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    History of Kenpo

    The most widespread account of the origin of Chinese Martial Arts is credited to the 28th East Indian Patriarch of the Buddhist Faith named Tamo, also called Bodhidharma. His arrival in China is dated about 515-530 A.D. Upon Tamo's arrival in China, he found that the Canton Warlords had disarmed the general public, which left them completely defenseless against marauding bandits and other warring factions. Tamo made extensive travels within China endeavoring to teach the Zen philosophy i.e., that one must coexist with nature and the surrounding environment. His philosophy was basically rejected because it seemed unreasonable during wartime; thus he began teaching in seclusion at the Shaolin Monastery in the Hunan Province. As a result, his Zen doctrine became the foundation of study for Monk's within China's religious structure. Tamo introduced exercise to the Shaolin Monks to improve their fitness levels and taught the original 18 hand movements of the martial arts for both defense and offense.

    During the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368 A.D.) Chueh Yuan had increased the original 18 hand movements to 72. Chueh Yuan eventually became partners with Li Ch'eng and Pai Yu-feng and increased the number of movements from 72 to 170.

    Many of the styles taught today were founded and expanded on during the period called “The Golden Age of Martial Arts” by the Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Ch'ing (1644-1911 A.D.) Dynasties in China. Between 1609-1903 the greatest achievements were made in the Martial Arts. As a result, a variety of styles and systems emerged throughout Asia.

    Many Chinese began immigrating to the United States about 1840. James Masayoshi Mitose first introduced Kenpo Karate in Hawaii during the beginning of World War II. He opened the Official Self-Defense Club where he trained fellow servicemen and civilians.

    William K.S. Chow, who trained and taught with Mitose, is considered the modern-day founder of the Kenpo system. He was primarily a student of his father Hoon Chow, who taught him the Chinese ancestral art of Shaolin Ch'uan Fa, which had been passed down from Tamo. Chow incorporated many of the things his father had taught him into what he would be the first to call "Kenpo" (Fist Law) Karate. He began to alter Shaolin Ch'uan Fa to make it faster, more powerful, and oriented around street fighting situations. Chow began the transformation by shortening the circular motions and flowing movements. He continued by incorporating the linear movements, joint locks and takedowns learned in boxing, karate and jujitsu. Finally, he placed a major emphasis on the availability and targeting of vital parts of the human anatomy.  Chow had many distinguished students such as Edmund K. Parker (the Father of American Kenpo), Adriano Emperado (Founder of Kajukenbo) and Ralph Castro (the Great Grandmaster of Shaolin Kenpo). Parker and Castro respectively, are responsible for introducing Kenpo to the mainland.

    Castro first studied with Chow in 1955. He migrated to San Francisco in 1958. He received his black belt from Ed Parker in 1960 and opened his own school. He was a good friend and student of Parker’s for 26 years and received a 6th degree black belt from him. Castro stayed true to Chow’s teachings but expanded upon what he had learned, developing a system of key dances or forms. In 1981, at the approval of Chow, Castro began Shaolin Kenpo, to help distinguish his expanded art of Kenpo from other variations. Castro also received a 9th degree black belt from Chow.

    Lenny Beliso, (Professor, 8th degree under Alemany) began training with Castro in 1964. He became friends with another student, Rick Alemany, (8th degree under Castro, Grandmaster under ATAMA) and opened a small basement dojo in 1967. They both went on to open their own schools in 1970, earning reputations as two of the top named schools in San Francisco.

    Professor Brannon Beliso, head instructor of ONE Martial Arts, began his training at the age of five...

    • History of Kenpo Karate by Dr. James A. Tindall, President, of the USKKA
    • Shaolin Kenpo, A Modern style With A Traditional Influence (Inside Kung Fu, Jane Hollander 1982 )
    • The Changing faces of Shaolin Kenpo (Inside Kung Fu, Jeanne Capps, April 2000)
    • Master Sam Kuoho, Interview American Kenpo, USKKA web site Great
    • Grandmaster Ralph Castro (Conversations 2003)
    • Professor Brannon Beliso (Personal information and research)

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