Senior Grand Master Nahoolewa during one of his first training sessions in 1959; with SGM Al Reyes (left) and Sijo Andriano Emperado in the early 70's; Alii Nahoolewa with Sijo Emperado in 2005.

Senior Grandmaster (SGM) Alii Don Nahoolewa, grew up in some of the meanist and toughest areas of Honolulu, Hawaii. Although he trained with Kajukenbo's founder, Sijo Adriano Emperado, his principal instructor was the legendary great Grandmaster (GM) Aleju Reyes. He began training under GM Reyes in 1959 while stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California and was the first to earn Black Belt promotion from GM Reyes. He is senor in Kajukenbo to all but a small handful of others.

SGM Nahoolewa is known to be as tough as a man can be, with a heart of gold. Stories told by other "old timers" about his fights in the street are legendary. During his days in the military SGM Nahoolewa was stationed for several years in Albuquerque's Kirtland Air Force Base. There he began teaching Kajukenbo to military personnel, with the exception of one civilian, now Senior Grandmaster Sam Allred. SGM Nahoolewa, along with his long-time training partner and friend GM Richard Peralta spent many hours and years perfecting their art, at a time when training was very harsh and demanding, earning the respect of Sijo Emperado and Great Grand Master Reyes for their skills and tenacity. SGM Nahoolewa has taught hundreds of students.

Alii Nahoolewa's commitment to the growth and preservation of Sijo's legacy is evidenced by his founding of "The American Kajukembo Association (AKA)" in Oct 1999. Sijo Emperado, creator of the Kajukenbo Self Defense System, gave Alii written permission to form the association, the American Kajukembo Association. Today, the AKA is accepted and authorized by Senior Grand Masters of the Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute (KSDI) and the Black Belt Society (BBS). With his creation of the AKA, Alii realized his goal of developing world class Kajukembo practitioners, and schools based on the original teachings of Sijo Emperado, along with creating a unified organization of loyal, dedicated members. Throughout the years, Alii's talents and skills have earned the respect of leading Kajukembo masters, instructors, and students around the world. In 2005, Alii and Great Grand Master Richard Peralta were inducted into the Kajukenbo Hall of Fame. Sijo Emperado, along with many members of the Black Belt Society, was present for this important honor. In 2006 Alii was invited to Mexico City to receive Mexico's Jukensa Kajukenbo Hall of Fame award (foto on left with O-Sifu Sadoc Sierra and GM Gerald Chavez).

In 1968 Adriano D. Emperado was inaugurated and presented the title of 10th degree. Emperado requested the presence of Don Nahoolewa on this special occasion. At that time Nahoolewa was only a 2nd degree black belt. The inauguration was held in Palama Settlement in Honolulu, Hawaii. Of the event, Don Nahoolewa later reported, "Never have I ever witnessed such an assembly of senior instructors and black belts as I witnessed that day. This is a memory that has stayed with me all these years."

  • Note from Webmaster GM Allred: I was among the last students of Kajukenbo to train with the "original" training methods. Every day I left a workout I was exhausted and damaged:-). Not only did I learn technique from Alii, but I learned how to be tougher-- how to withstand grueling exercise and pain--on and off the mat; physical and mental. This type of training is not available to students today, because instructors don't know how, are afraid to lose their paying students, fear lawsuits, etc. Unlike many instructors, Alii has remained my friend through the years. All instructors want loyal students--I have a loyal teacher. Realizing how Kajukenbo was going to fracture upon the death of Sijo Emperado, he formed the AKA, which has eleminated the kinds of "in-fighting" among its membership that are seen in other Kajuken/mbo organizations. The AKA does not and will not sell rank or certifications, but rather awards rank only for time, technique, and contributions to Kajuken/mbo. Alii remembers Kajukenbo since its inception and has known all of its major participants. His goal is the perpetuation of Kajuken/mbo and all aspects of Kajukenbo quality. Every Kajukenbo student that I have ever taught has been bettered by the techniques AND the principles of Alii Don Nahoolewa.

    My first black belt, now GM Dr. Gerald Chavez, says: "I think of a quote by the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu who was the author of the Tao Te Ching. It captures Alii's approach well. The quote is: 'The true warrior never appears formidable.' I think part of Alii's strength has been his ability to motivate people without showboating but adhering to honesty and integrity. I remember GM Jon Loren saying how lucky we were to have Alii as our teacher ...because 'they don't make them like him anymore, he's one of the originals!!' "

    With two of his SeniorGrand Master friends, SGM Rich Peralta and SGM Joe Davis. SGM Davis entered Kajukenbo after SGM Nahoolewa, but was the first non-Hawaiian to achieve black belt rank in Kajukenbo (everyone avoids his still powerful explosive punches).

  • Posted Aug 10, 2011

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