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Guardian Academy - History
Guardian Academy - History
History

History and Lineage of Guardian Kempo
by Soke Scot Conway

PROMOTION

On December 7, 2002 at the Christmas Banquet I was awarded the rank of 7th degree Black Belt by Professor Julian Generalao. He was accompanied by the Master Chief of Derobio Escrima and they did a traditional Hawaiian promotion and gave me a thick silk red belt with a black border. Professor Generalao made a point to explain that I am a true master and am to be referred to as “Sigong” (see-gung).

However, my title of “Soke” remains the same. Soke means “head of system,” which means that the title will not change as my rank changes. My old Guardian Kempo title by rank was Renshi (“teacher of sensei” or “teacher of teachers”) and is now Kyoshi (“teacher of renshi” or “teacher of teachers of teachers”). Students should not refer to me as “Sigong” at our studio - that title is my title at schools under Professor Generalao, and while he is my promoting master, our school is not directly under his authority.

OLD SCHOOL - NEW SCHOOL

When they awarded the belt, as part of the traditional award, they put me in a horse stance with arms extended and left me in that position for a while as a show of my strength, then they hit me on each shoulder, each thigh, and reverse elbowed me. They each did it from the front and the back for a total of 20 strikes, which is intended to show how tough I am. The strikes with the belt may not seem like much with a normal belt, but the thick silk belt is heavy enough to easily break the black rebreakable board stacked on top of the brown rebreakable board, and they were hitting that hard. If I wasn’t wearing a heavy uniform, the strikes would probably have left marks.

That’s part of old school training, and that’s an old school promotion. I am a buffer instructor between the old school and new school of training. The problem with old school training is that it tends to be very brutal, somewhat militaristic, and people are often demeaned and injured in the course of training. Old school is fairly harsh and intended almost exclusively for teen and adult men who want to be tough fighters. Anyone who has seen our rank promotions or training sessions knows that we never intentionally inflict pain on students to show “toughness.”

New school training focuses more on character and less on aggression, more on self defense and less on fighting, more on systematic development of a martial artist and less on producing hard core fighters. The new school instructors, however, tend to suffer from a lack of knowledge and skill. Many new school instructors stopped learning and training under the old school instructors while still relatively low ranking, and many have not sought out higher levels of knowledge and skill. That often leaves people with a choice - train old school to gain real mastery, or train new school and stop gaining knowledge between 1st and 3rd degree Black Belt. It’s rare to find a new school teacher with old school mastery.

That’s why I serve as a buffer between old school and new school. I train old school with old school masters, and I teach new school while maintaining old school effectiveness for those students who do everything they ought to do. That way my students don’t have to train with ten different grandmasters and sift through decades of martial arts material to distill universal principles. This way students can learn nearly everything without going through everything I had to go through to learn what I know.

GUARDIAN KEMPO HISTORY

The Master Chief said that the history of our art was important, and with the exception of the senior Guardian Kempo students, most don’t know our history. We have a lineage that goes through many masters and styles that contributed to the creation of Guardian Kempo.

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Kempo/Kenpo (Kara Ho Kempo, Kajukenbo)

In the late 1940s, Professor William Chow and Master James Mitosi met in Hawaii. William Chow was a master of Chinese Kempo Kung Fu under his father, a Buddhist monk. James Mitosi was a master of Japanese Kenpo Karate. They met and worked together to develop the art that would spawn a dozen different martial arts styles under the general headings of Kenpo and Kempo. Most modern Kenpo and Kempo styles came through those two men.

Among Professor Chow’s top students, and ultimately his highest ranked student and system inheritor was Sam Kuoha. Sam Kuoha also mastered Aikido under a variety of instructors, notably Shihan John Damian, and incorporated many advanced Aikido principles into the Kempo system he now headed, giving rise to an art known to much of the Kenpo/Kempo community as Kara Ho Kempo Aikido. Sam Kuoha is one of my instructors from whom I earned a Black Belt and for whom I first taught lessons. With Grandmaster Kuoha, I traveled to Mexico City and Cody, Wyoming to train Black Belts in his art, with my highest ranked seminar student the 4th dan master of the school in each case.

From earlier in Professor Chow’s teaching career was a man named Adriano Emperado. Master Emperado later joined forced with other masters, notably Junior Ulangca, and they combined their knowledge of Karate, Jujitsu, Kenpo, and Boxing to make an art that became known as Kajukenbo. The techniques that would be incorporated in that system were decided simply by the masters of each fighting style going into a locked room and fighting - then sorting out the techniques that worked from those that did not and building the martial art from the knowledge gained from that fighting. One of Adriano Emperado’s and Junior Ulangca’s top early students was a young man named Julian Generalao who had already trained in martial arts extensively for decades and learned Kajukenbo from Masters Emperado and Ulangca.

The lineage of the Hawaiian arts and those arts that came from the orient through the islands were often harsh arts to learn. It was common to be beaten up in your training, and injuries were common. Hawaii wasn’t a state, yet, and it was a bit like the Wild West but with martial arts fights rather than gunfights. Almost every young man would end up in fights, and so the training was brutal to prepare the young men for the near certainty of real fighting.

I have a first degree Black Belt from Grandmaster Sam Kuoha, the system inheritor directly from Professor Chow. I have a sixth degree Black Belt in Chinese Kempo Chuan Shu from Professor Generalao, and now a seventh degree Black Belt in Kajukenbo from Professor Generalao (with the promotion recognized and authorized by half a dozen local and regional masters since the rank is within one of Professor’s rank).

Japanese Arts (Kenpo, Karate, Jujitsu)

Other arts that flow into Guardian Kempo include Shiho Karano Kenpo Jujitsu from Soke Clement Riedner, the master and developer of that system. I have a first degree Black Belt directly from Soke Riedner. In another art, Mukashi Kindai Ryu Karate Jujitsu, developed and lead by Soke Rick Boyer, I have a second degree Black Belt directly from the headmaster of that art as well. The jujitsu aspects of each of these arts flows from Japanese Jujitsu, which is mostly a stand-up grappling art using joint locks, throws, holds, takedowns and off-balancing techniques. That, in turn, came from the original Yuwara arts practiced by the samurai during the Togukawa Shogunate, one of the “Bugei Juhappan” or “Eighteen Martial Arts.”

The Kenpo aspects of Shiho Karano and the Karate aspects of Mukashi Kindai Ryu also flowed from the Japanese arts of the same name. Japanese Kenpo emphasizes linear motion, including a guard, and rapid fire hand techniques. Chinese Kempo, on the other hand, largely uses circular motion, but also uses rapid fire hand techniques. Karate focuses more on perfection of technique, traditional stances and physical development.

Cajun Art (Keichu Do)

I also have a third degree Black Belt from Soke Karl Marx (yes, that’s his real name). He started as a street fighter in the bayou of Louisiana and learned boxing and judo by formal training and a little knife fighting on the streets. Over the years, he became an expert fighter. He used a karate method of codifying his fighting style so he could teach it. Over time, he started to compete in tournaments, but the martial arts tournaments in the 50s and 60s would only admit practitioners of oriental martial arts, so he named his style Keichu Do Karate Jujitsu and competed with his students. Over several decades, the art developed to a complete martial art and Karl Marx became a recognized master after just over 30 years of refining his style of fighting. From Soke Marx, I have a 3rd degree Black Belt, and Grandmaster Marx was the master that promoted me to “Soke - above rank” which, technically, means that he recognizes me as higher ranked that anyone who is not the head of his own system. However, I still pursue traditional rank advancement to solidify the respect for Guardian Kempo in the martial arts community at large.

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Other Arts (Small Circle Jujitsu, Aikido, Aikijutsu)

Other masters from whom I learned, but did not earn a Black Belt, include Grandmaster Wally Jay of Small Circle Jujitsu. We use some of his finger locks, small joint locks, and even throwing techniques. Grandmaster Jimmy Yamaue of North Shaolin Kung Fu and Yamaue Aikijitsu gives us some of our more advanced blending techniques and pressure point concepts.

In the earliest years of the 20th century, there was no Aikido, but an art called Daito Ryu Aikijitsu. The man who would later be known as O-Sensei (great teacher) Morihei Ueshiba originally learned that art, but then built a softer, gentler version that became Aikido. From him, four senior masters headed in different directions with their training, with several offshoots of Aikido from their students and other students of O-Sensei. One of the top masters was Koichi Tohei, who emphasized the use of ki principles. Through that line of Aikido, Shihan (master) John Damian trained, as well as Sensei Marty Katz. That’s where we get the basics concepts of our Ki Principles and some of our applications of Aikido principles, both of which I met and trained with through Sam Kuoha. Supplementing that is the Aikijitsu information from Jimmy Yamaue and more Aikido exposure from Master Dong Thong Phong, both of whom I met through Karl Marx.

Ground Fighting (Brazilian Jiujitsu)

Japanese Jujitsu made its way to Brazil in the earlier parts of the 20th century, and among the early students was a young man named Helio Gracie. However, Japanese Jujitsu essentially focuses on the techniques that start from a standing position and result in the opponent going down. Helio Gracie recognized a need for something that worked on the ground to complete the needs for Brazilian culture. He started from the traditional Japanese techniques and built an art that applied those principles and expanded on them for purposes of fighting on the ground. The ground fighting technique he started was known as Gracie Jiujitsu, and his teaching gave rise to a whole branch of Jujitsu known as Brazilian Jiujitsu. Helio Gracie and later his sons wished to show that their art was truly effective, so they left an open challenge to anyone who wanted to come fight to test their skill. For more than 30 years, Gracie Jiujitsu was virtually undefeated. Helio Gracie only lost once to a Japanese Jujitsu master that outweighed Helio by 65 pounds. The combination of skill mastery and greater weight and strength was just enough for the Japanese master to beat him. From more then 50 other matches, Helio was undefeated.

His sons left that challenge open as they came to America. It would be years before they would be beaten, and even then it would be by someone who was trained in Brazilian Jiujitsu from another lineage of the original Gracie art. When I was developing Guardian Kempo, I wanted the grappling skills to be more complete, and since the Gracies had almost never been beaten and my own groundfighting training was limited (some judo and aikido was essentially it), I accepted their challenge back in 1991. I lost, of course, but in so doing I learned a lot about how a skilled grappler can neutralize a striker. I learned more of Gracie Jiujitsu in the following years, trained with a wrestler and earned Black Belts in the combined Karate Jujitsu and Kenpo Jujitsu systems to develop the Guardian Kempo counter grappling and strike grappling skills.

One of the first Brazilian Jiujitsu instructors in the San Diego area was Roy Harris, originally a student of the Gracie Brothers in Torrance, and later under Joe Moriera. Among Roy’s top students is Preston Rawlings, who teaches Brazilian Jiujitsu at the Conway Academy. Working with Preston has helped me refine some of the pure grappling skills in Guardian Kempo, modified for the fact that we are training for universal principles, we are assuming our opponent will want to hit us, and we are assuming that the groin is an open target.

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More Arts and Integration

Besides all the masters and instructors already mentioned, I’ve had the privilege to learn some principles from Stephen Hayes, the highest ranked ninjitsu master in America. I’ve also gained some insights from seminars by other masters, including Fumio Demura of Karate, Mike Swain of Judo, Jhoon Rhee of Taekwondo, Joe Lewis of Karate Kickboxing and others. Limited exposure to several other masters and their writings have also been of some assistance in building this system. In addition, crafting Guardian Kempo has also taken a lot of thought, sorting through a lot of sometimes-conflicting principles, and years of refinements and adjustments.

The Best from Each System...?

From all of this, there is an important point that I should make clear. The common misconception about Black Belts from multiple arts making their own arts is the idea that someone could take “the best from each system and discard the rest.” First, one does not learn “the best from each system” without really mastering the details at advanced levels, a process that one might expect to spend decades doing. Since I don’t have advanced Black Belts in all those systems, I don’t know “the best” from those martial arts.

What I know are principles that can be used in Guardian Kempo. “The best” parts of those arts would take me many more years to learn. Armed with only 1st degree to 3rd degree Black Belt knowledge in four arts, less than that in a dozen or so others, and master level rank only in two, I cannot say that I know the "best parts" of most of them. My training base is sufficient, however, to do what I have done, to take fundamental principles from each and integrate them into the comprehensive Guardian Kempo.

More Than Physical

The ancient masters saw the combat skills from their physical training as only a small, small part of their mastery. For them, health, fitness, balance, strength and agility were just as important. Beyond the physical, they saw the philosophical and psychological insights they gained as more important. Even more critical to them was their sense of spiritual growth and development. True martial arts mastery, in the traditional sense, must extend into areas far beyond just the details of the physical skills of the art. Otherwise, it’s just about fighting.

That’s why I am also educated. I earned a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Administration with supplemental graduate study in Sociology and Social Psychology. I earned a juris doctor in Law and was a practicing attorney for a decade (and recently renewed my license to start doing legal work again). I earned a Ph.D. in Christian Martial Arts (part-Physical Education, part-Martial Arts, part-Bible). I’ve taught martial arts instructors, taught a college course, and I’ve taught a number of seminars on a variety of subjects. I’ve taught Adult Sunday School, Elementary School Sunday School, and ages in between. I’ve written articles on a variety of topics for several different magazines and co-authored the ACMA Instructor Certification Journal (a martial arts instructor training manual to teach instructors how to teach safely and effectively - used by more than 7,000 instructors).

All of this history, experience, training, education and supplemental learning pours into what I teach. As impressive as everything I’ve written may seem, I am much more impressed with my wife, Wendy, than with anything I’ve done. She has the benefit of not having made so many of the mistakes I’ve made in my life. To me, she’s the impressive one of this couple, which is why I so often use our marriage and her life as an example of how to do things right. She had the wisdom to realize things as a teen that took me until nearly 30 to realize, and she has proven wiser and more insightful than almost anyone I know. While I think I may be a good role model now, I certainly did not follow nearly as worthy a path as did my beautiful and wise wife.

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