The Hawaiians

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Hawaiian Girls Sport Karate History

The Hawaiians

This document was sent as e-mail to a student who wanted real history and not something put together not by ego or fabricated by politics.  They wanted truth!!!! Only a few Hawaiian martial artists get to leave the home of aloha to the mainland But the ones who left and came have made a major impact on the martial arts community.

What does Ed Parker, the founder of American Kenpo, Wally Jay, the founder of Small Circle Jujitsu, William Chow, the founder of Kara-Ho Kempo, Adriano Emperado, the founder of Kajukenbo, and karate champion’s Mike Stone, Al Dacascos, John Nativdad, Carlos Bunda, and Algene Caraulia all have in common?

Answer; they are all Hawaiian’s.

Long known as America’s melting pot, the Hawaiian culture represents all the major Asian countries. No other place in the union has made as many major martial arts contributions to America as has Hawaii. Many of America’s first schools, systems, and champions came from this state. Even though many of the historical martial arts events came before Hawaii became a state in 1959, Hawaii has been American soil since 1898.

Hawaii’s First Martial Art

Since day one Hawaiians have practiced a fighting system that they brought with them when they migrated to the Hawaiian islands. The most common name for this system is lua. Lua means “dislocation of joints”. The Hawaiians describe a lua man much like a fisherman. He must get a net, know when to throw it, when to bring it in, and how to finish off the fish. A lua man will fight offense or defense. He will kick, punch, evade, do anything to bring his attacker into range. Once in range the attacker is caught and put into any number of joint locks. In a life and death situation, his body can be destroyed limb by limb.

There were 12 original schools of lua in Hawaii. Each school specialized in attacking a part of the anatomy. As a example, the 3rd. school had a through knowledge of the nerves, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the palm and fingers. Lua was primarily used for warfare, so these schools also specialized in various methods of armed warfare. When the Hawaiians formed armies they divided their divisions into 10, 20 or 40 men. Each 10 man group within a division would be specialists in a certain way of fighting. The first group would be the “maka” (eyes) group. They specialized in the eye, and also weapons. They would attack first to take away the eyes of the enemy thereby throwing them into confusion. They also used a very long spear, 9-18 feet long. When they threw this spear if the enemy could parry the spear it would do them no good since the “mana” was in the back of the spear. Mana is the same as what most martial artists refer to as ki or chi. If the enemy was fast enough to parry the front of the spear the back end would come around and knock them down due to it’s length. The second group of warriors would come in ready to grapple. To prepare themselves for this they would cover their bodies with pig grease so that the enemy could not get a firm hold on them. Because European enemies were armed with muskets and other types of weapons the Hawaiians learned how to make armor out of layers of pigskin and palm leaves. This armor was strong enough to stop the early musket balls.

Lua uses techniques adapted from the land and sea animals of Hawaii. This includes the snake, eel, eagle, boar, dolphin, squid, shark, owl, hawk, etc.. The techniques from the “shark”, “crab”, “moray eel”, and “dolphin” involve finger or knuckle point (ku’i) strikes to poke, tear, pinch, and grab soft parts of the body and to injure nerve centers. The “dolphin” techniques utilize the bony parts of the wrist and forearm to strike vital points and joints. Swift inside and outside parries, blocks, and strikes are adapted from the “octopus”. Arms are kept loose with no power in the joints as they move in tight or wide figure eights to fend off multiple punches.

In the 3 1/2 foot circle of lua infighting the most powerful techniques over the short range are the “eagle” elbow strikes. The “eagle” employs fist and finger strikes, but it is the “wing” that will strike, parry, block, and trap. “Eagle” elbow traps are vital to the “inside stretch breaks” and joint dislocations of lua. Low “stump” kicks, knee strikes, blocks and presses (knee drops against locked joints to tear ligaments and break bone) are techniques of the “mountain pig”. Heel kicks are executed on a downward trajectory to targets below the waist or to the legs to break an opponent’s balance and power him to the ground. These are just a few of the land and sea animal techniques contained in various styles of lua.

Asian Martial Arts

The first Asians to arrive in Hawaii were the Chinese. Although the Chinese brought several styles of kung fu with them, at first they were highly secretive about teaching them.

With the next group of immigrants, the Japanese, came judo and jujitsu. The Okinawan (who at the time were lumped together with the Japanese) immigrants brought karate with them. Again these two cultures practiced their arts in private.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that Henry S. Okazaki broke with tradition and opened a judo and jujitsu school to all races on the islands. This school was known as the Kodenkan and was the origin of the Danzan Ryu jujitsu system. From this school came such jujitsu notables as Wally Jay, Sig Kufferath and Professor Toru Tanaka. Judo great’s John and Willy Cahill also came from this school. This school was possibly the first public judo and jujitsu school in America. The first kung fu school outside of China was also opened in Hawaii in 1922. This school known as the Chinese Physical Culture Association of Hawaii taught various styles of kung fu. Founded in Honolulu, it is still operating today.

Okinawan shorin ryu master Kentsu Yabu gave America’s first karate demonstration at Honolulu’s Nuuanu Y.M.C.A. in 1927. In 1933, twelve years before Robert Trias opened the first karate school on the mainland, Kamesuke Higaonna and Zuiho Mutsu started the first public karate school in Hawaii. This school known as the Hawaii Karate Seinin Kai (Hawaii Young People’s Karate Club) is considered the first known caucasian group in the western world to study karate.

Eclectic Karate

Hawaii’s martial arts evolution really took off in the years following World War II. Prior to that there were only a handful of karate, kenpo, judo, and jujitsu schools on the islands. And kung fu and kali was still mostly kept to their respective Chinese and Filipino communities.

With the end of the war came returning veterans who had learned various Japanese and Okinawan martial arts. Also by that time there were second and third generation kenpo black belts who were evolving their own variations of the kenpo jujitsu that James Mitose had introduced to Hawaii in 1942.

In the Hawaiian culture there are two words that are commonly used to describe how most Hawaiians feel about each other. Ohana is the Hawaiian word for family. It is used to describe the brotherhood of cooperation and friendship that exists between all Hawaiians, no matter what ethnic group their ancestors came from. Aloha is perhaps the most recognizable word in the Hawaiian language. It is used to say hello, goodbye, how are you, etc. Jack London the famed writer described the word this way “In what other land save this one is the commonest form of greeting not Good Day but Love? Aloha… It is the positive affirmation of one’s own heart giving”.

The Hawaiians have approached their martial arts training in the spirit of Ohana and Aloha. There was very little secrecy and many styles borrowed techniques from one another. Adriano Emperado once described the cross training that went on very simply, “we were always looking to see what the other guys had, if it was good we would use it”. This is the type of thinking and cooperation that was used from 1947 to 1949 to develop America’s first eclectic martial art, kajukenbo. This art was truly eclectic in that it combined techniques from tang soo do, judo, jujitsu, kenpo, and kung fu.

Kenpo karate, one of America’s most popular systems was first taught and refined in Hawaii. It was Ed Parker, a student of the legendary William K.S. Chow, who brought kenpo to the mainland in 1954. William Chow had instilled in him an appreciation for innovation that latter led to his development of American kenpo karate.

The Workouts

Although most Hawaiians get along great with each other, Hawaii, like most places has it’s anti-social criminal elements. Hawaiian’s have also had to deal with much larger stronger adversaries in the form of drunken soldiers and sailors.

The brutality of the workouts at William Chow and Adriano Emperado’s schools in the 50s and 60s was deemed necessary to prepare their students for the hazards they could run into on the streets. Broken noses, bruised ribs, and black eyes were a everyday occurrence in the early kenpo and kajukenbo schools.

Professor Emperado had a motto, “The workout isn’t over until I see blood on the floor”. He felt strongly that if someone was afraid of pain, they would be defeated the first time they were hit. He also felt that his students had to get used to pain and learn how to give it back. This enabled them to find out which techniques worked and which didn’t.

William Chow was also a very hard task master. Although he was the most popular kenpo instructor in Hawaii, his classes were small because many people just couldn’t handle the workout. Chow hardened his students thru strenuous conditioning sessions, makiwara training, and full contact sparring.

Allen Abad, a kajukenbo instructor from San Diego went thru his Hawaiian training in the 60s. He described how as a teenager he would often ditch practice to go surfing. He was very seldom successful in his surfing endeavers because he was repeatedly dragged off the beach by some of his classmates and taken to class. He said as a teenager he didn’t like getting hit and thought that the contact was excessive until his instructor Larry Kawaauhau described his trip to Emperado’s Palama Settlement school. According to the young Kawaauhau “those guys were crazy, they locked the doors and then beat the crap out of each other. Blood and teeth were all over the place”. Abad also described the first time he saw Professor Chow. “We were teenagers at the time when we saw him at the drive-in theater. The theater had hired him as a security guard because they had trouble with rowdy teenagers. We really wanted to meet him because we had heard so much about him from our seniors. But because of what we had heard about him and the fact that he was one of the scariest men we had ever seen none of us had the courage to introduce ourselves to him that night”.

In Conclusion

It was inevitable that the close proximity of so many Asian and Pacific Island cultures could only enhance the development of the fighting arts that each group had. Hawaii contained a virtual smorgasbord of martial arts that has evolved, grown, and spread across the entire country. Even more important were the Hawaiian martial artists that taught the rest of the country that cooperation and innovation in the martial arts was not a bad thing.

The State of Hawaii

From the time it was settled by nomad Polynesians in 600 A.D. to it’s annexation in 1898, Hawaii was a independent country with it’s own royal line of kings and queens.

The first Europeans to discover Hawaii were English sailors led by Captain James Cook in 1778. Although English, American, Russian, and French sailors came and went for many years it wasn’t until American missionaries arrived in 1819 that large groups of white men started to settle in Hawaii. These Americans soon found that in addition to having value as shipping ports the islands were well suited to growing food crops such as pineapple, sugar cane, and coffee. As the plantations grew so did the need for farm labor. The first group of laborers arrived from China in 1850. Many of these new immigrants were too enterprising to remain in the fields for a meager $3.00 a month. As soon as they could save enough a myriad left the fields to open small retail businesses. In 1860 Japanese laborers were brought in to fill the gap left by the upwardly mobile Chinese. By 1875 additional farm laborers were arriving from Japan, Portugal, Germany, and even Russia.

Unfortunately the early European sailors brought various new world diseases with them. These diseases decimated the native Hawaiians to the point that by 1880 the Hawaiian population was down to 48,000. When Captain Cook first landed on Hawaii it was estimated to be over 300,000. Today Hawaiians are a minority in their own land making up only 12 % of the state’s population. No other state has the cultural diversity that

Hawaii does. Today a full 50 ethnic groups call Hawaii their home. Besides the original Polynesians, Hawaii’s people have multiple ancestor combinations from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, England, America, Norway, Russia, Germany, Scotland, Poland, Samoa, Puerto Rico, American Blacks and Indians, and most recently Vietnamese refugees.

In 1959, Hawaii became America’s 50th state.

The History of one’s lineage is the key to one’s success if you have no history , you have no beginning.

Aloha Brothers and sisters

Much mahalo

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