The ancient history is legend, stories passed down from generation to generation. As such it has become mythical in nature. While little fact may remain it is the story that is important and not the accuracy.
Bodhidharma (Indian Tamil) or Daruma (Japanese) who is credited for spreading Zen Buddhism (Japanese) or Chan Buddhism (Chinese) is also considered the be roots for many modern day martial arts. Legend has it that after becoming a Buddhist monk Bodhidharma’s teacher Prajnatara near his death requested that Bodhidharma traveled to China because he felt Buddhism was diminishing in the country.
Bodhidharma took on this task, spending years traveling from India to Southern China (the route he took is widely disputed). He however was not well received, one notable conflict with Emperor Wu (Emperor Xiāo Yǎn of Liáng China) ended with the Emperor refusing to recognize Bodhidharma. From there Bodhidharma traveled north to the Chinese Kingdom of Wei to the Shaolin Temple. He found the monks of the temple so physically feeble that many were unable to mediate without falling asleep. Bodhidharma left the temple (some claim he was ejected) and retreated to a cave where he mediated for nine years. After which he returned to the temple and began to teach the monks. While he taught Zen Buddhism he is also believed to taught the monks physical exercises including Eighteen Hands of Lo Han (Shih Pa Lo Han Sho) or Eighteen Arhat Hands to improve and increase their physical stamina.
Several decades after Bodhidharma passed away legend has it that the Shaolin Temple was attacked by brigands. Initial attempts by the monks to defend themselves proved ineffective. Though as the attacks continued a monk simply referred to as the “begging monk” was able to kill and scare of attackers using various hand and feet techniques. Other monks began to train underneath the begging monk is a style that would eventually be called Ch’uan Fa (Fist Method).
Development of Kosho Shorei Ryu
Ch’uan Fa was developed and spread by the Monks along with Zen Buddhism. These monks over the course of centuries traveled to Korea, Japan and Okinawa. Ch’uan Fa was integrated into local fighting styles, in Japan Ch’uan Fa translated to Kempo. As the martial arts was spread by monks many Buddhist Temples taught martial arts in addition to their religious teachings. At one such temple called the Shaka-In Temple in Kyushu, Japan a Buddhist Monk said to be an ancestor of James Mitose meditated about the conflicting teaching of Buddhism and martial arts. He did so under a large pine tree where it was believed the spirit of Buddha had moved to after a recent fire in the Buddha house where the spirit once resided. It is here to monk became enlightened understood that a martial artist should use an own opponents attacks against himself by using proper positioning and angles rather than striking. Using this knowledge the monk and his descendents created the art Kosho Shorei Ryu (Old Pine Tree School of Encouragement). All that is known about Kosho Shorei Ryu from that point until James Mitose introduced it to the world was that is was taught in secret to members of the Mitose clan for twenty generations making James Mitose the 21st Great Grandmaster of Kosho Shorei Ryu.
James Mitose started teaching Kosho Shorei Ryu in Hawaii to the public in 1942 when he opened the Official Self Defense Club. From 1942 to 1946 Mitose taught at the the Official Self Defense Club and produced six black belts. One of those black belts, Thomas Young took over the school in 1946 and ran it until 1962. Simeon Eli took over the school when Thomas Young retired.
Three individuals claimed Mitose passed on the title of Great Grandmaster on to them and it is difficult to verify who Mitose actually passed that title onto. The first individual is Terry Lee, who now goes by the name Nimr Hassan. Hassan clearly did train with Mitose for a number of years. It is also possible that he was presented a Master Instructors License by Mitose. However on March 20, 1974 Hassan murdered Frank Namimatsu and successfully put the legal blame on his teacher Mitose. If Hassan was ever issued a Master Instructors License Mitose would have clearly revoked it when convicted of 1st degree murder for Hassan’s crime. After serving three years in prison Hassan was released while Mitose would live the rest of his life in prison. Hassan now claims to be the 22nd Great Grandmaster of Koga Ha Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo and teaches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The second individual who claims the title of Great Grandmaster is Thomas Barro. Barro is the biological son of Mitose and was given up for adoption at birth. The Barro family adopted and raised Thomas Barro. They even named him as their own child. Barro became interested in martial arts without any knowledge or influence of his father and studied Kajukenbo. In his early 20’s Barro became aware of who his biological father was and meet Mitose for the first time. However they quickly had personal issues and Barro would did not see Mitose again for two decades, six months before Mitose’s death in prison. At that time Bruce Juchnik was training with Mitose and working to preserve Kosho Shorei Ryu. When introduced to Mitose’s biological son Juchnik felt the system should be passed on to Barro. However Mitose himself was adamant to his death that Barro should not take over a system he knew little about. Barro changed his name to Thomas Barro Mitose and stated no license needed to be issued to claim the title of Great Grandmaster since it was his birthright. Barro now claims to be the 22nd Great Grandmaster of Kosho-Ryu Kenpo.
The final individual who claims the title of Great Grandmaster is Bruce Juchnik. Juchnik met Mitose while he was in prison. He visited Mitose often and did what training he could while in the confines of prison. Mitose’s release a book titled “What is True Self Defense” with the help of Juchnik. Juchnik also provided Mitose with legal assistance and was working to clear his name and get Mitose out of prison. Neither of which were successful before Mitose’s death. Juchnik introduced many martial artist to Mitose while in prison, but most where dismissed by Mitose because he sensed they were not interested in Kosho, but rather their own standing in the martial arts world. A few however did receive Master Certificate’s from Mitose. Juchnik also claims to have received a Masters Certificate (No 1 Master) from Mitose making him the 22nd Great Grandmaster of Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo.