1970 Kajukenbo program local artifact


I had a book signing at the Vacaville museum a few weeks ago, and a gentleman named Grayson Hunley from the class of 1971 at Fairfield High School had me sign his copy of my book, and he brought me something to read. It was a copy of a program from the 1970 US Karate Championships held at Vallejo Senior High School.

Tony Wade, Back in the Day

Now, it was kind of ironic that I was sitting in a museum looking at what I considered a local artifact. Although I was never personally interested in martial arts beyond watching Bruce Lee movies, I recognized a number of people in the program and knew it would be cherished by many locals.

Kajukenbo was at the center and a brief history of how it was included this: “Kenpo-Karate is a combination of two of the most devastating forms of self-defense in the world. Kenpo means “fist law” and karate means “empty hands”.

According to Wikipedia, in 1947, Adriano Emperado, Peter Young Yil Choo, Joseph Holck, Frank F. Ordonez, and George “Clarence” Chuen Yoke Chang banded together as the Black Belt Society and developed what came to be called the kajukenbo. The name kajukenbo is a combination of the different arts from which its style is derived: KA for karate, JU for judo and jujutsu, KEN for kenpo and BO for boxing. Discipline incorporates a mixture of striking, kicking, throwing, takedowns, articulation locks, and weapon disarming.

Professor Emperado from Hawaii was present at the 1970 event and joined his followers, who hailed from all over Northern California and Washington State.

The tournament producer was Tony Ramos, with whom generations of Fairfielders have studied. Ramos, later a 10th degree black belt, earned the title of Ahgung – a Chinese term of respect meaning grandfather and “man who walks a straight path”. At the start of the program, he said that for the past 22 years he had strived to “preach karate with fairness and a positive attitude”.

The tournament opened with the national anthem followed by an invocation by John Mraz of the Fairfield Police Department (later alderman). Afterwards, Ramos gave a welcome speech and there were demonstrations, two-minute competitions and trophies handed out. The three belt classifications were white, brown and black. Each competitor had to be certified or registered with an established club or organization whose instructor held at least the rank of first degree black belt. Officers and enlisted men of the armed forces could compete if certified by the commander of the military branch they represented.

Charles Gaylord, inventor of the Gaylord Method who would eventually achieve the honorable rank of grand grandmaster before his death in 2009, was the chief arbiter. Other referees included Emil Bautista, a graduate of Armijo High School in 1957, who later became a senior grandmaster and led a dojo in Vallejo for 53 years, and Al Reyes, also later a senior grandmaster who had generations of local students.

Another referee was easily recognizable even to people who weren’t into martial arts: Chuck Norris.

There are pictures throughout the program and for kajukenbo aficionados this is probably a goldmine. However, even for people who are just local history buffs like yourselves and have just written a book about restaurants of yesteryear, the vintage advertisements were also interesting to see. They included those at Baskin-Robbins, Sham’s Pizza, the Acacia Club, and Wonder World, among others. I even learned something. I didn’t know there was a Flaky Cream Do-Nuts in Vallejo as well as the one in Fairfield.

One last interesting note on the program, they also had a karate queen. She was Miss Claudia Costello and was pictured holding a bouquet of flowers and wearing a sparkly tiara. The caption, however, stated that she had just earned her purple belt. So, queen or not, she was obviously not to be taken lightly.

Freelance Fairfield humor columnist and local accidental historian Tony Wade writes two weekly columns – “The Last Laugh” on Mondays and “Back in the Day” on Fridays. Wade is also the author of The History Press books “Growing Up In Fairfield, California” and “Lost Restaurants of Fairfield, California”.


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