Validation of the kenpo arts require that one must find sources of information regarding their origin, concept, and authority to instruct these arts. The majority of this information will come from the internet as there are no to few alternate independent academic sources that have interest in this pop culture history.
The history of martial arts is generally considered a niche interest. It is an interest supported only by the participants on average as the overall design of curriculums and systems matter to the greater human record only if they have provided a technological advance that has affected the human sociological population. Information regarding the katana, for example, is seen as it had influenced the distribution of power as a technology as are the inventions of the rifle and the war planes in their prospective war eras.
The available information regarding "kenpo" comes from the following sources:
James Mitose-First Accounts
James provides a number of first account references to his opinions regarding the study of kenpo. These are documented in advertisements for students, newspaper interviews, book interviews such as the interview by Bruce Haines, his first book, his trial records, and then his second book. The description of kenpo changes throughout these sources. He begins with a simplistic mission and description of kenpo relating it as an art of self-defense utilizing striking and kicking to free one's self from the attacker to describing three levels of kenpo instruction during a
Hawaiian newspaper publicity interview to finally resigning with a dislike of the term and codifying of a new term to describe his understanding of life. Even from first accounts, it is shown that there is change and inconsistency in honing a solitary definition of the term.
James Mitose-Second Accounts
Seconds accounts of James come from people that interacted with him first hand. Most of these individuals have interactions with him lasting a few hours to at best a few months. A very limited few have interactions with James lasting over a period of years.
The individuals with short interaction timeframes have varied opinions from knowledgeable to incompetent. They described him as being respectable to outright grotesque in mannerisms such as cleanliness and eating. Depending on the source, we can see a spectrum of variance in the man. It is probably the case that all of the above are true depending upon the timeframes of the interactions. James' life was not ideal and it is conjectured that he learned a number of coping mechanisms to survive the life he participated in. Again not a justification, but the reality that as a human you will cope to survive.
Individuals with long interaction timeframes generally described him as intelligent, lacking patience, generally quick to anger, and having good martial art skills. These individuals must have found something more as they continued a relationship with him for many years-whether it was his knowledge, intellect or human qualities not generally described. These accounts show that James like most of us had a persona that may have differed depending upon whether you were in his inner social circles or an outsider to his sphere of influence. It would only make sense from a rational standpoint.
Thus, we can see the difficulty in simply describing him. Few accounts describe him as lacking intelligence and most accounts described him as hardened with little patience. I suspect that these go together if you follow the course of his life events. In the end, he must have demonstrated some kind of human quality, otherwise he would not have had had the interactions that he did. He would not have sat down at a table with a United States President and a
Japanese Prime Minister. All of these things should shed light on the difficulty of simply dismissing him as incompetent. It is believable that he appeared rough, grotesque and unkempt as many of his accomplishments would crumble and he would most likely find himself in obscurity, economically depressed and lacking control in his life. It one account, James is described as being broke, owning an old beat up pickup truck and collects cans for money from the public parks.
A number of sources attempt to circumvent the complexity issue of James by providing a foundation for his family structure. These attempts result in fixation upon James' mother. The matter of contention is based upon whether or not she is a member of an obscure religious sect or a member of a powerful Japanese clan. These records diverge on the point of contention as to the justification of the proper lineage for the curriculum and system materials.
James tends to account for a religious instruction at numerous places in his life. The instruction would generally align itself more closely to a religious lineage, but that is a point of contention of his credibility. The martial art issue is generally not resolved even with understanding the lineage as it is not proven whether James learns martial arts before returning to Hawaii, after returning to Hawaii or a combination of the two. It is strongly suspected that it is a combination of both sources. This would explain his own variants in the knowledge sets.
The Reliability of Sources Other than James Mitose
The sources of information confer an opinion as does this source potentially. The dominant sources stem from individuals in the modern tradition, while the minority sources come from individuals who had direct relationships with James Mitose at two distinct points in his life.
The dominant source of information on the internet comes from the Tracy family. They have spent a large number of resources and time in obtainment of information and its dissemination. The information and history cited by the Tracy family is reproduced at countless internet sites and may even be described as the dominant opinion on Wikipedia. The volume of reproduction and citation by martial sites promotes the credibility of the source. Most accounts document the importance of the Tracy family in seeding the roots for the modern kenpo arts as well as delivering business practices and instructional materials. The dismissal of this source often stems from citation of potentially incorrect logic chains in regards to the life and lineage of James Mitose, dismissal due to archaic value of the educational line, and finally in distinct knowledge circles ethical issues in regards to Will Tracy-which will be left to the reader to research that value.
The first minority source of information comes from a man that interacted with Mitose during his incarceration and up until his death. Bruce Juchnik would be introduced and learn an outline structure of the concepts that would need to be taught. He describes being able to learn in a relatively open environment at Folsom Prison, but was restricted from overt martial type lessons. They could, however, engage in small amounts of physical learning. The dismissal of this source is due in kind to five major things. The first being the environment of learning. The second being the credibility of James Mitose as a source of knowledge at this point in his life. The third being James' concepts of kenpo as to whether they are real or for proving his parole viability. The fourth relates to a cultish pseudo-religious appearance of this group. The fifth relates to Bruce Juchnik himself. These accounts describe him as a competent martial artist, but often cite general personal issues in the dismissal of his knowledge set.
The second minority source of information comes from a direct bloodline descendent of James Mitose, that of Thomas Barro Mitose. This source documents the transmission of information from descendent to descendent. The accounts of his meetings with his father to learn the kenpo arts is minimal as these meeting do not take place until the end stage failure of his father's health-Thomas was a son given up for adoption to the Barro family. The question of authority from this source lies in the means of transmission. The contentions are that if he learned the family arts was it possible to do directly or did he learn the family arts from Bruce Juchnik during their time of mutual commonality-knowledge and bloodline. Both parties tend to validate their own side of this encounter, however it appears that the bloodline ownership is strongly cited on many websites.
The third minority source of information comes from a man that interacted with Mitose prior to the murder and incarceration. Nimhr Hassan, aka Terry Lee, is well documented in the histories as being tied to and as the alleged murder or at least a major conspirator to the murders. His production of information is always of interest as a person who had known James, but the information is often considered tampered as most individuals of ethical means cannot grasp how a man can teach an art of a person that tied him to a murder and for that matter a murderer. This source tends to be the least of the cited sources on the internet amidst some available written and video materials.
The overview of the history sources show that the dominating opinion will one day be the official opinion unless the public can be persuaded as to the viability of the other source opinions. It generally appears that the origin and definitions are solidifying from the number of repeated and referenced sources from almost every kenpo school on the internet. The purpose of this page was to familiarize the reader with the available sources.