Since its founding in 1968, USSD has been established as the premiere Martial Arts and Self Defense organization throughout North America. From its early beginnings as a small studio in the outskirts of Boston, USSD has grown to over 80 locations nationwide and counting.
Like the well-nurtured bonsai, the roots of the United Studios family run deep – built on a foundation of traditional values with a modern day approach to self-defense and personal development. For over 40 years, United Studios has pioneered martial arts training, providing professional instruction to Men, Women & Children of all ages.
To understand the present, one must first have a clear understanding of the past. As a valued member of theUnited Studios of Self Defense family, it is important that you know more about the arts you practice. What you are reading is a comprehensive history of the legends, traditions and history of the masters who helped create Kempo.
Asian Martial Artists trace their roots back 5,000 years to India and the Greek Martial Arts of Pankration. The invading armies of Alexander the Great brought this brutal art of boxing and wrestling to India in the 4th century B.C. Historians also credit the Greeks for organizing the first professional boxing matches 1,000 years before the birth of Christ.
Records exist dating back to the 5th century B.C. crediting an Indian named Han Lo-Ming for creating Chi Hsuan Men, or ‘Unusual Style’. This art used the defensive scissor techniques of the White Jade Fan to trap swords and spears, and pressure point strikes with the fan’s tip.
Chinese historians dispute India’s claim to being the cradle of Asian Martial Arts. They point to military manuals and documents dated from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. They claim that Han emperors actively funded the study and refinements of Kung-Fu far beyond any fighting system known in India during this period.
The Chinese also credit Chinese physician Dr. Hua T’o as the founder of the first martial style, and the first doctor to use anesthesia during surgery. Around 220 A.D., he devised a series of exercises modeled on the deer, bear, bird, tiger and monkey long before the Shaolin Temple began instruction in the Martial Arts. T’o designed these exercises to relieve stress, tone the body and provide a means of self-defense.
Although the origin of Martial Arts is in question, few dispute the saying, “The foundation of all Martial Arts is Shaolin.” The Shaolin Temple is the spiritual and technical source of all modern Martial Arts. Shaolin Kempo has a long and rich heritage going back to the beginning of modern civilization. Few Martial Arts can document their history over such a long time and to such a high degree.
Legend states that Zen Buddhist patriarch Ta Mo (“Da Mo, Bodhidharma” to the Chinese; “Daruma Daishi” to the Japanese), the prince of a small tribe in Southern India, arrived in China after a brutal trek over Tibet’s Himalaya Mountains.
The first Shaolin (from Shao Lin or Sil Lum, meaning “Young (Pine Tree) Forest”)Temple of Songshan was built in 377 A.D. for Pao Jaco, “The First Buddha,” by Emperor Wei on the Shao Shik Peak of Song Mountain in Teng Fon Hsien, Henan Province. The Temple was originally constructed for religious training and meditation only. Martial Arts training at the temple did not begin until the arrival of Ta Mo in 526 A.D.
Ta Mo sought peace and converts to help him spread Charn Buddhism, (later known as Zen in Japan) throughout China. Legend states that Ta Mo found his meditation method caused sleepiness among the monks. The monks at that time also lacked stamina and the ability to defend themselves against warlords and bandits.
Ta Mo, a member of the Indian Kshatriya warrior class and a master of staff fighting, created a system of 18 dynamic tension exercises. These movements found their way into print in 550 A.D. as the Yi Gin Ching, or Changing Muscle/Tendon Classic. We know this today as the Lohan (Priest-Scholar)18 Hand Movements, the basis of Chinese Temple Boxing and Shaolin Kempo.
Ta Mo’s introduction of the Martial Arts to the Shaolin Temple was purely self-interest. He saw the monks as solitary types content to live their lives within temple walls. He dreamed of developing mobile, fearless warrior missionaries able to spread Charn Buddhism throughout the world. According to legend, Ta Mo developed a simple selfdefense system to train Japanese Shorinji (Shaolin) Monks who traveled between Shaolin Temples in China, Formosa, Japan and India. Yamabushi (“Ascetic Hermits”), referred to this art of the staff, spear and empty hand as Goshin-Jutsu, the basis of Aikido, Judo, Jujutsu and Ninjutsu.
Ta Mo died in 539 A.D. at the Shaolin Temple at age 57, before the completion of his life’s mission. However, Ta Mo created the basis of Shaolin Ch’uan Fa, an art that evolved into Sil Lurn Kung-Fu, Shaolin 5 Animals Style,Chung-Kuo Ch’uan (Chinese Kempo Arts) and Shorinji Kempo (Japan). In the 20th century, the Shaolin Arts modernized through necessity to become Shaolin Kempo, the modern approach to self-defense taught atUnited Studios of Self Defense.
To the Shaolin monks, religion and the Martial Arts were separate ideals. They walked a thin line between self-defense and non-violence. As vegetarians, monks would not eat meat, or even ride a horse for fear of burdening the animal. On pilgrimages, they carried staffs tipped with jingling metal rings to scare away insects on their path, to ensure they would not step on them. However, a monk would kill to defend his life or protect the weak.
Today, a Shaolin school exists in Songshan founded by ancient monks (some in their nineties!) who teach select disciples and give demonstrations for tourists. One of their training techniques involves stomping their feet full-force into the floor of a stone courtyard to strengthen their legs. Witnesses report holes and depressions in the stone from decades of practice.
In 1644, Manchurians from Mongolia, “Manchu Hordes from the North,” invaded China to conquer it and set up the Qing Court. Legend tells of 108 Shaolin monks, Seng Bing (Priest-Soldiers), who met and defeated 10,000 Manchurians in one afternoon without suffering a single injury. Now national heroes, the monks attracted members of Chinese secret societies such as the northern White Lotus Society and the southern Hung Family League, eager to learn a fighting method to drive the Manchus back to Mongolia.
By royal decree, only the Chinese Emperor and masters of Shaolin Temples could possess complete Martial Arts systems. The Martial Arts flourished due to the efforts of revolutionaries, bandits and rebels who resisted the Manchus and often sought asylum in Shaolin monasteries. Eager to fight, secret societies created a network of Martial Arts schools in Chinese monasteries and villages.
Shaolin monks Gok Yuen, Lee Sau and Bak Juk Fung enlarged the original “Lohan 18 Hands” to 170 movements to make Sil Lun (Shaolin) Kung-Fu a more effective fighting system. Primarily a health art, a student began the study of the light staff before tackling a series of progressively heavier staffs. This strengthened the muscles and loosened the ligaments.
In 1662, the Manchus gained complete control of China. While the Manchus feared the Shaolin priests and their revolutionary activities, they refused to harm them. One, because the Manchus were mainly Buddhists and the Shaolin priests were their spiritual leaders. Two, Shaolin priests were valuable to the Manchu Qing Court as advisors and healers. Three, harming the priests would make them martyrs and cause the people to fight harder to dethrone the tyrannical Manchu overlords.
In 1736, the Manchus decided to rid themselves of the original Songshan Shaolin Temple to thwart the plans of Taiwanese rebel commander Cheng-Cheng Gong. Gong had sent troops to the temple to seek refuge with Abbott Chi Tong and his 128 warrior monks. Fearing this alliance, two Manchu officials bribed Ma Linger, ranked seventh among the 128 monks, to spy for them and help destroy the temple.
On a moonless night, Ma Linger opened a secret temple passageway for two Manchu officials who set quick moving fires. Realizing that 10,000 Manchu troops were no match for the 128 warrior monks, Ma Linger placed sleeping potions in the monks’ food supply. Drugged and helpless monks died in their beds.
Only five monks escaped. They formed the Hung Family League, the chief resistance movement against the Manchus. They set up a new monastery in the village of Chuan Chow in Fukien Province to keep the Shaolin traditions alive and continue political pressure on the Manchus. It was in Fukien that the Five Shaolin Ancestors Wu Mei, Chi Shan, Bok Mei, Feng Daode and Miao Chian gained prominence as masters of the Shaolin Martial Arts, also known as Sil Lum in Cantonese, or Shorinji in Japanese. Study centered on the moves and attributes of the Tiger, Dragon, Snake, Leopard and Crane, the Five Shaolin Animals.
Each animal form represented one of the “Five Essences” the Five Shaolin Ancestors felt all people possessed. The Dragon fuels the spirit; the Tiger trains the bones to resist heavy blows; the Leopard develops strength and footwork; the Crane loosens the sinews and ligaments; and the Snake builds Chi, internal strength.
Shaolin priests spent an average of 10 years behind Temple walls in a strict regimen of work, meditation, practice and study. Their day started at sunrise and ended at sunset. Graduation from the temple consisted of three tests: a difficult oral examination of Chinese history, Martial Arts theory and philosophy; a full-contact sparring match with several Kung-Fu masters; and the Ordeal of the Lohan Hall.
The Fukien Province monastery contained 36 chambers or levels of Martial Arts instruction and the infamousLohan Hall (also known as “Priest-Scholar Hall” and “Den of the Wooden Men”). Upon entering the Lohan Hall, the graduate student fought 108 mechanical wooden dummies armed with knives, spears and clubs triggered by the student’s body movements. Many did not survive this gauntlet of punishing blows.
If the student survived, he had to make his way through an opening blocked by a 500-pound metal urn containing red-hot coals. Gripping the urn in his forearms, the student had to slide the urn to his right to create an exit. In the process, he branded his forearms with the badges of the Shaolin master, the Dragon and the Tiger.
In 1768, the Manchus again saw the need to destroy the second Shaolin Temple. They sought the allegiance ofChang Sanfeng, a Sung dynasty scholar and outstanding student of the Fukien Temple. His superior physical and mental abilities had allowed him to graduate from the temple a full-fledged master in less than two years.
A Taoist, Chang Sanfeng left the temple to start a monastery in Hubei’s Wu Tang mountain range. Here he created Wu Tang Martial Arts, merging the hard Shaolin arts with the mystical Chi Kung (Internal Power) arts. This led to the creation ofTai Chi Ch’uan, “The Grand Ultimate Art,” of which Chang Sanfeng is the acknowledged founder. Sanfeng created Tai Chi Ch’uan as a combat art after seeing a snake defeat a hawk, later discovering its health and fitness benefits.
Chang’s revolutionary internal power building techniques and promise of increased fighting ability caused many Shaolin students to defect to him. Manchu officials encouraged the rivalry between the Wu Tang disciples and the Shaolin. After many clashes, Chang’s disciples defeated the Shaolin and burned the Fukien Temple to the ground.
Surviving Shaolin monks fled to India and Southeast Asia. Some remained, posing as tradesmen, farmers and artists to escape persecution. Others settled on Ermei Mountain in the Szechwan Province, an area that developed many Martial Arts styles and became a stronghold of top Kempo masters.
A few of the surviving monks were responsible for creating China’s three major styles, Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut and Wing Chun. These styles are distant cousins of modern Shaolin Kempo, their “Father Art.” One of the most spectacular acrobatic styles, Shantung Black Tiger, was created in China’s Northern Hunan Province to defend against multiple opponents on rocky terrain. It is the basis of Kun-Tao, a Kempo-inspired art popular in Southeast Asia.
Gee Sim, a Shaolin monk and master of the Tiger Fist, taught his art at the seaport of Canton after the destruction of the temple. Gee Sim’s innovations aided the development of modern Shaolin Kempo.
Choy Fook, another Shaolin survivor, fled to Kwantung in South China to his mountain retreat at Law Fo Shan. Here he taught disciple Chan Heung the entire Shaolin Kung-Fu system and four internal Lohan Qigongforms. This became the popular Chinese art of Choy Li Fut, and the beginning of wooden dummy training. Chan Heung recorded Choy Li Fut’s 138 forms in the Kuen Po, or Manual of Fist Work. This is the first recorded mention of the term “Kempo” (“Fist Law”) in connection with the Shaolin arts.
During this period, the Chinese people rarely used the term Kung- Fu, a generic term for skill of any kind. They often lumped all fighting arts together as Wu-Shu, the Mandarin expression of Kou-Shu, “National Martial Arts.”
During the years 906 A.D. to 1911, Chinese masters had a tremendous influence on the Martial Arts of Japan and Okinawa. Many warrior monks, “Yamabushi,” lived on the slopes of Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. They often visited the Shaolin temples of Songshan and Fukien to study Zen and refine their Martial Arts of Shorinji (Shaolin) Kempo. These Japanese Buddhist monks honored Ta Mo, or Duruma Daishi as the Japanese call him, as their spiritual father.
Some Yamabushi renegades developed mystical powers through the practice of Tibetan-inspired Mikkyo Buddhism at a monastery on China’s Mt. T’ien T’ai. These warrior priests formed the basis of Ninjutsu. Shaolin-trained Martial Artists called “Vagabonds” often traveled the Far East as performers in circus-like acting troupes to conceal their identities on secret missions. The first Ninjas were actually Shaolin priests. Many Shaolin priests excelled in guerrilla warfare tactics. They were the first to use blinding powders, smoke bombs, booby traps, and hidden weapons. They excelled in the art of invisibility so well that Chinese today believe that a Shaolin priest can walk through walls!
Few know of the legendary Chin Gempin, a 16th Century Chinese Kempo master who had untold influence on Japanese and Okinawan Martial Arts. A Chinese mystic and wandering Yamabushi monk, Gempin fell in love with a Japanese woman. Forced to change his Chinese name (Chin Gen Pinh) to become a Japanese citizen and stay in Japan, Gempin kept his total Chinese Kempo art a secret. He supported himself by teaching his grappling arts of Kumiai-Jutsu (“The Tackling Art”) and Atemi-Waza (“Nerve Striking Techniques”) to Ronin (Masterless Samurai).Gempin also founded the art of Yawara-Jutsu, a short rod self-defense system on which the modern Kubaton is based.
In 1532, Takenouchi, a master of “Combat Sumo,” challenged Gempin and was soundly beaten. Takenouchibecame Gempin’s student, learning five secret “arresting techniques” and a short rod method called Yawara.Takenouchi went on to establish the first official Ryu or school of Jujutsu near Kyoto. Many Japanese historians, merely refer to Chin Gempin as an “Ascetic Hermit and teacher of Takenouchi.”
In 1560, the Mitose family, founders of a monastery on Japan’s Mt. Akenkai, received a Chinese Kemposystem from Kosho, a Shinto priest. Kosho traced his lineage to Ta Mo. Kosho had studied the Shaolin arts at Japan’s Shaolin-inspired Shorinji Temple. He eventually took the Mitose family name. In a dream, he received new Kempo secrets and renamed his system Kosho-ryu Kempo. After Kosho’s death, Mitose ancestors changed Kosho’s Shaolin-inspired art to a more Linear Japanese system. Kosho-ryu Kempo consisted of intensive training in the weaponless forms of Shaolin Kempo with traditional Japanese Samurai “Bushi” War Arts.
It is interesting to note that Ko means “Old,” Sho means “Pine Tree” and Ryu means “School.” The Pine Tree was included in the trademark United Studios of Self Defense “Bonsai Tree” logo by Founder and HeadmasterCharles A. Mattera before any connection to modern Shaolin Kempo was ever made. This significant coincidence demonstrates the continuity of our Shaolin Kempo lineage through the decades.
The Okinawan Islands benefited by being near China, Korea and Japan. The area’s turbulent weather and tricky ocean currents swept many travelers, pirates, soldiers, scholars and Buddhist priests to Okinawan shores. In 1372, Okinawa’s King Satto pledged his islands to the Chinese Ming emperor and Shaolin Buddhist ideals. Peasants and farmers mastered Martial Arts that were once the exclusive domain of the military and upper classes.
In 1470, Okinawan King Shohashi viewed his people’s fighting ability as a threat and confiscated their weapons. Left to their own devices, Okinawans developed the crude combat arts of Te (“Hand”) and Tode (“Closed Fist”), a mixed bag of Asian fighting styles. Practitioners hardened their natural weapons against fence posts and trees to punch through Samurai armor, the “One Punch, One Kill” concept.
In need of ways to increase their empty-hand fighting abilities, Okinawans sent fighters to China and Taiwan to learn Ch’uan-shu (“The Artful Use of One’s Fists”) Kento (“Fist Fighting”) from top Kempo masters.
In 1609, the armies of the Japanese Satsuma Clan conquered Okinawa and banned all weapons. The Okinawans were ready for the Japanese, having mastered Okinawa-te Karate, Chugo-ku Kempo and Kobudo, and with simple farm tools to thresh and harvest grain readily at hand in the field for use as weapons. The Okinawans kept Kobudo from outsiders for more than 300 years, grudgingly introducing the Bo staff, Kama sickle, Sai,Nunchaku and spinning Tonfa to Japan in the early 1940’s.
At advanced levels of Okinawa-te Karate, students learned Shaolin animal forms, specifically the tiger, crane, butterfly, eagle, bear and snake. Shaolin-inspired arts such as Pakua Chang Gung-Fu and Ch’uan Fa (Kempo) influenced Okinawa’s Goju-ryu Karate, as founder Chojun Miyagi had traveled to China’s Fukien Province to study these arts. Major Okinawan arts have strong Chinese roots. Kobayashi-ryu’s founder learned two styles from a Buddhist priest in Northern China. Uechi-ryu Karate is an Okinawan term to describe the CantonesePoongai Gung-Fu forms as learned by founder Kanbum Uechi, who traveled to China in 1901 to study Ch’uan Fa.
The Okinawans steadily increased their Martial Arts know-how. Legend states that an Okinawan, Sakugawa, left for China in 1724 and was not heard from again for many years. He reappeared in Shuri, Okinawa, demonstrating advanced Shaolin Kempo techniques that attracted hundreds of pupils. Sakugawa’s success and influence inspired the Okinawans to stylize their arts under a “Karate Kempo” banner.
Credit must also be given to Shionja, an Okinawan Kempo master, who along with Chinese friend Kushanku, returned to Okinawa from China in 1784 to spread their “new” style of Chinese Kempo. They succeeded in creating so many Kempo students that Japanese authorities could not stop the spread of the art.
In the late 1800s, a Chinese monk named Kosohun brought Shaolin Ch’uan Fa to Japan. The Japanese soon threatened his life and deported him, since his Kempo art was far superior to existing Japanese Martial Arts and he had attracted too many followers. Kosokun decided to fragment his total Chinese Kempo system to prevent the Japanese from copying it. In Okinawa, he taught only fist techniques; in Taiwan, thrusting with the fingers; in China, hand and foot fighting.
Before 1936, Japanese calligraphy represented Karate as Karate, or Tang Dynasty Hands. Thus Karate was The Art of Chinese Hands. The Koreans also acknowledged the Chinese influence on their Martial Arts. One example is Tang Soo Do, The Way of Chinese Hands, a forerunner of Tae Kwon Do.
Gichi Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan who brought Karate to Japan from Okinawa, wanted to limit the credit the Okinawans gave the Chinese for their Martial Arts. He felt that a Chinese name would hamper the spread of Karate among the nationalistic Japanese. Funakoshipetitioned the Japanese government to change the ideograph for Karafrom Tang to Ku, a Zen term meaning “nothingness.” Thus Kara-tebecame Karate-do, The Way of Empty Hands. This change angered the Okinawans, but they later agreed to change their Kara ideograph to conform with the Japanese version.
Kempo masters have always been at the forefront when it comes to new techniques and training methods. In 1953, Shigeru Nakamura, one of Okinawa’s leading masters, began his own Karate system of Okinawan Kempo, based on Chinese Chugo-yu Kempo. It is a hard sparring art where fighters wear heavy protective equipment. Nakamura introduced the Karate “Side Kick” as we know it today.
However the Chinese masters persisted in their refusal to teach Ch’uan Fa to anyone who was not Chinese. In 1957, T.C. Lee, a naturalized American citizen from China, gave the first public demonstration of Tai Chi Ch’uan. This allowed other Chinese masters to come forth and reveal their Martial Arts secrets to anyone, regardless of race. AlthoughKempo arts flourished in Hawaii among the Chinese community, it was confined to inner circles who referred to Kempo as Ch’uan-shu and taught in secret.
James Masayoshi Mitose introduced Kempo to Hawaii as a protest against the Japanese for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,. The first person to formally introduce Chinese Kempo to the West was Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate and student of Chinese Kempo Grandmaster Kaju Toonda. In 1934, Miyagi taught pure Ch’uan Fa to more than 100 students on the Hawaiian island of Kauai for more than eight months.Miyagi was also proficient in Pa-Kua Chang, Wing Chun and Shaolin Kempoarts from his time spent with masters in China’s Fukien Province.
Miyagi used the term Kempo Karate because he did not want to encounter resistance from the large Chinese community who kept their Ch’uan-shu arts hidden. He also wanted to blend more Chinese Kempo into his Kempo Karate system, “…to use the more profound Chinese knowledge to improve and unify Karate.” Chojun Miyagi never saw this happen; his beloved Goju-ryu yielded to mainly Japanese linear stylizing by his successors after his death. Miyagi is the root ancestor of the fictional “Mr. Miyagi” of the “Karate Kid” film series.
In 1942, Mitose opened the Official Self-Defense Club at the Beretania Mission in Honolulu, teaching Kempo Jujitsu. Mitose felt that most Americans could identify with the term Jujitsu, an art popular in the islands at the time. He taught Kempo Jujitsu as a fighting art made up of eight aspects: punches, kicks, chops, thrusts, pokes, throws, locks and take-downs.
Mitose later downplayed the importance of grabs and throws, feeling they wasted energy and exposed one’s vital points in combat against more than one opponent. He did create a grappling system with an Aikido-Jujitsuflavor that avoided extreme body contact. Mitose’s art was primarily linear in nature with little circular footwork.
One of the big “Kempo/Kenpo” issues involved the spelling of Kempo with an “m” or an “n.” Mitoseauthored a book called What is Self-Defense. This started the confusion when the editor misread Mitose’sBuddhist name, Kenpo Sai Kosho, as indicative of the proper spelling of Kempo Karate. Immediately, Chinese Kempo stylists who never wanted Okinawan or Japanese ties to their Ch’uan Fa began to propagate the term“Chinese Kenpo.” The confusion snowballed. Until his death on March 26, 1981 at the age of 65, Mitoseaccepted the misspelling of his system as Kenpo, often writing “Kenpo/Kempo” when referring to his art.
For all intents and purposes, the terms Kenpo, Kenpo Karate and Kempo mean Shaolin-based arts; those who use the reversed term Karate Kempo imply an affiliation to Okinawan Karate based partly on Shaolin arts. Some Kempostylists have gone so far as to call their art Zempo or Kempa, to give it a unique identity. When all is said and done,Kempo is Kenpo, and vice versa.
The critical link in the development of modern Kempo came through the efforts of Hawaii’s William Kwai Sun Chow. Born in 1914, Chow studied Hung Gar (Tiger and Crane) Shaolin Kung-Fu from his father, the Buddhist monk Hoon Chow of Shanghai.
Only one of six students given a black belt by James Mitose, Chow mastered Kosho-ryu Kempo’s linear techniques and take downs. Chow focused his studies on developing “War Arts,” feeling that Kempo should remain a pure combat art.
Chow saw a need to blend the Chinese circle with the Japanese line, the very innovation lacking in Mitose’s art. This minimized the openings on a fighter’s body, yet allowed a fighter to launch explosive counterattacks. Of below-average height, Chow was strong, quick and accurate. His ability to have an opponent miss (he rarely blocked) as he countered to an exposed area earned him the nickname “Thunderbolt.”
Chow called his art by three names: Chinese Kenpo, Kenpo Karate, and Lightning Kenpo Karate. He believed, as didMitose before him, that the Hawaiian people would more easily recognize the term Karate or Jujitsu. A demanding teacher, Chow stressed full contact training. Few students trained with Chow very long. Chow taught only basics for five years. After five years, students received advanced training. Instruction in the Seven Death Artscame after ten to fifteen years of training.
Chow mastered all Seven Death Arts. He taught two of the Seven Death Arts to four people on condition that they be used only in life-and death situations, and to preserve the honor of the system. With Chow’s death in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 20th, 1987 at the age of 74, “Thunderbolt” took five of the Seven Death Artsto his grave.
HISTORY OF KEMPO
Two schools of thought exist regarding the origins of Japanese martial arts. One school insists the art of Jujitsu is originally native to Japan, while the other claims Jujitsu was actually developed from an earlier form of Chinese grappling known as Chin-na. Both Jujitsu and Chin-na stress the grappling and joint manipulation aspects of fighting as opposed to the punching and kicking aspects. Regardless of its origins by the 16th century Jujitsu was widely practiced throughout Japan.
Jujitsu was utilized by the Samurai warriors in addition to their armed fighting methods. In addition many Buddhist and Shinto temples throughout Japan advanced the practice of Jujitsu and Shorinji Kempo. Shorinji is the Japanese word for Shaolin, and Kempo the word for Chuan Fa, which means “law of the fist,” or “way of the fist.” Essentially Shorinji Kempo was the form of Shaolin empty hand combat that had spread to Japan.
In the 16th century the modern system of Kempo was first developed. This style was originally known as Kosho-Ryu Kempo. This style is different from the Shorinji Kempo mentioned earlier. Shorinji Kempo was directly evolved from Shaolin systems. Kosho-Ryu Kempo was a hybrid of Japanese Jujitsu and Shaolin. Kosho-Ryu Kempo traces its roots to the Mitose family’s Shinto monastery. One story claims the Mitose family had long practiced Jujitsu. Kosho was a member of the Mitose family who trained with a Shaolin monk and added the Shaolin fighting techniques to the family’s Jujitsu. This story has two variations; according to one, Kosho traveled to China to train with the Shaolin monk, while in the other the Shaolin monk came to Japan.
The other story claims that the Mitose family did not have any history of practicing martial arts and that Kosho was not originally a member of the Mitose family at all. According to this story Kosho was a Shaolin master who learned Japanese Jujitsu and eventually came to the Mitose monastery to became a member of the family. In any event this time period marked a major milestone in the evolution of the martial arts and the birth of modern Kempo. This was the first time the Shaolin fighting arts, consisting primarily of striking and kicking techniques was fused with Jujitsu, which consisted mainly of joint manipulation and grappling technique.
Kempo continued to be the Mitose family art through the early 20th century. In the 1940’s James Mitose relocated to Hawaii. In 1942 he opened his Self Defense Club in Hawaii to teach his family’s Kempo. One of his students was the legendary William Kwai Sun Chow. Chow was one of only six students ever to attain the rank of Black Belt from Mitose. He was the only student to master the style. Chow had also learned Shaolin kung fu from his father, the Buddhist monk Hoon Chow. Chow’s development of Kempo marks another major milestone in the evolution of the art. Today any style of Kempo in the United States can trace its origins back to Professor Chow.
Since Chows death in 1987 his Kara-Ho Kempo system has continued under the direction of Master Sam Kuoha. Master Kuoha was Professor Chow’s direct successor and continues to this day to teach Professor Chow’s system. Chow’s most famous student was the late Ed Parker. Parker had a background in Filipino martial arts in addition to his Kempo training from Chow. Today Parker’s system forms the backbone of the second of three major branches of Kempo, with Chow’s own system being the first.
Another of Chow’s students was Adriano Emperado. Emperado along with several other martial arts masters created the art of Kajukenbo. This style was centered in Kempo but added techniques from many other styles, including Karate, Judo and Taekwondo. Sonny Gascon was involved with Emperado during and immediately following the creation of Kajukenbo.
This little known master is primarily responsible for the proliferation of the third major branch of Kempo. The lineage of many famous masters such as Professor Nick Cerio can be traced through Sonny Gascon. In fact, Professor Cerio trained with George Pesare who was a student of Sonny Gascon’s in California.
Charles A. Mattera, 10th Degree Black Belt, Founder andProfessor of United Studios of Self Defense, continues the tradition of the great Kempo masters of the past by promoting Kempo Martial Arts as a viable means of self-defense. As awarded by Professor Nick Cerio, a member of the prestigious World Council of Sokes on April 3, 1994 his Shihan rank signifies that Charles Mattera has mastered more than one martial style, is a person of integrity and character, and is an innovator of Shaolin Kempo techniques.
Shaolin Kempo, the style you will study at United Studios of Self Defense, has a proven, time-honored tradition of power and effectiveness that spans more than 2,000 years. We truly believe your decision to join United Studios of Self Defense will have a profound and positive impact on your life.
Professor Nick Cerio (1936-1998)
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 Kempo back together from potential splits that could have damaged the system.
MORE ON PROFESSOR NICK CERIO
It all began in the early 1960’s when Professor Cerio began Kempo 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 he 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).
The Bren Events Center in Irvine, California was the venue for the Honorable Grandmaster’s only 1993 California appearance. More than 700 USSD students participated in the “Legends of the Martial Arts” seminar featuring the world renowned Honorable Grandmaster Nick Cerio, United Studios of Self Defense founder and Headmaster Charles Mattera and several Master instructors. This event was the largest seminar in the Honorable Grandmaster’s 35-year career.
Professor Nick Cerio passed away on October 7, 1998. His passing marked the end of a monumental life and a fantastic martial artist.
1989 proved to be an important year in the life of Professor Cerio. He was named a professor by Professor Thomas H. Burdine and awarded the “Above Ranking Status” by the world counsel of sokes (founders). This elevatated him to 10th degree black belt.
Upon his many visits and training sessions, Grandmaster Cerio awarded the prestigious honor of Hachidan, 8th Degree Black Belt to Headmaster Charles Mattera on November 1, 1990. This was the highest rank certification ever given by the Professor.
Grandmaster Frederick J Villari
The man responsible for combining and labeling Kempo with the Shaolin arts was Frederick J. Villari. Grandmaster Villari was the first Kempo instructor for Professor Charles Mattera, when he was just a teenager. Professor Mattera credits the Grandmaster with having the most profound influence on his martial arts training as well as his career.
Grandmaster Villari was also the original Headmaster of United Studios of Self Defense on the East Coast and responsible for the explosive growth of Kempo throughout the United States.
Professor Charles Mattera
Charles Mattera, founder of USSD, was first introduced to the martial arts in his Freshman year of high school when he began boxing lessons at Duffy’s Gym in the North End of Boston. It was in his junior year that he began training in Kenpo, USSD’s traditional martial arts system. In 1971, he opened his first Martial Arts studio in Melrose, Mass under the name United Studios of Self Defense. Unlike many studios of the time, Charles introduced private training to his martial arts program, which allowed the style to be formatted to fit individual needs and abilities.
In his over 50 years of training, Charles has pioneered professional martial arts instruction, spreading the USSD self-defense system across the United States and beyond.
THE ORIGINAL USSD LOGO
United Studios of Self Defense is very proud of our distinctive and dynamic logo. Over the years, many people have asked what the logo represents. To accurately describe our logo’s intricate meaning, the logo must be broken down into its many components. The core of the United Studios of Self Defense logo is the Bonsai Tree.
The history of the Bonsai Tree dates as far back as 900 A.D., when Chinese and Japanese aristocrats cultivated them in their homes. Bonsai Trees did not become widespread in Japan until the late 1800’s. The philosophical basis of the Bonsai Tree lies in the traditional oriental love and respect for nature. Indeed, the Bonsai Tree personifies man’s fascination with nature and mankind’s ability to adapt to nature.
The main qualities the Bonsai Tree symbolizes are wisdom, adaptability, strength, character, truth, and longevity, attributes we at United Studios of Self Defense feel are the key characteristics to help our students lead happy, healthy and successful lives. It is said that the Bonsai Tree has wisdom because of its patience, perseverance, and use as a receptacle of more than 1,000 years of knowledge developed by past and present Bonsai masters. This is similar to the Shaolin Kempo forms and techniques you will learn at United Studios of Self Defense.
The Bonsai Tree has adaptability because it can live under unusual and quite difficult conditions. The small container that holds the roots of the Bonsai Tree is a microcosm of the world where all the elements blend, just as we must blend with nature and co-exist with all humankind to survive.
The strength of the Bonsai Tree is centered in its roots, for without roots the tree could not thrive. This parallels the basic techniques and stances that are the roots of all Martial Arts.
The Bonsai Tree is filled with character. This is exemplified by the Bonsai’s powerful, enduring posture, and its novel and unique appearance.
The truth of the Bonsai Tree is in its natural beauty and never ending quest to right itself and grow toward heaven.
The Bonsai Tree’s longevity speaks for itself, as some grow and prosper and grow for hundreds of years. This is a tribute to the Bonsai and its oneness with nature, a goal all of us should achieve through hard work and discipline.
The green foliage of the Bonsai Tree symbolizes life, while the brown trunk and bark signifies death. This is a representation of the universal symbol of all Martial Arts – Ying and Yang.
It is no coincidence that the style we teach at United Studios of Self Defense is Shaolin Kempo, a Martial Arts system that can be traced back to China’s Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of all Martial Arts. Shaolin literally means, “Little Pine Tree Forest,” so named for the area surrounding the Temple on the Shao Shih Peak of Song Mountain in Henan Province.
Kosho-Ryu Kempo, the Japanese translation for Shaolin Kempo Arts, means “Old Pine Tree Style.” The Bonsai Tree indeed has a lot of meaning for us at United Studios of Self Defense!
In the logo we see the glowing sun, whose rays are necessary for all life. Is the sun rising or setting? This is unimportant. It is important to understand that life runs in cycles – new beginnings (sunrises), endings (sunsets), and constant change. One must learn to accept these cycles and harmonize your life with them. The study and practice of the Martial Arts will help you achieve this harmony of mind, body, and spirit.
The characters to the right of the logo translate to the style and system of Martial Arts we teach, Shaolin Kempo, “The Law of the Fist.” Over the past 2,000 years, Shaolin Kempo has been refined by a long line of Martial Arts Masters into the oldest, most comprehensive fighting art in existence.
Just as the sun and the Bonsai Tree represent the Old World, the logo’s black and white line graphics depict the modern world. We at United Studios of Self Defense take a very traditional approach to the Martial Arts. However, it is our responsibility and duty to you, the student, to constantly upgrade our self-defense techniques for maximum effectiveness in a world filled with unique, and sometimes life threatening situations. It is a matter of applying the proper technique to the situation; what a Chinese rice farmer armed with a staff would have done to defend himself three hundred years ago has little application on today’s dangerous streets. At United Studios of Self Defense, we teach the most effective techniques available to deal with any situation that may arise.
Geometrically, the entire logo is composed of lines and circles. This is very indicative of the Shaolin Kempo fighting arts – to use the line to overcome the circle, and the circle to overcome the line. As you progress in your Martial Arts training, your instructor will show you the importance and proper execution of this powerful fighting concept.
Perhaps the most significant overall aspect of our logo is its enduring beauty and non-violent nature, principles that reflect the true meaning of the Martial Arts. On one hand, to use your Martial Arts training to avoid physical confrontation and walk away from trouble if you can; on the other hand, to be mentally and physically confident in your Martial Arts ability should violence threaten you, your loved ones, or the innocent and helpless.
USSD + SHAOLIN
On June 6, 2000 Headmaster and founder of United Studios of Self Defense, Charles Mattera and his student Master Steve DeMasco were promoted to Grandmaster by Great Master Shi Yongxin, the Abbot of the Shaolin Temple. The Abbot presented the diplomas to Grandmaster Mattera and Grandmaster DeMasco in a ceremony which was witnessed by more than 160 United Studios of Self Defense students participating in this once in a lifetime event.
There is a 13′ tall stone monument at the entrance of the temple in honor of and in recognition to USSD for its contributions to the martial arts and Shaolin philosophies throughout the United States.
Every 2 years, USSD provides an opportunity to our students to enjoy and experience traveling throughout China (the Great Wall, The Forbidden City), as well as hands on training at the Shaolin Temple with the Shaolin warrior monks.