Although Bruce Lee is oftentimes referred to as the father of MMA, his Jeet Kune Do was not the first hybrid martial art. This honor should go to Kajukenbo, a hybrid martial art created by 5 martial artists from different styles in 1947. These men were Adriano Emperado, Peter Choo, Joe Holck, Frank Ordonez, and Clarence Chang. Each of these men was an expert in one of more of the following Martial Arts, Boxing, Karate, Judo, Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Western Boxing, Kenpo, or Kung Fu.
Kajukenbo the first American hybrid martial art
Because Kajukenbo was created in Hawaii it is considered to be an American martial art.
When these 5 men created this new art, they decided to eliminate any techniques which did not work consistently in real street encounters. Training was super hard core, and the saying was that there was no real training unless “there was blood on the floor”. While many forms and katas were taught, the focus was primarily on self-defense and included weapons training.
However, when this style became popular in California, many schools were opened and became successful in upscale neighborhoods, and the style came to be taught to kids of all ages. “Soccer moms” did not want their kids to train any real contact or have to endure any hard training.
Many of us who, like myself, have been involved in martial arts for many years, did not realize that, before the movie “The Karate Kid” came out, practically all martial arts students were adults, but after the movie, most students were kids. The result was that most traditional martial arts became more or less watered down, and this even affected some non-traditional martial arts.
Kazukenbo also changed a lot in the US starting in the 1960’s due to the influence of Al Dacascos, a famous martial artist and movie star, who trained many different styles, and had a background in Kung Fu. The main founder of Kajukenbo, Adrian Emperado, was fascinated with Al’s incorporation of Chinese martial arts techniques, and incorporated many forms from Kung Fu into his Kajudenbo. Also, in many schools instructors came to be called Sifus instead of Senseis, despite continuing to wear japanese Gis and being awarded belt ranks.
Kajukenbo’s emphasis on self defense and incorporation of modern techniques
More recently, many schools have added techniques from BJJ,and have also included some techniques from Muay Thai, included the low Thai kick, so that some Kajukenbo schools came to resemble MMA gymns in some respects.
However, In Kajukenbo, unlike MMA, there are no rules or forbidden techniques, and students also train with and against weapons including escrima sticks and knives. They also teach self defense against an attacker armed with a gun and train defense against multiple attackers. Because Kajukenbo is a mixture of many arts but has no rules, and is intended to address the issue of multiple attackers and weapons, it can be thought of as “MMA for the street”.
I was originally skeptical of hybrid martial arts, but due to the fact that my Balintawak instructor, a very athletic and serious martial arts practitioner, also teaches Kajukenbo, I eventually tried to learn as much as I could about this art.
The videos shown above depict demonstrations by some top high level Kajukenbo experts.
Joe Diaz, a 7 degree black belt, and Dany Gomez, a black belt instructor from Madrid, both show very impressive speed, power, and flow, with excellent form for both boxing and kicking techniques, as well as open hand, hammer fist, and elbow techniques. These are put together with takedowns and stand up grappling in very unique and creative ways.
This style emphasizes long, flowing combinations of techniques, toughness, power, speed, and fighting spirit.