The People of Kenpo Karate

To make a list of the most noteable persons involved in the influence of the style known as Kenpo Karate, would be seriously deficient and could never list all of the marvelous persons responsible for propogating this unique art.  However, we will strive to list as many of those persons is humanly possible.

Early History

Prior to 1900 there is very little written historical documentation that exists to formulate a concise list of prominent individuals.  It is not the attempt of this page to challenge any existing generally accepted history unless the written documentation exists to refute such history. It is not known whether the legend of a Shaolin temple in Japan was ever the birth place of Kenpo. It is known that there is a temple in southern Japan on Mount Kinkai known as the Shaka In. There isn't any written record of any style known as Kenpo as having ever taught in the temple. With so little factual information, it is difficult to pre-date the Hawaiian manifestation of the art.


For the sake of argument let's assume that James Masayoshi Mitose was, as he said, sent to train at his family Shaolin temple at the age of 4. Where then are the legal documents to back this emigration. The rules of emigration from Hawaii to Japan were very stringent. Even today children that are not born 100% Japanese are considered Gai Jin (outsiders). It is commonly known that Gai Jin children are regarded as second class citizens by native Japanese. It is difficult to imagine a poor family sending a four year old boy to a country that was in the process of preparing for war, without parental supervision, to a place that would have treated him worse than a street person. Japan was in the process of shutting its borders down to outsiders, and still we have no legal documents to prove that a Hawaiian born boy was allowed to live at a Shaolin temple for eleven years.

This story doesn't even take into account the fact that James Mitose was born on the Kona Coffee Plantation in Hawaii. This was one of the poorest and most harsh settlements on the Hawaiian islands, second only to the Palama settlement on Oahu. Since at this time Hawaii was only a protectorate of the United States and not an official state, the laws and living conditions were nearly third world. One of the ways out of the squaller was the association that the natives had with the U.S. military on Oahu. It is not difficult to imagine a young man, living in sqallid conditions, using whatever means necessary to better his station in life. Even such as concating a story about a far off temple that could not be proved nor researched. What is known, is that living in Hawaii was a large Japanese, Chinese, Philipino and overall Asian population. This mix of cultures living in less than safe and secure conditions was bound to have produced a necessity for martial arts in day to day living. It is well documented that many people living in Hawaii, prior to it becoming a State, died during skirmishes for daily sustenance. Is is so difficult to believe then that there would be an underground society of martial artists--just as there was in Okinawa for hundreds of years.

At the time James Mitose was alleged to have gone to Japan, Karate was unknown in Japan. The only systems of martial arts even heard of in Japan were Sumo, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kendo, Kyudo, Naginata-Do and several other non Karate arts. It wasn't until a presentation, by an Okinawan man, that karate was even heard of in Japan. This mans name was Choki Motobu.

Choki Motobu - The great Okinawan Shorei Ryu stylist is given many accolades by the first public Kenpo teachers.  His name is synoymous with every history of the style, and he is credited with the publication of the oldest written book on the style of Kenpo.  In 1926 he published the book Okinawan Kempo: Karate Jutsu on Kumite.

This book has been subsequently republished twice in English.  It is noted in the forward of a limited edition of the book published in 1977 that, "This book was the first publication on karate printed in a dialect other than Okinawan."

The events leading up to the introdution of karate in Japan are the stuff of legend and thus subject to tall tales. In a nutshell, Choki Motobu beat a Russian Boxer using kicks to the amazement of a packed Tokyo nightclub. He was immediately praised and was asked to teach his new fighting style. He refused based on the fact that he was not a professional teacher.** However, his close friend Ginchin Funakoshi who was not only a fellow martial artist but also a trained teacher accepted the task.***

Choyu Motobu - The older brother of the great Choki Motobu.   Choyu received the bulk of the proper training from his father.  This left Choki to explore only the fighting aspects of Kenpo and this kept him from becoming trapped into the constant Kata repetition that many Karate masters insisted upon in their students.  With the main focus of his training spent on fighting Choki was able to popularize and perfect the early forms of brute force combat.

Hoon Chow - Sun Chow Hoon was the father of the great William Kwai Sun Chow. For a real story on this man check out this story on the Tracy's Karate site.

Middle Years (1900 - 1950)

James Mitose - As referenced in the prior paragraphs, James Mitose is credited as being the person who introduced the world to Kenpo. He is also the same person who wrote the first english book on kenpo in 1953 called What is Self-Defense: Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu. It is not commonly known about his other two books that were published. The second was called What is True Self-Defense Textbook Number 1 published in 1981 in limited edition. And In Search of Kenpo-Traditional Japanese Stories published posthumously and edited by Arnold Golub.

Thomas S. H. Young - In 1993 through correspondence with Thomas S.H. Young evidence was obtained as to certain specifics regarding the curriculum and philisophical teachings that occurred at the Official Self-Defense Club.

Professor William "Thunderbolt" Chow - William K.S. Chow is considered by many to be the true founder of the current versions of Kenpo. Due to his motto of only using what worked he instilled in all of his students the philosophy of effective moves through tried and tested methodologies. It is unknown what Professor Chow's true martial arts background was prior to his involvement with James M. Mitose. What is known that because of his influence more than thirty systems were created bearing the lineage directly back to the Palama Settlements and the Chow school.

Edmund K. Parker -

Bruce A. Haines - Author and student of both James Mitose and William Chow was around at the time when karate was only being practiced in Hawaii. His book Karate's History & Traditions included interview with Mitose and valuable information for historical reference. It's interesting to note that Mitose relates that the Kata's that he taught included the Naihanchi kata. This is one of the most traditional of Okinawan forms, and was a personal favorite of Choki Motobu.

Paul Pung -

Arthur Keawe -

George Nakamura -

Modern Kenpo (1950 - Today)

James Ibrao -

James Mitose (again) -

Ed Parker (again) -

Bruce Juchnik -

Thomas Barro Mitose -


Joe Lewis -

Dan Inosanto - An early student of Ed Parkers and a friend and confidant of Bruce Lee. Dan appears in an early issue of a brochure when he was a student at Ed Parker's kenpo school. Dan went on to popularize the style of Kali/Escrima and helped to preserve the teachings of the late Bruce Lee so that his hard work and vital contributions would not be lost.

Bruce Lee - During the 1964 Long Beach International tournament Bruce Lee was given center stage to present his "Gung Fu" styles to an American people starved for new martial arts ideas. Because of his affiliations with Ed Parker and Dan Inosanto he was thrust into the spotlight of the martial arts as well as the Hollywood scene.

Al Tracy -

Jim Tracy -

Pat Tracy -

Will Tracy -

Nick Cerio -

Larry Tatum -

Keith Hackney -

Jeff Speakman -

Tim Golby - Mr. Tim Golby was a personal student of Al Tracy and was a pioneer in the field of providing a stable Kenpo presence in the mid-west. He has been continuosly teaching the Tracy's Kenpo method since 1969.

Sid Gee - A formidable instructor, world class point fighter, and one of the driving forces behind hundreds of successful fighters careers. Mr. Gee began fighting on the national scene in the early 1980's and was instrumental in giving credence to the term "Professional Point Fighter."

Terry Creamer -


Haines, Bruce A., Karate's History and Traditions, (Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1968)

Haines, Bruce Alan, Karate and Its Development In Hawaii to 1959 (University of Hawaii, Masters Thesis Dissertation, 1962)

Kim, Richard, The Weaponless Warriors, (Santa Clara, California: Ohara Publications, Inc., 1974)

Funakoshi, Gichin, Karate-Do, My Way of Life, (Tokyo, New York, London: Kodansha International, 1975)

Motobu, Choki, Okinawan Kempo: Karate-Jutsu on Kumite, (Kansas: Ryukyu Imports, Inc, 1977) 2nd Edition.

Parker, Edmund K., Kenpo Karate: Law of the Fist and the Empty Hand, (Los Angeles: Delsby Publications, 1960, 1989) 4th Printing.

Parker, Edmund K., Infinite Insights Into Kenpo, Volumes I-V (Los Angeles: Delsby Publications, 1982)

Parker, Edmund K., Ed Parker's Guide to the Nunchaku,(1975)

Parker, Edmund K., The Zen of Kenpo, (Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications, 1988)

Parker, Edmund K., Secrets of Chinses Karate, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963)

Parker, Edmund K., The Woman's Guide to Self-Defense, (Los Angeles, California: Delsby Publications, 1988) 2nd Printing

Parker, Edmund K., Encyclopedia of Kenpo, (Pasadena, California: Delsby Publications, 1992)

Mitose, James M., What is Self Defense? (Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu), 2nd Edition, (Sacramento, California: Kosho Shorei Publishing Company, 1981)

Mitose, James M., What is True Self Defense? Textbook Number 1, (Sacramento, California: Kosho Shorei Publishing Company, 1981)

Mitose, James M., In Search of Kenpo, (Sacramento, California: Kosho Shorei Publishing Company, 1984)