Kajukenbo Martial Arts Training Near Me

Kajukenbo was created between 1947 and 1949 at Palama Settlement on Oahu, Hawaii. It developed out a group calling themselves the "Black Belt Society", which consisted of black belts from various martial arts backgrounds who met to train and learn with each other. This was the beginning of an evolutionary, adaptive style designed to combine the most useful aspects of the arts. There are five men credited as co-creators of Kajukenbo, and it is from their respective arts that Kajukenbo draws its name.

Although uncredited by name, other influences included American Boxing (Choo was Hawaiian Welterweight Champion) and Escrima (Emperado also studied Kali and Arnis Escrima). In the late 1940s, Palama Settlement was a community center in a violent area of Oahu where fist-fights or stabbings were commonplace. From this environment, the founders of Kajukenbo wanted to develop an art that would be readily useful on the street.

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 unconscious.

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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 its beginnings, Kajukenbo was an eclectic and adaptive art.

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.

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Kajukenbo – American Martial Arts Style Kajukenbo is an Eskrima, etc. It was designed to be effective in real-world self-defense situations and street fights. History of Kajukenbo According to John Bishop’s Kajukenbo, Kajukenbo is “America’s first martial art system, having been founded in 1949 in the U.S. Territory of Hawaii.

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According to him, Kajukenbo’s inception came about in 1947 when five Hawaiian martial arts masters calling themselves the “Black Belt Society” started on a project to develop a comprehensive self-defense system. These five men of vision were Peter Choo, the Hawaii welterweight boxing champion, and a Tang Soo Do black belt.

Joe Holck, a Kodokan Judo black belt. Clarence Chang, a master of Sil-lum Pai kung fu. And Adriano D. Emperado, a Kara-Ho Kenpo black belt, and Escrima master… After it was decided that Kajukenbo would be the base to build on, it was a daily three-year process incorporating the tang soo do kicks, jujitsu joint locks, judo throws, and sil-lum pai circular techniques into a complete system.

Joe Holck suggested that the name should be “Kajukenbo”, KA for karate, JU for judo and jujitsu, KEN for Kenpo, and BO for Chinese boxing (Kung Fu).” Kajukenbo Training Video References John Bishop’s Kajukenbo, History of Kajukenbo, Added – 8/7/13.

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Welcome to the James Martial Arts Academy Kajukenbo website. Kajukenbo is a unique martial art style combining the techniques of KA-Karate, JU-Judo and Jujitsu, KEN-Kenpo, and BO-Chinese Boxing, or Kung Fu. It was founded in Hawaii in 1947 by Sijo Adriano Emperado and is one of the most popular forms of self-defense practiced in the world today.

Please feel free to browse the website to learn more, and contact us for more information. We are located in the City of El Cajon, in the greater San Diego area.

What is Kajukenbo?


KAJUKENBO is a unique style of martial arts that was created by five black belts from various martial arts backgrounds. They got together and trained with each other to create the ultimate

KEN (fist) – comes from Kenpo, an art form of karate that not only stresses the hard and powerful movements, but emphasizes multiple and fluid hand techniques. The kenpo influence was from the late Sijo Adriano Emperado.

BO (style) – comes from Chinese boxing. Chinese boxing means Kung-Fu, an art form that places emphasis on flexibility and agility, parrying and evasive movements that flow together.

The Chinese boxing influence was from the late Clarence Chang.

KA-JU-KEN-BO together make up the Kajukenbo motto:

“Through this fist style, one gains long life and happiness”


KA (long life) – comes from Karate, an art form that places emphasis on hard and powerful techniques.

The karate influence was from the late Peter Y.Y. Choo.

JU (happiness) – comes from Judo and Ju-jitsu, an art form that places emphasis on throwing, locks and sweeps. The judo and ju-jitsu influence was from Joseph Holck and Frank Ordonez.


1947 – Kajukenbo was founded in 1947 in the Palama Settlement on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. In the late 1940s, the Palamas Settlement was a very violent area where stabbings, fistfights, and killings were common. The five black belts who were responsible for creating Kajukenbo are Peter Y. Y. Choo, Joseph Holck, Frank Ordonez, Adriano Emperado, and Clarence Chang. These five martial artists got together and trained, and learned from each other to develop this effective ideal fighting art.

Kajukenbo developed between the years 1947 and 1949. These five martial artists trained and fought in and around the Palama Settlement, which was the worst slum in Hawaii. They quickly gained the reputations of untouchable street-fighters that would make them invincible in the toughest streets of Hawaii. Their emphasis in training was on realism. To test the effectiveness of a technique, they would get into fistfights on the streets and in bars, often with sailors who challenged them to a fight, and if the technique worked consistently, then it was kept as part of the system.

They became known as the notorious Black Belt Society. It was a policy of the Black Belt Society to never practice in perfecting the Kajukenbo style in one training place/area for fear that this unique system might be exposed. In those days, to conduct a self-defense school, the instructor had to have full knowledge of what he was teaching in the field of martial arts.

He had to be strong and in good physical condition in order to take on any comers, such as those who had opened up a self-defense school without any documents stating that he was a qualified instructor to teach martial arts. They began training only a few top martial artists when their ideal fighting art was perfected. However, later they began to teach this style to the public. Again, the emphasis during training was on realism, so students often broke bones, fainted from exhaustion, or were knocked unconscious and sent to the hospital.

The 1950s – Kajukenbo Self-Defense Institute, Inc. (K.S.D.I.) started in the 1950s when Adriano Emperado and his brother Joe Emperado, opened a school after the Black Belt Society split up. The training continued to be physically intense, hard, and very demanding. Nevertheless, the reputation of this tough new art drew more students, and Emperado opened a secondary school. Soon, Emperado had 12 Kajukenbo schools in Hawaii, making it the second-largest string of schools at that time.

1958 – Kajukenbo came to California in the winter of 1958. The late John Leoning, who trained under Adriano Emperado and his brother Joe Emperado, left Hawaii to venture out and bring Kajukenbo to the mainland after Joe passed away. With the blessings of Emperado and the Black Belt Society, he had a letter/certificate that wished him well on his venture to California to expand Kajukenbo outside of Hawaii.

Hawaii was still a territory of the United States, and John was the first Kajukenbo instructor to teach and practice Kajukenbo outside of Hawaii. His modest beginning was on a small Sunset Blvd. location in Los Angeles. His teaching style was no different from when he was teaching in Hawaii. His classes were 3 hours long, 6 nights per week, plus Saturday afternoons. All of this, he would fit in a while working full time during the day.