Senior Professor James Muro
I first started training in the martial arts around 1957 at St. Mary’s School in Waipahu, Hawaii. They had several things going on for the kids at that school. One was boxing, taught by father Brown, who came from Brooklyn, New York. The other was a Judo class, taught by Larry Samuels, a local boy who trained under a dentist - Sensei Kurosawa - who at the time, I believe, was the head of the Yodanshakai in Hawaii.
Also at this time until the early 60s, I was being taught Kenpo Karate by my family members - the Cabagbag brothers, Uncle David (he was also my youngest sister’s god father) and Uncle Ronnie (Roland). Uncle David used to own a Chevy Corvair. From standing still he could jump to the top of the car, no problem. From three steps back takeoff he could jump over the top of the car to the other side. They really laid a good foundation for me and gave the advice on how to look for a good instructor later on in life.
During the early part of the 60s I was lucky enough that my parents knew a lot of quality martial art teachers. One of the very first was Charlie Boy Kalani. Uncle David would take me to the club to work out on the nice makiwara Charlie had on the wall. Charlie also had a piece of telephone pole stuck in the floor with some motorcycle inner tubes tied around it. This was for training working on throws. Uncle David would have me doing strikes and kicks on this bad boy too. Charlie was an amazing teacher and athlete. He would walk across the dojo floor on his hands doing a couple of laps, then a number of push-ups like that - he was also a crack up. My parents really loved him… Later his partner came back from another stint in Viet Nam, Professor John Ah Chin Chow-Hoon. Eventually Charlie would retire from the military and sold the club to B. Baptiste. My parents knew this guy also back in Hawaii and my mother did not really want me training with him - we moved away anyway.
Later on I would return to the Monterey area and found out that Professor Chow-Hoon was teaching in the neighborhood. I went down to check out classes to see if I could get in. I did not take any chances with the paperwork, in case my parents did not get along with Sensei Chow-Hoon, so I filled out all the paperwork myself and did not show it to them. Some 7-8 months later after a local luau my parents brought a bunch of their friends over to our home to extend the party, and guess who came walking into our doorway? Professor Chow-Hoon! Right away my heart sunk and my throat tightened up. My mom called me over to meet him. “This is my good friend Johnny. His wife and I are like sisters. You can go and train with him.” I gave him a big hug. He grabbed me by the neck, pulled me over away from the noise and commotion and asked me who filled out all the paperwork for the class. I confessed that I did it and told him my reason for doing this. He understood, but I still had to go to his house to pull weeds the next weekend. That was the beginning of the most important relationship of my martial arts carrier.
Professor Chow-Hoon was a pioneer martial artist, but he really never talked or bragged about it, being the younger brother of Professor William Chow and training under Professor Bing Fai Lau and Professor Sig Kufferath, Sonny Chang, Yukiso Yamamoto and the great Henry Okazaki. I was very fortunate that my parents knew this great man. He and his wife Pauline were my second set of parents.
Once my wife Raquel cracked me up when she thought that one of my class mates was Chinese. The guy was half Scottish and half Mexican. After a pretty good laugh I stopped to think about what she said, and then I realized that there was some truth to it. Being around Professor Chow-Hoon, we all grew to be a little bit of Chinese ourselves, because he really did influence us that much - we all deeply loved him.
I think ttaught us was that it is important to accept all of the martial arts, because they were all related and they could all fit together. He did not just wanted us to be a Judoka or Karateka, but he wanted us to be a “Martial Artist” – to be able to flow from one environment to the next, from stand up fighting to fighting on the ground etc. The other thing I feel very important as a teacher I learned from him was that every student you get in the class is not going to be a “Bruce Lee”. The students come to class for all different reasons. Some will have very poor motor skills, some have low self-esteem, some are there for self-defense and some are there to just escape. Either their home life is bad; the workplace is filled with a lot of stress, etc. Professor Chow-Hoon taught me that my job was to make sure that when they looked back on when they were training with me that they could say, “You know, that was a good time in my life”. In Professor Chow-Hoon classes we all cared about each other. I learned a great deal about myself and about other people, how to accept others, how to actually care for others. He taught me that this was really an important part of being a teacher and if I could do this, then I did my job as a teacher.
One of the things I am really proud of about my teacher was that he was very secure about his relationships with his students. He would actually arrange for me to go and train with other teachers of other arts. This was and still is unheard of by most teachers. Most will tell their students that if you go and work out with others then do not come back… Professor Chow-Hoon did not do this with me. He knew that I loved him and that I would always be with him He knew that I would always bring back what I had learned elsewhere to the rest of the students. He always told me that “if you want to be good at what you do in martial arts, you have to go outside of your style or system, in order to find out the weaknesses and strengths of what you have within that system, and then go back to it to improve upon what you have learned. You may have to just change the way you train in order to achieve this”.
In the early 70s I had a chance to go and work out with Dan Inosanto, a very brilliant martial artist, one of Ed Parker’s black belts and one of Bruce Lee’s students. Ed had told him, I believe, to seek out some Eskrima teachers in order to add on to what he already had trained in. And this is what I wanted to see after working out with him. I realized that this was one of the best weapons self-defense arts around and I felt that what I had learned prior to this was not enough. I explained this to Professor Chow-Hoon when I got back to class I showed to him
what I had picked up. He then went out and arranged for me to go to Stockton, California to stay and train in Eskrima with some of his friends.
This is where I got to really know and love Art Diocson. He introduced me to Professor Gilbert Tenio and Professor Juan Eliab, Dentoy Revilar and the legendary Angel Cabales. I would spend all day with Professor Gilbert Tenio and then when Professor Juan Eliab got off work, I would spend the rest of the night until 1-2 AM training with them both.
Professor Tenio was from Bohol, Philippines and Professor Eliab was from Hawaii, where his father owned a barber shop. Professor Tenio was retired Navy Chief, who had trained with several of his uncles learning different elements of Decuerdas Eskrima. He also had trained in different martial arts as well, including Aikido and Kenpo, while living in Hawaii.
Juan Eliab Sr. was one of Angel Cabales first student. He would bring me to the club next to “Gong Lee’s”. It was a dance studio, where you could go upstairs to take a break but still be able to watch what was going on in the class below. There would be many great eskrimadors come and go, including Juanito Lacoste who, I believe, was the senior eskrimador in Stockton, Max Sarmiento, Lebelieve they all belonged to the Masonic lodge in Stockton on the south side of town. We would go there on occasion to train in the parking lot. Professor Tenio had great respect for Cabales and Serrada Eskrima. He said it was part of Decuerdas and it was important to learn it. So I had to learn Serrada first before he would teach me Decuerdas. Around this time all the eskrimadors of the west coast got together to form the West Coast Eskrima Group to hold tournaments and for just getting together to share techniques with each other, usually in someone’s back yard, and we would order take out Chinese or bar-b-q to eat afterwords - those were good times.
Mike Inay was the first president of the West Coast Eskrima Group. I was very fortunate to hook up with him later on in San Jose area Mike was another brilliant martial artist, very articulate and organized. I admired him a great deal for this. He was able to develop a way of bringing along his students at a faster rate than I had seen before. I was happy to be able to study how he did this. He taught me the Kadena De Mano system he learned from Max Sarmiento. I miss him a great deal. His children are very talented martial artists as well. His choice of having his children Jason and Jenna succeed him was a great choice. Jason follows in his father’s footsteps quire well and has become just as articulate a teacher as his father. He has my continued support in his succession to the Inayan training organization.
In 1986 Professor Tenio promoted me to Master Grade (Red Sash) at a
seminar held at Stanford University. From 1968 to 1978 I trained with Professor Richard Kim Hanshi in the art of Shorinji Ryu. People used to call Professor Kim a “walking encyclopedia”. History was very important to him. If you knew your roots, where you came from, then you would have sense of belonging. My last rank from Professor Kim was Yodan in 1978. From 1966 to 1970 I belonged to the Central Coast Yodanshakai. From 1970 to 1976 I belonged to the Southwestern Judo Association. In 1998 I met another very special person – Olohe Solomon Kaihewalu. It was a chance meeting. I was actually planning to visit someone else. It has become a fruitful association for me and my students. I have always wanted to study Hawaiian own martial art – Lua. My problem was - other Lua groups had offered to bring me in to study, but I could not extend this invitation to the rest of my students, for if you were not part Hawaiian, then you could not participate in the training. This was all solved when I met Olohe Kaihewalu. It is his family art and he has chosen to share it with all. He feels that otherwise his family art of Lua, as well as other parts of the Hawaii culture, would be lost and forgotten.
Eventually I found out that he is related to my teacher and to others I have been lucky to train with. Also I found so much Lua in Danzan Ryu, that I feel it could be called Lua. I was able to make modification points within the Danzan Ryu, because I have come to understand more about these techniques of Hawaiian Lua. Olohe Solomon Kaihewalu system of Lua eventually will become the most widely known and taught system of Lua in the world. This is my prediction and one of my goals, for I feel Olohe Kaihewalu is a great teacher and leader who took a lot of risk in order to share his family art of Lua. You can live your whole life back home in Hawaii and never see let alone be permitted to participate in this treasure of Hawaiian culture. My blessings go out to Olohe Solomon Kaihewalu and his ohana. Also I do not hold any rank (it has never been my intension to seek this), I have been given the title of Kumu (instructor) by Solomon, and I was invited to be on his board as an advisor and historian for the Kaihewalu halau.
My accomplishments have been few, but I have always tried to help where I could. I am a founding member and charter member of Jujitsu America. Prior to this I have held the office ofAmerican Jujitsu Institute, Hawaii (Professor Okazaki’s original organization). Other positions I have held are Jujitsu America secretary, treasurer, standards board member, and a member of the board of professors.
I was selected along with Sijo James Demile, Dave Castoldi and Tony Maynard as a technical advisor by Professor Wally Jay for the Small Circle Jujitsu International. I have been a charter member and the technical director of the standards board for Kilohana Martial Arts, promoted to 9th dan Danzan Ryu. I was selected as a senior advisor and president (serving for 2 years) for the Kenpo Jujitsu International Society, promoted to 10th dan Kenpo Karate by the standards board. I am technical director to the Scottish Kenpo academies in all the Highlands of Scotland, endorsed by a member of the Scottish Parliament I was selected as a senior advisor and a member of the standards board of the World Martial Arts Society International, given the title of Hanshi, 10th dan. In 2002 I was given the title of Hanshi by the World Hanshi No Inkai, Essex, UK I was inducted to several martial arts Hall of Fames, including Jujitsu America’s Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1984 and Instructor of the Year in 1980.
- 10th Dan Kenpo - Hawaiian Kenpo-Jujitsu International Society - Prof. John Chow-Hoon
- 10th Dan Kenpo - World Martial Arts Society
- 10th Dan Kenpo and Title of Hanshi - World "Hanshi No Inkai" - Essex, UK
- 10th Dan Danzan Ryu Jujitsu - Kilohana Martial Arts - Prof. John Chow-Hoon, Prof. Sig Kufferath, Prof. Bing Fai Lau
Masters Certificate - Red Sash - Decuerdas Eskrima - Prof. Gilbert Tenio
- Instructor Certificate - Serrada Eskrima - Prof. Juan Eliab Sr.
- 4th Dan Shorinji Ryu - Prof. Richard Kim Hanshi
- 3rd Dan Kodokan Judo - Prof. Wally Jay
- Kumu Lua - Lua Hâlau O Kaihewalu - 'Olohe Solomon Kaihewalu