world situations. You will learn to end confrontations decisively and proportionally, with your skills acting as both shield and sword.

Kajukenbo Training

Now, let’s explore the unique world of Kajukenbo training.

This is more than just self-defence; it’s a journey through various stages from Choo to Bo, incorporating grapples and joint locks reminiscent of Tang Soo Do.

You’re encouraged to grow and develop within this progressive martial art, embracing the Tum Pai approach.

Kajukenbo Training: More Than Self-Defense

Immerse yourself in Kajukenbo training, and you’ll quickly discover it’s much more than a system of self-defence; it’s a holistic discipline, refining your physical prowess while nurturing your mental and emotional strength.

This Japanese martial art, whose name comes from the word karate, was born in a settlement that was a violent place, demanding practical combat skills.

  • Kajukenbo integrates weapon disarmament techniques, making you versatile in handling potential threats.
  • It teaches grappling techniques, enhancing your ability to neutralize opponents without relying on brute force.
  • Ranking systems feature a white belt for the second level, symbolizing growth and development.
  • Some schools also have white for second or black belts, marking advanced skill mastery.
  • Training not only equips you for self-defence but also moulds your character, instilling discipline, resilience, and confidence.

From Choo to Bo: The Stages of Kajukenbo Training

Building on your foundational understanding of Kajukenbo, let’s explore the various stages of Kajukenbo training, from Choo to Bo, that will cultivate your skills and guide you towards mastery of this unique martial art.

Each stage is named after one of the founding fathers, representing a different aspect of the art.

Starting with Choo, you’ll learn striking techniques derived from Korean Tang Soo Do and Boxing.

Next, you’ll study Judo and Jujitsu in the Holck stage to gain grappling skills.

The third stage, Emperado, integrates Kenpo’s fluid movements and rapid-fire strikes.

Ordonez stage then incorporates Chinese Kung Fu to enhance adaptability.

Grapple and Joint Locks in Kajukenbo: A Tang Soo Do touch

As you delve deeper into your Kajukenbo training, you’ll discover the influence of Tang Soo Do in the art’s grappling and joint lock techniques. These techniques aren’t just powerful; they’re rooted in practicality and designed for real-world application.

Here are some key aspects:

  • Elbow Locks: These moves aim to control an opponent’s arm, causing pain and possibly dislocation.
  • Wrist Locks: These focus on twisting an opponent’s wrist, forcing them to submit due to discomfort or pain.
  • Throws: Using an opponent’s force against them, you can throw them off balance.
  • Chokes: These moves can incapacitate an opponent by cutting off their air supply.
  • Groundwork: Tang Soo Do’s influence is evident in the groundwork techniques in Kajukenbo, with a focus on submission and control.

Encouraged to Develop: The Progressive Nature of Kajukenbo Training

While mastering the grappling and joint lock techniques of Tang Soo Do within Kajukenbo enriches your toolkit, it’s the art’s progressive nature that truly fosters your martial arts development.

Kajukenbo’s fluid and evolving training encourages you to adapt, innovate, and continually refine your skills. This isn’t a martial art that’s rigidly defined. Instead, its amalgamation of five distinct martial arts styles fosters a dynamic training environment where you’re not just a student, but also an innovator.

Your growth isn’t limited to a specific set of techniques. Rather, you’re encouraged to explore, experiment, and integrate elements from other styles.

It’s this progressive nature that keeps Kajukenbo fresh, dynamic, and effective, ensuring your continual development as a martial artist.

The Tum Pai Approach in Kajukenbo Martial Arts

Delving into the Tum Pai approach in Kajukenbo, you’ll discover it’s a distinct branch that adds another layer of depth to your martial arts training. Developed by Adriano D. Emperado, Al Dacascos, and Al Dela Cruz, Tum Pai beautifully blends the fluidity of Chinese martial arts with the rugged practicality of Kajukenbo.

Tum Pai emphasizes on circular movements and fluid motions, making your actions smooth yet powerful. This approach helps enhance your ability to redirect an opponent’s energy rather than opposing it directly. It focuses on using the opponent’s strength against them, honing your skills in counter-attacks.

Tum Pai includes training in both open-hand techniques and traditional weapons. It incorporates elements of meditation, enhancing the mind-body connection for a holistic martial arts experience.

Embrace the Tum Pai approach and enrich your Kajukenbo training journey.

Kajukenbo Belt System

  • To advance in Kajukenbo belt levels, students must learn and demonstrate the ability to execute specific skills.
  • Skills required include a variety of strikes, blocks, kicks, stances, sparring, and self-defense applications.
  • Requirements become progressively more advanced and complex at higher belt levels.
  • Lower belt levels focus on basic techniques, while higher belts require combinations, principles, and applications.
  • Students are assessed on their proficiency during belt promotion tests before being awarded the next belt.

Kajukenbo Belt Order

BeltOther Terms
WhiteWhite Dan
PurplePurple Dan
BlueBlue Dan
BlackBlack Dan
1st Degree BlackSibak
2nd-3rd Degree BlackSifu
Table showing the Kajukenbo Belt Order
  • The belt order can vary between schools but often follows traditional Japanese ranks.
  • Common order: white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, brown, black.
  • Some schools have striped belts (2nd/3rd stripe).
  • Chinese terms used for black belt ranks: Sibak, Sifu, Sigung, Sijo.
  • Meanings of terms may differ from traditional Chinese arts.

The Significance of The Kajukenbo Black Belts

Just as the Tum Pai approach enriches your martial arts journey, understanding the significance of the Black Belt in Kajukenbo can open new dimensions in your training.

Earning a Black Belt isn’t just about mastering techniques; it’s about embodying the spirit of Kajukenbo. It signifies dedication, discipline, and personal growth. It’s a testament to your perseverance and commitment to the path of martial arts.

Achieving a Black Belt takes years of rigorous training, but the rewards are immeasurable. You’ll possess a deep understanding of Kajukenbo’s principles, techniques, and philosophies.

The Black Belt also empowers you to pass on the Kajukenbo legacy, nurturing the next generation of martial artists.

How Long Does it take to get a Kajukenbo black belt?

Embarking on your journey towards earning a Kajukenbo black belt, you might wonder how long it will take to reach this milestone. The journey to achieving a black belt in Kajukenbo isn’t a quick one, it demands commitment, discipline, and time.

The time it takes to earn a black belt in Kajukenbo varies, but on average, it can take anywhere from 4 to 6 years. This period entails consistent training, typically at least 3 times a week.

You’ll need to master various techniques, forms, and philosophies inherent to this martial art. Advancement also depends on your dedication, physical fitness, and the standards of your specific school.

The journey might be long, but remember, it’s about the journey, not just the destination. The skills, discipline, and knowledge you’ll gain are priceless.

The Kajukenbo Prayer

As you journey deeper into Kajukenbo, you’ll encounter a unique facet – the Kajukenbo Prayer. This isn’t just a chant; it’s a philosophical guide that shapes training and fosters a spirit of brotherhood among practitioners.

Let’s explore its profound influence and how it inculcates a sense of unity and respect in the Kajukenbo community.

The Kajukenbo Prayer: The Philosophy Behind It

Delving into the philosophy of Kajukenbo, you’ll find the Kajukenbo Prayer, a symbolic mantra that encapsulates the martial art’s core principles and values. This prayer serves as a guiding light for practitioners, enriching their understanding of the art and resonating with their spirit.

The prayer emphasizes courage, symbolizing the bravery required in martial arts and life.

It fosters respect, reminding you to honour your teachers, peers, and yourself.

The prayer promotes humility, teaching that true strength comes with modesty.

It advocates for patience, asserting that mastery takes time and perseverance.

Lastly, the prayer stresses the importance of integrity, maintaining that martial arts aren’t just about physical prowess, but also about moral character.

The philosophy behind the Kajukenbo Prayer is the heart and soul of this martial art, guiding you towards growth not just as a fighter, but as a person.

The Influence of Kajukenbo Prayer in Training

In your journey through Kajukenbo training, the Kajukenbo Prayer plays a pivotal role, deeply influencing the way you approach each technique and challenge. This sacred chant isn’t merely words; it embodies the essence of Kajukenbo, instilling within you a deep respect for the art, your peers, and yourself. The prayer fortifies your spirit, empowering you to face adversity with courage and resilience.

As you recite the prayer, it will reshape your perception, turning every training session into a spiritual journey. It’s not solely about physical prowess; it’s about cultivating an indomitable spirit. The prayer’s influence extends beyond training, instilling values of humility, respect, and perseverance in your daily life.

Thus, the Kajukenbo Prayer becomes your guiding light, illuminating your path in this martial art and beyond.

The Kajukenbo Prayer: Inculcating a Spirit of Brotherhood

Embracing the Kajukenbo Prayer instils a deep sense of brotherhood among practitioners, transcending mere physical training to foster unity, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to the art. This prayer, often recited before or after training sessions, encapsulates the core values of Kajukenbo.

  • It promotes a sense of community, reminding you that you’re part of a larger, interconnected group of martial artists.
  • It emphasizes the importance of courtesy and respect, both for others and for the art itself.
  • It inculcates a commitment to personal growth and continuous learning.
  • It fosters a spirit of humility, a reminder to remain grounded despite your achievements.
  • Lastly, it encourages you to use your skills responsibly, promoting peace and harmony rather than violence.

Different Branches and Schools of Kajukenbo

As we continue our journey into the captivating world of Kajukenbo, let’s explore its various branches, each unique yet beautifully interconnected.

You’ll discover how Kajukenbo schools, thriving not only in Hawaii but also globally, are instrumental in keeping this rich tradition alive.

Through this understanding, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of the diversity and adaptability that makes Kajukenbo such a dynamic martial art.

Understanding the Various Branches of Kajukenbo

You’ll find that Kajukenbo, rich in its diversity and adaptability, branches out into various forms – each retaining the core principles while introducing unique techniques and philosophies. This martial art exemplifies adaptability, with each branch offering a unique interpretation of the foundational techniques.

Here are five main branches you might encounter:

  • Original Method or Traditional Hard Style: This is the original style developed by the founders, focusing on hard, fast strikes and kicks.
  • Tum Pai: This technique-heavy style incorporates softer, circular motions.
  • Chuan Fa: A blend of Kung Fu and Kenpo, this style emphasizes fluidity and adaptability.
  • Wun Hop Kuen Do: Developed by Al Dacascos, this branch mixes various Kung Fu systems and Filipino martial arts.
  • Gaylord Method: This focuses on traditional training with a strong emphasis on self-defence.

Each branch offers a unique perspective, yet all stay true to Kajukenbo’s core principles.

The Worldwide Growth of Kajukenbo Schools

With its roots deeply embedded in the rich tapestry of martial arts, Kajukenbo has experienced remarkable growth, spreading its wings across the globe through various schools and branches. You’ll find Kajukenbo’s influence in Europe, South America, and beyond, each school continuing the legacy of this martial art’s unique blend. Whether it’s the Original Method, Tum Pai, Chuan Fa, or Wun Hop Kuen Do, each branch has its own flavor, yet retains Kajukenbo’s core principles.

Associations like Emperado’s Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute Worldwide Inc. and the Kajukenbo Association of America unite practitioners, organizing workshops and events around the world. Each generation adds to Kajukenbo’s evolution, enriching the martial art while preserving its essence.

Today, Kajukenbo’s mix of styles continues to resonate, promoting self-defence and personal growth globally.

Kajukenbo Schools in Hawaii: Keeping the Tradition Alive

Nestled in the heart of Hawaii, where Kajukenbo was born, you’ll find schools dedicated to preserving and perpetuating this unique martial art, each one a beacon of tradition in the ever-changing landscape of fighting styles. These schools, steeped in history and rich in knowledge, continue to foster the spirit of Kajukenbo, ensuring its survival and relevance in today’s world.

The Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute in Honolulu was founded by Adriano Emperado himself.

Universal Kajukenbo Schools located on the Big Island, is run by Sigung Hans Ingebretsen.

Hawaii Martial Arts Center in Kailua, offering Kajukenbo among other martial arts disciplines.

Kajukenbo Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Wahiawa is known for its eclectic blend of styles.

O2 Martial Arts Academy in Aiea, specializing in Kajukenbo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

These institutions uphold the tenets of Kajukenbo, keeping its flame burning bright in its birthplace.

Author Picture William

Author Bio

Hi, I am William. I started out in martial arts with Goshin Ju Jitsu when I was 7 years old. I am passionate about martial arts and love sharing everything I learn. I created Master Fighting to become a resource for learning about martial arts and alternative fighting styles. Learn more about me.