The knowledge of Kempo or Chu’an fa, was brought from Fuzhou, China,(Patrick McCarthy, The Bible of Karate: Bubishi, 1995) through Okinawa to Kyushu, Japan. Many generations of practitioners practiced and refined the art in times when getting it wrong could easily get you dead. It developed over the years into the modern form that is referred to as Kosho ryu Kempo or the “old pine tree” school of Kempo and has evolved into what is known today as “Shaolin Kempo Karate” or the “Young Pine Tree School” of Kempo.
In 1916 at the age of five, an American-born Japanese boy by the name of James Mitose (December 30, 1916 - March 26, 1981) was sent from his home in Hawaii to his ancestral home in Japan. There is studied the family art of self defense of Kosho Ryu Kempo for fifteen years. He returned to Hawaii in 1936, the grandmaster of this art and promptly opened the Official Self-Defense Club and began teaching.
Bruce Juchnik now heads the Kosho Ryu Kempo of James Mitose. Although Hanshi Juchnik has not been directly involved in the development and lineage of Shaolin Kempo, he, as the head of Kosho Ryu, and a martial artist of impressive skill and learning, merits respectful mention. He works tirelessly to unite all Kempo styles as a family to share history, philosophy and techniques for self defense. The “young pine tree” school, did grow out of the “old pine tree” school after all. Clermont Poulin is the Shihan for Kosho Ryu Kempo in Canada under Hanshi Bruce Juchnik.
William Kwai Sun Chow (July 3, 1914 – September 21, 1987) studied under Mitose. He is, perhaps the epicenter of Kempo/Kenpo as we know it in the Western world. William Chow had studied his family art of kung fu and also studied for several years under James Mitose. Prof.Chow united his family kung fu with the Kosho ryu Kempo he learned under Mitose and formed a new art that he initially named kenpo karate in order to distinguish his teachings from Mitose. He was the first to use the term “shaolin kempo” or Young Pine tree Kempo (as opposed to Kosho-Ryu Kempo or “old pine tree kempo”), although his art would eventually come to be known as Kara-Ho Kempo. In 1949, the young William Chow, apparently with the blessing of James Mitose, opened a training hall of his own. Some of the students who trained with him came from Mitose’s school, including the members of the famous “ Black Belt Society” who eventually formed the art of Kajukenbo. Chow over the years blended the circular movements and principles of his kung fu with the principles and the more linear movements of Mitose Sensei’s Kempo. He developed a few katas and focused on core techniques to preserve and transmit his knowledge. Ed Parker, Sr., Adriano Emparado, Bill Chun Sr., Sam Kuoha, Bobby Lowe, John Leoning, Ralph Castro, Nick Cerio all represent legendary martial artists and others who have or claimed to have trained under the prolific Master William Chow.
Adriano Emparado (June 15, 1926 – April 4, 2009) was awarded his black belt from William Chow. He learned boxing and basic escrima from his father. Later he became part of the black belt society that composed of Peter Young, Joseph Holck, Frank Ordonez, George Chuen Yoke Chang. They all trained together grafting their various arts of Tang Soo Do, boxing, Danzan-ryu Jujitsu, Se Keino-ryu judo and Sil-lum Hung Gar kung fu onto the backbone system of the Mitose-Chow Kempo system. They tested their creation in the slums of Hawaii and eventually combined the names of their arts into the name of their style: Kajukenbo.
Grand Master Edmund Parker (March 19, 1931 – December 15, 1990) is one person who took some of the knowledge and training of Prof. Chow and ran with it to incredible heights. GM Parker is the creator of American Kenpo: a devastating and powerful modern martial art. His mind was so focused and analytical that he not only was able to devise a powerful system of self defense, he was also able to codify it for the generations to come after him. At times I am somewhat envious of the incredibly specific use of language available to the practitioners of American Kenpo. Yet, conversely, I fully enjoy the relative freedom of expression and growth that Shaolin Kempo offers. The trouble with the lack of standardized technical language in Shaolin Kempo is that it can lead a practitioner or a non-student with the idea that Shaolin Kempo does not use principles in its execution. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although it is possible to mimic movements without a mastering or understanding of the basics, this would not be anything other than a shadow of the wonderful art and relying on such a weak foundation for self defense is misguided.
Walter Godin (March 21, 1937 – August 7, 2001) was the co-Founder of Karazenpo Go-shinjutsu with his brother-in-law Grandmaster Sonny Gascone. Grandmaster Godin trained under Professor Chow and also trained in kajukenbo under Grandmaster Adriano Emperado. Two of his most famous students are Professor Feliciano “Kimo” Ferrera and Grandmaster Hackleman (Chuck “Iceman” Liddell is one of Grandmaster Hackleman’s students). In 1973, Professor Chow handed down a Professorship with a 10th Degree Diploma and his blessings to Grandmaster Godin.
Grandmaster Gascon (March 6, 1933 – December 16, 2013) is the person who brought the kata, combinations, and techniques now seen in many styles of Kempo throughout the United States. If you are familiar with Kempo/Kenpo descriptions such as the Numbered Kata’s, Stature of The Crane, Combinations 1 through 26, etc., then you are a direct descendent of Sonny Gascon. Many systems such as Fred Villari’s Shaolin Kempo, Master’s Self Defense Centers, United Studios of Self Defense, and even portions of Professor Cerio’s Kenpo are either directly or indirectly linked to Grandmaster Gascon. Two of his most notable students are Joe Blacquerra and Grand Master George Pesare.
GM Pesare (February 18, 1939 – October 14, 2012) held a 10th degree Black Belt and is responsible for bringing Kempo Karate to New England and Quebec in Canada. Jean-Guy Angell is his student who continues the Kenpo tradition of GM Pesare in Quebec. GM Pesare began his martial arts career with Karazenpo-Go-Shinjutsu in 1958 with his instructor, Grandmaster Victor (Sonny) Gascon, one of the Kempo masters who co-founded the Karazenpo Go-Shinjutsu organization and style.
GM Cerio ( July 9, 1936 – October 7, 1998) learned kempo under GM Pesare and trained with such notables as Prof. Chow and GGM Ed Parker. This is the man that introduced the Okinawan Pinan series, Two Man Fist Set from Ed Parker’s Kempo system and the William Chun Sr. form Hansuki into the system. As well, he created a completely new version of two pinan and the forms Circle of Tiger, and Circle of Leopard and Circle of Panther. GM Cerio was ranked a 10th-degree black belt by the World Council of Sokes, a 9th Degree black belt from GGM Ed Parker in Kenpo and a 5th Degree by William K.S. Chow. All this knowledge and skill he developed into Nick Cerio’s Kempo. GM Cerio’s tradition continues in Quebec under the banner of Sun Fuki Studios. Frederick J. Villari studied under GM Cerio.
GM Villari trained under GM Nick Cerio to the rank of 2nd Degree black belt. He used the training he received from Nick Cerio, studies in kajukenbo, and other sources of Asian kung fu to create the system of Shaolin Kempo Karate and the majority of material after 2nd degree blackbelt. GM Villari formatted his teaching methods and business model quite successfully and was responsible for the opening of hundreds of martial art schools throughout the United States.
GM Charles Mattera studied Shaolin Kempo under Frederick Villari. He founded the United Studios of Self Defense. He has studied with the Shaolin Temple and was awarded grandmaster status in June 2000.
GM Steve DeMasco studied Shaolin Kempo under Frederick Villari and Charles Mattera. He continues to study with the Shaolin Temple and was awarded grandmaster status in June 2000.
Prof. Thomas Ingargiola studied under many notable masters including Frederick Villari, Steve DeMasco, and Prof. Feliciano Ferreira to name a few.
Prof. Ingargiola was promoted to Professor level in 2006 by Professor Feliciano Ferreira of Hawaii. He fought professionally and retired as the New York State Super-Welterweight kickboxing Champion (www.uskba.com).
He has developed many successful kick-boxers and mix martial artists (and many champions). He remains a highly sought after instructor of Shaolin Kempo Karate to present Shaolin Kempo to various martial arts clubs inside and outside of the Untied States.
Many high ranking black belts (including myself) travel to train with him regularly. Along with teaching Shaolin Kempo, he is currently employed by a security organization in the United States.