Adriano Directo Emperado

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Adriano Directo Emperado
Born(1926-06-15)June 15, 1926
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii
DiedApril 5, 2009(2009-04-05) (aged 82)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Teacher(s)William Kwai Sun Chow
Rank10th degree black belt in Kajukenbo
Notable studentsVictor "Sonny" Gascon

Adriano Directo Emperado (June 15, 1926 – April 4, 2009) was one of five martial artists who developed the kajukenbo self-defense system.[1][2][3][4][5]

Childhood and young adulthood[edit]

Emperado had a difficult childhood living in Honolulu.[6] He was born to Filipino-Hawaiian parents in the poverty stricken Palama/Kalihi section of Honolulu. Like many poor areas, the Palama/Kalihi district settlement was a violent place to live. Confrontations and fights were a daily occurrence. Because of this Emperado started his self-defense training at the age of eight. His father and uncle were professional boxers and at the age of 11 he learned the 12 basic strikes of escrima. Then at the age of 14, he came back to his old familiar neighborhood in Palama. There he trained in Judo under Sensei Taneo at the Palama Settlement gym. Then at the age of 20, Emperado undertook serious study of Kenpo at the Catholic youth organization in Honolulu. These classes were taught by William K.S. Chow. Emperado trained daily with Chow and soon attained his first black belt. He would later be promoted to fifth-degree black belt by Chow.[7]

Later life[edit]

In 1947, Adriano Emperado (Kosho Shorei-ryu Kenpo and Escrima), Peter Young Yil Choo (Tang Soo Do, Shotokan Karate and Boxing), Joseph Holck (Sekeino-ryu Judo), Frank F. Ordonez (Danzan-ryu Jujutsu), and George "Clarence" Chuen Yoke Chang (Chu'an Fa Kung-Fu), came together and called themselves the Black Belt Society. They began training together and exploring the weaknesses and developing the strengths of each martial art to create a fighting style that did not suit the ancient warrior but the American citizen to help him or her in their fight against the common criminal.


After the other four founders were drafted off into the Korean War, they left Emperado to start the first Kajukenbo school at the Palama Settlement Gym in 1950. Many of the students who trained there were poor, so at the Palama school students could train for $2.00 a month. The workouts that took place there are legendary for their brutality. Kajukenbo train strong to remain strong. Emperado has been quoted as saying that a workout was not over until there was blood on the floor. When a reporter went on to ask him about this he went on to say that "you have to experience pain before you can give it. You have to know what your technique can do. We lost a lot of students in those days, but we also got a lot from other schools, including black belts. These students would look at what we were doing and realize that we had a no nonsense effective system."[citation needed] In order to be invincible on the streets they had reasonable, but very serious, full contact training.

Emperado died on April 4, 2009.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Obituaries". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved February 4, 2010.
  2. ^ Fernandez, Nes; Sanchez, Marie. "From the Strength of Many: Kajukenbo's Classic Blend produces a Deadly Street System". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on March 14, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2010.
  3. ^ HILL, Robert (September 8, 2010). World of Martial Arts !. ISBN 9780557016631. Retrieved February 19, 2017 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Ed Parker (February 1, 1991). "Karate on the Streets of Hawaii". Black Belt Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved February 19, 2017 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "An Interview with Adriano D. Emperado". John Bishop's Kujukenbo. Archived from the original on January 21, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  6. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (February 20, 2017). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Inc, Active Interest Media (November 1, 1987). "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved February 19, 2017 – via Google Books.