Author Topic: The Influence of Jujitsu and Judo on the Early Development of Kajukenbo Part 1  (Read 1190 times)

Offline Mitch Powell

  • Senior Black Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • ***
  • Posts: 820
The Influence of Jujitsu and Judo on the Early Development of Kajukenbo
By Mitch Powell (Part 1 of 7)

During the time period from 1947 through 1949, Adriano Emperado, Joseph Holck, Peter Choo, Frank Ordonez, and George Chang began secretly training together combining and comparing their knowledge of karate, jujitsu, judo, kenpo, and boxing (Chinese and American) in a collaboration that would later be credited as the founding of the martial art called Kajukenbo (Bishop, 2008C). While much more work was needed after that time period to create the actual art of Kajukenbo, to include its protocols, fundamentals, forms, and the name Kajukenbo in the later part of the 1950s (, this initial phase of development, which I call the collaboration period, is the starting point of the development of Kajukenbo.

Over the years a lot has been written about Adriano Emperado’s kenpo-karate being used as the base art in the development of Kajukenbo, but outside of acknowledging Frank Ordonez and Joseph Holck for their contribution of jujitsu and judo, not a lot of information has been provided about the influence of grappling on the development of Kajukenbo, especially as it relates to those who handed the knowledge down over time. In an effort to better under the influence of jujitsu and judo on the early development of Kajukenbo, and to credit those who provided the grappling knowledge that found its way into the art, I have researched the grappling information available pertaining to the Kajukenbo founders and their teachers.

In doing so, I focused on the collaboration period of 1947 through 1949, because the knowledge the founders possessed at that time would have been the knowledge used in the earliest development of Kajukenbo. I began the process by identifying the known jujitsu and judo teachers of the Kajukenbo founders up to the year 1949. I decided to use 1949 instead of 1947, which is the year the group began their collaboration, because several of the Kajukenbo founders continued to train in other arts while at the same time contributing to the development of Kajukenbo.

As an example; Ordonez and Choo both trained in Danzan-ryu jujitsu and kenpo-karate after the group began their collaboration ( Choo also continued to box in the ring until 1952, knocking our Pacific Area Navy champ Willy Grant in 1947, and winning the South Sector Army Pacific lightweight crown in 1950 (, 2016C).

Holck continued to train in Danzan-ryu jujitsu and didn’t begin actual formal Kodokan judo training until1948, a year after the collaboration period began (Bishop, 2008F). Emperado not only trained in kenpo-karate under Chow during the collaboration period but also taught kenpo-karate classes for Chow (Bishop, 2003), and taught students of his own like Marino Tiwanak, the founder of C.H.A. 3 Kenpo-Karate (


During my research I discovered the jujitsu lineage of Kajukenbo founders Ordonez, Choo, and Holck can all be traced to Yoshin-ryu jujitsu and Master Yoshimatsu Tanaka through their exposure to Danzan-ryu jujitsu and Professor Henry Okazaki. In addition, Kajukenbo founder Emperado’s jujitsu lineage can be traced to kempo-jujitsu and Professor James Mitose through Emperado’s exposure to Mitose by way of Professor William Chow.


In providing an overview of the jujitsu styles that may have influenced the grappling found in the early development of Kajukenbo, I believe it’s important to first define what is jujitsu? The actual origins of jujitsu are unknown but it is believed to be over 2500 years old. Early records show the art was practiced in Japan, China, Persia, Germany, and Egypt. It is believed to have evolved from the battlefields during the 8th century where it was refined and given names ( During the Muromachi Period in Japan (1333-1573) the art was routinely being practiced and taught as a means of unarmed combat against armed assailants. The art eventually evolved into styles such as Yoshin-ryu and Tenshin (Tenjin) Shinyo-ryu and focused on teaching the principle of yielding, which means using the attacker’s momentum against them during an attack. In addition to learning this principle students were taught techniques that feature joint locks, pinning an opponent, throws, and chokes (, 2016).


Ordonez, Choo, Holck, and Emperado have recorded jujitsu backgrounds up to or through the collaboration period. While there is no record of Chang having a background in jujitsu records do show Chang enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 26, 1946, where Chang completed army basic training (, 2016C). During army basic training in the 1940s, Chang would have been exposed to jujitsu as part of the army’s hand-to-hand combat training (Quitney, 2012). Chang’s completion of army basic training occurred prior to the collaboration period, so Chang, too, would have had at least some background in jujitsu. Like Chang, Emperado, Holck, Choo, and Ordonez all enlisted in the U.S. Army in the 1940s during or immediately after WWII (, 2016A,B,D,E) and would have been exposed to the same jujitsu training as Chang. In each case that training occurred prior to the collaboration period. In Holck’s case, his grappling skills were recognized right away which led to him becoming a hand-to-hand combat instructor in his own army basic training class (Bishop, 2008F).


The following is a detailed review of the known jujitsu lineages of Kajukenbo founders Ordonez, Choo, Holck, and Emperado as well as brief biographies on all the known jujitsu teachers within each founder’s line. I apologize for not going into further detail on the biographies. In some cases that is due to the limited information found. In other cases, I simply wanted to remain focused on the point of this research, which is to identify the jujitsu styles that may have influenced the early development of Kajukenbo and those teachers who provided that information to the Kajukenbo founders.   

Continued on part 2...
Powell's MMA Academy (KSDI#549)
Grandmaster Mitch Powell (Emperado Method)
(707) 344-1655