What is Kosho Ryu Kenpo?

Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo is an ancient art with a rich history and tradition. It began around 1300 AD in China, in the Shaolin Temple, emigrated to Japan, and finally to the United States of America through James Mitose.

Kosho is rich indeed, embracing the study of martial training, Japanese Yoga, Shodo (brush calligriaphy), meditation, healing arts, energy collection, escaping arts, folding arts and philosophy. Kempo is not only the study of martial arts; it is more so the study of wholeness.

Kenpo is a Japanese Art, having its roots deep in China. It means Fist Law (Chinese "Kem" = "fist", "Po" = "law". Japanese "Ken" =fist, "Po" = "law".). Its motion contains many similarities to the Shaolin Kung Fu from which it emerged, but the Japanese have, as they tend to do with everything, taken the art and fine tuned it and "perfected" it. Where Kung Fu movement seems big and away from the body center, Kempo movement is small and very very close to the body center. Kempo is often so subtle that one doesn't even see what has just happened, though the effect upon the attacker is clear enough. Kempo properly done often looks like an accident.

Kenpo in the West

Over the years there have developed many schools of Kenpo; American Kenpo, Tracy's Kenpo as a couple of examples. One lesser known fact about Kenpo, in the US, Canada and Europe, is that it is all derived from Kosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo, the family art of Misayoshi James Mitose Sensei. When he moved from Japan to Hawaii, he eventually decided to teach his art to the Americans there. He ran a small dojo there, and his students went on to teach their versions of Kenpo accross the US. Ed Parker, for instance, created "American Kenpo", teaching many famous American actors and musicians (Elvis Presley among them. You know his famous hip-rotation? Kenpo, baby, Kenpo... Uh hau hau hau). None of these people, however, really learned the deeper aspects of Kosho before moving on and changing the art into something else, which frustrated Master Mitose.

Later he taught the deepest intricacies to Bruce Juchnik in California, and eventually passed on full authority over his famil art to Mr. Juchnik, who to this day heads the Kai. If you ever get the opportunity to work with Juchnik Hanshi, DO IT, you will be amazed!

Kosho is a complete art

Kosho is not only a martial art. It is the study of natural law. Emphasis goes to the word "study". Remember that Kosho's roots are deep in Buddhism. Shown here is the "Mon", or crest of Kosho Shorei. It's symbolism sumarizes Kosho Ryu wonderfully. Within the outer circle you will notice the Octagon, which is what Kosho practitioners use to study the escaping arts. Besides this, it also symbolizes the eightfold path of Buddhism, which is:

The Kosho Mon: Seal of the Kai
  1. right speech
  2. right understanding
  3. right means of livelihood
  4. right effort
  5. right meditation
  6. right action
  7. right intention
  8. right awareness

It's eight points symbolize the complete Kosho system of study. They represent the study of:

  1. Energy Collection
  2. Healing Arts
  3. Japanese Yoga
  4. Escaping Arts
  5. Philosophy
  6. Folding Arts
  7. Meditation
  8. War Arts

Energy Collection

Energy Collection is the Kosho Shorei version of using Tai Chi or Qi Qung type movement to develop and become aware of the body's internal energy. It is basically moving and breathing in a certain way to build up the healing energy of the body and mind. It operates on the same principles as does the Chinese Tai Chi, though this is a much more basic, repetitive form. It is not a martial art as Tai Chi is.

Healing Arts

Kosho Ryu studies the Japanese healing art of Shiatsu, dealing with the meridians of the body and their "pressure points". Some of us also study the use of herbal healing and accupunctire.

Japanese Yoga

Unfortunately I did not get much opportunity to study this aspect of Kosho, other than some very basic stretching and breathing exercises. What I did get exposure to was very similar to the yoga of Inda, only the breathing was from the deepest area of the Hara, just below the navel.

Escaping Arts

This is the use of the Octagon to escape bodily harm, dealing with awareness, breathing, body posture, timing, eye training, ma ai (positioning and distance in relation to ones opponent).


The philosophy of Kosho Ryu deals largely with the eight fold path of Budha, the study of culture and history, study and awareness of ones physical self and spiritual self.

Folding Arts

Folding is the study of fundamental throwing techniques, grabs and releases, ground or grappling, breathing, study of leverage, entering, engaging and disengaging with ones opponent.


This is the aspect of Kosho where we study Shodo (Japanese Calligriaphy), Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), Iaido (the art of drawing the sword), energy collection, kata, formal meditation.

War Arts

Vital point striking, Kenjutsu, Iaijutsu, weaponry, bo and jo, kata, kumite, etc.