The Nature of Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

Most Kempo systems in the United States tend to derive from one source, the James Masayoshi Mitose lineage. This has been passed throughout the country by students of William Chow, Ed Parker, and others. There are a few who proclaim their arts as Kempo Jujutsu, the same way that James Mitose did, while most designate their branch Kempo Karate, due to the influence of William Chow.

Kempo Karate

          Interestingly enough, the first time that the Okinawan martial arts were introduced to Japan, they were called Kempo Karate and when Chojun Miyagi brought the art to Hawaii it was touted Kempo Karate as well. This is where there has been a distinct misunderstanding of what the Oriental martial arts are, especially the art of Kempo.

Sogo Bujutsu

          In ancient times, the martial arts were complete in nature and so were many times called Sogo Bujutsu, literally comprehensive martial arts. The great Japanese historian, Seiko Fujita, noted that a typical list of skills taught in true martial systems usually included as many as thirty-five or more arts. There were, according to some sources three main divisions; Kempo Bugei, Kakuto Bugei, and Nimpo Bugei.

Kempo Bugei

          Kempo Bugei, fist law martial arts, were those connected with temples either directly, meaning that they were taught at the temples, or indirectly, referring to the family martial arts practiced by rural warriors, Goshi, who originally learned them under the tutelage of warrior monks.

Kakuto Bugei

          Kakuto Bugei were the fighting martial arts of the Bushi clans. In some cases these arts were developed by the fertile genius of the clan leaders. The most famous style of the Kakuto Bugei is that founded by Yoshimitsu Minamoto, which became known as Daito Ryu in modern times.

Nimpo Bugei

          Finally, there are the Nimpo Bugei, which were also connected with the temples. Where Kempo Bugei were most closely associated with Zen Buddhism, Nimpo Bugei were associated with Mikkyo Buddhism. These were Samurai clans located in the hills and more wild areas of Japan. Generally, these clans did not have close ties to the central government and many times found themselves in opposition to national policy. These styles majored on their own forms of Ninjutsu, however it should be noted that all forms of Bugei tended to have a branch of Ninjutsu.

Mitose’s Martial Art

          James Masayoshi Mitose created an unusual blend of martial arts due to his training in Japan. It must be remembered that Mitose was born in Hawaii, but at age five sent home to receive formal training. According to Mitose himself, he learned history, philosophy, as well as, martial arts. This included Western history and philosophy along with those of the East. Essentially, Mitose was raised a Buddhist priest, though later in his life he became a Christian minister. According to Mitose, he was taught a primitive form of Christianity while in Japan, telling the story of Jesus Christ’s journey to India.

Kosho Ryu

          While in Japan, he learned the family martial art, which was known as Kosho Ryu Kempo. According to Mitose, it was a complete martial art, Sogo Bujutsu, which included weaponry, flower arranging, and empty-handed skills. This style was a true Bugei, in that many of the survival skills of the Samurai were preserved in the arts taught. Yet this was not the end of the amount of skills in which Mitose trained.

Choki Motobu (Shorei Ryu/Motobu Ryu)

          According to some sources, James Masayoshi Mitose's maternal uncle was the great Okinawan martial arts master of Kempo Karate, Choki Motobu. While Motobu was in Japan, he was extremely famous and developed an entourage, which followed him around the island. Among those who trained with Motobu was; Yasuhiro Konishi, Kanei Kuniba, Tatsuo Yamada, Shoshin Nagamine, Shinsuke Kaneshima, Shinyei Kaneshima, Katsuya Miyahira, Chozo Nakama, Tsuyoshi Chitose, Tatsuo Shimabuku, Eizo Shimabuku, Shigeru Nakamura, Seiko Fujita, and most importantly for the martial arts in the United States, James Masayoshi Mitose.

Seiko Fujita

          Note the name Seiko Fujita, he was the headmaster of Wada Ha Koga Ryu Ninjutsu. When Mitose taught in Hawaii, he primarily taught Kosho Ryu Kempo, which was suppose to be derived from Shaolin Chuanfa, brought to Japan during the Kamakura era. He also taught elements of Shorei Ryu Kempo Karate, the style founded by Choki Motobu, including the use of the Makiwara. There are those who say that Mitose was disturbed by some of his students’ tendency for violence. Thus in 1953, he retired from teaching and moved to California. Twenty years later he thought he would come out of retirement and begin teaching again. This time he decided to teach the complete martial art, including Ninjutsu. Suddenly, the complete martial arts, as taught in ancient times were being taught in the United States.

          Everyone is aware that Mitose was later accused of murder and sentenced to prison. There are many theories that have been put forth in this matter, with some saying that Mitose was an innocent victim. Still others say that Mitose was the worst criminal to have ever extorted money from innocent prey. This is a matter still being investigated, with much evidence being on the side of the innocence of Mitose, but nonetheless, regardless what is decided by history, Mitose taught the complete Kempo Bugei in the United States for the first time.

Richard Stone

          I began training in the martial arts under Richard Stone, who had eleven years experience in the martial arts, having been taught Kodokan Judo, Kodenkan Jujutsu, Aikikai Aikido, and Kosho Ryu Kempo. Like most young boys at the time, I began to think of self defense in terms of combinations of arts. As I later learned Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Ninjutsu, Tai Chi, and other arts, I continued to seek to combine them in an eclectic fashion. I had read much of Bruce Lee writings and so thought this was the way to go for those wishing to learn the martial arts completely.

Dr. Rod Sacharnoski

          Then a very special event happened, the author joined Juko Kai Kokusai Remmei, the international martial arts union of Dr. Rod Sacharnoski. It was while training in the Juko Ryu arts, and other systems, in Juko Kai, that the author began to realize the true comprehensive nature of the Asian martial arts.

          In 1982, Dr. Sacharnoski sponsored me before the Zen Kokusai Soke Remmei, a board of headmasters including Oriental and Western martial artists, who seek to certify deserving martial artists and recognize their new systems. Thus was founded Kiyojute Ryu Kempo, a comprehensive martial arts system, teaching the full range of martial arts skills.

          Yet the author was not satisfied with his then level of knowledge, but rather kept training with his three main instructors; Richard Stone, Dr. Rod Sacharnoski, and Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace. He also researched the many branches of Kosho Ryu Kempo, eventually being certified by each branch head; Thomas Barro Mitose, Bruce Juchnik, and Nimr Hassan. During his research he found the roots of Kosho Ryu Kempo Jujutsu, Koga Ryu Ninjutsu, and Shorei Ryu Kempo Karate.


          Most of all the author found out that according to traditional Oriental martial arts thought, without weapons training of a comprehensive nature, the arts may be thought of as Budo but not Bugei. Training must encompass much more than just empty hand training, though with many systems it all begins with the empty hand, which is especially true of the ancient Okinawan forms of Bushi Te and the original concept of Aiki training.

          Through historical research I have based the teachings of Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei on the oldest forms of training, which include: Mukei, a.k.a., Jiyu Kata, free form training which is not prearranged, which is the basis of pre-Tokugawa Japanese Bujutsu Kata and the original Okinawan method of training; Embu, the paired, noncompetitive method of training that allowed Shaolin monks to practice their martial arts, while maintaining their vows of nonviolence; and Kihon Kumite, basic cooperative hand, as well as, it's variation known as Renzoku Ken, continuous fist, the practice of combinations.

          The last two methods were used in Okinawa, with the aspect of Renzoku Ken being a method particularly associated with Shorin Ryu and the Shorei Ryu of Choki Motobu. Many Kihon Kumite are used to teach the Ikken, one strike certain death, techniques for which Okinawan Karate is famous.

Six Principles

          There are six principles, which must be comprehended if the martial arts are to be truly mastered. These are; Aikiho, Bukiho, Goho, Juho, Nimpo, and Shuho. Aikiho, which is the idea of harmonizing one's movement and energy with that of an attacker, is probably one of the best known principles due to the proliferation of Aikido and Aikijujutsu schools. Bukiho is the study of weapons, but more, the in-depth practice of universal movements, which can be applied to moving any item in a combative manner. Goho is the training required to coordinate the entire body into a singular goal, be it performing a strike, executing a throw, or accomplishing a joint lock. Juho is obviously the principle most associated with coordination of the body for using an opponent's strength against them, and is most associated with Judo or Jujutsu.

          The last two principles are among the rarest concepts, though Nimpo is currently being touted by several ancient Ryu, which specialize in Ninjutsu. Nimpo is less an art and more of a doctrine of living. Nin, the root of the term, literally means patience, though it is commonly defined as stealth. While many teach Nimpo as an art in and of itself, it has for years been a central tenet of spiritual development. The idea is that any true growth or development takes patience, there are many special skills, which are normally developed through this principle.

          The final principle, Shuho, is an ancient one, which can be traced back into Japanese and Okinawan antiquity. In the common Japanese tongue, it is pronounced Tori and in the Okinawan dialect tends to be expressed as either Tui or Toi. It refers to the concept of taking, though at its deeper level it infers the idea of intuitive feeling, though this is little talked about outside of Okinawa.


          In Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, these six principles are explored in depth in the auxiliary martial arts, which were derived from the spread of Kempo throughout the Orient. There are three specific branches, the first is Kobujutsu, which deals with the weaponry of both Japan and Okinawa. Among the weapons taught are; Katana, Wakizashi, Bo, Jo, Sai, Kama, Manrikigusari, Nunchaku, Naginata, and Yari. Along with weaponry, are certain auxiliary arts, which were believed essential in the study of Bugei, though they are not necessarily fighting skills in and of themselves. Some of these skills studied by Kiyojute Ryu Kempoka are: Karumijutsu, the body lightening art; Hichojutsu, the leaping/flying art; Koppo, the bone breaking art; Suieijutsu, the swimming art; Haragei, the spirit art; and there are many others. The weaponry art is referred to as Bukiho Kempo Kobujutsu, while the auxiliary forms of training are called Nimpo Kempo Kobujutsu.


          The next section is that of Jujutsu, in which the typical grappling skills of the Ashigaru are practiced. These are the skills, which formed the foundation of Kodokan Judo, in the old days of it being a true martial art with excellent self defense and combat skills. The second part of the Jujutsu section deals with Aiki, which was the fighting art of the Bushi who fought in full, heavy armor. The Aiki skills were designed to attack the joints of the arm primarily, thus we see the wrist locks, elbow extensions, and shoulder twists. There was also a division of armor clashing techniques, where a Bushi would unbalance their opponent and then slam their armor into them to knock them down, these included the throws known today as; Kokyunage, Iriminage, and Tenchinage.


          Karate forms the next section of study. There are two distinct versions, one is the Karate based primarily on Chinese martial arts, which influenced Okinawan martial arts during various periods of history. Starting as early as the sixth century, during the twelfth century, fourteenth and eighteenth, as well as, nineteenth and twentieth, centuries, there was a strong influx of Chinese based martial arts, including the Shaolin styles, as well as, Tai Chi, and in modern times, beginning in the late nineteenth and continuing on into the twentieth century, the other internal styles of Pa Kua and Hsing I. White Crane Chuanfa and especially the Hung Chia Chuanfa, were especially essential to the development of Okinawan martial arts, giving to the Okinawan art the five animal techniques and extreme sophistication of strategy.

          The second division is based on the Bushi Te, warrior hand, which was practiced by the royalty of Okinawa. This art was not only influenced by the Chinese martial arts, but also founded upon the Minamoto Bujutsu brought to Okinawa by Tametomo Minamoto after the Hogen Incident on Japan, when the Taira defeated the Minamoto. Tametomo and his followers befriended the Okinawans, marrying and having children. Tametomo's own son, Shunten, became the first king of Okinawa, using his father's martial arts to establish his rule. It is said the Bushi Te, martial arts of the royalty was what allowed them to maintain control of the island until the coming of the Satsuma in 1609, when they were simply, overwhelmingly outnumbered.

          Bushi Te survived into modern times through the efforts of one man, Choyu Motobu. He wanted to pass his system of Bushi Te, known specifically as Goten Te, onto his sons, but instead taught the family system to his son's, Chomo a.k.a. Toraju, best friend, Seikichi Uehara. He also taught elements to many others through his Okinawan Karate Kenkyu Kai, research society.

          The Chinese influenced Okinawan martial art is preserved through the Goho Kempo Karate of Kiyojute Ryu, while the principles of Bushi Te are preserved through the art called Shuho Kempo Karatejutsu. The term Kempo is used in each art, since in essence all arts derive from the original martial art of Kempo which formed the foundation of the concept of fighting arts based on virtue and used to establish and maintain peace.

Shogei Toitsu Kempo

          The main and central art of Kiyojute Ryu is known as Shogei Toitsu Kempo. Shogei means "all arts" and is used to refer to all the divisions that the martial arts have gone through since their beginning. Toitsu has two meaning, one common, and the other more literal. The common translation is "unified" while the literal meaning is "beginning in one". Thus Shogei Toitsu Kempo can mean "all arts unified in one fist law" or "all arts beginning in one fist law".

          Whether looked at as unified or beginning in one, this aspect is most indicative of the Okinawan attitude. Okinawa had it's own indigenous fighting art, known simply as Te. When Buddhist monks brought to the island their Chinese Kempo, the Bushi of Okinawa were humble enough to learn everything they could from them, during every period of time the Chinese influence arrived. And when the Minamoto warriors came to Okinawa, the Okinawan people welcomed them and once again learned all they could, forming the foundation of their special warrior art.

          Thus the martial arts of Okinawa are a truly unified system, which encompasses all aspects of combat. The original martial art of Okinawa encompassed; blocking, striking, throwing, locking, choking, kicking, and holding, among it's empty hand techniques, as well as, the weapons of China and Japan, including their own tool weapons, along with the auxiliary methods of training brought to the island by Chinese monks and Japanese warriors.

Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei

          Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei seeks to preserve all the elements of the martial arts as practiced by the Samurai of Japan, prior to the Tokugawa era and the Bushi Te of Okinawa, prior to the modernization of the Okinawan martial arts in the twentieth century. This is primarily accomplished by maintaining the emphasis on the original form of Kata, preserving traditional forms of training, and practicing in the ancient cooperative manner of the warrior monks.

Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei stands alone as one of the few true combat systems, which adheres to the original principles of the ancient martial arts avoiding the modernization, which has created sports out of traditional forms of combat training. Members of the Ryu belong to a family of like-minded practitioners of the martial arts, united in the universal love of true Ki development, the goal of any true martial art, seeking enlightenment from the in-depth practice of combat skills.

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