Choki Motobu was born in Akahira village Shuri, the old capital of Okinawa, in 1871. He was born into a high-ranking family, his father was an aji or lord. Choyu Motobu, Choki’s elder brother, was educated and chosen to carry on the family’s martial tradition as education and privilege were reserved for the first-born son at that time. Because of this situation, Choki Motobu, the family’s third son, did not receive the privileges that his elder brother did and went looking for instruction elsewhere. Choki’s older brothers, however (particularly, as mentioned, Choyu Motobu, the eldest) were good karateka and he may have learned something of the art from them.
Choki Motobu trained himself every day, lifting stone weights and hitting the makiwara (striking post). He would strike the makiwara a thousand times a day. Motobu would sometimes sleep outside, (when he slept inside the dojo he would lie on the hard wooden floor, without a mattress), and if he woke up during the night, rather than turning over and going back to sleep he would get up and hit the makiwara. Motobu was also very agile and quick and he got the nickname “Motobu-saru” (Monkey Motobu) not only because of his rough behavior but also because of his remarkable agility in climbing trees and moving from branch to branch as nimbly as a monkey.
Choki Motobu’s idea of a good training session was to go down to Naha’s entertainment district and pick fights. This area was well known for street fighting and Motobu picked up valuable experience in this way. Being bigger and stronger than the average Okinawan he usually won these fights, but there was one occasion when he tackled a man called Itarashiki and was well beaten. This Itarashiki was a karate expert and the defeat only made Motobu more determined to train hard and learn more about karate.
Choki Motobu was able to get instruction from several leading experts, because of Motobu’s upper-class birth, many karate masters found it difficult to refuse him instruction. Motobu originally studied karate with the famous Ankoh Itosu, the leading master of Shuri-te. He later studied with Kosaku Matsumora and with Master Sakuma. However, Motobu’s karate always seemed to bear his own instinctive stamp, arising no doubt from his independent nature and his fighting experiences. He always emphasized practicality, and in time many people came to regard him as the best fighter on Okinawa. It was only after he moved to Osaka in 1921 that he became known in Japanese martial art circles. In 1924 he defeated Russian’s heavyweight champion in a bear-handed contest.
What brought Motobu to the attention of the Japanese was his victory over a Western boxer in a kind of all-comers challenge match. For the record, the story states that Motobu knocked the boxer unconscious. Choki Motobu was over 50 years old when he defeated the Western boxer! In 1932, Choki Motobu tried to go to Hawaii, and he was refused a visa. Speculation has it that it was as a result of his unsavory reputation. In 1936 Motubo and other great Okinawan karate masters had a meeting to discuss certain aspects of karate, including the character used in its writing it. This resulted that by 1937 the form of writing “KARATE” became standardized and has remain unchanged since.
In 1940, Choki Motobu returned to Okinawa and died there in 1944.
James” Masayoshi Mitose brought Kempo to Hawaii and taught first openly in 1942. Mitose was born in Hawaii on Dec. 30, 1916. The second child of his father Otokichi Mitose and mother Kiyoka Yoshida, James M. Mitose was sent to Japan as a child to live with his mother’s family and was schooled in his family’s art, Kosho-ryu Kenpo. Thus James Mitose became the 21st Great Grand Master of Kosho-ryu.
As the 1st born son of Kiyoko (Yoshida) Mitose, he was sent to Japan in 1920 along with his older sister, Kimie (b.1915), to live with his grandparents at the family temple on Mount Enbi, Japan. Mitose learned Rinni Zen Buddhism while studying the philosophies of the west, and like most Japanese, he was instructed in the national religion of Shinto. He was raised as a Buddhist minister – Shaolin Ch’uan fa or Shorin ji Kempo, as is pronounced in >Japanese, was part of his priesthood teaching. It happens that the term “Kenpo” means “law of the fist” or “Way of the fist” and is the Japanese way of pronouncing the Chinese ideograph representing the word “ch’uan fa”.
Mitose is most noted fbr his knowledge and teaching of the martial art kosho-ryu kempo, known today as kosho shorei-ryu kempo. There are two strong elements of his art, one Japanese, the other Okinawan. Kosh-ryu was the family art of the Mitose clan and was very jujitsu like, yet was also influence by Chinese Ch’uan fa. Following history we see that Mitose ancestors had traveled to China to learn the Buddhist religion, and while there they were taught shorinji kempo, the Japanese version of shaolin ch’uan fa. The Mitose family temple later became a center of martial arts, featuring not only ch’uan fa but elements of jujitsu, yarijutsu, naginatajutsu, kenjutsu and even ninjutsu. Generations later, James Mitose was taught kosho-ryu kempo at the family temple. Kosho-ryu is based on 12th century Shaolin ch’uan fa, which was basically a fist and palm art. These movements still had names like Tiger, Dragon, Snake, and Crane.
The other half of Mitose’s art came from Okinawa, a fact that he never acknowledged, because of his teachers bad reputation as a brawler. This was one of his maternal uncles the Okinawan karate Choki Motobu. Mitose was taught the Okinawan nai-han-chi (kata) form by Motobu.
James Mitose returned to Hawaii, in 1937, and formed the Official Self-Defense Club and taught from 1942 to 1946 where he promoted four people to Shodan (Black Belt). They are, in chronological order, Thomas Young, Jiro Nakamura, Arthur Keawe, and Paul Yamaguchi. He taught and introduced his kosho-ryu kempo jujitsu. One of his most apt black belt pupil was William K S Chow.
As written by James Mitose “What is self defense? Published in 1953
I come to you with only open hands,
Other weapons, I have not.
But should Right or Honor require it
My hands will bear me out
This was the Code of Honor used by the founders of Kenpo. Later modified by Ed Parker in the Creed we now use.
James Mitose left Hawaii in 1954 for the mainland United States where he would spend the remainder of his life, although he did take frequent trips to Japan.
For all practical purposes James Mitose would disappear from the Kenpo world until he was brought to trial and convicted of murder and extortion in 1974 and sentenced to Folsom prison. There the Great Grand Master of Kenpo would be discovered by Sylvester Ramacher, a Folsom prison guard and a black belt student of Steve Fox. Masayoshi Mitose died on March 27, 1981.
Note: William Kwai Sun Chow was promoted to Black Belt by Thomas Young (who signed his certificate), not by James Mitose; although Mitosi sanction the promotion.
William Kwai Sun Chow was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on July 3, 1914. William Chow was also known as “Thunderbolt” because of his incredible speed and power. He spent most of his life practicing and perfecting his martial arts; he became quite famous for his power and excellent memory of techniques.
It has been said by many that besides his Kenpo training with James Mitose, he also trained in Kung-fu. But no one can seem to verify this. One thing to note, Kung-fu, as many of you may know, derives its self-defense techniques from its forms (kata). William Chow never taught any Kung-fu forms.
William Chow, although promoted to Black Belt by Thomas Young, was one of James Mitose’s top students and a close friend. He left James Mitose in 1949, after becoming an instructor, and opened his own Kenpo school. It was William Chow who in 1949 coined the term “Kenpo Karate” to distinguish his system from James Mitose’s Kenpo Jiu-jitsu, although both styles were the same. Chow also felt Mitose system was to linear and so he introduced circular movements. William Chow then took the title “Professor” and renamed his system Go-Shinjitsu. Some twenty years later, William Chow renamed his system “Chinese Kenpo of Kara-Ho Karate.”
William Chow died in Honolulu on Sept. 21, 1987.
Note: James Mitose wrote about Go-Shinjitsu (Art of Self-Defense) in his first book “What is Self-Defense? Kenpo Jui-jitsu,” published in 1953. This book is now out of print.
Edmund Kealoha Parker was born in Hawaii on March 19, 1931, and raised a devout Mormon. He began his martial arts studies with judo, becoming a Black Belt at the age of fifteen, and excelling in amateur boxing as well. Ed Parker was introduced to William Chow and it was then he knew that “Kenpo would become my life’s work.” Parker continued to study with William Chow off and on, while attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, (going back to Hawaii periodically) and serving in the coast guard, stationed in Hawaii. He received his Black Belt from William Chow on June 5, 1953.
Parker opened his first school in Provo in 1954. Parker moved to Pasadena, California, in 1956. He remained in Pasadena, teaching the “Original” Kenpo he had learned from Chow, until 1960.
In 1961, with help from Kung-fu master James (Jimmy) Wing Woo, Parker developed “Traditional Chinese” Kenpo. Woo would develop most of the forms and sets which we now perform, with help from Parker’s first black belt James Ibrao and Parker himself. Parker also removed most of the Jiu-jitsu techniques including the falls and rolls. Parker then removed most of the self-defense techniques, from 600 for Godan or fifth-degree black belt (over 400 were required for Shodan or first degree black belt), down to 178 techniques in total for the entire new system, which is now referred to as “Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate.” Ed Parker was an incredible martial artist and innovator, and was a definite pioneer of martial arts in North America.
Edmund K. Parker died in Honolulu, Dec.15, 1990. The “Magician of Motion” and the father of “American Kenpo” will always be remembered and missed.
The Tracy brothers began their training in fencing, boxing, and wrestling. They began learning Kenpo from Ed Parker and his first Black Belt James Ibrao in 1957, while attending college as pre-law students. They developed a close relationship with Ed Parker. Ed Parker turned all the teaching of beginner and intermediate classes over to the Tracy brothers, who would develop an order in which the techniques would be taught, the advanced classes were run by James Ibrao. Al Tracy was the powerhouse of Ed Parker’s studio and did all the breaking demonstrations. The Tracy brothers ran Ed Parker’s studio when Ed Parker returned to Hawaii.
There has been question as to whether or not Al and Jim Tracy received their Black Belts (Shodan) from Ed Parker. In the Family Tree listed in the original “Infinite Insights”, by Ed Parker, you can see that Al and Jim Tracy are listed as Black belts under Ed Parker, first generation. They also have the largest number of Black Belts listed under their tree!
Alva A. Tracy was the fifth person promoted to Black Belt (Shodan) January 2,1962.
Jim Tracy was the sixth person promoted to Black Belt (Shodan) January 2,1962. Certificate dated January 7, 1962.
Will Tracy received his Black Belt (Shodan) in 1961, under both William K.S. Chow and Great Grand Master Fusae Oshita (James Mitose’s sister).
In the spring of 1962, the Tracy brothers opened their first studio in San Francisco, which was named Kenpo Karate Studio and was the northern branch of Ed Parker’s organization. It was there that the Tracy brothers created the three new Kyu ranks and the “colored belt system”. Ed Parker adopted the new 8-kyu system, but rejected the colored belts until finally converting to the Tracy color belt system in 1966. The Tracy brothers also created belt manuals (which contained 40 techniques per belt at that time) and gave the techniques names, like Attacking Circle, Raising the Staff, etc.
The Tracy brothers opened a second school, in Sacramento, in 1962, and a third, in San Jose, in 1963, and later changed the name of the schools to Tracy’s Kenpo Karate.
In 1964, the Tracy Brothers were promoted to 3rd Degree Back Belt (Sandan). Ed Parker turned the Kenpo Karate Association of America (KKAA) over to the Tracy brothers and then formed the International Kenpo Karate Association (IKKA). The Tracy brothers agreed to join the IKKA on the condition that they could keep the standards of teaching of the KKAA for their students.
The Tracy brothers later opened schools throughout California and other states and formed the Tracy’s International Studios of Self-Defense.
By 1982, Ed Parker had changed what he called American Kenpo, so much so as to make it in Parker’s own words, “no more than 15% Kenpo.” It was around this time that the Tracy’s completely broke from Ed Parker.
Thomas D. Dunne – Born in Chicago, Illinois and later moved to San Jose, California were he was introduced to Kenpo by Jim Tracy. Jim Tracy and Tom had met prior when they served on the Armed forces. Returning from duty Tom Dunne established a passion for Kenpo and trained with Jim and Al Tracy. After acquiring his black belt, reputation, and respect in the Martial Arts community. Tom Dunn introduced Chinese Kenpo to South Florida in 1968. He opened the first school in Biscayne Boulevard that actually started a chain reaction. His students consisted of people from all walks of life. By 1970 Tom Dunne has established seven Tracy’s Chinese Kenpo Schools in South Florida. After seeing Tom Dunne in a self defense presentation, the North Miami police department was so impressed, they asked him to instruct at the police academy. Tom Dunn founded and coached a tournament fighting team. The team competed under the name “The Miami Vice Team”. The team won by beating the 1st place and top ranking “Anheuser-Busch Team”. Tom Dunne’s positive enthusiasm and coaching produced more Kenpo Karate competition champions, instructors, and great martial artist than any other coach. With Toms’ thirst for knowledge and passion for Kenpo, he expanded his training with the top Kenpo Karate masters of our time, William Chow, and by Ed Parker.
For over 30 years Tom Dunne had, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, taught some of the best instructors that teach today in Chinese Kenpo schools across the country including World Champion Bart Vale. Bart Vale becoming his highest ranking black belt.
Tom Dunne has promoted Rich Berger, Tom Thomas, Steve Mishcan, Rick Cook, Glenn Mehlman, Ricky Alonso, Bart Vale, Jeff Roddey Anna Concepione, Danny Johnson
( the above list of Tom Dunne students was generated by Tom Thomas who was Tom Dunne 4th Student and a 3rd Degree Black Belt and Bart Vale who was Tom Dunne’s highest ranking student promoted to 5th Degree Black Belt) -9\10\08
Bart Vale began his training in kenpo karate in Miami in 1970 with Tom Dunne under the Al Tracy organization, eventually attaining a eighth degree. Bart Vale became an instructor in his own right, heading up a chain of 11 martial arts schools throughout south Florida. Bart Vale maintained a taste for the violent physical competition, fighting as a professional kick boxer, handling security for some of Miami’s tougher nightclubs, and even doing a brief stint as a pro football player in the now-defunct United States Football League (USFL). Vale’s quest for combat efficiency was finally fulfilled in the mid-1980s when professional wrestler and martial arts expert Masami Soranaka offered him the opportunity to train and compete in a new style that combined kickboxing with submission wrestling. He made his debut for the Japan-based Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) in 1988, traveling overseas practically every month to learn the grappling secrets of this new system and to fight in matches against Japan’s best.
Progressing rapidly through the sport thanks to his size and athleticism (during his football days Vale could bench-press more than 500 pounds and run a 4.6 40-yard dash), Vale eventually won the world championship in 1992, defeating one of his own instructors, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, for the crown. Word about Vale’s success spread quickly. He was the subject of a short feature story on MTV and was profiled in Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness magazines. He also stands out as one of the few martial artists to ever be featured in Sports Illustrated. Barts Vale Opponents reads as the whos who list in Martial Arts Fighting in events and tittle with Kazuo Yamazaki ( UWF “ENERGY”, 12/1/1990), Masakatsu Funaki (PWFG- 3/4/1991), Jerry Flynn (PWFG- 8/23/1991), Minoru Suzuki (PWFG – 10/17/1991), Yusuke Fuke (PWFG- 11/3/1991), Yoshiaki Fujiwara (PWFG – 1/15/1992), Kazuo Takahashi (PWFG- 2/24/1992), Alexsi Medbji (PWFG – 10/4/1992), Mike Bitonio (WCC 1 – First Strike 10/17/1995), Kazunari Murakami (Extreme Fighting 3 10/18/1996), Dan Severn (Collision at the Crossroads 3/25/2000), and Ken Shamrock (1/19/2004). Just to mention a few.
Not content to simply master his sport as a competitor, however, Bart Vale set about trying to popularize the system that had given him so much. With the help of Soranaka and Fujiwara, Bart Vale coined the term “Shootfighting” and registered the name as a trademark to describe the art, In the early 1990s the interest grew, and certain shoot-style organizations like Pancrase evolved into pure “shoot” organizations. Bart Vale set up the International Shootfighting Association to spread the system through affiliated gyms and martial arts schools throughout the United States and Europe. Currently, his ISFA (International Shootfighting Association) has more than 70 member schools around the world. In 2006 Black Belt Magazine recognized Bart Vale to the Hall of Fame Fighter of the Year.