Kenpo History In America
THE AMERICAN PERIOD
21st Great Grand Master of Kenpo/Kosho-Masayoshi James Mitose (12-30-1916 to 3-26-1981)
Kosho Ryu Kempo (Old Pine Tree Style Kempo)
Kenpo would be introduced for the first time to the USA thru the Territory of Hawaii February 7, 1937, over 700 years after it was first introduced to Japan and the Yoshida ancestors. For the first time, this art (especially Kenpo: Fist Law, The War Arts) would be taught to people who were not “blood” related! Also, for the first time in over 700 years, the Yoshida name would not be that of the Great Grand Master. Although Mitose was blood-related, he did not carry the Yoshida name.
As the firstborn son of Kiyoko, Masayoshi was sent to Japan on October 22, 1920, along with his older sister Kimie (b. 1915), to live with his grandparents. Once there, starting at age 5, Masayoshi was trained for 17 years and was educated to assume the responsibility and obligation of becoming the 21st Great Grand Master. At the age of 14, he became the 21st Great Grand Master in the family system of Kosho Ryu Kempo.
Masayoshi James Mitose Creed 1937
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.
Mitose began teaching at the Beretania Mission in Honolulu when in 1942 he organized the Official Self-Defense Club.
The purpose was to teach the true meaning of self-defense. This organization lasted until Mitose retired from teaching in 1953 and was then turned over to the capable hands of Thomas Young, Mitose’s first Shodan. At the time of Mitose’s departure for the US mainland in 1953, he had granted six black belts plus his sister Kimie Mitose. They were, Thomas Young, William Chow, Paul Yamaguchi, Arthur Keawe, Edward Lowe and Lisa Chung (Edwards) the first lady of Kenpo.
Mitose was the last of his bloodline and did not leave a successor, even though there are claims to that effect. It does not matter, as I am only concerned with my lineage.
Grand Master of Kenpo Karate and Kara Ho Kenpo-William K. S. Chow (7-3-1914 to 9-21-1987)
Chow began his study with Mitose in 1940 at the YMCA in Honolulu. There is some question as to the Kung Fu connection alleged by some coming from his father having been a Shaolin Priest or at least his father and passing it down thru the family. Of his three brothers who did teach various forms of martial arts, none of them taught Kung Fu or ever claimed their father taught them. This would later be verified that Mitose was Chow’s only Sifu by Lisa Chung Edwards, a classmate of Chow, in a conversation with Steve Finn in 1993 at the Tracy Lexington, KY school. Chung Edwards is the only woman in the Mitose book “What is Self Defense?”. When asked if Chow’s father taught him, Kung Fu? She laughed and said that Willie (Chow) told her that he had only one Sifu and that was James Mitose.
Chow would become a great warrior, but he was no general. He had an uncanny gift for remembering every self-defense technique he had been taught. But that was not enough, he took each new self-defense technique and would spend hours working it with different partners practicing and perfecting and refining each one. He would then use the streets of Honolulu as the final testing ground. While he was not very tall (5’2”) he was extremely powerful. He had great breaking ability and his hours of practice on the Makawara helped develop this power. He became an excellent instructor but again, he was not a leader. He was a hard man to get to know because he had very few close friends. This was one of the reasons why each of his advanced students would reach a certain level of proficiency and leave.
Chow learned at an early age never to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For this reason, he was able to keep out of trouble with the police and except for a few fights, had no police record. With no police record, no social security number, no draft record and no permanent address, he did not exist. During the war he simply fell thru the cracks. During this period Chow and Mitose would develop a closer relationship than many realized. This did not mean that they were never great friends; their worlds were too far apart for them to have much in common except Kenpo. For a period of time, Chow actually lived with and worked for Mitose.
Chow spent most of his time training with Mitose and hanging out at Henry S. Okazaki’s Jujitsu dojo. Okazaki had so many students that in 1946 he had to build his own gym in Honolulu called the Hawaiian-Jujitsu Guild. After the name changed many times, it finally became the American Jujitsu Institute of Hawaii. Okazaki died in 1951 and was succeeded by Sig Kufferath, who was a wealth of information on Mitose as he knew him longer than anyone. Kufferath died in 1989.
During Chow’s lifetime, he received very little credit or recognition for his important role in all the systems based upon Kenpo/Kempo. Outside of the Kenpo community, he was relatively unknown. He never had a dojo of his own. He taught out of YMCA’s, boys clubs and recreation halls and a few private students he taught in the park.
He did teach from his heart. His warrior spirit never left him. To Chow, Kenpo was a war art. It was pure Martial Arts. He would never compromise. He understood there is no sport in a street fight. He had been in too many. There are no rules, no referees, and no time out. The rules of self-defense techniques: simple, direct, fast, powerful and effective.
Shortly before his death, he renamed his system Kara Ho Kenpo so that no one would forget that Kenpo is a Chinese Art-Not anything else, except the 700 years in Japan tells another story.
Grand Master of American Kenpo Karate-Edmund K. Parker (3-19-1931 to 12-19-1990)
When Parker was about 8 years old, his father got him started in the Okazaki Judo lineage. Later he got into boxing. Most boxing was done at the YMCA and Boys Clubs. As a teenage boxer, Parker remembered there was always someone older, bigger and more experienced who wanted to use you as a punching bag. One day when one of the big guys would not back off, he took him down to the ground-gloves and all and choked him out. He was asked not to come back.
Parker’s first real training in the Martial Arts was from a fellow church member, Frank Chow. Chow taught out of the Mormon Rec. Center. It wasn’t long before Chow recognized the potential of the tough young Hawaiian and recommended that he study with his brother, William Chow.
Parker began his training with William Chow in about 1949. He would divide his training with Chow and his tour of duty in the Coast Guard. He would be home by 3:00 PM every day and would go to Chow’s home for private lessons. Parker would go down to the galley before leaving the ship and the Cook would give him food they had not used, usually eggs, bacon, and bread. Parker would take them to the Chow home and Chow’s wife Patsy would prepare a meal for them while Chow gave Parker a private lesson outside their home, and he would attend group classes wherever Chow was teaching at the time.
Parker had learned to keep excellent records. He would write down everything on 3 x 5 cards that Chow had taught him. Then he would file them in a metal card file. Parker would carry a briefcase in later years and be always writing things down and keeping records.
Parker never trained with the Emperado Brothers as has been written by others He went to BYU to go to school in 1953 the same year he received his Shodan from William Chow. While there he began teaching students from various law enforcement agencies in 1954. Two years later he was opening up the first commercial martial arts school in America in South Gate and Pasadena. I believe the South Gate school was a defunct Aikido school that Parker took over. How long this school was open, I do not know. But I do know it was there and my instructor began his training there in 1956.
In 1960-61 while researching his book “The Secrets of Chinese Karate”, Parker met Jimmy Lee and James Wing Woo in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He would talk Woo into coming and living with him in Pasadena while they collaborated on his second book “The Secrets of Chinese Karate”. There was a sharing of information and students and when the book came out in 1961 there was some disagreement between Parker and Woo, Woo left. Most of the senior students went with Woo. This troubled Parker greatly.
Undaunted, Parker forged ahead changing and improving what Chow had taught him. “Expanding his alphabet of moves to form new words”, as he would put it. During the mid-’60s thru his death in 1990, he ran the most successful tournament, perhaps in the world, “The International Kenpo Karate Championships”. He also expanded Kenpo throughout the world. He was truly the “Father of American Karate” and responsible for Kenpo being in numerous other countries as well. Ed Parker did not leave a successor to his American Kenpo system when he died and what resulted from that was a multitude of Kenpo systems springing up. The one thing that is certain is that Edmund K. Parker has influenced them all.
Edmund K. Parker Creed 1956
I come to you with only Karate, empty hands. I have no
weapons but should I be forced to defend myself, my
principles or my honor, should it be a matter of life or
death, of right or wrong; then here are my weapons,
karate, my empty hands.
Grand Master of Sam Pai Kenpo and 3 Shields Kenpo-Joseph L. Dimmick (12-26-1936 to 8/23/2023)
In 1956 in a converted Aikido school, Dimmick began his study of Kenpo with Ed Parker. I believe Charlie Sullivan was also a student at this school also. Soon it was merged into the Pasadena school and Dimmick joined the others who had started that same year but in Pasadena. He studied with Parker for over 16 years.
Dimmick received his Shodan in Sep 1962. He then began studying two other forms of martial arts at the same time. They were a combination of Hung Gar and Choy Li Fut from Ted Lai of the California Kung Fu Karate Association. On 6-10-1965 Dimmick received a Black Belt in Kung Fu and in that same year received a Black Belt in Chito Ryu Karate. Still studying with Parker, Dimmick opened his own school in Downey, CA in late 1965.
In 1972 Dimmick left the Parker organization after 16 years and formed the California Sam Pai Kenpo Association. Sam Pai refers to the 3 Shields, which are the basis for our fighting defense. Sam Pai is basically Kenpo with elements of Hung Gar/Choy Li Fut and Chito Ryu.
Over the years, Dimmick created 16 katas and revised 4 Parker forms in the same vein of constant change. Dimmick like Parker was always looking for a better, more efficient way of self-defense. So much so that when Dimmick changed the name of the system in 2000 from Sam Pai to 3 Shields Kenpo, the center character, or konji in the 3 Shields Patch is “Change”.
With the "Change" came a major change in the system when Dimmick eliminated all traditional forms from Short 1 thru Form 7 and all in-between. There are freestyle “forms” called Fighting Warrior Sets 1-7 and self-defense “forms” made up of the techniques in each level called Defending Warrior Sets 1-12 thru 5th-degree black. This once again, streamlined the system and all non-essential moves were eliminated. Then the early 2000s all forms were eliminated, only one Kenpo Master Form replaced them. This form is never done the same twice, but changes with each performance.
On April 4, 1986, Dimmick was awarded the rank of Judan, 10th Degree Black Belt by the Sam Pai Kenpo Black Belt Committee. Dimmick kept in close contact with Mr. Parker up to the time of his death and was on very good terms. Both Mr. Dimmick and I attended Mr. Parker’s funeral to pay our final respects.
Joseph L. Dimmick Creed 2000
I come to you with 3 Shields Kenpo.
I follow the path of humility and kindness.
I choose harmony and tranquility, but
should I be forced to defend myself, my
principals or my honor, should it be a
matter of life or death, or right or wrong,
then here are my weapons, 3 Shields Kenpo.
Grand Master of 7 Winds Kenpo-Michael J. Persons (8-9-1946 to Present)
On February 6, 1966, I walked into the Downey Dojo, and it would forever change my life. May 3, 1972, I was tested for Shodan by Mr. Parker with Mr. Dimmick conducting the test. Four others and I passed our test that day and became 1st Degree Black Belts. Then later that year, Mr. Dimmick formed his own organization as I mentioned above and called it called California Sam Pai Kenpo Association. He had previously opened a second school in Fountain Valley, CA.
Over the years I have also created 27 katas and revised the Beginner Staff Set when Mr. Dimmick eliminated it from 3 Shields Kenpo. I continue to teach all of the Parker forms, Dimmick forms, and my forms. This is the difference between 3 Shields Kenpo and 7 Winds Kenpo. I still feel a need to teach this part of the art. I also teach the Fighting Warrior Sets. In this way, I try to honor what my instructor created and what his instructor created.
Janauary 1972 I began a study of botanical medicine and have had excellent results with everything from chickenpox to tonsillitis. I have also created a liniment, which became Soothe Herbal Liniment and is used for bruises, strains, and tension.
In May 1996 I was promoted to Judan, 10th Degree Black Belt by Grand Master Dimmick, along with Andre’ Ouellette. We had the distinction of being Grand Master Dimmick’s highest-ranking black belts at the time. Then in Jan 2002 Grand Master Dimmick also promoted Richard Post to Judan. We are considered to be Senior Masters of the Art in 3 Shields Kenpo. With this distinction, Grand Master Dimmick has allowed us to share the rank even though he is still number one. This is in keeping with the Yoshida history of Kenpo when there was more than one Grand Masters living at the same time even though this is not why he did it.
Grand Master Dimmick was my teacher, inspiration and friend for 57 years. 7 weeks after the release of my Revised Edition of Sam Pai Kenpo, Joe Dimmick passed away. He is immortalized through his Martial Arts contributions, his students and family. He is deeply missed and forever in our hearts and minds.
Michael J Persons-7 Winds Kenpo Creed 2-2002
I come to you with only 7 Winds Kenpo.
I am sworn to Honor and Valor.
My heart knows only Truth.
My hand defends the innocent.
My might upholds the weak.
My word speaks only Truth.
My wrath undoes the wicked.
My sheilds are Truth, Honor and Valor.
God, Family and Country...7 Winds Kenpo.