Kajukenbo Founder Adriano Emperado

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Adriano Emperado, the founder of the Kajukenbo Self-Defense Institute of Hawaii, was born in Honolulu on June 16th, 1926 in the small community of Kalihi, which was and still is a part of the Kalihi-Palama District of the City and County of Honolulu. Adriano was one of seven children. There were three boys (Larry, Adriano, and Joseph), and four girls (Ella, Dechi, Nancy, and Connie Marcella).

Like a lot of poor neighborhoods around the world, Kalihi and the surrounding area was a violent place to live. Because of this, Adriano started learning how to defend himself at a very young age. His father had been a professional boxer in the Philippines and in Hawaii, fighting under the ring name of Bulldog Panis. Adriano’s uncle had also been a professional boxer. So by the time he was 8 years old he was getting some much needed exposure to western boxing.

Adriano Directo Emperado is one of five martial artists who developed the kajukenbo self-defense system.

Childhood and Young Adulthood: Emperado had a very difficult childhood living in Honolulu. He was born on June 16, 1926. He was born to Filipino-Hawaiian parents in the poverty stricken Palama/Kalihi section of Honolulu.

Adriano Directo Emperado

Like many poor areas, the Palama/Kalihi district settlement was a violent place to live. Confrontations and fights were a daily occurrence. Because of this Emperado started his self defense training at the age of 8.

His father and uncle were proffesional boxers and at the age of 11 he learned the 12 basic strikes of escrrima. Then at the age of 14 he came back to his old familiar neighborhood in Palama. There he trained in Judo under Sensei Taneo at the Palama Settlement gym.

Then at the age of 20 Emperado undertook serious study of Kenpo at the Catholic youth orgamnization in Honolulu. These classes were taught by the legendary Professor William K.S. Chow. Emperado trained daily with Professor Chow and it soon he attained his first black belt.

Later Life: Then in 1947 Sijo Adriano Emperado (Kenpo and Escrima), Peter Young Yil Choo (Korean Karate [Tang Soo Do] and Boxing), Joseph Holck (Jujutsu [Danzan Ryu]), Frank F. Ordonez (Judo [Se KeinoRyu]), and George “Clarence” Chuen Yoke Chang (Chinese Boxing [Chu’an Fa Kung-Fu]), came together and called themselves the Black Belt Society.

They began training together and exploting and developing the weaknesses of each martial art to create a fighting style that did not suit the ancient warrior but the American citizen to help him or her in their plight against the common criminal.

Kajukenbo Founder Adriano

Professor Emperado is a master of Escrima, Jujitsu, and various Kenpo forms. In addition, he has studied Okinawan Karate, Chinese Kung Fu, Hawaiian Lua, American Boxing and Wrestling, as well as various arts which utilize such weapons as the staff, club and knife. During World War II, Professor Emperado was attached to the First Filipino Infantry Regiment as a Medical Corp Man, during which time he received various awards and citations for military accomplishments.

Professor Emperado received much of his martial arts training from Professor K.S. Chow and Professor James Mitosi. In 1947 he was part of the Black Belt Society that developed the art form currently known as Kajukenbo. The title of Professor was given to Professor Emperado by Professor Lum and Professor Wong of the Chinese Physical Cultural Society of Hawaii and Master Ho Gau of Hong Kong to represent Choi Li Fat Ga. He was elected to the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1991. Presently the Professor holds the highest title in Kajukenbo, 10th degree.

Schools: After the other four were drafted off into the Korean War, they left Emperado to start the first Kajukenbo school at the Palama Settlement Gym in 1950. Many of the students who trained there wwere poor, so at the Palama school students could train for $2.00 a month. The workouts that took place there are legendary for their brutality.

Emperado has been quoted as saying that a workout wasn’t over until there was blood on the floor. When a reporter went on to ask hiim about this he went on to say that “you have to experience pain before you can give it. You have to know what your technique can do. “We lost a lot of students in those days, but we also got a lot from other schools, including black belts. These students would look at what we were doing and realize that we had a no nonsense effective system”. So in order to be invinceable on the streets they had reasonable, but severe and brutal training. They fought with full contact and various injuries such as broken limbs were an everyday occurrance.