Legacy of Professor William Kwai Sun Chow

August 19, 20130 Comments

Professor William Kwai Sun “Thunderbolt” Chow, 1914 – 1987, was the creator of Chinese Kempo Karate. Professor Chow was known as the “Thunderbolt” by his peers because of his fierce fighting ability and the lightning fast and powerful techniques.

Professor’s Kempo Karate drew on influences from several systems including: Karate (Japanese Karate), Kempo (Okinawan Karate), Kung Fu (various systems including Sil Lum / Shaolin Kung Fu), Jujitsu, Western Boxing, and Lua (Lua is a Polynesian art of bone breaking. It is similar to Japanese jujitsu with it’s seizing, throwing and joint-locking techniques).

The initial Kenpo he developed was named: Go Shin Jitsu Kenpo Karate, which he later passed on to Master William Chun Sr. He later developed his system of Kara Ho Kempo Karate, which is what he called his system until the end of his life. He changed the writing of Kenpo to Kempo to distinguish his teachings from Mitose’s system (Kosho Ryu Kenpo) as well as some of his students systems.

He is also known as the first person to coin the term “Kempo Karate”.

While Professor Chow lived in relative obscurity, he influenced many martial artists and many systems of Kempo / Kenpo trace their lineage directly back to him. Some of the more prominent systems that trace their lineage and/or retain some of Professor Chow’s Kempo are:

American Kenpo Karate – Master Ed Parker was a student of Professor Chow and later developed his American Kenpo Karate

Go Shin Jitsu Kenpo Karate – Professor William Chun Sr. inherited Professor Chow’s original art of Go Shin Jitsu Kenpo Karate from Professor Chow in 1976.

Kajukenbo – Sijo Adrian Emperado, one of the founders of Kajukenbo, was a 5th Degree Black Belt under Professor Chow before he began developing Kajukenbo.

Kara Ho Kempo – Master Sam Kuoha was a student of Professor Chow, and runs the largest organizations dedicated to Kara Ho Kempo.

Nick Cerio’s Kenpo – Professor Nick Cerio was originally a student of Professor George Pesare of Karazenpo Goshinjutsu (a student of Sonny Gascon), and later studied with William Chun Sr and Professor Chow.

Shaolin Kenpo – Master Ralph Castro was a student of Professor Chow and later became a part of Master Ed Parker’s organization. He established the International Shaolin Kenpo Association in 1981.

Note: while these systems have some of the flavor of Professor Chow’s system, they are more the creation of the individual masters.

There are also many other systems that have been indirectly influenced by him, such as:

  • CHA3 Kenpo (Marino Tiwanak);
  • Universal Kempo (Martin Buell);
  • Walter Godin’s Kempo Karate (Walter Godin – he received his “Professorship” directly from Professor Chow);
  • Shaolin Kempo (Fred Villari),
  • Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu (Sonny Gascon);
  • Lima Lama (Tino Tuiolosega);
  • Tai Karate (Dave German);
  • Hawaiian Kenpo (Bill Ryusaki);
  • Ukidokan Karate (Benny Urquidez)
  • and many more.


About the video: Demonstration by Professor Chow from the California Karate Championship in 1982. This is very rare footage originally posted on Kajukenboinfo.com (Professor John Bishop’s website). The original video was provided by Professor Eugene Sedeno. 

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