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About Kajukenbo

The name Kajukenbo suggest long life, happiness, fist, and style. Invented in 1947 on the island of Oahu, Hawaii this art was the answer of the locals of the Palama settlements to defend themselves against local crime and sailors that would drink and pick fights. The founders of this art were Sijo (founder) Adriano Emperado, Peter Young Yil Choo, Joe Holck, Frank Ordonez, and Clarence Chang, who called themselves the Black Belt Society.


Introduction to the public came in 1950 with the opening of the Palama Settlement School. Training there was described as brutal and realistic. This attempt to imitate real life situations drove many early students away. However, the ones that remained became notoriously good fighters. It is said that these students were known for fighting in the streets with little provocation or reason.

Kajukembo moved to the mainland in 1960. Adriano Emperado had opened 12 schools across Hawaii after the Korean war begun. The art grew in popularity and he awarded a number of black belts. Four black belt students, Joe Halbuna, Charles Gaylord, Tony Ramos and Aleju Reyes, took the art to the mainland and began to teach it to others. Each of them opened a school in California.

Notable moments are:

  • 1969; Tony Ramos trained with Bruce Lee. He later developed his own style.
  • 1977; Aleju Reyes dies.
  • 1999; Tony Ramos dies.
  • Carlos Bunda once defeated TV star Chuck Norris in competition, breaking his groin protector (cup).

Kajukenbo or Kajukembo?

Since this fighting style was partially influenced by Kenpo (or Kempo), the spelling often uses the "N" or "M" similarly. There really is no difference however, as both spellings refer to the same art.

Other influences of this martial art include karate, boxing, kung-fu, ju-jistu and judo. Kajukembo incorporates joint breaking, combination attacks, low blows, knife defense, defense from guns and other weapons. There are some competitive elements but it's main focus is on realism and practicality. "Unfair" moves such as strikes to the eyes or groin are perfectly acceptable. The theory is whatever the student needs to do to get away or reach safety is perfectly acceptable.

This "no nonsense" approach to martial arts is what seperates Kajukembo from other martial arts. Flashy moves and "fluff" are generally not incorportated into the training programs. Although, other traditions are maintained. For instance, an important part of some kajukembo classes is the Kajukenbo Prayer, written by Frank Ordonez. Many classes will end training sessions with a reference to the Kajukembo trinity. This is denoted by spirit, mind, and body (each with their own hand sign). After referencing the trinity, students and instructors will open their hands to represent peace and bow their heads in respect.

Cardio conditioning and functional strength are emphasized in training sessions. Real life situations are emphasized and often described as brutal and realistic. Kajukembo and Kravmaga share this same philosophy. While many other types of martial arts focus on sport or tranquility, this is not what you'll find in this training regimine. This type of training helps prepare students for practical situations that are much more likely to happen in everyday situations.

This does not mean that children or others not interested in more realistic training cannot participate. Many schools have differentiated their training style, which is a common theme amongst schools. Like other martial arts, belt ranking systems are used and students can compete in tournaments, demonstrations and more.

Benefits of Kajukenbo

  • No nonsense form of self-defense
  • Cardiovascular training
  • Strength trainingk
  • Stress reduction
  • Confidence and discipline

Kajukenbo Videos