As far as martial arts lure goes, you will be hard pressed to find a more compelling story than that of Kajukenbo: back in roughly 1947, five specialists in as many different forms of martial arts, get together in a secret plan to protect the people in the mean and dangerous streets of a Hawaiian hovel; they called themselves-The Black Belt Society.
Sounds like the start of a movie, right? In actuality though, it was the birth of a new form of self-defense that focuses more on the utilitarian aspects of real world street fighting, without all the Kata’s or spiritual mysticism that surrounds the lineage of its many peers. It is also, by sheer virtue of being an amalgam, America’s first mixed martial arts: the name itself is an acronym for Karate, Judo/Jiu-Jitsu, Ken-po, and Kung Fu. Contextually speaking, as UFC and other such proponents of mixed martial arts has grown, it is amazing that we have not heard more of this sport.
However, the primary reason for this seems to be as pragmatic as the self-defense system itself: they don’t compete. It is simply not that sort of an art form. It exists, for one reason only: to help you get out of a bind in the easiest way possible. It is often therefore seen as a more brutal form of self-defense. Here in Kuwait, its roots can be traced back to approximately the early 90’s.
We recently sat down with Fadi Barakat Diab (2nd degree black belt) for more information on how this self-defense system arrived in Kuwait:
When did Kajukenbo arrive in Kuwait?
Kajukenbo was introduced to Kuwait in 1993 by William Beaver (6th degree black belt) via the Black Belt Institute. The school was handed down to one of his black belt students, Ahmed Zakaria Hussein, God Rest His Soul (4th Degree Black Belt). Sensei Ahmed ran the school from 1998 to January 2010. The Black Belt Institute was the only Kajukenbo school in Kuwait (and the Middle East) for all this time.
How did the Kajukenbo Warrior Center start?
Sensei Ahmed ran a big school with many students and many successors. After his unfortunate death, the school closed for a short while, in mourning. His death caused the spread of the successors. A few stopped practicing, while others continued (the original school remains and is led by qualified trainers). One of those who continued was Sifu Saleh (4th degree black belt). The Warrior Center started under the leadership of Sifu Saleh, with me, Marwan Al Moosa, and a few others that came from the old school. We opened our doors on February 13, 2010 at the dojo in Al Arabi Club.
How did the KWC start moving towards the Koshu ryu version of Kajukenbo?
All the black belts in Kuwait were of the same rank at the time. They also all graduated under the late Sensei Ahmed. There wasn’t much room to move up. That is when we started researching Kajukenbo world wide to determine which would be the best model to progress towards. Around this time, Grand Master Ortega caught our attention (9th degree red belt with the title of Professor), so we got in touch. We now practice Kajukenbo – Koshu ryu under the Advanced Kajukenbo Self Defense System led by Grand Master Jose “Cherry” Ortega (Father) and Grand Master Nataniel Ortega (Son). The basic techniques are roughly all the same regardless of the style and branch of Kajukenbo. Once a student reaches the first degree and above, however, that is where the styles somewhat differ. We start to learn defense against multiple hits and multiple attackers. Some masters have included an emphasis on Ken-po, some on Aikido and we follow Koshu Ryu.
For those in the market for a no-nonsense self-defense system, this seems a promising one. The students in this class enjoy a spirit of camaraderie and welcome all ages and skill levels. Interviews with multiple students and Nathaniel Ortega all proved to impart not just a love for Kajukenbo, but a genuine ardor for the little slice of combat heaven they have all built together.
Located at Hassan Abul Stadium, Dasma, facing Dasma Co-Op. Regular classes are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 5:30 – 7:00 pm for children (ages 4-14/15), and 7:00 – 8:30 pm for adults. For more info, find Kajukenbo Warrior Center Kuwait on Facebook or email: [email protected]