History of Kajukenbo



   For a few thousand years, martial arts of some kind or another have been around. As we practice them today, the Asian Fighting Arts can trace their origins back to the Shao-lin Temple in today’s Henan province in China. At around 496 A.D. an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma arrived at the temple, and finding the other monks not very healthy, taught them yoga breathing and stretching exercises to help them stay awake during meditation. Later the temple was famous for teaching monks and then lay people the martial arts to protect the monks from bandits. Then all kinds of people came to learn how to defend their families and villages, and even some generals would send their solders to learn the Shao-lin fighting style.

   At the temple, fighting monks noticed the way certain animals would defend themselves. With this in mind, they developed the basic five animal forms. Those are: Dragon, Tiger, Leopard, Snake, and Crane. Each animal had different characteristics and ways to fight.

   Because Buddhism spread to Okinawa, Japan, Korea and other Asian lands, so did the Shao-lin fighting styles. The first reference to the word karate was in Okinawa. At the time it meant China (or Cathay = kara, and Hand = te) in the Japanese language, because warriors from Okinawa went to the Shao-lin temple to learn the martial arts, and the Shao-lin monks went to Okinawa to teach. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the meaning of karate was changed to mean “empty hand”. All they did was change the Chinese character to give it a different meaning. In Korean, the martial art of Tang-soo-do also means “China Hand”

   Mostly, the Asian martial art styles were fairly unknown to the West until the start of the 20th century, when Judo was introduced by Jigoro Kano, who also devised the belt ranking system as we know it today. After the second World War, when the west had more contact with Japan, Korea and Okinawa those styles became more popular. The Chinese systems (like Shao-lin, Hung Ga, Choi-Lay-Fut, etc.) were not well known because of our limited familiarity with China. The U.S. never had the same contact with China, and the Communist government was less than friendly to western peoples, let alone their own!

   The martial art known as Kajukenbo was developed in Honolulu Hawaii in 1947. The founder of the style was Adriano Emperado, who was a black belt in Kenpo Karate under William K.S.Chow. He noticed that there were ‘holes’ in his Kenpo and saw other martial arts and decided to join forces with four other black belts to create the ‘ultimate self defense system’. Here is the basic style breakdown of Kajukenbo:











Chinese Boxing


Tang Soo Do

Se Keino Ryu

Kodenkan Danzan Ryu

Kosho Ryu

Chu'an Fa Kung-Fu

Contributing Founder:

Peter Young Yil Choo

Frank Ordonez

Joe Holck

Adriano Emperado

Clarence Chang

Chinese Character:


"Long life"




Philosophical Meaning of Kajukenbo: "Through this fist style one gains long life and happiness."

   In the early 1960’s, Kajukenbo would begin coming to the U.S. mainland. One of the pioneers was Charles H. Gaylord. He helped to found the Kajukenbo Association of America. His first school was in San Leandro, CA. Great Grandmaster Gaylord has over 600 Black Belts who trace their lineage to him.




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