American Family Kenpo is rooted in
Mark Sheeley's Kensho-Ryu Karate, which is
a dynamic art comprised of Kenpo and Shotokan Karate. The
name Kensho-Ryu is derived from KENpo, SHOtokan and the Japanese word
Ryu, which means "way". American Family Kenpo seeks to
maintain the integrity of
Mark Sheeley's Kensho-Ryu Karate and Nick Cerio's Kenpo Karate, and to pass the
teachings of Mark Sheeley and Professor Cerio on to new generations of martial arts
Professor Cerio was an admirer
of Shotokan Karate, and in the development of his own uniquely powerful
system of Kenpo drew upon many of the strengths of Shotokan while
maintaining the fluidity, speed and devastating effectiveness of the
art of Kenpo that he learned from Professor William K. S.
Chow. American Family Kenpo maintains the blend of Shotokan's linear
power along with the speed and ferocity of Kenpo that Professor Cerio
It is the
intention of Mark Sheeley's lineage that Kensho-Ryu Karate remain fluid
and street effective. All training in Kensho Ryu, is taught with an eye
on giving the practitioner the means of defending themselves in the
street. Mass attack with both open hand and weapons is the emphasis of
advanced training. In addition, Kensho Ryu is a complete Kobudo system
with emphasis on Okinawan and Japanese weaponry including the bo, kama,
sai, tonfa, ekku, nunchaku, bokken, katana, naginata, koboton and yari.
Extensive self defense training against knife, club, gun and
improvised weaponry is the focus of the modern weapons training. Training in American Family Kenpo continues these traditions.
American Family Kenpo strives to
continue the lineage passed on by Nick Cerio and Mark Sheeley.
to the scarcity of authentic written records, the exact origin of the
Martial Arts is obscure. Most historians agree some form of Martial
Arts was practiced in China
as early as 1000 B.C. In dealing with Ancient Martial Art history we
must rely partially on legend, keeping in mind that legends, however
exaggerated, have some basis in fact. Our most reliable information
comes to us from Buddhist inspired Martial Arts such as those practiced
at the Shaolin Temples.
Records indicate that Bodhidharma, an Indian priest, traveled from India to China
sometime around 525 A.D. His purpose was to transmit the discipline of
Zen to China
and integrate those ideas with the existing Buddhist Doctrines.
Bodhidharma, the 28th descendant of the original Buddha, became Abbot
of the Shaolin
in Honan province shortly after his arrival in China.
Legend tells us that when he arrived at the Temple he found
the monks to be in a state of physical decay and unable to withstand
the prolonged periods of meditation which were essential to the
practice of Zen Buddhism. In an attempt to improve the physical
condition of the monks, bodhidharma instituted a series of 18 exercises
similar in nature to Hatha Yoga. The exact nature of the "18 Hands of
the Lo Han," as the exercises were called, is unknown. We do know,
however, that they consisted of breathing, stretching, bending and
reaching. These exercises apparently were the catalyst for the creation
of other physical disciplines used to further the spiritual development
of the Zen Buddhists. Prior to Bodhidharma's arrival, meditation was
practiced as a purely mental discipline. Afterwards, it became much
more successful as a combination of physical and mental disciplines,
keeping with the doctrine of Yin and Yang.
Bodhidharma probably never intended his exercises to take on a martial
attitude, and they did not until several hundred years after his death.
The reason for this new attitude was probably attributable to political
unrest, together with increased lawlessness. In any event, the next
appreciable contribution occurred in the 18th century, when a Shaolin
monk called Ch'ueh Vuen expanded the original 18 exercises to 72 and
began practicing them as a self-defense art. Later he left the temple
and traveled extensively throughout China
in search of other Martial Arts masters to confer with. Ch'ueh Vuen
probably obtained techniques and ideas from many different sources. We
know that he met two masters, one named Fong and an old man named Li
Shao. Together, the three men returned to the Shoalin Temple and
expanded the 72 movements into 170 and categorized them into five
distinct styles: Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Serpent and Leopard (see Animal
Influences in Kenpo). The three men also
advanced a set of moral and ethical principles to govern their
practice. These five styles formed the basis of the art of Shaolin
Chu'an Fa, also known as the "Five Forms Fist." Later, other styles
Many stories relate to the training procedures at the temple, which
were apparently quite severe. In order to attain Priesthood, one had to
undergo a series of deadly tests ending with the moving of a heavy
metal urn filled with red hot coals. Carved into two sides of the urn
were reproductions of a tiger and a dragon. In order to move the urn
the disciple was required to hug the hot urn with his forearms, lift it
and move it, leaving his arms branded with the tiger and the dragon,
the marks of the Shaolin priest.
For many years the Shaolin fighting arts were practiced in utmost
secrecy. Masters were afraid that the techniques would fall into hands
that would use the potentially deadly art for purposes other than what
was originally intended. Many factors contributed to the eventual
spread of the Martial Arts. Buddhist missionaries to Japan, Korea and Indonesia
took their arts with them. Students sometimes left the temple
prematurely and passed on what knowledge they had. But the main factor
was the ruthless domination of the Manchu Emperor. Secret societies
were formed for the purpose of restoring the Ming Dynasty to power and
overthrowing the Barbarian Manchus. Most Chan Buddhists were
anti-Manchu and many temples were training grounds for pro-Ming
revolutionaries. On several occasions the Manchus destroyed temples in
an effort to stomp out resistance. Fleeing monks undoubtedly carried
many secrets with them, which were eventually spread all over China.
Modern Martial Arts History is much easier to follow. During the 18th
were engaged in trade both material and cultural. At that time a senior
member of the Mitose Clan of Japan
traveled to China
to study the Martial Arts at the Shoalin Temple
where he remained for many years. Upon his return to Japan
he introduced the Art of Chu'an Fa which he called Kenpo (Japanese for
"Way of the Fist").
The art was practiced and passed down in the Mitose line until James
Mitose, who lived in Hawaii in
1940, began teaching publicly. One of his students, William Chow, who
also studied Martial Arts from his own family, took over teaching the
classes. Chow In turn taught a young New Englander named Nick Cerio,
who eventually developed Kenpo into the art we know and practice today.
Professor Cerio, had many brilliant students. One of them Mark Sheeley,
founded Kensho-Ryu International in 1998. Kensho-Ryu International is
one of the largest Martial Arts Organizations in the east coast of the United States.
Matt Jacome has trained extensively under both
Nick Cerio and Mark Sheeley. He continues the lineage of both
Mark Sheeley's Kensho-Ryu Karate and Nick Cerio's Kenpo Karate in his
American Family Kenpo.
This outline is merely an
introduction to the history and development of the art. Serious
students should seek to further their knowledge of the subject through
James Mitose (1916-1981)
James Masayoshi Mitose was born
in 1916. At the age of five, Mitose was sent to Japan
to study his ancestors' art of self-defense, Kosho-Ryu Kempo, a direct
descendent of the original Chuan Fa. He studied this art for 15 years
under his uncle, a Kosho-Ryu master, and returned to Hawaii in 1935 to open the
"Official Self-Defense" club in Honolulu, where
he eventually promoted six students to black belt. When the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor
in 1941, Mitose had to come to terms with the fact that he was Japanese
by birth but American by citizenship, and he began training fellow
servicemen and civilians, expounding upon the merits of his Japanese
Kosho-Ryu Kenpo. Much of what is now Kenpo came from Mitose's
Kosho-Ryu. James Mitose passed away in
Thomas Young was born in Honolulu, HI in
1915. He was the first student to earn the rank of Black Belt in Jame
Mitose's "Official Self-Defense" club. He was also Mitose's Senior
Assistant. Mitose's other assistant was William Chow. It has been noted
that Chow's black belt certificate was actually signed by Young, and
not Mitose. Even though Mitose did not sign the certificate, he was the
head of instructor of the school at the time. It is unlikely that Young
would have signed it without Mitose's approval. When Mitose stopped
teaching in 1953, he left his Hawaii Dojo in the hands of Young.
Mitose's art was characterized by escape techniques and the avoidance
of conflict and violence. Young also taught in this manner. One of his
sayings was" "No trouble trouble unless trouble, unless trouble
troubles you." Thomas Young passed away in 1995, outliving both Mitose
William Kwai Sun
Chow cultivated the seeds of American Kenpo. Primarily a student of his
Chinese father, Chow learned the Chinese ancestral art of Five Animal
Kung Fu passed down from Bodhidharma. Chow later studied Kosho-Ryu
under James Mitose, and seeing merit in both systems, Chow began to
modify Kenpo. He left James Mitose in 1949 to open his own school, and
it was Chow who coined the term "Kenpo Karate" to distinguish his
system from Mitose's. Chow's Kenpo was a quick, vicious style developed
as a response to the violence that was commonplace in the pre-statehood
Chow was a street fighter, and while he learned many circular and
flowing movements from his father, he incorporated some of the linear
movements and take-downs he learned from Mitose. Some twenty years
later, William Chow renamed his system "Chinese Kempo of Kara-Ho
Karate." Chow died in Honolulu
Edmund K. Parker, 10th degree black belt, is the undisputed Father of
American Kenpo Karate. A native of Honolulu,
Parker was already a black belt in Judo at age 16, when he began
studying Kenpo with Frank Chow in Hawaii.
Parker quickly learned everything Frank could teach him, and Frank soon
arranged for his brother, William Chow, to help Parker reach a higher
level. After only two years of training, Parker earned his brown belt.
Like Chow, Parker was a street fighter and adapted what he learned to
fit with the type of fighting he encountered on the streets, and Chow
imparted in Parker the necessity for change in the Kenpo system to meet
the modern needs of the American people. Parker organized every
technique and movement into a format that could be broken down into
levels for all students and renamed it "American Kenpo Karate." When
Parker moved to Provo,
he opened his first studio. After graduating in 1956 with a B.S. in
Psychology and Sociology, Parker moved to
opened his second school and founded the International Kenpo Karate
Association. By 1964, when he held his first tournament, Parker had
become a household name in Hollywood,
teaching his art to the likes of Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen.
Parker passed away in 1990, at the age of 59, in
A legend of the
martial arts, Professor Cerio did more than just continue the
lineage—he truly made an indelible mark on it. Throughout his
illustrious career he brought the lines of Kenpo back together from
potential splits that could have damaged the system. It all began in
the early 1960’s when Professor Cerio, began training under George
Pesare. By the mid-1960’s he had opened his first studio and studied
Kenpo under Master Ed Parker. A short time later he began
studying under Professor William K.S. Chow, and in 1971 received his 5th
Degree black belt from Professor Chow. By the early 1980’s Ed
Parker awarded Professor Cerio his 9th Degree
Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate and the title of Shihan
(Master). In 1989, Shihan Cerio, was named a Professor by
Professor Thomas Burdine and awarded the “above Ranking Status” by the
World Counsel of Sokes (founders). This elevated him to 10th
Degree Black Belt. Professor Cerio passed away on October 7,
1998. His passing marked the end of a monumental life.
Sheeley began his martial arts training in Tae Kwon Do earning his
Black Belt at the age of twelve under Master Paul T. Cho. In the early
1980s Kyoshi Sheeley, started training in American Kenpo under T. and
S. Sullivan. And in 1987, he began studying exclusively with Professor
Nick Cerio. By the mid 1990s Kyoshi Sheeley had trained hundreds of
Black Belts and served as Master Instructor to several Kenpo Jiujitsu
Karate schools in New England.
During this time Kyoshi Sheeley, won numerous competitions in both open
hand and weapons forms. He was nationally rated in competition for
three years in a row and was the first Kenpo stylist to go #1 in
ranking. He has been inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame 9
times, and 10 National Champions have trained under him. Kyoshi Sheeley
is the founder of Kensho Ryu International, and is currently the
director of 15 schools. Kyoshi Sheeley is an 9th Degree Black Belt in
Kenpo Jiujitsu Karate with a 7th Degree Black Belt in Komushin Ryu
of the Studio
respect to the art of Kenpo through personal behavior. Do not show off
your art by throwing kicks and punches in public.
must show respect to all advanced ranks. This does not mean just Black
not demonstrate or take part in any exhibition of karate or Kenpo with
the express permission of your Sensei.
not use your art for any reason other than your own personal safety in
protection of your own life (or another's), and then only to the
extreme control at all times in practice or competition.
Five Principles Of Conduct
Effort means to try your hardest in everything you do.
ETIQUETTE – Etiquette means to use good manners.
SINCERITY – Sincerity means to tell the truth.
SELF CONTROL – Self control means to control your
body and emotions, control your self.
CHARACTER – Character
means to be your self, do not try to be like anyone else.
In American Family Kenpo we use the Chinese bow.
This bow has come down to us from the
The left hand is held open and is placed vertically against the right hand,
which is in the form of a fist.The bow is a salute. It is
also a sign of peace. The right hand represents your martial knowledge and your
willingness, if necessary m to use that knowledge in defense of yourself or your
loved ones. It also represents your Energy/Power. The left hand Represents your
desire to come in peace and shields the aggressive power of your right. if you
are forced to defend yourself, your bow demonstrates that you have the secret
knowledge of Kenpo.
When to Bow
- The student
should greet the instructor and other black belts that are present with
- The student should bow when entering the dojo,
as a sign of respect for those who have studied the arts before him /
her, to show respect for the knowledge they are about to learn. The
student should also bow when leaving the dojo, once more for respect
for the teachers and masters who have some before them, and also out of
respect for the knowledge that they have received.
bow to Sensei to show respect; for the masters who trained him / her;
for the years of training that has been put in; and for the training
which him / her is about to give and has given us.
- We bow and stand in front position (feet
together and pointing out at a forty-five degree angle with the hands
held in a Chinese bow) when a black belt enters the dojo and ties on
his / her rank. This is out of respect for the masters who trained him
/ her, as well as a sign of respect for the knowledge and dedication
that they posses.
bow at the beginning and ending of each class. The bow is directed to
the past masters, to the instructors and to the flag.
a student puts on or removes his / her rank they must be sure to ask
the permission of the instructor. This is a sign of respect for the
knowledge that the instructor has given the student that is represented
by the color of the belt that the student wears.
The student also bows
before engaging an opponent in kumite or an imaginary opponent in kata.
The bow is always used as a sign of respect,
whether to an opponent, an instructor, or a fellow classmate.
American Family Kenpo seeks to teach from nature and the animals in it.
From the Tiger we learn Strength
and Tenacity. The Tiger is very powerful and direct. The Tiger commits
its entire mind and body into each move. There is no hesitation in the
From the Leopard, we learn Speed
and Cunning. The Leopard is extremely fast and angular. It sneaks up on
its enemies and uses the element of surprise. The Leopard is not as big
as the Tiger, but is capable of "providing great effect."
From The Snake we learn Chi and
endurance. The Snake attacks with its fangs and control. Certain Snakes
can suffocate their opponents.
From the Crane, we learn Grace
and Balance -- Fluidity. The Crane is very aware and evasive. Many
people underestimate the Crane's power. It utilizes its beak for poking
and its wings for trapping.
The Dragon, we learn Knowledge and Wisdom. The Dragon can change into
any animal at any moment. This is a key part of the secrets of movement.