23B. Henshuho-Kata and Keiko

In this e-mail I will continue with the question about the Henshuho and their origins. (See e-mail #23A)

Henshuho was a kata unlike any that you have learned in karate. Kosho-ryu is not karate; it is kempo (chuan-fa) and comes from China. It is what some people call Kung-fu. The kata is not a karate kata; it is a chuan-fa kata.

Sometime after the founding of Kosho-ryu, and probably in the 18th century the kata Henshuho was created. The meaning of the kata is “a set of forts” (henshu = compilation, set; ho = fort). The kata is a compilation of techniques used to fortify one’s position and not give ground to an enemy (notice how many of the Henshuho step backwards as an initial movement). It was from this kata that Sensei James Mitose developed a set of techniques to teach American soldiers in 1942. (With the secrecy of Kosho-ryu it is possible that the set already existed, too; I am not sure either way.) At any rate, the name of the kata and the name of the set of techniques remained the same; A Set of Forts or Henshuho.

In 1942 Mitose began teaching his art with extreme enthusiasm. He was teaching his fellow countrymen to defend themselves against the country’s enemy. He was teaching them to live. He was proud. He knew that his family loyalty had been breached, but he was at war with the country of his family and needed to teach the men of his country to save their lives. He broke silence and taught anyone who might have to go to the war and fight the Japanese and die if he didn’t teach them.

In 1947 Mitose began teaching the artistic component of his art. It was met with varying success. It appeared that the Hawaiian people wanted to learn the fighting techniques but Sensei Mitose wanted them to learn the eclectic art that he so cherished. Discouraged, in 1953, he retired from teaching martial arts and went to the mainland US, where he became a Christian minister and returned the art of Kosho-ryu underground.

The sensei-deshi (teacher-student) path of the Henshuho follows: As for the kata: James Mitose taught Al Kahalekulu (c1949). Sensei Kahalekulu taught Del Saito (c1966). Sensei Saito taught me (1973). As for the keiko set: James Mitose taught Al Kahalekulu (c1948). Sensei Kahalekulu taught Del Saito (c1963). Sensei Saito taught me (1971).

Many of Mitose’s students learned the Henshuho keiko set; Al Kahalekulu, William Chow, Bobby Lowe, and Thomas Young being the ones that possibly taught it to another generation. Only a few students learned the kata, or even wanted to learn the kata. The only ones I know learned it were Sensei Al Kahalekulu and, mysteriously, Sensei Richard Kim (from unknown sources).

Occasionally, the Henshuho keiko set appears in dojo around the United States. Fragments of it appear in Kajukembo in Hawaii and other kempo schools. Our set is hardly the original. Let me explain after a brief introduction to the Henshuho keiko set for those who don’t know it yet.

The Henshuho set is a set of 22 movements. All are done against a right stabbing lunge punch as the shikaki (offense) moves forward. The one exception is Henshuho #22 which just doesn’t fit in the set at all; it is a right hand attempt to grab. There are no kicks in the set although there are some aikijitsu techniques.

The keiko set has changed since I learned it. I assume full responsibility for its change. (I still remember the original movements so if you really want to learn the original movements I will teach them to you, but I prefer the new ones.)

#1-14: These are as I learned them in 1971.

#15: I adapted this movement from a technique Mr. Kim taught me.

#16: I adapted this movement from a technique that once saved me from a beating.

#17: This one needs replacement, and I will do so when I change #22.

#18-21: These are as I learned them in 1971, with only refinements since then by Sensei Kim.

#22: I believe this one needs replacement. The movement is in the kata and so was incorporated into the keiko set, but it has little military meaning as far as the original reason for teaching to the military in 1942. I will change it when I find another movement in the kata which is more applicable to the sets original intentions. The only reason I have not done so already is I am still searching for some unknown possibility as to why this one last movement does not follow the military design. Was it accident? Was it purposeful? If it was purposeful, what was the purpose and is the purpose still meaningful enough to retain #22 as is? I have worked with #22 as is for more than 25 years and I have yet to discover the reason for its deviation. It is an almost useless technique as I was taught it. Some minor variations allow it to become a little better than useless, but not much. I still retain it in bewilderment of such anomaly.

#23-25: These, if they really ever existed, were never taught to me. Perhaps the set goes beyond #25 too, but I have never heard so.