The Shaolin temple was first built around 495 A.D. by Chinese Emperor Hsiao Wen for an Indian monk Batou, known by the Chinese as, Fo Tuo. It was in this Shaolin temple, located in the Songshan mountains of central China, that Buddharama, a sixth century Indian monk first introduced a form of mediation methods and fighting techniques. He introduced to the temple monks to a form of breathing exercises based on animal movements, primarily exercises for strengthening and conditioning the body. Buddharama taught the monks these exercises to purify their bodies and develop inner strength. The movements of the animals were taught for self defense purposes. Over a period of time, the monks modified and enhanced these movements, adapting them for use in combat. This style became known and feared as the art of Shaolin Temple Boxing.
Chan Buddhism and Shaolin Temple Boxing or Shaolin Quanfa are the Shaolin Temples' main legacy to the world. The teachings of Lao Tzu, Confucius and Buddha were blended together to forge the philosophical foundations for martial arts teachings. Paralleling the diversity of the philosophical and religious thought, Shaolin Temple Boxing spread and evolved into numerous martial art systems. This knowledge was not confined to the borders of China. Martial arts spread to many other Asian countries, influencing and enhancing their indigenous combat arts.
In the 1600s, Japan conquered Okinawa, so the people of Okinawa were restricted from using any weapons to prevent retaliation. The natives had no alternative but to practice the art of empty hand fighting known as Te. This name was derived from the Chinese T'ang Dynasty, when many empty hand styles of fighting were popular.
During a two year period between 1947 and 1949, Adriano Emperado befriended and begun working closely with four other masters of diverse martial arts. They began meeting in secret, experimenting with strengths and weaknesses of their various arts, with the purpose of devising "...a highly effective self-defense system" (Bishop, 47). They called themselves the Black Belt Society.
The art these five masters developed is Kajukenbo. One of the last waves of black belts to be taught by Sijo Emperado included a young man named Victor "Sonny" Gascon. He studied the system from 1948-1952. Since he was a small individual, it was in his best interest to become a quick learner.
Victor opened up a school at 905 Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA in 1958 and called it Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu. His assistants were Joe Black, Richard "Limo" Tanaka and Jack "Justice" Chang. [See also: Sijo Sonny Gascon]
My first recollections of wanting my own school started when I was a brown belt. I had been helping out with an increasing number of classes. Though it cut into my own classes, I enjoyed teaching immensely. Sifu Randy told me I should consider opening my own school after I earned black belt. His encouragement stayed in the back of my mind for several years.
I did finally pass the black belt test. After the test, most of my time was spent at college, work or at Kempo. Those days were tough due to the demands of college, but I continued to help teach whenever I could. I even taught a few classes with friends at the college gym.
By 1992, I had completed my third dan test. I finally felt ready to teach people by myself as a chief instructor. My former instructor invited me to join his fledgling association and open a school under his banner. So I opened my first dojo in La Mesa.
The first year was fine, but the association's increasing fee schedule and policies forced me to reconsider my membership altogether. That's when the first draft of the Golden Leopard Kempo logo was born.
By 1995, I had established a new logo and new school. The La Mesa school was closed as I moved to a position of private lessons and research. A licensing program was put in place so others could buy GLK merchandise.
After years of continuing research and training, I was able to rekindle the embers of my old school and re-ignite the flame of Kempo. During those five years, I found the father of Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo in Oahu. (Actually, I met him in Las Vegas, but he lives on Oahu) His name is Grandmaster Sonny Gascon. Grandmaster allowed me to join his school, taking me under his wing. In 1998, he promoted me to fourth dan black belt.
Since that time, I have worked with Grandmaster and other KGS instructors on the original Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo, which he calls Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu. The style is very closely related to Kajukenbo. In fact, you can find Grandmaster and his students on the Kajukenbo family tree.
During this time, I pursued instruction in others arts such as Arnis, Ninjutsu, Tai Chi and Jujitsu. My training and experience with these methods has influenced both the way I understand Kempo and how I teach. Cross-training in key arts is a great way to increase your understanding of the martial path.
In 2000, I opened a small school for limited enrollment. This will allow the school to focus on quality and student retention. It also serves as the international headquarters for the GLK Organization and all affiliate schools. The new San Diego-San Ysidro School is the place where the next chapter of GLK's history unfolds.
Over the next few years, my training bridged several styles culminating in a 5th degree rank in Yoshin Ryu jujitsu. I also pursued my interest in Okinawan Kobudo and Arnis de Mano. Exposure to these arts has enhanced my skills and opened up more opportunities for both me and my students.
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