It is clear in the available literature that there are misunderstandings in the application of the terms, kenpo and kosho, that define the teachings of James Mitose. It also appears that while at one point these terms were utilized as divergent, the trend is now moving towards the convergence of the terms. The purpose of this page is to discuss the potential first meanings as well as the intentions of the terms at the present day.
Historical Accuracy in the Naming of the Teachings
It is commonly questioned on many websites as to the validity of a martial arts education from James. This questioning comes from his life and ethical realities, but also from his publication of names regarding the style. To consider this naming subject, we have to consider James at the different points in his life which is a page of itself to come. We need to understand that if he was in fact trained to be a religious educated man, then his teachings and interests would primarily be theological and conceptual. Any martial arts that he would learn would suffer analysis from this education bias.
Secondly, we must also consider his age when most of the term discrepancies take place. A twenty year old is still grossly immature even for that time period in terms of hopes and aspirations. Many seem to have difficulty in allowing for such considerations and especially to James. A twenty something is responsible and accountable to major life actions, but for the most part there is still a great amount of self-exploration that will take place. It is part of the process of being twenty, especially for an educated person. This of course is the reason we dismiss many intelligent people as immature, however the learning curve eventually catches up and we see the fruition and acceleration of their life process.
The controversy begins with the formulation of the term "Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu" which of itself would be a correct term if one considers the modern usage of the term, but that will be discussed. He also at the same time describes the usage of the term "Kosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo" to imply a second valuation. It is discussed that the usage of the term "Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu" is to defraud, and that may be the case; but most likely an innocuous side effect of a young man wanting to be known in his community. Most individuals who would buy his book would have known James. They would have known what he was teaching and what he was about. Even if he was stealing the terms, methods, and "techniques" from other sources, it was most likely accepted. Most probable then, it would be considered an innocent, but later critical, problem to James and his descendents.
His introduction of the term "Kosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo" is critical as well as consistent throughout most of James' life. This term would denote a collective for his education and of itself the term "Kosho" is the most descriptive. It is a plausible case that if James knew martial arts through "Kosho" he may have later learned "Kenpo" and fused his ideology into the structure. This is as possible as everything else, but it also means that there are potentially two lineages to James' teachings-that of Kenpo and Kosho. This is quite possible especially looking retrospectively at the historical record. It is also a plausible explanation for the acceptance by the community for any work that he would regurgitate and modify. Most sites and individuals, who had known James during this period, endorse the fact that he "knew" how to do things.
Potentially then, Kenpo is not Kosho, but Kosho can be Kenpo. This would be the most correct statement of deduction from the historical record, teachings and books by James. He fails to make that distinction, which upon analysis creates his animosity towards his ideological descendents.
Kenpo also kempo are terms that can be used interchangeable as they are English language variants. In romaji, the correct is kenpo, but phonetically kempo is also correct. Too much
time is spent on this issue. Even James utilized both terms in his writings, most often those he used the term kenpo.
The term defined by root terms means "fist" and "law" but yields the composite "fist law" which creates the notion of ruling by fist and knuckle. This of itself is incorrect despite the constant telling of folks to look it up in a Japanese dictionary. Doing such you will see the term "constitution" or "charter" being utilized. This is the most correct as it describes a series of principles to live by. There is kenpo to a school system and to government.
Mitose accurately describes Kenpo as "an art of self-defense that protects the basic human rights derived from God and promotes the happiness of men. It is an effective method of defending one’s rights and of maintaining public peace and order." Observe his avoidance of the usage of fist, knuckles, maiming, killing, overkill, fast hitting and such not. He purposely describes the appropriate hierarchy of striking, kicking, locking and throwing but does not describe the context for such an event. It would not be appropriate by James' rules to strike more than once for a wrist grab, which is why you see that he moves to lower order maneuvers to exemplify the needs to defend another's rights, even if they are the attacker. In his twenties, he did understand this.
The usage of the term Kenpo would later fall out of fashion with James as he avoids the direct instruction of martial arts after his incarceration. He would come to view the term "kenpo" as evil. He writes in his second book his opinion of this art. It would make sense as the art of "kenpo" is now a system of injuring a man using hard and fast hitting hands without thought to what is right for both self and others. James is not the only one to make this criticism of the modern tradition. This criticism comes from most competent martial artists, who with age, see that it is a system of young thoughts and individuals that think only of themselves in this world of interconnected beings. Again that is why the elder teachers smile when you say you learned "kenpo".
Kosho is a term that means "old pine tree". The term may or may not describe the foundation of the sect from which James' education may come from. In any event, "Kosho" as a term describes a specific thought process. A thought process with goals and proper
mission statements that can be evaluated. It is not the goal of this page to describe what is correct, but it would align itself as a means to hone and isolate down the term "Kempo". Kosho as a term in the modern sense is a larger encompassing term. Both can be aligned, but they also can be disparaging. Kosho can be Kenpo, but Kenpo is not Kosho. It is very clear in the writings of James that this is correct. Kosho is defined as "James's way". In his way, survival has a place. In his way, we all have a place and a connection that is necessary to each other. It is Buddhist in origin but it differs based upon the usage of the term "survival" and "survival's" place in this way of life. Kosho to James appears to have been real. It is one of the few things that he writes about with sincerity, pride and personal reflection. If in the end all "kempo" was to be made up or borrowed, his consistent implication of the term "kosho" is most likely genuine and real. It is the one constant part of his life that is seen even when he is an emotional train wreck. This biggest issue surrounding James should be the reasons he failed to follow this process and evaluation. The term "Kosho" as implied forces one to evaluate James even more critically than the term "Kenpo". The individuals of Kosho are not free from life evaluations-it is implied in the term.
The Modern Usages of the Terms
The resultant efforts of James' descendents have three working definitions. One, Kenpo is an art of fast, hard hitting movements that employs devastating the attacker through blitz and overkill. Two, Kempo is any kenpo art that is not derived from the James Mitose lineage. Three, Kosho is a term that describes the later teachings from James Mitose. These martial arts are about escaping and moving away from conflict with a series of jumping movements.
These modern definitions are very stylized and are most likely what the reader will study. The original dynamic quality of the definitions has almost been lost. The reader, if education is a goal of their endeavors, should work to understand the intended meanings. According to Mitose, Kenpo is an art that promotes the happiness of men. Exactly how that takes places in the ownership of the most specific, numerous, and lethal series of movements is a question that some will have to address in rectifying their origin. Kosho on the other hand is more than just jumping around like a fool away from conflict. Mitose addresses that conflict is real. It must be negotiated in accordance to the law, society, survival and God himself-whether or not one is a believer.