Kenpo History – Masters Self Defense Centers

Built in 495 A.D. the Shaolin Temple is generally accepted as having the greatest influence on all existing martial arts today. Some time between 520 and 535 A.D. the famous monk Bodhidharma or Tamo (Da Mo) traveled from India to the kingdom of Wei to spread Buddhism. This was during the Liang Dynasty in China. After a failed meeting with emperor Wu, Bodhidharma traveled to Honan province and the famed Shaolin Temple. It was here, after 9 years of meditating in a cave, that he began to teach the monks the bare hand combat routine known as “Xingyi Boxing”. This began the Kung Fu training at the temple.Over the next few centuries monks from the Shaolin Temple emigrated to various Eastern countries, such as Okinawa, the Ryukyu Kingdoms, and Japan. It was between the Sui and Ming Dynasty that the martial art known as Chuan Fa also became known as Kempo or “way of the fist”. In the 17th century, the Kumamoto and Nagasaki families returned from China to Kyushu Japan with a knowledge of this Kempo which became known as Kosho Ryu Kempo or “Old Pine Tree School”.

In 1919 a three year old James Mitose (1916-1981) left Hawaii for Kyushu Japan to study his ancestor’s art. In 1937 he returned to Hawaii to open the “Official Self-Defense Club” in 1942. Before he left teaching to pursue his religious studies, he promoted six students to black belt level; among them were William Kwai Sun Chow and Thomas Young.

William K. S. Chow (1914-1987) is perhaps the most notable person responsible for promoting Kenpo into the United States. William Chow had grown up studying his family style of Kung Fu which he learned from his father. After years of studying with Mitose, Chow combined both his knowledge of Kung Fu and Kosho Ryu Kempo to form his Kenpo Karate. In 1949 he opened a Dojo (“the place of the way”) a training hall of his own in a local YMCA in Hawaii.
In 1954 one of Chow’s more prominent students, Edmund Parker, earned his black belt. He brought Kenpo Karate to the mainland and would eventually be known as “the Father of American Karate”.

Another student of William Chow was Adriano Emperado (Kenpo), who along with Walter Choo (Karate), Joe Holck (Judo), Frank Ordonez (Jujutsu), and George C. Chang (Chinese Boxing), combined to form Kajukenbo in 1947. (Ka) Karate (Ju) Judo & Jujutsu (Ken) Kenpo (Bo) Chinese Boxing.

Grandmaster Victor (sonny) Gascon, a student of Adriano Emperado from 1948-1952. In 1953 he was stationed in Hawaii with the Air Force and resumed his studies in Kalihi. In 1965 he was discharged from the Air Force and moved to California. In 1960 he departed from the kajukenbo system and founded the Karazenpo Go Shinzutsu system. Victor Gascon closes his school in 1963 and returns to Hawaii in 1968.

Grandmaster George Pesare, one of Grandmaster Gascon first black belts, and the man who introduced Kenpo Karate to New England. S.George Pesare began his training in Karazenpo-Go-Shinjutsu in 1958. In 1960 Grandmaster Pesare, opened his school in Olneyville, Rhode Island. Mr. Pesare continued his training in the following martial art disciplines: 5th Degree Black Belt in Judo, 4th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, 4th Degree Black Belt in Eskrima, 2nd Degree Black Belt in Aikido. George Pesare has been a law enforcement officer for over 20 years. He is the 1994 Rhode Island State Police Pistol Champion, and is the Police Pistol Champion of the Prestigious Police Pistol Governors Twenty. It has been said “A student that has trained in Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu Kenpo Karate in New England was either taught by Mr. Pesare or one of his pupils, or one of his pupils’ pupil”. S. George Pesare is the founder of Kempo Karate in New England. From this school would come black belts that would open school across America. Among these are:

Grandmaster Roger Carpenter

Professor Nick Cerio (1936 -1998)

In 1966 Nicholas Cerio recevied his black belt in Kenpo from S. George Pesare. Nicholas Cerio soon after opened Cerio’s Academy of Martial Arts. After studying with William Chun, Sensei Cerio was given permission to train under William Chow. On August 15, 1967 William Chow awarded him Shodan in Chinese Kenpo. In 1983 Edmund Parker awarded him 9th Dan. In 1989 the World Council of Sokes awarded him Above Ranking Status. He Passed away in 1998, and will be greatly missed by the martial arts community.

Ron Gately, Nick Cerio, James Bryant and Robert Nohelty

Ron Gately, Nick Cerio, James Bryant and Robert Nohelty

In 1991 Masters Self Defense Centers was formed. Shihan Nohelty and Shihan Bryant both hold multiple black belts in various styles of Kenpo. Both Nohelty and Bryant have been studying Kenpo, Kung Fu, Shotokan, Okinawan, Japanese, and Chinese weapons for over 40 years. The style has roots back to Karazempo Go Shinjitsu and Kajukenbo systems.

Professor Jerry Ingle has been training with Masters Self Defense Centers since it’s inception in 1991 and is a student of Professor Nohelty and Professor Bryant, who both had direct ties to Grandmaster Pesare before his passing.  As a point of interest, Professor Nohelty and Bryant were promoted to 8th degree by SGM Pesare (verifiable from this link to SGM Pesare’s site)