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Thread: Kenpo Damnation James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist By Kenn Relf

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    Default Kenpo Damnation James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist By Kenn Relf

    Kenpo Damnation James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist By Kenn Relf
    By Bob Hubbard - 01-03-2009 11:48 AM


    Kenpo Damnation

    James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist

    By Kenn Relf[

    Those who study the art of Kenpo and other art forms will have undoubtedly heard of the man who brought Kenpo to the West. His name is legendary if not only for the art he taught, but the controversy that surrounded him in life, as well as in death. It has been over a quarter of a century since the passing of James M. Mitose. For some, his skills will live on through his teachings stemmed from his family art. For others, he was something and somebody else all together.

    As the story goes, James Mitose was born in Hawaii on December 30th 1916. He was sent to Japan at the age of four years old to learn a way of life that would prepare him to become the 21st Headmaster of Kosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo. In Japan, James Mitose would spend 15 years studying his family art before returning to his birthplace. Upon returning to Hawaii, James Mitose would share his family art with people from all races. He would organize the Official Self Defense Club at the Beretania Mission in Honolulu. In 1953, He published a text called “What Is Self Defense?”, a book that today is still considered by some to be the first book written about Kenpo in English. James Mitose would soon after retire from teaching, and eventually move to Mainland USA. From the early days at the Beretania Mission until today, Kenpo has blossomed into hundreds of schools and thousands of Practioners throughout the world. Of course, not all believe that Kenpo began in this manner, and that James Mitose himself was an opportunist who created his own art form on nothing more than instructions he pulled from unarmed self-defense books and little training he may have incurred in Hawaii.

    There been claims through out the years following James Mitose’s death, that he never really went to Japan at all. Internet sites and talk forums dismiss his training that James Mitose never learned or taught Japanese Kenpo, but rather an art form that resembled Okinawan Karate. Others have even went as far as to place James Mitose’s first book “What is Self Defense” under a magnifying lens, and denounce it as nothing more but a reproduction of Choki Motobu’s Kenpo Gaisetsu, as well as Mizhuo Mutso’s Karate Kenpo. Are any of these claims true? Did James Mitose train in Japan a he told the world, or was the whole thing created out by one person who never left Hawaii?

    Hawaii-1937 Government documents reveal

    Upon his return from Japan to Honolulu, Immigration Services questioned James Mitose about his time in Japan. He would stay in Japan until he was 20 years of age. James Mitose traveled abroad on the SS Tatsuta Maru with various family members, and was listed on the outgoing manifest on the Shiny sailing from Honolulu dated on October 22, 1920. This would prove that James Mitose did indeed travel from Japan to Hawaii, and that any claims he never left the Islands are completely false. James Mitose indeed stayed for 17 years in Japan.

    So what was it that James Mitose taught? Was is Okinawan Karate as some proclaim, or was it a family art that has lasted until then over 21 generations?

    In his lifetime, James Mitose had written two separate books. The first text, “What is Self Defense?” looked to the average person as another unarmed combat textbook. His second book, “What Is True Self Defense?” took a very philosophical approach to self- defense. A third entitled ”In Search Of Kenpo” was a collection of Japanese stories compiled after Mitose’s death.
    James Mitose was against showing the world combative arts, and was in disagreement as to his first books’ structure He felt pressured into having it arranged the way it was because the world was at war, and the publisher wanted a book filled with photos. What was amazing about it was that Professor Mitoses’ art was marbleized throughout the pages in places one might least expect to find it. In fact, James Mitose would display his family art in both of his books in places where only the most dedicated of students are willing to look.

    Living in Japan for many years, James Mitose’s training wouldn’t conform to any particular style in the conventional sense. He had stated that that his family art wasn’t karate at all, but a remote ancestor of Shorinji Kempo. In fact, Mitose would study various religions along with Greek philosophy, nutrition, yoga and energy collection escaping patterns, and a body contact art system of self-defense under a heirchial tiered system. He had lived at a temple and performed regular duties as well as farmed rice fields in order to raise money and survive. James Mitose would become minister of his religion and eventually leave the temple. One major point to bring up here is that until James Mitose started teaching in Hawaii, outsiders were never taught this system.

    Back in Hawaii, he began to teach his art because he felt a need to share it with his birth nation. James Mitose would find a way to teach his art so those could benefit from his teachings. Professor Mitose would say in both of his books this phrase;
    “ When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do…” and took this meaning literally.
    He would travel to various training clubs throughout Hawaii and took notice of their movements and techniques. Mitose would look for the similarities in the art forms, and blend his teachings with their structure. James Mitose would adopt the gi and belt system, and opened up his club to the general public. At first, he called his art Shorinji Kempo, pulling many elements from this style into his teachings. He later called it Kenpo Jiu Jitsu feeling that this name would blend his art with those currently teaching similar styles. He would eventually settle on the name he called his family art: Kosho Ryu Kenpo. Most idealists held captive in their own beliefs could look at Mitose’s training methods as Okinawan Karate. Remember that James Mitose’s training wasn’t an art form in the traditional sense. He was taught to blend in with his environment, for which he did very well. Mitose tried to communicate to his students the values of his family’s art and to understand the philosophies of Kosho Ryu. James Mitose brought his art to the west because he believed that his teachings would eventually lead people to peace by assisting others in the struggle against crime. In the end, he felt that the West wasn’t ready to take the next step, and that most students wanted to learn how to kick and punch. He would retire from teaching, and soon after headed for Mainland USA.

    James Mitose would continue in his religious studies in Mainland USA through correspondence classes, and eventually led him to his ordination as a Christian minister. He would selectively train throughout the rest of his life, and create what would be his final publication. Entitled “ What Is True Self Defense?” the text would be a continuation from his first book. Mitose wanted to share with the world the true meaning of self-defense. His writings would lend itself to the philosophies of Kosho Ryu, and include various exercises of moving meditation, escaping patterns, yoga, and push/pulling peace exercises. Sadly, James Mitose died the very year his last book was published.

    If indeed Mitose never left the island as some skeptics say, then he would have easily been recognized by anyone living in Hawaii at that time. Professor Mitose strategically placed key elements of his family art throughout the pages of his books for the benefit of serious students wanting to learn Kosho Ryu, a task not easily done. Those who are in disbelief about James Mitose’s heritage must first look outside of their own style, keep an open mind to Mitose’s own words and see what he was trying to convey. Kosho Ryu is a complete system of self-defense that has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so for future generations.

    From the earliest days at the Beretania Mission to the schools throughout the world today, James Mitose will always be remembered as the man who brought Kenpo to the West. So why is it that others take the opportunity to dismiss any lineage connection of James Mitose and Kosho Ryu in Japan? In his own words, it James Mitose couldn’t be said any better;
    Ignore the nick-pickers. It is not wisdom they seek, but rather seek to attract attention away from wisdom and to them by creating artificial arguments and disharmonies.

    Government Documents and various photo

    Immigration Board of Inquiry dated 1937 shows James Mitose’s departure and return from Japan.—can be expanded for clarity

    Birth registration examiner’s report on James Mitose based on file records(4368/9249)—previous document above (courtesy San Jose Kenpo)
    Advertisement of the Official Self Defense Club- note listed as kempo ju Jitsu
    Add in photos of mitose training to ullistrate book as technique oriented, yet art marbleized throughout it’s pages hidden in author’s notes, stories, and suttle moves in photos

    Mitose activity in Hawaii could have readily been seen by all.

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    Smile Re: Kenpo Damnation James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist By Kenn Re

    Fools can find fault, but they can't act anymore wisely. - Langbien

    You have some great internet research. Although, it will still cause many to say he did not train in Japan. Who did he train with in Japan? Where did he train? For how long did he train? Did he recieve any certification or rank from anyone?

    Even if Mitose didn't go to Japan and train, he was surely the spark that brought kenpo to the U.S. To worry about where he trained and who he trained with is futile. The student should surpass the master. If the student does not, he is a poor student or he has a poor master. Mitose trained Chow who trained Parker and both surpassed their former learning which showed they both had great teachers. From Mitoses students we can see that he had great knowledge of the arts.

    There will always be naysayers in every art and about every person. Don't look at who taught them, where they trained or who is in their "tree", but see what them and their students know. Students are the real mirror.

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    Default Re: Kenpo Damnation James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist By Kenn Re

    Let me say I am relatively new to Kenpo (2005 and continuing) and have only heard passing refereces to Mr. Mitose and so have no opinion on the issue either way. However as this issue is noted to be controversial allow me, as a professional Historiean, to spin off what Mr. Jansen noted to offer some ideas on documentation to help you prove your point. Of the documents you list only the imm. records and birth cert. would be considered historical evidence, The advertisments, as all such materails are designed to persuade cutomers, would be at best suspect documentation as would the photos unless there are recognizable persons or locations in them that could be used to infer the date and location of them. Lastly, the internet can be a boon to research but it is full of incorrect data, Wikipedia for instance, and you must be careful to get such materails from official sites or those that are well reputed and then cross reference the data if possible. Hope these ideas help.
    "By perseverance, study, and eternal desire, any man can become great," Gen. George S. Patton Jr. Commanding Officer U.S. Third Army

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    Default Re: Kenpo Damnation James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist By Kenn Re

    Before making the decision to persue kenpo (leaving jujitsu), I did a great deal of searching on the web and found quite a bit of dissenting information about James Mitose. There were those who defended him and called all the negative data vitriole.

    After having read the back and forth in several different forums, school websites, and other on-line resources I found myself asking, "Will all of the past history affect me should I choose to study American Kenpo"?

    The answer was a resounding "No!". I looked at the only two offerings of AK within driving range and am still very happy after nearly two years of study.

    What I am working to overcome now is the political junk within the "sister" systems of AK. My job has me traveling and I like to train and learn. I spent an hour with Mr. Dave Hopper (not even really AK, in the strict interpretation), and very much enjoyed the in-depth lesson on the very narrow subject of the reverse punch. I have so much to work on from just that one lesson and was totally uneffected by the controversial history of Mr. James Mitose. His name never even came up.

    I plan on trying to schedule another lesson with Mr. Hopper next Friday or Saturday, as my schedule permits. Tomorrow's Kenpo History is what we're all doing today. I think that is what is most important.
    ~Bill Richardson

    Rudeness is the frustrated attempt of a small mind to communicate.

    Forgive everyone everything

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    Default Re: Kenpo Damnation James Mitose: Martial Arts Master, or Con, Artist By Kenn Re

    There are a few threads discussing Mitose here on KenpoTalk for those looking for more opinions, insight and information.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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