(Left) Chavez demonstrating self defense in front of Big Ben in London, in 1970, and (Right) Chavez in Venice...On this Kajukenbo training tour, Chavez and others entered competition and presented Kajukenbo demonstrations in European cities. It was the first time the new art of Kajukenbo had been seen in Europe.

Below is the interview with SGM Gerald Chavez, extracted from Prof. John Bishop's 2011 tribute to Kajukenbo's founder, Sijo Adriano Emperado.

Book's cover shown below.

Interview Questions for GM Chavez

Interview Questions:

1. What do you feel is the main difference between Kajukenbo and other martial art styles or systems?

Please pardon my bluntness, but Kajukenbo works! We are not about to adhere to a set of techniques that are not functional. Kajukenbo was grounded on the belief that if it did not help you in a street fight or a life and death situation why bother. Our elders are amused by the overwhelming response to the current Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) craze. They are not the least bit surprised what they see in the octagon, with the exception that MMA matches have rules. This of course is not a "put down," but all one needs to examine is the breakdown of the name Kajukenbo and you have all the components that make up MMA fights, without the more effective street fight techniques, i.e. eye strikes, groin strikes, etc.

It is also true that we have borrowed from other systems, which is one of the differences be tween Kajukenbo and other systems. We are based on ecleticism It is not unusual to see other systems adhere to techniques because "that's how we were taught" but the reality is if it does not work we discard it or we see something that does work we use it.

Another salient difference is the fact that Kajukenbo is constantly evolving and extremely prolific. The evolution, as endorsed by Sijo, is very evident in the development and inclusion of the three newest member branches of the system. These additions are Chuan Fa, Won Hop Kuen Do, and Tum Pai.

2. What do you feel is the main strength ofthe Kajukenbo system?

There are many strengths to the Kajukenbo system. Pinpointing a main strength would be difficult. Pardon my redundancy, but the strength of Kajukenbo that has always been the most salient for me is that fact that all the techniques were based on realistic street application. 1 cannot say we have always been the most stylistic, flamboyant, or understood, but once they meet us there is no doubt in their minds that we are the most effective, devastating, and avoided. This is truly the "heart" of Kaju kenbo.

It is always reassuring to see the spectator's faces when they are watching a Kajukenbo demonstration. At first glance it might appear to be out of control because of the multitude of techniques being executed quickly, strongly, and with minimal wasted movement. Yet when the combinations are explained they make sense, even to the point that the layperson can grasp the effectiveness.

3. How important is sparring? What type do you teach or recommend?

Without sparring the student will never learn "true" application of technique. It is an injustice to the students to not allow them to spar. To use a musical analogy, not sparring is like making your students only play musical scales and never giving them the chance to learn songs or improvise. 1 look for the weaknesses and make sure the student maximizes each sparring match to better improve their fighting ability. They must strive to be ambidextrous while focusing on what they do poorly not what they excel in. Everything from kicking and hand strikes to takedowns chokes and arm bars are taught.

All targets are open with the exception of the eyes, direct kicks to the spine, and the knees. As a psychologist 1 do not endorse full force strikes to the head. Many believe that one must learn to "take a punch" but the truth is one does not learn to "take a punch" instead one becomes numb to the damage that is occurring to their neurological functions. This is a dilemma when it comes time to test the street application. This is where bag work, fighting with body armor, and wooden dummy work comes in handy.

4. If you teach Forms; why do you? If you don't; why don't you?

1 believe in teaching forms, but only to the extent that they do not interfere with the student's ability to learn improvisation in sparring and street fighting. Forms can create a "rut" if they are the main focus of training. Understanding the components of forms which include, but are not limited to, strength, balance, focus, flexibility, endurance, and recal1 can offer to the instructor valuable information about the student. This information can assist the instructor in his/her teaching the student by offering insight into the student's strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. Forms training can also make us think about the possibility of being attacked by multiple attackers. 1 have to admit is has not been the mainstay of my teaching of Kajukenbo.

5. Have you added any techniques to the Kajukenbo method your instructor taught you? If so, what? And why?

My instructor Grand Master Sam Allred, also holds rank in Kodokan Judo. Kodokan Judo greatly influenced how 1 saw Kajukenbo. At the time we were studying Kajukenbo we were also enteringJudo tournaments.

Upon receiving my black belt in Kajukenbo in 1972, 1 moved to the Bay Area and began study ing Wing Chun Gung Fu with Sifu Chris Chen in San Francisco. This style has become integral to the way 1 teach Kajukenbo. 1 have adapted the "close range" approach of Wing Chun to Kajukenbo. Also the stances, strikes, and blocks 1 have adapted to Kajukenbo, but never at the expense of diluting the strength of Kajukenbo.

While earning my doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I have better understood the mental and emotional underpinnings that influence how we fight and how we view the opponent. This has signifi cantly impacted how I present my teachings in Kajukenbo. Much of the battle is won once we under stand the mental and emotional strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and our opponents.

6. What kind of mindset should someone have in a street fight?

The concept of "mindset" is a term that is basically contrary to how a Kajukembo practioner approaches a street fight. A mindset does not allow the practitioner to adapt to the situation at hand, but rather removes the ability to understand and fully process the full spectrum of dynamics inherent in every street fight situation.

To answer the question, the mindset a person should have is "no mindset." In other words, the attacker determines the defensive or offensive response by the Kajukenbo fighter. The attacker's position, posture, distance, and size, along with the context in which the fight is taking place i.e. street, building, on concrete, grass, stairway, etc. creates the path the Kajukenbo fighter will take in ending the fight.

In other words, we allow the attacker to determine their own destiny or how they choose to lose. In order to achieve this, one must not have preconceived notions or assumptions. It does not hurt to apply knowledge you might have of a style your opponent may have trained in and use that knowledge against them e.g. if he is a Tae Kwon Do practitioner there is a chance he'l1 favor kicks, if he's a Ju Jitsu practitioner he'l1 try to take you to the ground, etc. That being said, still do not anticipate what the attacker "might" do. Keep your mind open and do not create a "mindset" that will limit your , options.

7. What is your definition of a Kajukenbo Warrior?

My three mentors in Kajukenbo Grand Master Sam Allred, Senior Grand Master Don Na hoolewa, and Grand Master Jon Loren (deceased) are/were true Kajukenbo Warriors. The way they approach the art is by always stressing integrity and respect first, then fighting ability next. In the majority of cases, Kajukenbo practitioners can handle themselves in a street fight, this is not an issue. What I gained beyond the martial application and what I believe to be of more importance is respect for others, ethical adherence to Sijo's original intentions, and the will to pass these beliefs on to future generations of Kajukenbo practitioners.

I define the Kajukenbo Warrior as "A Martial Artist who never stops evolving, uses integrity as the lens by which he/ she views the world, is always ready to adapt a technique which is more effective or discard one that is not, and most importantly embrace the Spirit of Ohana with the strength given to us by our Founder Sijo Adriano Emperado."

8. What is your single fondest life experience that came about from your years ot'. Kajukenbo?

As a student of Grand Master Sam Allred, I have many fond experiences of Kajukenbo. Being his first black belt tops the list of fond memories. Secondly, as the first Kajukenbo team to tour Europe, which we did in 1970 was a remarkable experience. Our black gi's and multiple attack defenses raised quite a few eyebrows across Europe, Mexico, and most of the United States. My first meeting with Sijo Emperado. Getting the chance to work closely with Senior Grand Master Don Nahoolewa. Being elected as secretary treasurer of the International Kajukenbo Association. Assisting Senior GM Nahoolewa in forming the American Kajukenbo Association. Co-writing my third Kajukenbo book with GM Sam Allred. Training and earning rank under GM Loren in Kajukenbo Tum Pai.

It is fair to say that the combinations of the aforementioned experiences, along with too many to mention here, has given me a lifetime experience that has helped guide me not only in the field of martial arts but throughout every facet of my life.

9. What would you like to see as Kajukenbo's future?

1 would like to see Kajukenbo unite within the true spirit of Ohana. We are a family and like most families we have our strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, one strong, united union would be best. This I believe is possible once we sort out and clearly understand the diversity that is Kajukenbo. In one sense we have created our own "monster" by constructing our system on eclecticism, but if we are able to remember that we all come from the same root system we can transcend the diversions we have seen in our art for so many years. Kajukenbo's future lies in objectively applying the power and strength we demonstrate in our fighting ability to our communication and camaraderie between all brothers and sisters in system, while leaving our egos aside for the betterment of Kajukenbo.

10. What advice do you have for those in Kajukenbo, new and old?

It is necessary for Kajukenbo at this time to understand that many of the behaviors of the past have not worked and are not going to work. If we want Kajukenbo to have a future it is incumbent upon all members of the system to "clean house." What 1 mean by this is to re-establish a sound, open line of communication, a clear and measurable set of criteria by which to determine rank, and clear, traceable linage from Sijo Emperado to your teacher. Once these are met, it will be a first step in retracing the footsteps of our founders, replanting the roots that have made us strong, and giving our younger students foresight by which to carry Kajukenbo to the future in a positive and powerful direction.


first posted Oct.2012

Site Meter