Kajukenbo is the first truly American karate system, having been founded in what was then the U.S. territory of Hawaii. In 1947, Five Hawaiian martial arts Masters, calling themselves the “Black Belt Society” started on a project to develop a comprehensive self-defense system. Lead by Adriano Emperado, he received extensive training (5th degree black belt) from William K.S. Chow and James Mitose, the founders of Kenpo.
Kajukenbo was developed purely with street self-defense in mind. However, forms (kata) and step sparring (movements with a partner) were included as a learning tool and a way to maintain the system. These kata are based on Japanese Pinan Forms but may vary according to the instructor’s background. In other words, Kajukenbo did not create new forms, but kept those from the contributing styles. Emperado named his forms “The Palama Sets” after Oahu’s notorious Palama district, where Kajukenbo originated.
Kajukenbo is an eclectic (composed of elements drawn from various sources) style, thus techniques will vary with the instructor’s background. Since Kajukenbo selects what appears to be the best from various styles, students will practice what is best for their own individual strengths, physical and mental state.
Unlike traditional styles, which are extremely dogmatic, Kajukenbo allows the student to select what is best for them. Students are cautioned not to make this judgment until they can adequately determine their own needs and capabilities. Normally the search for individuality begins after achieving the first black belt. The weakness of the eclectic approach is a tendency toward fragmentation. Thus, in recent years there have been more effort to standardize Kajukenbo techniques. The student is taught a strong set of basic techniques from which to develop a personal set of techniques after much practice.
Kajukenbo self-defense techniques are characterized by a rapid combination of hand and foot strikes, judo type throws, joint locks and holds. The combinations are arranged so that each technique sets up the following technique, by following the reaction of the opponent’s body.
Kajukenbo lends itself to the needs of various segments of society, be they men, women, children, the differently abled, or the weak.