From Kempo to Kempo-Jutsu


I was asked a good question on the forum ‘MartialArts Planet’ about the relationship of Shaolin Kempo to the Kempo Jutsu of Professor Feliciano ‘Kimo’ Ferreira, as I’ve been studying with Professor Kimo since late 2001. The person asking was John Bishop, Kajukenbo Professor, and author of the recent book Kajukenbo the Original Mixed Martial Art. After typing the answer, I thought, hey, this might make a good article for the web site.

John Bishop: Matt, looks like your doing a outstanding job making a central repository of various SKK techniques.

A lot of people don’t realize how important it is to have a historical record of a systems techniques, until decades later when the founders are dead. Then all of a sudden self proclamed successors or “personal” students are coming out with “the real” techniques. But yet very few of these people are in agreement as to who was taught the “real” system.

Matt: Thanks. It’s taken a bit of work, but the help I’ve received from many good folks (especially a bunch from this forum) has made it a much less insurmountable task. It’s been good to track who learned what from whom and to compare versions. It’s a work in progress, and the more I put up, the more comes in. It sure has grown to be a big system.

I put the archive up for a couple reasons. Yes, it’s part of the historical record, but I also wanted to let folks look at the system as a more complete whole rather than the snippets that most people (even ones who have trained in the system) are exposed to.

John Bishop: But anyway, back to my questions. I know you and several other east coast SKK people have been training with Kimo [Ferreira] for some time now. So my questions are, how much of a resemblance are you seeing between SKK and Kempo Jutsu Kai?

Am I correct in assuming that Kempo Jutsu Kai is heavily influenced by Kimo’s training with Walter Godin and Martin Buell?

Can you explain what you see as [differences], or close resemblances?

Matt: That’s a couple of really interesting questions. I’m going to start with the second one, as it’s much easier (and thankfully briefer). Absolutely. Professor Ferreira’s Kempo Jutsu is heavily influenced by Walter Godin and his training with Martin Buell while Mr. Buell was still with Walter Godin’s organization. Mr. Buell has since taken his own direction, but Professor Ferreira’s material reflects more the earlier time period before Mr. Buell started his own organization. Many other influences from the many training partners Professor Kimo encountered during his travels in the military have helped shape Kempo Jutsu as well.

As for the first question, it’s a bit more complex. Some of the techniques are carryovers from training with Walter Godin, some are creations of Professor Kimo, and sometimes he teaches techniques he learned from Kempo ‘old timers’ who he has had a chance to interview and touch hands with as ‘historical examples’ of how certain individuals liked to do things.

Limiting the comparison to rank material simplifies things a bit.

As far as specific ingredients go, the techniques are pretty similar – low kicks, basic 8 blocks, hammers, punches, eyepokes, claws, etc. However, the taxonomy is different. There are far fewer ‘named’ hand forms in Kempo Jutsu – no ‘snakes tooth’ or ‘chicken wrist’, etc. Punch, palm, rip, hammer. You may use your index and middle finger (or any other couple fingers) to poke the eye, but you don’t tend to call it an ‘immortal man’.

The ratio of ingredients is a bit different – he does like his hammers!

As far as ‘technical choreography’ goes, there are some techniques that are almost identical. ‘Basic Knifehand’ is virtually identical to SKK combination #20 with a change in which foot comes forward initially (which gets evened out with a shuffle) and a strike or two difference. Conceptually, they are very similar, almost within the realm of difference seen within any two FVSSD schools or between FVSSD and USSD. Other techniques such as Kempo Jutsu’s ‘Dodging the lance’ are like SKK used to do combination #16 in ‘the olden days’. Then there are other techniques that have much less overlap. Even so, I found that learning Kempo Jutsu was a very easy transition, and in the process, I learned things that made my previous SKK material better. The difference was less with the content of the material, and more with ‘how it was done’. I was often able to spot techniques as I learned them and identify the origin as “Walter’s” based on how much they reminded me of combinations or kempo techniques I already had.

As far as ‘how to do it’, there were several changes. First, things that I had been looking for in SKK material and adding myself were standard in Kempo Jutsu. Checks, leg checks, hyper-extensions and so on. They fit so perfectly with the existing SKK material, it was like they had been there all along once I added them.

The flow was different as well. SKK has a real ‘power’ element to it on the east coast, probably due to some of the Japanese (shotokan) influences that had been added in in the early years. Changing back to a more ‘Hawaiian Kempo’ flow brought a lot of my existing SKK back to life. Often, SKK folks will also cross train in EPAK, and mix concepts from the two. Folks who do that often look like they are doing Kempo Jutsu as far as flow. Power + Flow.

Pedagogically, there are big differences. I latched on to Kempo Jutsu first for the ‘flow’ aspect, and then for the difference of thought in pedagogy. I know you are familiar with my ‘less is more’ obsession as of late, and Kempo Jutsu fit right in. It has a very limited curriculum in ‘quantity’ but it’s really dense in principles. All of the techniques can (and are) done off of a wide variety of attacks. They tend to be ‘interchangeable’ as far as entering / attacking / finishing as you can begin with the entering portion of one technique and seamlessly transition to the middle of another, and then use the end of a third based on what Professor Kimo calls ‘targets of opportunity’. Once techniques are learned, they are based more on principle, so if you do ‘Spear, shield and hammer’ ten times, you will end up with ten different subtle differences due to ‘add ins’, ‘ad-libs’, ‘variations’ and so on based on your need/mood/whether you got stuck in traffic behind a tourist.

Kempo-jutsu values contact, and I find that Kempo Jutsu schools ‘enjoy’ a bit more contact than some other SKK schools.

As far as Kata, there are far fewer in Kempo Jutsu – 5 pinions, several of which you would recognize immediately as variations on what are now called the ‘palama sets’, shiru kuma and the three lohan sets, plus a couple weapon forms.

SKK on the other hand, especially since the late ’70’s / early 80’s has a much, much bigger collection. If you go back to SGM. S. George Pesare’s curriculum of 7 pinans plus statue of the crane (and maybe one or two more) or the original that F. Villari taught in the 1970’s, (6 katas, statue of the crane, honsuki, 5 pinans) there is more similarity. Professor Kimo emphasizes Self Defense (and especially the ability to be spontaneous) much more than kata.

I often feel like Kempo Jutsu has a feel similar to that of the earliest SKK / Karazenpo Goshinjutsu.

Are they the same? No. Do they share an obvious root? To me, yes. Sorry this post was so long, but I feel like I still just scratched the surface. I hope it made sense.