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James Mitose's What is Self-Defense?

The Hawaii Karate Museum has just acquired What Is Self Defense? (Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu), by Professor James M. Mitose. Written in 1947, the book was published in 1953. This may have been the first Karate book published in English, and was certainly the first Karate book ever published in Hawaii.

We just acquired the "Two Man" cover (above, left). The title page of this version is above, center. We believe this to be the first version, published in 1953. We already had the "Mon" cover (above, right), believed to have been published later that year. We are very happy to now have both versions of this important book!

We have reviewed two copies of the "Two Men" edition (the other belongs to my friend, Professor Kimo Ferreira), and they differed from each other! Since the book was privately published, it is possible that there were differences from one copy to another.

Mitose appears to have taught a mixture of Ju Jutsu and basic, application oriented Karate. The makiwara section of his book is remarkably similar to the makiwara section of Choki Motobu's Watashi no Karate Jutsu (1932). The photograph of Motobu (with crossed arms) that appears in Mitose's book is from Watashi no Karate Jutsu. Motobu is described as "The great master of Karate Kenpo." The photograph of the "Master of Karate Kenpo demonstrating the breaking of tile, five pieces all at one punch" appearing on the same page is from Mizuho Mutsu's Karate Kenpo (1933). The "Master of Karate Kenpo" is none other than Kamesuke Higashionna, then of Toyo University. Higashionna's mother lived on the Big Island. He taught Karate there at various time before and after World War II. The photograph of "Daruma Before Emporer Wu or Butei" is also from Mizuho Mutsu's Karate Kenpo. Mutsu was originally a student of Gichin Funakoshi. However, he and Kamesuke Higashionna later became students of Motobu. They came to Hawaii in 1933 at Motobu's urging.

Mitose deserves recognition for several reasons. First, he openly taught his Kempo/Kenpo to students of any race. Karate in Hawaii at this time was generally restricted to the Okinawan community. Mitose also emphasized practical applications rather than kata. While this was common in Ju Jutsu, most Karate schools in Japan at that time were kata oriented. An exception to this was Motobu's Daidokan Dojo, which was also application oriented. Finally, Mitose's book is arguably the first Karate book ever written in English. Although he did not use the term "Karate," his art would certainly be characterized today as a form of Karate.

Do you know of any other 1953 versions of this book? If so, please contact me.

My start in Karate was actually in Kenpo Karate. I began studying in high school under Florentino S. Pancipanci and Edward Wallce, both of whom were students of Marino Tiwanak of the CHA3 Kenpo organization. I taught Kenpo at Hickam Air Force Base, and later began the practice of Shorin-Ryu while still in high school. Today, I teach the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu, but am still influenced by my Kenpo training.


Charles C. Goodin