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The First True Mixed Martial Art

What is Kajukembo?

Kajukembo is a Hawaiian martial art that is considered the first true mixed martial art.  Our Kajukembo classes are based around practical self defense, and include techniques involving strikes, clinch work, and grappling, as well as weapons defense and multiple attackers.  Our Kajukembo classes also involve a lot of contact to imitate the feel of a real attack, and contain many of the techniques our Master Instructor Greg James uses in his military and law enforcement training.  Master James earned his Black Belt in Kajukembo directly from the Grand Master Emperado.

Kajukenbo is known for being brutally effective. Developed in the Hawaii of the 1940s the enemy was not the ancient battlefield soldier, it was the common street criminal. Instead of swords and spears he armed himself with knives, clubs, and guns. Even when unarmed he did not fight by any rules. He punched, kicked, gouged, bit, and stomped. If you encountered one of these brutal street fighters you were in for a life or death battle. This makes Kajukenbo a truely effective mixed martial art with real world practical application.

Kajukenbo Techniques

Like most karate systems kajukenbo has katas or forms. These 14 katas are known as “Palama Sets” 1 through 14. ( These katas were formerly known as Pinans. Forbach explains that in February of 1993 Professor Adriano D. Emperado renamed the katas to show their origin, the Palama Settlement of Honolulu, Hawaii.) Like traditional systems, kajukenbo takes a number of it’s self defense techniques from it’s katas. Although the Palama sets provide the kajukenbo stylist with many good techniques, kajukenbo’s strength lies in it’s self defense techniques. These self defense techniques are arranged and categorized into 15 grab arts, 21 punch counters, 15 knife counters, 13 club counters, 9 two and three man attack counters, and 26 advanced alphabet techniques.

By combining techniques from tang soo do, judo, jujitsu, kenpo and kung fu, the kajukenbo stylist can defend himself in many ways. He can use soft circular kung fu techniques to evade and strike. Or he can use judo or jujitsu to throw an attacker to the ground or restrain and control him. Forbach feels that the strength of kajukenbo is in how these techniques are combined. For example, if the attacker punches, the kajukenbo stylist may step into the attack at a 45 degree angle while blocking with a soft palm block. He would then counter attack with several rapid fire kenpo hand strikes followed by a judo foot sweep. Once on the ground the attacker could be struck again or controlled with a jujitsu lock. Unlike most traditional systems, kajukenbo relies heavily on combination techniques. These combination techniques are arranged so that each technique will set up the next by following the reaction of the attacker’s body. Although some martial artists may describe this as overkill, Forbach feels that an attacker may not be stopped by one strongly focused blow. Therefore the theory behind kajukenbo is that it is better to counter with a multitude of techniques that can be ended when the threat no longer exists, than to rely on one technique and find that it is not enough.

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