Hawaii Karate Seinenkai
Masayoshi Mitose was born in 1916 in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. At the age of three, he was taken by family members to Kyushu, Japan. While in Japan, he is reported to have learned his family's martial art. When he returned to Hawaii in 1937, he used the name James M. Mitose. The adoption of a western first name was not unusual among nisei (second generation Japanese).
A 1942 Honolulu Advertiser advertisement for Mitose's
classes. Young and Chow were listed as the contacts.
It appears that Mitose began to teach "Kempo Jiu-Jitsu" in Honolulu in 1942. He had one class at the Nuuanu Y.M.C.A. and another at Kaheka Lane. His two primary assistants were Thomas S. H. Young and William K. S. Chow. Although he had many students, only a few were promoted to black belt. These included Thomas S. H. Young, William K. S. Chow, Jiro Nakamura, Paul Yamaguchi, Bobby Lowe, and Arthur Keawe. Mitose is reported to have taught the Okinawan kata known as Naihanchi Shodan. This kata was referred to by some students as the "Monkey Dance", probably a reference to Choki Motobu. Naihanchi was Motobu's signature kata.
Some of Mitose's students also cross-trained at the Danzan-Ryu JuJutso dojo of Henry Seishiro Okazaki.
In 1947, Mitose wrote his first book, entitled "What Is Self-Defense (Kempo Jiu-Jitsu)". As English was not Mitose's first language, he must have had considerable assistance from his students, many of whom appear in the book. It is said that Arthur Keawe had a major role in editing the book. Although the book was written in 1947, it was not published until 1953, under the revised title "What Is Self-Defense (Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu)". There were actually two versions of the book. The covers and introductory sections of the books differed. Mitose did not use the term "Kenpo Karate". It is believed that this term was first used by William H. Chow.
Mitose's book was republished in 1980.
Mitose appears to have taught a mixture of Ju Jutsu and basic, application oriented Karate. The makiwara section of his book is remarkably similar to the makiwara section of Choki Motobu's Watashi no Karate Jutsu (1932). The photograph of Motobu (with crossed arms) that appears in Mitose's book is from Watashi no Karate Jutsu. Motobu is described as "The great master of Karate Kenpo." The photograph of the "Master of Karate Kenpo demonstrating the breaking of tile, five pieces all at one punch" appearing on the same page is from Mizuho Mutsu's Karate Kenpo (1933). The "Master of Karate Kenpo" is none other than Kamesuke Higashionna, then of Toyo University. Higashionna's mother lived on the Big Island. He taught Karate there at various time before and after World War II. The photograph of "Daruma Before Emporer Wu or Butei" is also from Mizuho Mutsu's Karate Kenpo. Mutsu was originally a student of Gichin Funakoshi. However, he and Kamesuke Higashionna later became students of Motobu. They came to Hawaii in 1933 at Motobu's urging.
Mitose deserves recognition for several reasons. First, he openly taught his Kempo/Kenpo to students of any race. Karate in Hawaii at this time was generally restricted to the Okinawan community. Mitose also emphasized practical applications rather than kata. While this was common in Ju Jutsu, most Karate schools in Japan at that time were kata oriented. An exception to this was Motobu's Daidokan Dojo, which was also application oriented. Finally, Mitose's book is arguably the first Karate book ever written in English. Although he did not use the term "Karate", his art would certainly be characterized today as a form of Karate.
Mitose's students, particularly William H. Chow, taught many students. Chow's students included Adriano Emperado, Joe Emperado, Manny Delacruz, Ralph Castro, Ed Parker, and Masaichi Oshiro. Ed Parker is credited with spreading Kenpo Karate on the mainland. It is impossible to estimate how many Kenpo students worldwide trace their lineage to Mitose.
Mitose moved from Hawaii to California some time around 1953. The circumstances surrounding his departure are unclear. This article will not cover the events of his life after that time.
The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai recognizes James Mitose for establishing the art of Kempo/Kenpo in Hawaii.
Articles about Mitose:
- "What Is Self-Defense?" by James Mitose: Is There A Link To Choki Motobu? by Charles C. Goodin. Classical Fighting Arts, Issue #3, 2004. See Classical Fighting Arts Online.
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