Evolution of Blended Kenpo
To put it simply, its just movements. I was reading an article in Black Belt magazine, where an old Shotokan
master said to really learn an art you need 40 or 50 years, I am a true believer in the more you do something the better you
understand it but 50 years seems like a long time before you innovate.
What is the proper amount of time, I don't know, but I am pretty confident you can innovate before 50 years.
If everyone followed this train of thought we would not have Jeet Kune Do, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or American Kenpo.
Bruce Lee was very innovative, always searching for the truth. He studied all he could from all the arts he
ran across, used what he thought usefull and threw away the rest. His studies covered a wide range, from western boxing to
fencing. He tried to get something useful out of every art.
Depending on what book you read Carlos Gracie is said to have learned Jiu-Jitsu for 2-6 years under Mitsuyo
Maeda (AKA Count Koma) part time. The Gracie brothers practiced full time but Count Koma was traveling all over Brazil establishig
a Japanese colony, so he was not able to give Carlos Gracie daily instruction. After years of dedicated practice amongst themselves,
and with Helios genius innovation, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was born.
The Kenpo Ed Parker taught in the 1960s doesn't even compare to what American Kenpo is today. They are as
different as night and day. Ed Parker took the Kenpo he had learned and his mind raced with new ideas, transforming Kenpo
to something that is unrecognizable to the 1960's practitioner.
So why not add boxing and thaiboxing with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to Kenpo? If it makes the system more applicable
for self defense then are not you doing a good thing? Some people teach the Jeet Kune Do of the Seattle days, preserving what
Bruce did not want preserved or this is how Ed did it. The Gracies seem to be less held to tradition, understanding that everyone
is different with a different game and body type. So shake off the shackles of the old and experiment and enjoy the new. It
does not take a genius to figure out what to do and when to do it. Just experiment with live goes, full contact sparring and
Please visit this web site @
THE HISTORY OF SHAOLIN KEMPO
Note: This history is copyrighted material by J. Madriaga. However,
it may be used freely provided proper acknowledgement is made to the source of the material. Please also note, that the form
of Shaolin Kempo addressed here, is in no way related to the system known as "Shaolin Kenpo" originating from Great Grandmaster
Shaolin Kempo Karate is a formalized system of martial arts, which can be found
throughout the United States, and in parts of Europe and Latin America. Generally, there is a consistency of curriculum wherever
the art is taught. For example, it is safe to say that practitioners of this art will learn the "numbered" combinations, sets
of forms generally recognized as "KATA 1 through KATA 6," "PINAN 1 through PINAN 5," and "Statue of the Crane." Also, Shaolin
Kempo practitioners will recognize the 8 and 10 point blocking system, Palm Blocking System, half mooning, and several other
aspects, which are truly distinctive of this particular system. However, what is present in most formalized systems of martial
arts, and lacking in the Shaolin Kempo Karate, is a well-documented history, which provides detail relative to the systems
founding and development.
It is not easy to trace every step in the development and growth of Shaolin Kempo.
Perhaps it is because of the lack of well-written records, or perhaps it is because there is more than one major pioneer who
made significant additions to the origination and development of the various interpretations of Shaolin Kempo along the way.
However, when analyzed from the historical perspective, certain key events and certain people appear to have played the major
role in the development of what we know as Shaolin Kempo today. This article will identify these events and people, and identify
the contributions or changes to Shaolin Kempo caused by these events and people.
The intent of this article is to trace the history of the art known as SHAOLIN
KEMPO from origin to present. Furthermore, it will detail where each specific portion of the system comes from. Finally, it
will show how much of the system has been lost because of the lack of historical documentation and coordinated development.
The Mitose Era
Since all Shaolin Kempo originates with Great Grandmaster James Mitose, it is fitting
that his background is presented.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, two families, Kumamoto and Nagasaki
brought knowledge of Kempo from China to Kyushu in Japan. It was here, that Kempo was modified to include the arts of Jiu
Jitsu and Aikijutsu. Later with the influence of the Motobu clan in Okinawa, most modern forms of Kempo expanded into various
factions - some emphasizing the striking arts, while other the throwing. In 1916 at the age of five, James Mitose was sent
from Hawaii to the homeland for schooling in his ancestors' art of self-defense called Kosho Ryu Kempo. For fifteen years
he studied this art that was a direct descendent of the original Chuan Fa of China. After completing his training. Mitose
returned to Hawaii with the knowledge of the KOSHO SHOREI KEMPO system. This system was already very progressive compared
to many traditional methods. It was one of the first to teach self-defense outside of kata, and also one of the first to allow
women into the dojo.
Among Mitose's limited number of black belts was William Kwai Sun Chow. William
Chow was more interested in the pure self-defense aspects of Kempo, and maintained less interest in the forms of kata. It
is generally accepted that William Chow studied some Kung Fu with his father, and added these aspects to his training curriculum.
William Chow is the person most responsible for the active perpetuation of all systems of Kempo we now know, and he was also
the first to use the terminology "Shaolin Kempo."
During these early years, martial arts were taught in a traditional manner. Simply
stated, this meant that almost all actual instructional duties were placed in the hands of the senior black belt, and the
school's "headmaster" exclusively trained his very advanced students. During this period of Kempo development, Grandmaster
Mitose's senior student, William K.S. Chow received permission to go on his own. Chow's first school was located within the
local Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) and later at the Kaheka Dojo in Honolulu. Upon forming his own school, Professor Chow
enlisted one of his "underbelts" from the Mitose school by the name of Adriano Emperado. Professor Chow selected Emperado
because he had been impressed with the skill and creativity of this young student. Much of this skill came from Adraino Emperado's
detailed knowledge of the Filipino martial arts passed to him from Alexandro, Isaac, and Alfredo Peralta.
Now teaching as Chow's senior student, Emperado conducted many classes and played
a great role in forming the structure of this "new" Kempo. This was a very exciting time in the history of the system: Professor
Chow created many new aspects of Kempo, and took it from a traditional art to a more eclectic, street lethal form. The young
Adriano Emperado added the speed and angular attack of the Filipino Arts, and advanced aspects of Jiu Jitsu. Many new self-defense
techniques, line drills, hand drills and combinations were developed by Emperado and adopted by Professor Chow. This period
marked the beginning of "numbered" combinations, and numerous methods of entering, trapping and striking. Professor Chow now
began calling his art Dian Hsue Go Shinjutsu of Kempo Kai.
While still teaching for Professor Chow, Adriano Emperado began the formulation
of and more superior version of the existing Kempo. Along with Joe Holck of Jiu Jitsu, Peter Choo of Tang Soo Do, Clarence
Chang of Gung Fu and Frank Ordonez of Judo and Jiu Jitsu, SiJo Emperado labored daily to develop the system, and nightly to
test the value of the day's lessons. In 1947, Emperado decided to title this new form of kempo "KAJUKENBO for Karate, Ju Jitsu/Judo,
Kempo, and Boxing. To begin spreading this new system of kempo, Emperado left Professor Chow. However, his younger brother,
Joe Emperado stayed behind to continue teaching at Professor Chow's school.
Emperado's black belts became legendary because of their ability to combine devastating
entries with jolting takedowns, and lethal follow-ups. His students became the talk of the island's martial arts circles.
Among the first generation of black belts were such notables as Marino Tiwanak, Bennie Madero, Woodrow McCanliss, and Joe
Emperado. Among the second generation students were Walter Godin, Aeju Reyes, John Leoning, and Sid Asuncion.
In the later portion of the 1950s, Emperado dispatched a few of his black belts
to bring kempo to the mainland - specifically, California. Among those who migrated to California was John Leoning. Leoning
was the first to establish a KAJUKENBO school on the mainland. Soon, it became very popular, and he needed help to run the
school. As a result, he enlisted the assistance of a few of his students to assist in the instructorship duties. When this
occurred, subtle changes began to occur, and these changes marked the first significant contributions to what is known as
Shaolin Kempo today. Leoning was an amazing student of the martial arts, with a constant thirst for new knowledge. Leoning
began studying other forms of karate, and spent a major portion of his time as a student of kung fu master Share Lew. He became
a master of "Iron Palm," and "Iron Shirt" development and added this and extensive Chi development to his curriculum. Later
he learned several weapons arts from kung fu master Du Wai and added some of these forms and arts to his teaching syllabus.
John Leoning's curriculum changed many times during this teaching lifespan. Because of his constant change and improvement,
each student of his became somewhat different depending on the timeframe, and length of time they studied with him. John Leoning
explored and developed new forms of kata and self-defense, and these were soon taught through other kempo schools on the mainland.
Among his early students were Carlos Bunda, David Kamalani, Bill Ryusaki, Victor Gascon, Richard Ramos, Julian Blacquerra,
and John Davidson who would later become a personal disciple of master Share Lew until his death in 1998.
John Leoning's superior abilities became evident to Hollywood, and he later became
very active in professional stunt work, and as an actor in kung fu roles including the "Kung Fu" television series.
Leoning's early students began organizing schools of their own. Some opened under
the John Leoning banner, some opened under KAJUKENBO, and still other opened under new names. Each of these instructors and
schools took with them the versions of the dynamic curriculum they were taught. Among these schools were the KEMBOJUTSO School
opened by Richard Ramos, the Los Angeles KARAZENPO school opened by Walter Godin (direct student of Adriano and Joseph Emperado)
and Victor Gascon, the Northern California KARAZENPO school opened by David Kamalani, the School Of Shaolin Kempo opened by
During this time period, the original twelve punching combinations were developed,
and three formalized forms, today known as Kata #1, Kata #2, and Kata #3. The forms were made up of movements from the KAJUNKENBO
system, rearranged, and were largely the creation of Walter Godin who combined various pieces of KAJUKENBO forms. It is unclear
exactly where the first twelve punch combinations selected came from, however it is largely held that they were designed by
Walter Godin and based again on KAJUKENBO. One of Godin's most notable creations is Shaolin Kempo combination #4, which he
continues to use in demonstrations and seminars even today. During this period, it is believed that Walter Godin liked using
the term "Shaolin Kempo" to describe the new system. This was a term, which reflected upon the use by Professor Chow. Later,
the term "Karazenpo" was combined with "Go Shinjutsu" meaning "way of self defense" as a replacement for "Shaolin Kempo."
Walter Godin eventually designed a patch bearing the likeness of Damo, and containing the Katakana characters for the names
"Godin," and Gascon - the co-founders of Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu.
Eventually, all of these schools closed, some after only one or two years. Charles
Frank was among the first to leave, first returning to Hawaii to seek his former instructor, Simeon Eli, he later settled
in the mid-Atlantic region. His system contained portions of the Karazenpo/Kajukenbo curriculum combined with original Kosho
Ryu. David Kamalani was killed in an auto accident within a year of originating his school. Victor Gascon and Walter Godin
returned to Hawaii. Upon his return to Hawaii, Godin continued his martial arts training with several other notable karate,
kung fu, and kempo masters including Professor Chow. Later, he opened a new school and continues to operate it to this day.
The Migration East
The exact transition from the west coast to the east coast is unknown. However,
there are some distinctive occurrences that account for what we see today.
Two instructors from the California school headed east, they were Richard Ramos,
and George Pesare. Ramos was a first generation student of the modified KAJUKENBO offshoots, and Pesare a second generation
from the KARAZENPO School. Ramos taught for approximately five years in the very early days of kempo on the east coast. Through
interviews with some of his former students, very distinctive similarities can be seen between his version, and the version
of Shaolin Kempo taught today. Unfortunately, since he never operated a formalized school, his legacy was limited to very
George Pesare settled in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island and became legendary
in the mid-sixties and early seventies. He contributed much to the system of Karazenpo Shaolin Kempo we see today. Pesare
too, added additional forms and punch combinations to the system and also continued his studies with a variety of notable
teachers. He became adept in Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido under jack Hwang, and eventually named his school the Kenpo and Tae Kwon
Do Institute. A noteworthy quote from the 1975 Rhode Island State Karate Championships brochure by George Pesare states, "Mr.
Pesare brought the original teachings of his instructor (Victor Gascon) to Rhode Island, Mr. Pesare has modified his karate
to the American way of life, and has not remained a slave to the obsolete…"
One of George Pesare's first students was Nick Cerio. A native of the Boston area,
Cerio was now working in Providence. In 1964, Cerio happened to be studying Tae Kwon Do at a school George Pesare used to
teach his new students. After watching a class one day, Nick Cerio asked permission to attend. George Pesare accepted Nick
Cerio as a student, and thus started the career of one of martial art's most notable masters, and the man who would later
be the catalyst for the spread of Shaolin Kempo throughout the world. Nick Cerio received his black belt in kempo in 1966.
In 1966, Nick Cerio broke from George Pesare and struck out on his own. When Nick
Cerio began as an instructor, he taught only twelve combinations, and three forms - these were Kata 1, 2, and 3. Within the
year, Nick Cerio began collaborating with early and original students on the east and west coast. Armed with an extensive
new amount of knowledge about his original system, he began to create. The result of this was what we now call Kata numbers
4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and an additional fourteen punch defenses for a total of twenty-six. Later, he also added additional forms.
These later became known as Pinan #1 through Pinan #7. Pinan #1 and Pinan #2 were modified versions of Kyokushin - Kai Taikyoku
#1 and Heian #4, and Heian #5, and named them Pinan #3, #4, and #5. The original Pinans would go through some revisions. The
original Pinan #2 which emphasized "power striking" movement was essentially lost in 1969, and was replaced by a Pinan which
contained multiple rising blocks, and identical footwork as in Pinan #1. Nick Cerio was also the first individual to call
this curriculum "Shaolin Kempo Karate," and establish the use of Chinese titles for himself and his instructors. Among some
of the films that can be purchased today, is a film of Professor Cerio made in 1974 where he can be seen performing some of
the techniques and forms of this early Shaolin Kempo prior to the formation of Nick Cerio's Kenpo - it is noteworthy to mention
that he is also addressed as "SiFu" in this film.
Eventually, Professor Cerio began the creation of Nick Cerio's Kenpo, however -
many of the original 12 combinations were slightly changed and renamed in the Nick Cerio System. Good examples of these are
- "Buckling Branch"/Combination #7, "Menacing Twirl"/Combination #12, or "Bending Tree"/Combination #19. As evidenced by the
names of the Nick Cerio techniques, the changes were made upon the advice of kenpo master Ed Parker. During this period, Nick
Cerio had become the northeast representative for the International Kenpo Karate Association, and planned on opening a chain
of martial arts schools similar to Parker's. He also began a serious study of Okinawan and Japanese martial arts, evidence
of which can be seen in today's Nick Cerio's Kenpo.
Students of Professor Cerio, that have there on schools or ryus ( styles )
William R. Gregory founder of Kajukenpo, Mark Sheely founder of Ken-sho ryu, Geane Cutu founder of Kenpo Kobudo, Tom Sotis
founder of Amok,
The Villari System of Shaolin Kempo
As previously stated, Fred Villari was one of Nick Cerio's earliest black belts.
Although controversy seems to surround the Villari System, Fred Villari is most likely responsible for the greatest number
of Shaolin Kempo practitioners today. At one time, Fred Villari commanded several hundred schools, and is responsible for
several generations of black belts. Today, almost all schools of Shaolin Kempo are descended directly from him, or one of
his second or third generation black belts. The current heads of the various organizations encompassing the numerous Shaolin
Kempo Families are also formerly his senior students and black belts. Among these are organizations such as "Masters Self
Defense," "United," "White Dragon Self Defense Systems," "White Tiger," "United Shaolin Kempo," and several others. It is
also noteworthy to mention that the three most senior black belts in the Nick Cerio Kenpo organization, Master Clermont Poulin,
Master Joe Nesta, and Master Craig Seavy were formerly very senior Black Belts in the Fred Villari organization before cross
ranking to Nick Cerio's Kenpo.
Shaolin Kempo Today
There are four major, distinct groups of Shaolin Kempo today. Specifically, (1)
The direct descendents of George Pesare (2) The descendents of Nick Cerio's early years prior to the changes made for Nick
Cerio's Kenpo (3) The descendents of Fred Villari and (4) The descendents of the other original students of California. Although
some of these named founders were students of one another, enough distinctive changes were made to classify each as a "founder"
of their own branch.
Shaolin Kempo, Karazenpo, Nick Cerio's Kenpo, and Godin's Chinese Kempo were among
the featured kempo arts at the original "Gathering of Eagles" in Las Vegas during 1999. Sigung Bruce Corrigan, an early practitioner
of Shaolin Kempo appeared to be the featured stylist for the Shaolin Kempo demonstrations, and was officially recognized as
a master of Shaolin Kempo and Karazenpo. Also present were master Clermont Poulin, master Joe Nesta, and master Craig Seavey
of Nick Cerio's Kenpo. Master Poulin was recognized as the senior member of Nick Cerio's Kenpo.
The following matrix provides a summary of specific contributions, forms,
|ORIGINAL SHAOLIN KEMPO FORM NAME
||VILLARI SYSTEM, MASTER'S, UNITED, MISC. FORM NAME
||ORIGINALLY DESIGNED BY WALTER GODIN|
||ORIGINALLY DESIGNED BY WALTER GODIN. THIS FORM WAS LATER MODIFIED BY NICK CERIO
AS THE BASE FOR CIRCLE OF THE LEOPARD|
||CREATED BY KAMALANI. NICK CERIO COMBINED MOVEMENTS FROM KATA 3, 4 AND 5 WERE
USED TO CREATE CIRCLE OF THE TIGER, AS STATED IN THE NCIMAA ORGANIZATIONAL MAGAZINE|
||THIS VERSION OF WHAT IS CALLED KATA 6 WAS CREATED BY NICK CERIO, AND BECAME
HIS SIGNATURE COMPETITION FORM. THE ORIGINAL VERSION WAS LATER CHANGED AND RENAMED CIRCLE OF THE PANTHER FOR NICK CERIO'S
||CREATED BY NICK CERIO PRIOR TO FORMATION OF NICK CERIO'S KENPO. TAUGHT PRIOR
||CREATED BY NICK CERIO. THIS FORM WAS ACTUALLY TAUGHT BEFORE LEARNING KATA #2|
||SNAKE FORM CREATED AND TAUGHT BY PROF. CERIO IN LATE 1960S AND EARLY 1970S|
||RETAINED WITH SOME CHANGES IN NICK CERIO'S KENPO|
||RETAINED WITH SOME CHANGES IN NICK CERIO'S KENPO|
||CHANGES MADE, AND RENAMED CAT FORM 1 IN NICK CERIO'S KENPO SYSTEM|
||CAT FORM 2|
||STATUE OF THE CRANE
||CHANGES MADE FOR NICK CERIO'S KENPO SYSTEM|
|STATIONARY BLOCKING SET (SBS) 1
8 POINT BLOCKING SYSTEM, HOWEVER PREVIOUSLY BEGAN WITH A SALUTATION
TAUGHT AS BLOCKING SET 1 IN NICK CERIO'S KENPO SYSTEM
||8 POINT WITH STRIKES
||8 POINT WITH STRIKES, HOWEVER PREVIOUSLY BEGAN WITH A SALUTATION|
||TAUGHT SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT TODAY THAN IN EARLY 1970S|
||TAUGHT BY PROF CERIO PRIOR TO CREATION OF NICK CERIO'S KENPO -- FROM SIL LUM|
|MOVING BLOCKING SET (MBS) 1
||TAUGHT AS BLOCKING SET 2 IN NICK CERIO'S KENPO SYSTEM|
||AUGHT AS BLOCKING SET 3 IN NICK CERIO'S KENPO SYSTEM|
|KICKING SET (KS) 1
||ORIGINAL SET TAUGHT ON WEST COAST IN EARLY 1960S|
||ORIGINAL SET TAUGHT ON WEST COAST IN EARLY 1960S|
||ORIGINAL SET TAUGHT ON WEST COAST IN EARLY 1960S|
|EXERCISE SET 1
||ORIGINAL SET TAUGHT ON WEST COAST IN EARLY 1960S. LATER TAUGHT BY PROFESSOR
CERIO IN LATE 60S AND EARLY 70S AS STANCE TRAINING|
|EXERCISE SET 2
||ORIGINAL SET TAUGHT ON WEST COAST IN EARLY 1960S. LATER TAUGHT BY PROVESSOR
CERIO IN LATE 60S AND EARLY 70S A STANCE TRAINING|
|BO BLOCKING SET
||ORIGINAL BLOCKING SET BASED ON THE 8 POINT BLOCKING SYSTEM|
|BO KATA 1
|BO KATA 2