Kenpo was brought to Hawaii shortly after the turn of the century by Great Grand Master Kiyoka Komatsu. In 1920 her 3 year old son, James Mitose, was sent to Japan where he was raised by his maternal grandfather, Great Grand Master Sakuhi Yoshida. There he studied Kenpo and became the first Mitose to Master the Komatsu/Yoshida art of Kenpo. His father, Otokichi Mitose, never trained in Kenpo, or any martial art for that matter, and since his son was sent to Japan when he was only 3 years old, Otokichi Mitose had no influence on his training. James Mitose returned to Hawaii after his father's death in 1936, then after the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, James Mitose began openly teaching what he called Kempo Ju-Jitsu, though the spelling was later changed to Kenpo Jiu Jitsu. Great Grand Master James Mitose, was the ranking Kenpo master in Hawaii in 1942, and with the exception of his sisters, Great Grand Master Fusae, and Shizue, the other eight Kenpo Grand Masters, and four Masters, did not teach openly. However, Grand Master Sadake Takamori and Grand Master Matsuichi Yamashito did teach exclusively to close members of the Hawaiian Japanese community. Mitose retired in 1953, and his Head Instructor (and first Shodan), Thomas Young, took over his club. This left Shizue and Fusae as the ranking Great Grand Masters of Kenpo, but neither taught openly as their brother had. In 1959, Fusae took on a single non Japanese student, and awarded him the rank of Shodan/Instructor and then Sandan in 1961.
NOTE:"Kenpo", while spelled with an N is pronounced Kempo (with an M); and either kenpo or kempo is acceptable. The general rule for Japanese to English translation is, when N is followed by P, the N is pronounced M. There are some who claim the spelling was changed from Kenpo to Kempo by one master or another. This is true. Some instructors wanted to distinguish their style from Kenpo, and some changed from Kempo to Kenpo when they learned what the more acceptable spelling was. Often, however, Mitose's students spelled Kenpo as Kempo, because that's the way is sounded.
One of Mitose's top students was William, "Willy", K. S. Chow, who became Mitose's second Shodan (black belt) and Assistant Instructor; although Chow was actually promoted to Shodan by Thomas Young who was Mitose's first Shodan. After being promoted to the rank of Instructor William K. S. Chow taught with Mitose and Young until mid 1949 (May/June), when he opened his own Kenpo club and called his style, "Kenpo Karate". In doing so, Chow is rightfully credited as being the founder of Kenpo Karate, although the term, Kenpo Karate, had probably been used as early at the 1920 in promoting karate demonstrations.
By adopting Kenpo Karate, Chow distinguished his system from Mitose's Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu. Kenpo Karate and Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu where, however, virtually identical except for forms, or katas. There were no forms in Chow's Kenpo Karate, while Kenpo Ju-Jitsu had four katas, Nihanchi 1 & 2, the Bear Kata and Old Man Kata.
Paul Yamaguchi had originally trained with Henry Okazaki before going to James Mitose, where William Chow was his instructor. When Chow opened his own club in 1949, Yamaguchi went with him and received his Shodan from Chow in 1950. Mitose, however, refused to recognize the rank, and Yamaguchi went back to study with Mitose where he received his Shodan that same year, and two years later, (1952) he received the rank of Head Instructor.
This was a blow to Chow, as Paul Yamaguchi, his student, now had a higher rank (Head Instructor) while he was only an Instructor. But there was more. Not only was Yamaguchi a higher rank than Chow, but Mitose had refused to recognize Chow's Shodan rank. A Shodan could promote Shodan's because Shodan was the only Kenpo black belt rank at the time. However, only Mitose could make a Shodan an Instructor. Chow avoided this instructor problem by taking the title "Professor", which is the title Professor James Mitose had given himself.
Chow then renamed his system, "Go-Shinjutsu", (sometimes spelled Go-Shinjitsu) which he said was the name Daruma had called his original system in 525 A.D. The name is, of course, Japanese, but Go-Shinjutsu is the name Professor Chow used on the 1953 Shodan certificate of his top student, Masaichi Oshiro. Oshiro, however, received his Instructor rank from Mitose, which was granted without the objection Mitose had to Yamaguchi. It should also be noted that James Mitose used the term Go Shinjutsu to mean the Art of self-defense and Mitose only attributes the Kenpo style, and not the name Kenpo to Daruma.
NOTE: Mitose's title was "Professor" Grand Master, Great Grand Master and the like are not titles in Kenpo, but are used as signs of generational respect. Mitose only called himself "Professor" while he was teaching in Hawaii. Once he moved to the Mainland he developed the "Master" ranking.
Adriano (Sonny) Emperado was Professor Chow's top student when he and his brother Joe Emperado left Chow in late 1950 to create "Kajukenbo" with Frank Ordonez, P.Y.Y. Choo, Joe Holck and Clarence Changhis. Ed Parker began his Kenpo training with Sonny Emperado where he trained for two weeks before going to learn from Professor Chow in 1952.
NOTE: Professor Chow continued to call his system Go-Shinjutsu into the 1960's and made a slight change in the name to "Go-Shinjutsu kai" (kai meaning school) in 1959, and that was the name that appeared on my 1961 Shodan certificate. Some time later Professor Chow began to use the name "Kara Ho Kenpo", and although some of his later students would claim Kara Ho was Chow's original system, Professor Chow did not call his system Kara Ho when I studied with him, and there is nothing in writing that uses Kara Ho before the 1970's. My 1965 Godan certificate signed by Professor Chow awarded me "Kenpo Karate Godan Hawaii Go-Shinjutsu Kai".
There has been a great deal of criticism of James Mitose's Kenpo abilities. If, as some claim, Mitose was so inept, then one has to ask why so many of Henry Okazaki's students came to train with Mitose. Okazaki and Mitose were close friends, and Okazaki is, even today, considered to be one of the greatest Jiu Jitsu instructors in Hawaii. Both Professor Chow and Sonny Emperado have told me that Mitose was the best Jiu-Jitsu instructor in Hawaii. It would be wise for those who claim a Kenpo heritage to heed the claims of those who know, and put aside their petty disdain for someone who was not their instructor, and about whom they have no personal knowledge.
There is an obscure insight into Mitose told me by his sister, and that is that Mitose founded the White Tigers at the beginning of the Second World War and was held in high esteem and honor by the United States government for this.
Another Mitose Shodan, Edward "Boddy" Lowe had originally trained with Okazaki before going with Mitose. In 1952 he became a devoted student of Mas Oyama, and trained with him in Japan before returning to Hawaii where he opened the first Kyokushin Kai (school) in 1959.
In March 1953 another Young/Mitose Shodan, Paul Pung, was promoted to Head Instructor by Mitose, and moved to San Francisco where he opened the "Paul's Karate" school. This was the first commercial Kenpo school (Mitose style) on the mainland. Paul's Karate had its own building and was open to the public and held classes four nights a week.
NOTE: The first commercial Karate school in the United States was founded by Robert Trias in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1946, and the first karate organization was the United States Karate Association (USJA), founded by Trias in 1948. There was some controversy over who had the first commercial karate school in the United States until the late 1970's. This was mostly fueled by Ed Parker students who were claiming Ed Parker was the first to teach on the Mainland. That argument was put to rest the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, stepped forward and stated that he had begun training with Trias in 1947.
That same year, (1953) Paul Yamaguchi opened his own club in Hawaii, and called his system "Shin-Shin Kenpo".
NOTE: Paul Pung, not Ed Parker, was the first to open a commercial Kenpo school on the mainland which was in 1953. Ed Parker was still in the Coast Guard until August, 1954 and did not start teaching commercially until 1956. Again, many ignorant Ed Parker students make the false claim that Ed Parker was the first.
In 1955, Masaichi Oshiro left Professor Chow and opened the "Go-Shin-Kenpo Club", which was a variation of Professor Chow's Go-Shinjutsu Club; and the following year, (1956) he changed the name to the "Te-Ken Jutsu Kai," (hand-fist jutsu school).