The History of Chinese Kenpo

The origin of Chinese fighting arts can be traced as far back as 1100 B.C. In the 6th century A.D., the art would later earn its notoriety as Chinese Boxing or Chuan-Fa.

By the 1500s, Chuan-Fa was to become more notable through the fame of the five Shaolin Temples, one located in each of the five Chinese provinces: O-mei Shan,Wu-tang, Fukien, Kwantung and Honan. All five temples used the five basic animal forms as part of their training – tiger, crane, leopard, dragon and snake – the foundation of Chuan-Fa training today.

In the late 1500s, the great Shaolin Temples were burned to the ground by the Imperial army and destroyed. But over the centuries, the fighting systems survived and expanded out of China to Okinawa, Japan, setting the stage for their introduction to and eventual melding in Hawaii.

It was in Okinawa that the Shaolin art of Chuan-Fa first became known as Kenpo, the Japanese translation for Chuan-Fa. It also was in Japan that a new term, kara te, meaning “Chinese hands” or “empty hands,” came into use in martial arts, replacing the older term te, or “hand.”

At the center of the origin of Chuan-Fa was an Okinawan karate master, Choki Motobu (1871-1944). It was Motobu who translated the Chuan-Fa elements of his style, Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, also called the “Shaolin Way,” into our current basic structure. It was during a visit to Hawaii in 1933 that Motobu shared his fighting style with the Hawaiian martial arts community. James Mitose, master of the “Official Self-Defense Club” in Hawaii, incorporated what he learned from Motobu into an expanded version of his native fighting style, Kosho-Ryu Kenpo, which was originally developed by the Koshopi Monks of Japan.

In Hawaii, one of Mitose’s students was William K.S. Chow. Chow would later combine his Mitose-influenced Kosho-Ryu Kenpo with that of traditional five-animal Kung-Fu into the new art of Chinese Kenpo practiced today. William Chows’ Kenpo was a quick, vicious style that allows a defender to defeat more than one attacker simultaneously. Chow, only 5’2” in height, was nicknamed “Thunderbolt” for his quickness and skill. In addition to his reputation of a deadly combatant, Chow was reportedly both a great martial artist and innovator.

Descendants of Chow’s training include brothers Frank Chow and John Chow-Hoon, Adriano Emperado, Joe Emperado, Steve Baldomaro, Manuel Dela Cruz, Arthur Keawe, Ed Parker and Sam Suoha. Chow also is credited with influencing a host of other martial artists including Ralph Castro, Nick Cerio, Tino Tuiolosega, Paul Yamaguchi, Bobby Lowe, John Leone, Mesaichi Oshiro, Bill Ryusaki, William G. Marciarella, Paul Pung, Walter Godin, Feliciano “Kimo” Ferreira, Tomas Connor, Sr., Tomas Connor II, Al, Will, and Jim Tracy, John Patrick Nieto, Bill Packer, Ray Fisher and Gary McGhee. Family Tree

Tao Te Ching

“Those who know the Tao do not speak of it. Those who are ever-ready to speak of it do not know it.”