What is Kajukenbo

The Kajukenbo | What is Kajukenbo | History of Kajukenbo | Founder Adriano Emperado | Kajukenbo Development | Kajukenbo Techniques | Kajukenbo Today | Kajukenbo Training | The Perfected Art of Dirty Streetfighting

By combining techniques from tang soo do, judo, jujitsu, kenpo and kung fu, the kajukenbo stylist can defend himself in many ways. The techniques are arranged so that each technique will set up the next by following the reaction of the attacker’s body. Like most karate systems kajukenbo has katas or forms.

These 14 katas are known as “Palama Sets” 1 through 14. Kajukenbo takes a number of it’s self defense techniques from it’s katas. Although the Palama sets provide the kajukenbo stylist with many good techniques, kajukenbo’s strength lies in it’s self defense techniques. These self defense techniques are arranged and categorized into 15 grab arts, 21 punch counters, 15 knife counters, 13 club counters, 9 two and three man attack counters, and 26 advanced alphabet.

Kajukenbo gained it’s reputation for being brutally effective decades ago in the U.S. Territory of Hawaii. In the Hawaii of the 1940s the enemy was not the ancient battlefield soldier, it was the common street criminal.

Instead of swords and spears he armed himself with knives, clubs, and guns. Even when unarmed he did not fight by any rules. He punched, kicked, gouged, bit, and stomped.

If you encountered one of these brutal street fighters you were in for a life or death battle. Kajukenbo was designed to win such a battle.

Since then it’s eclectic use of five martial arts and it’s no-nonsense approach to self defense has contributed to it’s rapid growth and strong reputation as an highly effective self defense system.

kajukenbo Training

Kajukenbo was synthesized in the Palomas settlements of Hawaii during the years 1949-1952. Five practitioners of their respective martial arts developed Kajukenbo to complement each others styles to allow effective fighting at all ranges and speeds. Today kajukenbo is practiced all over the world. The principal organization for kajukenbo is the “Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute of Hawaii, Inc.” based in San Diego, California.

Kenpo emerged as the core around which this new art was built. Although uncreditted by name, other influences included American Boxing (Choo was Hawaiian Welterweight Champion) and Escrima (Emperado also studied Kali and Arnis Escrima).

In the late 1940’s, Palamas Settlement was a violent area and fist-fights or stabbings were commonplace. From this environment, the founders of Kajukenbo wanted to develop an art that would be readily usefull on the street. As they trained and fought in and around Palamas Settlement, the founders of Kajukenbo quickly gained reputations as formidable street-fighters. In 1950, Adriano Emperado, along with brother Joe Emperado, began teaching the new art in an open class. They called the school Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute (K.S.D.I.).

The emphasis during training was on realism – so much so that students routinely broke bones, fainted from exhaustion, or were knocked unconcious. Nevertheless, the reputation of this tough new art drew more students and Emperado opened a second school at the nearby Kaimuki YMCA. Soon Emperado had 12 Kajukenbo schools in Hawaii, making it the second largest string of schools at the time. John Leoning, who earned a black belt from Emperado, brought Kajukenbo to the mainland in 1958. Since that time, Kajukenbo has continued to flourish and grow.

From it’s beginnings, Kajukenbo was an ecclectic and adaptive art. As time has passed, Kajukenbo has continued to change and evolve. Currently, there are a few distinct, “recognized” branches of Kajukenbo: Kenpo (“Emperado Method” or “Traditional Hard Style”), Tum Pai, Chu’an Fa, Wun Hop Kuen Do, and Gaylord Method. In addition, there are numerous “unrecognized” branches, including CHA-3 and Kenkabo. While this may be confusing for an outsider, it is the essence of the art. Students are not required to mimic the teacher, but are encouraged to develop their own “expression” of the art.