James Mitose at age 58
December 30, 1916
Kailua-Kona, North Kona District, Hawaii, U.S.
|Died||March 26, 1981
San Quentin, California, U.S.
complications of diabetes
|Other names||Masakichi, Kosho Kemposai|
|Style||Kempo-Ju-Jitsu, Kosho-ryū Kempo, Kosho Shorei-ryū Kempo|
|Rank||21st Great Grand Master of Kosho-ryū Kempo|
|Notable students||William Chow, Bruce Juchnik, Ray Arquilla, Arthur Keawe, Edward "Bobby" Lowe, Giro Nakamura, Grandmaster Fusae Oshita (sister), Paul Yamaguchi, Thomas S.H. Young, Ray Arquilla|
James Masayoshi Mitose (born Masayoshi Mitose, (December 30, 1916 – March 26, 1981) was a Japanese American martial artist who brought the art of Kempo to the United States starting in the early 1940s.
Many Kempo teachers trace their lineage to him. Mitose was and remains a controversial figure in the history of Kempo in America. He was convicted of murder and extortion in 1974 and died in 1981 while serving his sentence in Folsom Prison due to complications from diabetes.
Martial arts training and lineage
James Masayoshi (Masakichi Kosho Kemposai) Mitose was born in Kailua-Kona, North Kona District, Hawaii on December 30, 1916. On October 22, 1920, at the age of four, he and his two sisters were taken by their father ] back to Japan to be given formal education and upbringing with family living there. While there, in addition to their schoolwork and university studies, they trained in the art of Kempo. James returned to the United States on February 25, 1938, arriving at Honolulu, Hawaii on the SS Tatsuta Maru at the age of 21.
His martial arts practices contained marked similarities to Okinawan karate and Japanese jujutsu. Mitose understood the principles in such arts in both Hawaii and Japan. Mitose always claimed his art was Japanese rather than Okinawan.
Mitose began teaching Kempo in Hawaii in 1939, and in 1941 set up a martial arts school. He gave the style he taught a number of different names during his lifetime, including "Shorinji Kempo" and "Kempo Jujutsu," (both names of recognized Japanese martial arts), but over time, settled on the name Kosho Shōrei-ryū Kenpo. The word "Kenpo" (or "Kempo") is a Japanese form of "Ch'uan Fa."
When the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, Mitose enlisted in the National Guard, but was honorably discharged after three weeks. He was later interred in Sand Island, a camp on the north side of Ohau island. After his release in 1942,he spent most of the war teaching Kenpo in Hawaii to prepare American civilians against a possible Japanese invasion. He worked as a herbalist and Brothel manager.
Tracy Kenpo claims martial lineage through GM Fusae Mitose (Mitose's sister) to the Yoshida clan based on Mitose's claims that his family in Japan lived near a "Mt. Akenkai's Shaka-In temple." Tracy's believe that Mount Akenkai might be Mount Kinkai, near the town of Kinkai, Nagasaki on the island of Kyūshū. This may have been where the Kosho sect of the Yoshida (Urabe) clan taught. Recent discoveries have shown that the Shaka-in Temple is actually located outside of Kummumoto, Japan, near the town of Misato, above the famous 3333 stairs. There are highway signs directing the public to the Shaka-in. In 1986, a student of Bruce Juchnik's went to Japan with his Japenese girlfriend and actuall visited the "Shaka-In" and sent back pictures of the temple and grounds and the inside of the temple .
Michael Brown of Rhode Island Martial Arts possesses documents showing three families of James Mitose.[unreliable source?] The first family being from Mitose's father's side. This includes his father, Otokichi Mitose and Otokichi's parents, Kaheiji Mitose, and Kano Kawakami Mitose. The second family, from Mitose's mother's side, includes his mother Kiyoka Yoshida Mitose and Kiyoka's biological father, Sakuhei Yoshida. Sakuhei Yoshida was married to a woman who was not Kiyoka's biological mother. Sakuhei Yoshida conceived Kiyoka Yoshida Mitose with a woman outside of his marriage named Toju Kosho. James Mitose would learn Kosho-ryū from the family of Toju Kosho. It is worthwhile to note that on Mitose's parents' record of marriage, Kiyoka Yoshida Mitose's mother is not named as Toju Kosho. Instead the name Toju Unknown occupies this position of the document.
To his students and in his book, What is True Self-Defense?, Mitose described his teachings as those of Japanese style. In the book, Mitose describes methods of Japanese yoga and the tai sabaki principles found in many Japanese arts. What Is Self Defense? and accounts and photos strongly suggest that, however he got it, Mitose had a background in an Okinawan style. Some modern proponents of Kosho Shōrei-ryū believe that he used an Okinawan art as a vehicle for his teaching of a native Japanese art.
The contents of What Is Self Defense? seem to echo those of an earlier book: Karate Kenpo by Mutsu Mizuho (1933). This includes the arrangement of diagrams and photographs; in one case, a photo (of Higaonna Kamesuke) is reproduced entirely. Mitose's book also includes a picture of Motobu Chōki, reproduced from Motobu's book, in a position that usually indicates a student acknowledging his teacher. It is from here that some assume that Mitose was acknowledging Motobu as his teacher. Mitose listed Motobu as a Kenpo master in his book.
Mitose is known to have taught only one Kata at his school: the Naihanchi Kata, which also was Motobu Chōki's primary form and the only one featured in Motubu's second book Okinawan Kenpo Kumite Hen. Mitose also taught the use of the Makiwara, a signature Okinawan training method. A thriving Okinawan community existed in Hawaii and Okinawan martial arts training was available there. Higaonna Kamesuke stayed in Hawaii after 1933 with Thomas Miyashiro, and taught classes in Kona. Higaonna had studied under Mutsu and Motobu, and taught Karate Kenpo in Mitose's home town of Kona just a few years before Mitose opened his school, although Mitose was still in Japan at the time.
Kosho Shorei-Ryū Kenpo
Mitose ultimately called his style Kosho Shorei-Ryū Kenpo, which can be translated as "Old Pine Tree School of Encouragement." Matsumura Sōkon's style, which he taught to Ankō Itosu who taught it to Gichin Funakoshi and Motobu Chōki among others, was Okinawan Shōrin-ryū, which is often translated as "Little Pine Forest". In his early days in Hawaii, when Mitose started teaching after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he called his art as simply Kenpo-Jiu-Jitsu (Nerve Strike method) and would refer to it as Shorinji Kempo or Go Shin Jitsu. The word "Shorin" is characteristic of styles from Okinawa, although Shorinji Kempo is a Japanese art founded by Doshin So.
Mitose claimed that he learned martial arts and religion in a Buddhist temple, but his descriptions of organization and practices of the temple do not match those practiced by mainstream Japanese Buddhism. It is possible that Mitose came from a heterodox background. Mitose often dressed as a Christian minister. In "What Is True Self Defense?" he stated that one should practice the dominant religion of whatever country one is in, including its application to martial arts and spiritual practices. This book (the original manuscript of his first book was completed and published while he was imprisoned and presumably Mitose was conscious that his writings and actions would influence his release conditions), discourages offensive martial arts techniques completely, presenting its contents as a form of yoga and escape. Mitose even writes that karate is "evil." The description or lineage Mitose gave for his style also emphasized its Chinese roots. As a Japanese-American emigrating to Hawaii in 1937, he might have prudently downplayed the Japanese side of his background.
Later years and conviction
In 1953, James Mitose ceased teaching Kempo regularly and dropped out of sight. He left Hawaii and moved to Southern California. He privately taught a few students in that time, including Nimr Hassan for only a year(formerly Terry Lee). However, in 1974 Mitose was arrested in Los Angeles and convicted on murder and extortion charges stemming from a conflict from repayment over a loan and the murder committed by Hassan. During the trial there was conflicting testimony and the court acknowledged that Japanese testimony had not been accurately translated. There was also the air of fear of Hassan referring to Mitose as "Master", since the horror of the recent "Charles Manson Trial" was fresh in the public mind.
According to trial transcripts, James Mitose denied inciting Hassan to commit murder but took responsibility as his martial arts instructor. Hassan claimed Mitose had suggested on numerous occasions that Hassan commit murder. Hassan also testified that Mitose and his wife Dorothy, had given Hassan a rope, a knife, a screwdriver and an air pistol in order to carry out his actions. Mr. Namimatsu was killed by Hassan on March 20, 1974. The official cause of death was strangulation by rope. Namimatsu also suffered a completely collapsed eye, had been stabbed multiple times with a screwdriver and had a shoe imprint on his chest matching the shoes Hassan was wearing. After the assault, Hassan testified he had left Namimatsu breathing.
As a result of Hassan's testimony, Mitose was sentenced to life in prison and died in Folsom State Prison of complications of diabetes on March 26, 1981. Hassan was given 3 years for turning States Evidence. Upon his release he took it upon himself to promote himself as "Hanshi", Inheritor of Mitose Family Temple Forms and Secrets. He maintains this claim to date. While in prison, on two occasions Mitose attempted to instruct his son Thomas Barro Mitose, who referred to his father as a "crazy old man", and refused to accept his fathers teachings. He mostly taught Bruce Juchnik, Rick Alemany, Ray Arquilla, Eugene Sedeno verbally (as they were accomplished Martial Artists and didn't need physical training. Arnold Golub primairly took notes.In "What is True Self Defense?", he acknowledges Arnold Golub as "Honorable Headmaster" an administrative title, and the other four men as "Honorable Masters 1-4." To Bruce Juchnik, in return for his efforts to have Mitose released from prison and his interest in preserving the Art of Kosho, he gave the license of "Menyko Kaiden/ Inka Shomei," and instructed him to do "whatever he saw was good and right for the True and Pure Art of Kosho Kempo Karate."This is only given to inheritors of arts. It was alleged by Thomas and Emperado that this document was forged by Arnold Golub . Juchnik denys this claim and maintains that this made him the inheritor of all Kosho Temples and Great- Grandmaster. Some (unamed) believe that only a blood heir can be a grandmaster or great-grandmaster. Bruce did introduce Thomas Barro as blood heir and "Grandmaster" in 1981 to GM Trias. After the split between Thomas and Bruce, Bruce reinstated his right under Mitose's license. In James Mitose's final days he was visited by his wife Dorthoy son Alvin and Bruce juchnik. Thomas was no where to be found. Mitose's last will and testament is still being debated and argued about to the present. Thomas has used doctored pictures, documents, and the belief in "blood" rights to bolster his claim to the inheritorship of all of Kosho Kempo.
James Mitose maintained his innocence till his death and many schools that follow in his training lineage still maintain that he was wrongfully convicted. The details of the crime and Mitose's role remain controversial still in the martial arts community today.
- "Mitose Kosho-Ryu Kenpo". Kosho-ryu.com. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- Birth Certificate
- "Koshu Ryu - The American Heritage". Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- Mitose's return from Japan
- Military record
- "The Tracy System of Kenpo History Series: A Short Biography of James M. Mitose". tracyskarate.com. 2010-10-18. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- "Solving a Mitose mystery". Martialtalk.com. Retrieved 2013-08-22.
- Mitose Documents Installment Three
- Some Trial transcripts