The first time I heard of James was when I was 2-3 years into my Kenpo studies. I knew what most knew at that time knew and that was that James was the "Grandmaster of Kempo Karate". I like the many were told he wrote a book, but no one really had it. A few copies existed from Hawaii tucked in obscure libraries. A second edition was made by the Juchnik group but that was also limited in copies, price and unfamiliarity of the players. I remember being told what was in the book and like the many of us it was a mystery and something to know. Of course that is not true now with the availability of the books on the internet repeated site after site for the purpose of its marketing value-one of the most brilliant political moves by the Tracy group to reduce the mythological value of James and to reduce the negative effects of the murder, incarceration and threat to the modern line. Despite the knowledge of James and his actions, we can see the reproduction of "What is Self-Defense?" on site after site on the internet. The reproduction of this information represents how important James really is to his many ideological descendents.
In the timeframe, I think I was one of the few who actually read the book. I got my copy through a special permissions interlibrary loan. I remember toying with accidently losing the book or just making the photocopy. In the end I sent it back and remember a few months later searching for the book again only to see it marked as lost. Regardless, it was a new point of view on the material presented and it was the first point of interest in understanding James.
Over the years, I had formed many opinions of James just as many of you may have or are at this moment. Information would come in from different sources, each source highlighting the information that was most critical to them and their point of view. I could see how James was the villain and how he could also be venerated for his ideas. The problem with this dichotomy is that it is hard to settle on as a student, practitioner and instructor. I always asked the question to the major players what should we say when a student asks about James Mitose? Especially in the last fifteen years this is a common question by a new student. They first look up kenpo on the internet and see the negative information regarding James, yet they are intrigued by some of the ideas presented. The end is a moment where one must either survive James or fail. This is a large issue in the Kenpo arts. An issue that if you are not dealing with it means that your students are probably not the critical thinkers necessary to drive a kosho study.
The purpose of this essay is to explore James to facilitate the understanding of his choices. James choices while held to higher standard are still mitigated by the complexities of his life. I think
it is feasible to say that James had a life that was conductive to positive choices, but they were possible to choose and thusly he burdens those errors. It should not be the burden of his descendents to endure those errors either, although this will take place as well. This analysis of James casts a generally dark observation onto the man, but this must take place to understand if at all any of his significant contributions.
James the Boy (1920 - 1937)
This period describes James in Japan from the age of 4 through 21. James like other children would most likely attend a school system established by a Yoshida administration as they were given governance of the entire Japanese school system. In school, James would have learned the usual things such as reading and writing, mathematics, history and the elements necessary to function in Japanese society. James through his entire life would have a strong sense of Japanese nationalism and this is a product of his early education.
His home life would most likely consist of a normal childhood playing with siblings and other children. He would most likely learn to assist his family at the temple doing chores and taking on religious studies. Most of these studies would be the learning of religious doctrine and texts as this is typical for a Buddhist lineage. The very young James would learn at best martial art basics as a child. It would not be expected for him to take significant interest until at least 12 years of age and then have aptitude until around 16 years of age. James would indicated that his studies were broad during these years and included archery, horseback riding, and herbal medicine in addition to the regular courses of study.
James was probably a generally well adjusted child as he was surrounded by family, governed by his Grandfather and teachers, and would have a number of friends from school and temple. James with age would most likely also take interest in the opposite sex. From his point of view, life would seem good. He had an occupation, a life, and a future.
The lead into World War II for Japan was associated with the shutdown of Shinto and of the many temples, which would include the practice of other residing religious groups. This event would place a great deal of stress into the life of a twenty-year old James. He no longer would have an occupation or a future in what he was groomed for. Adding to this injury is the notion that anyone with an education would be restricted under a new Japan. James would make the decision to return to Hawaii to most likely seek refuge from adverse effects.
James the Lost Young Adult (1937-1941)
The return to Hawaii would be a very stressful time for a still impressionable and aspiration driven young man. It would make sense that James at this age would dream big, maybe he thinks folks will desire what it is that he offers or that he can find another viable and successful occupation in Hawaii. The reality is that James would find himself in a world where the money is owned by those who speak a foreign language, the individuals around him are largely uneducated, the ones with education have learned to be bilingual and would have their own group of politics, and in the end James would have little money to make a great start in this new land.
Little is documented of James in this period other than some hearsay martial art encounters. James would most likely was living with different friends and distant relatives. He most likely took odd labor jobs and was learning quickly that this was a new world and a difficult one to gain prominence in.
Much of this would change on December 7, 1941 with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Had this event not occurred James would most likely lived a life fading into obscurity. He would have eventually married, had his children and lead the life of a typical working man. Pearl Harbor as en event would
change the face of James Mitose.
James Mitose-Interned and Paroled (1942-1944)
By the afternoon of December 7, 1941, the US began to round up and intern Japanese individuals from a US Naval Intelligence list that was being formed with Japanese movement into the War. The list would contain educated individuals like news reporters, prominent businessmen, and religious figures regardless of denomination. Some Japanese like James would join labor corps to prove allegiance to the US but that would often fail and still result in their internment. This is the actual reason for James joining the National Guard and why it was so brief a stay. He was a young, poor and very scared man. I would be too and I would suspect so would you as a the reader.
James during the period of December 1941 through Summer of 1942 would be rounded up and interned in the Honouliuli Camp on Sand Island. This was considered to be a miserable event from those of record. Most were taken in the clothes they were wearing, stripped of belongings and money, and housed under canvas tents in a poorly hospitable terrain-cold nights, sand storms, leaky roofs, moist ground. It would take up to 6 months for most of the internees to get a parole hearing. Communication was limited to the use of English and many had only the one change of clothes that they were wearing. Many internees would get sick from the conditions and some deaths were reported due to the conditions.
James at this time would be only 26 years of age. He would learn as many did that this new country was not interested in him and that he was being punished for being Japanese. I would suspect that James considered himself a man without a country as he couldn't go forward and he couldn't go back. He had little to no family and maybe a few friends that he had met during the years of stay. This event permanently affected him as well as all the other Japanese internees.
James would eventually have his parole hearing and would successfully be paroled. It is during this event that James would make his fist connections with members of the US Government and US Naval Intelligence. The encounter was simple I would think. James, "Get me out of here!, I'm good!, What can I do? I love the US!" The US at some point would determine that he is from an area of interest and make a transaction for information. In the end James gets paroled and keeps a healthy fear of the US government and a general lack of loyalty to the commonly undereducated public of Japanese descent. A number of events transpire between James and the US intelligence groups. In the end this relationship would I suspect contribute to James leading a double life and accepting it.
James still has a number of things that his mind must have pondered. Firstly, he would worry about going back to internment camp so he needed something to show that he was for the US and its people. This was an easy answer. He would teach the US Non-Japanese martial arts. This is the origin of the Official Self-Defense Club in 1944. It would of course contain Non-Japanese from the military as this would be the offering to make peace at least in James' mind.
Secondly, James would still have to worry about money. He knew people and during this time of distress he would develop the skill to gain money from negative sources such as minor deceit. This deceit would increase through the years to outright major deceit-I would think that this skillset followed a growth learning curve.
James would at one point form a black mail scam where he would have Japanese individuals declare allegiance to the Japanese Emperor in writing. These letters would then be "lost" due to random US confiscation and seizure. He would later contact them and saying that he could get the letters back, keeping the individuals safe from treasonous acts, if he could get enough funding to do so.
From our point of view, this is a gross wrong doing and it is. It was incorrect I am sure at the core of James, but life was difficult and he was still a young man. He lacked the proper institution of support to help validate the right choices. This is not letting him off the hook, but a means to understand how one would get to making those choices. James lived in a world where making bad choices would be easier-foreign land, uncommon language, war, parole, loss of identity, no family, no social network.
The Official Self-Defense Club and What is Self-Defense? (1944-1954)
The formation of a safety net would lead James to develop the origin of the modern systems. He would teach classes that uniquely catered to the idea of actual application of a self-defense skill as opposed to the mainstream teachings of assimilation through kata. This choice is most likely due to the fact that he had to show the kind of information that his audience was looking for and that he was limited in time and education commonality. He would allow katas to be taught later on and tried to teach them himself. His choice of Naihanchi as a form through the years was most likely due to the fact that he just learned it and that it was popular amongst the mainstream martial arts movement. The martial arts business practice of James was not much different than the typical schools today. He is criticized for this as will the cutting edge schools of today be critized tomorrow for what they teach!
James in the end teaches predominantly basic lessons through these years. He transitions the club with the closing of the internment camps. It would be suspected that the school would no longer be necessary as a front to hide his fear of the US government. His involvement would then take place as a guest instructor coming and going at his desire. His teaching would move towards breathing and the ability to generate power from the ground. Those that worked with James would account for his aptitude in the martial arts.
Teaching for James would result in his frustration as his audience that could not gain the more complex teachings. This would often frustrate him and he would leave the classes in a fit. I would suspect that it was more than just frustration with the students, it was a frustration with himself and life. James had the skills if we surmised from his education to know what was a good life to say-at least to him. He most likely did not see this and had frustrations in its obtainment. This is a normal endeavor for a man now 30 years of age.
The life of James outside of the school would consist most likely of normality. He would organize himself to benefit world through the offerings of medical skill and religious counseling to gain a means of income. It is unfortunate that he also learned to involve himself in various unsanctioned means of earning income. It would be suspected that through these combined means, James could justify a lifestyle to himself. He did good deeds much of the time and most likely said to himself that others are desiring and benefitting from the other services in some way. James would justify some of the numerous documented good deeds in "What is Self-Defense?" It is interesting to see that he would involve not only himself in these matters but also that of the whole school. This no doubt stems from his training as an administrator.
During these years, events would lead to James running a house of prostitution. William Chow and other students would act as security for the business. All this takes place amidst the numerous efforts by James. It is often documented in history how those who are often the worst tend to also do the most good. James would fall into this category in many ways, though not on a great scale of importance to world at large.
James publishes, in 1953, "What is Self-Defense?", culminating the pinnacle of his efforts and those that followed him in study. The bad deeds would eventually outweigh the good and James would leave Hawaii. The leaving of James would bring the end of the Modern Mitose Kenpo study and would allow the fruition of the modern line stemming from William Chow, Edmund Parker and the other early pioneers in Kempo study. The study at this point will emulate the application aspect as this is the seed James planted. I suspect it was not what he wanted to grow, but that is what he did grow. He describes some frustration in "What is Self-Defense?" when he says that there are hundreds of waza in Kenpo study. He also uses the stories to show that the study is an attribute and not a physical record set. His later frustration would take part in that the students wanted results and not a process to those results. Again, James injures himself and most likely would feel that the world is against him, propagating more bad choices in his future.
James in the Mainland US (1955-1970)
The move to Los Angeles would place James in a much more racially intolerant region. Whilst Hawaii is described in accounts as tolerant to those of Japanese descent, the mainland US was at that time much less tolerant and on many more levels. James would spend most of the years in the Mainland living at generally impoverished levels as his consumption of money, when he did have it, was highly reckless if we apply in retrospect his usage of money as per the trial transcripts.
James using his fundraising and people skills began a business organization in 1956 called the Japanese-American International Goodwill and Friendship Society to promote trade and commerce of those from Japanese descent. The group included prominent and local business leaders as well as formers heads of US and Japanese states. James would work to the point, at least convincingly, of achieving a level of income and to procure figure heads such as Former-President Dwight Eisenhower as an Honorary President of the group. The ability for him to make these connections no doubt required the ties to his past and a unique personality set to draw from. The pictures from the known events are often posted on the internet, showing James, his family and others participating in these events.
The group would obviously fail as the onset of the late 1960s places James in a position of squalor from two general accounts-that of his own and that of individuals during the Aikido scam. James would be said to be living in rented space, collecting cans from parks for money and driving around an old beat up junker of a pick-up truck. In the end, James needed to offer a quality and diverse service. The services he offered were generally superficial and the audience in time would learn that he was not necessary for the transactions. It is events like this that showed that he did not complete the skillsets to develop a necessary occupation. The events in his life essentially triggered a prolonged immaturity that is evident and talked about in the accounts of James in the trial transcripts.
In 1963, Bruce Haines, a former student, publishes an interview in his book "Karate History and Traditions" about Kosho Ryu as an art developing from Hawaii. This becomes the first documented account of the history of Kosho Ryu Kenpo and of the temple experience. It is assumed that James kept contact with the foundling group at least through correspondence. James would continue at least in his dabblings to interact within the martial arts community. He would be aware of the Kenpo schools opening in California and would on a small number of accounts interact with these groups. It would be suspected that if James believed that money could be made in martial arts, he would have taken the opportunities more seriously. At that time, the martial art school as a business model of income had not been proven.
The close of the 1960s places James in search of new avenues of revenue. He makes consistent attempts to raise money for a monument to Dwight Eisenhower. He joins and becomes leadership or council in religious organizations where he then offers religious and medical services to the local members. He essentially lacks in all of these years of service adequate US credentialing. His training comes from his minimal years of formal education and from self-study. He acknowledges his deficits by accumulating fake degrees in religion and medicine. He also makes numerous religious conversions to suit his audience.
The final event in this period relates to the account by which he offers to promote Aikido in the US. He convinces an aged Morhei Usheiba that he has the skillsets and the resources in the US to make a significant market impact. The certificates were signed by the then current North American leadership-which they state was with general protest. Thusly, in 1970 James is given the honorary high master's rank of 10th Dan in Aikido. The transaction tends to be accompanied by a meal with James spitting food everywhere, though James probably was not that terrible as he knew that he would need a good impression to make this opportunity work. Little ever came to this transaction other than a small number of folks believing that James was so good that he was recognized in Aikido. This was in reality to James a transaction of an income opportunity.
In these years James could easily have taken an occupation, but it seemed that he got stuck on the notion that he was a religous leader and a public figure. He sought this role as this role was his. This again is another failing of James. This inflexibile belief and blatant immaturity to occupy his role as a proper father figure. In his incarceration, James wishes not to interact with his family under good reason-it was highly disfunctional. The reader should note that one of the issues of high order religious and psychological studies are that their failure to properly complete may result in the destruction of an individual. This is taught to most folks that endeavor who the tickings of a human being including not only those in religious and psychologic study but also those in education and medicine. There are limitations that must be known in our abilities to bring students and individuals to critical moments. The failure in James to recognize his completion does not bar him from the tool and knowledge set. He knows how to approach the problem but does not easily learn how to complete it to resolution. If he did, he most likely would have made other choices through the years.
James in the Final Events (1970-1973)
James in his last free years was when he was probably the most brazen. His desire to obtain income places him in the opportunity to trade medical care and service for that of power of attorney. He would meet the older but still working Namimatsu couple in about 1970 at "The Temple of the White Brotherhood"- a local religious institution. They would all serve as executives at the church. James would render medical care over a period of time within the community so he was considered a trusted source on many levels.
During the course of interaction, the wife, Toshiko would develop cancer. James would offer excessively priced herbal remedies based on the guarantee of a result. The price tag was over $10,000 in herbals that could be purchased only from James. The solidification of James' final demise was in his attempt to thwart access from traditional medicine, attempts at gaining power of attorney, and the final goal of harboring the couple as a means to procure their access to income. In defense of James some argue that this was a normal custom, however adoption was typical only in the loss of children. James knew there was family members and as such the adoption concept would not make sense. Adoption was used as James lacked the word for power of attorney. At this point, James was clear in his intent.
Typically, the husband, Frank Namimatsu, would work at his factory during the day while James would care for his wife through the application of basic massage and medicinal treatments for the cancer therapy. The money would begin to affect the Namimatsu family business and the children began to inquire as to the relationship, excessive fees, large monetary losses and loss of living quarters. There are also the successful attempts by James and family to get the Namimatus to sign loans to buy a car for Alvin (James' son) and a small RV for roadtrips.
The children would take the parents from custodianship of James and get them back into their own house. Both parties account for interactions by James to collect the "outstanding balances on services provided." It becomes very apparent how brazen James becomes during this time period.
During this loss of custodianship, James continues his martial art studies. He goes to a martial arts championship in January 1973 and meets Terry Lee, an African-American, former Marine Sergeant and four year college graduate in psychology. Their relationship strikes off with their mutual accounts of training in Japan. Lee states never achieving mastership and Mitose offers the opportunity to him. Over the period of three months they would train at James' residence and Terry Lee would be given "mastership". The exercises were basic jumping and movement exercises as described by the accounts of both James and Terry Lee.
In March 1973, Frank Namimatsu is murdered during a late night intrusion and scuffle. Lee and his pregnant wife enter through an unlocked rear door. His wife waits at the door as he goes to collect a $10,000 check from the bedroom of the sleeping couple. Lee describes a scuffle, but leaving with the Frank alive. He further accounts leaving the house and discarding articles of clothing with blood on them into a random garbage can. Lee later in life accounts the death to an outside party-mostly likely the mob. Medical exam revealed the wife being punctured with a screwdriver and having serious injury. The husband, Frank, was found dead from strangulation. It is very probable that when Terry Lee left that man was alive. Inflammation and swelling setting in from a cracked trachea would eventually seal his airway resulting in his suffocation and death. This should make sense with the increased access to medical information these days.
The largest factor is, really, not just that the murder took place, but that it is most likely James that made it so that the door was unlocked. The poor judgment of Terry Lee, now Nimhr Hassan, with bringing his pregnant wife was most likely what gave him credibility as well as the lack of forced entry of not having the intent to kill. Proving that James was a martial arts master deemed James in control of this Terry Lees life and actions as the understanding of "Master" was not one of high knowledge but of ownership.
James Mitose in Trial (1973-1974)
James in trial achieves the lowest point of his life. He is officially vilified and he knows it. He probably always knew it but he could rationalize his motives prior to these events. The culmination of his understanding is why he confesses on the first day of being guilty and professes that they should lock him away. His counsel works to explain the procedures to which we see James then in his infinite wisdom try to prevent the hearings. It is often the case that intelligent folks will act with a greater degree of aberrant behaviors. James does not shy from this with repeated outburst, unruly behavior, public urination, general unkemptness, self-inflicted deterioration of health, and cries of living conditions. His behavior did get better as the hearing dates progressed-a sign that James was accepting his fate.
The prosecution's argument was set on painting a purposed villain who plotted to gain wealth and of a man who sought to get even after a loss of monetary gain. The defense argued for an unknowing do-gooder, unaware of the operations of America. The hearings had a number of issues with regard to James as well as difficulty with translators. Despite the negative events, James does continue to endorse the temple story when questioned of his authority and mastery of martial arts. As a reader of this, even myself proof-reading this, it is hard not to feel burdened and failed by these matters. James failed us all in many ways, but we are to blame for accepting the line of knowledge. There are other martial art styles and we could all have chosen them especially those of you now choosing martial arts.
James is convicted September 16, 1974 to life imprisonment for first degree murder, attempted murder, extortion, grand theft and conspiracy to solicit murder. Terry Lee is convicted to three years within a minimum security prison for his role.
James Mitose Incarcerated (1974-19781)
James would be incarcerated for 3 years prior to his re-introduction to the kempo community. He survived by playing the role he knew best in a place that for the first time probably needed him. Accounts through his time of imprisonment describe him as acting counsel to inmates and taking pleasure in work duty on the prison grounds. He would frame an organization in the prison playing his role as manager. This is the one consistent skill that James seems to bear. He names an inmate, Montegnero, as his secretary for whatever little duty that that would mean.
In some ways from the accounts of those interacting with James, it would almost be described that James in prison would meet the highest value in his adult life. James had a skill and a group needing that skill. He would take to using Christianity as a means of commonality to work with the other inmates. Accounts say the he was well liked and respected by officers and inmates. Prison may be the only place that James may have found James. This is the best one can hope for otherwise, it is one large joke on every practitioner of Kenpo. It may be during this period of self limitation and audience James could complete his understanding of the studies presented to him. It is a possible conjecture.
It would be hoped that James would reflect on past and present during this time. An almost prolonged meditation. He would have to wonder if he failed his upbringing and the means to correct this. It is possible that the James at this point is the closest to what James was supposed to be, despite the jadedness that he would have from the deep scars of his life.
In 1977, James becomes associated with Kenpo by a correction officer who had been studying from Bruce Juchnik-a then prominent Sacramento, California Tracy Kenpo instructor. The officer, not named as that is proper for those in law enforcement, arranges for the meeting, most likely to James' disinterest. James would have little choice in the matter as the outcome could be quite negative to himself-often an element I don't think folks think about. Secondly, James must meet with a man of Kenpo, an art of his devise that he generally can't stand.
Bruce Juchnik describes the meeting as eventful as James tells him that he doesn't know kenpo. The future events are such that Juchnik offers to learn and James accepts. Again it can not be proven as for the basis of this acceptance. Was it out of fear of repercussion? Another opportunity for improvement? Actual like of and desire to have a student? Or lastly an attempt to gain parole?
Most likely it was all of the above as time would transpire. He was given a talented martial artist and one that wanted authority. James knew this and most probably it was to gain a number of self-privileges in and out of jail. The meeting of various kenpo individuals would cinch this understanding and cement his hold on the kenpo community. Juchnik would in most accounts would continue as the primary student as either Mitose or the introductions could not tolerate or find value in each other.
James would teach a number of minor lessons to Bruce using conversation, imagery and minimal physical lessons. It is arguable that what was taught was the Kosho for an end user and not the Kosho for a crafter of an end user. The former is what Juchnik needed and the latter was but outlined in a second book "What is True Self-Defense?" The second book from all appearances is overtly simple, but it does characterize an important philosophical attribute which when taken with all the pieces makes sense as an origin idea.
1980 would bring deterioration of James' health due to diabetic complications leading to stroke and finally death from pneumonia. In the last months of his life, Juchnik would introduce James to Thomas Barro-a lost son of Mitose. This would close the influence of James, in life, on Kenpo. Most would have minimal time with the man and yet describe profound life learning. This is the Kosho attribute. Kosho as James would allude is a cognitive skill. The kenpo is no more than a physical manifestation of this process. He would write his lament and detesting of not only the Kenpo lineage but also of martial arts in general. It is arguable that some of this has to do with himself. James for the first time may be very cogniscent of that which the product is. Again, it is hard not to consider that in his confinement he would also return to the lessons that he was taught by his family and Grandfather. James is not necessarily the founder of a school as much as he is the origin of ideas. Some ideas are arguably better than others to say, but for those too young to understand they must wait for life to happen first.
The next page we must discuss the withdraw of an origin idea and what that means. Origin ideas are seen throughout sciences, religion and human history. It is surprising to often view the failures of the origin as we choose to deem them as perfect. Again, it should be impressed that if there was no James, there would be no Kenpo.