What To Expect in Kajukenbo | A Martial Arts Overview

Kajukenbo is a martial art that brings together many different styles. It teaches self-defense which focuses on doing whatever is necessary to win a fight. 

When starting to train in the art of Kajukenbo, you can expect to be trained in self-defense using a wide variety of techniques. It contains elements of karate, judo, jujutsu, kenpo, and boxing. Hybridizing these martial arts leads to a well-rounded fighting system when trained diligently.

Let’s talk more about Kajukenbo and whether or not it’s right for you. 

A Brief History of Kajukenbo

Kajukenbo originated in 1947 in Oahu, Hawaii. Five men who practiced different martial arts disciplines got together to create their own unique method of self-defense. They did this because their area was high in crimes and generally unsafe. These men wanted to help other people learn the art of self-defense since violent crimes were so high in that area. 

The name Kajukenbo is actually an acronym created by combining letters from its various parent martial arts. KA stands for Karate, JU for Judo and Jujutsu, KEN for Kenpo, and BO for boxing.

During its early stages, Kajukenbo was known for being difficult. The intense practice saw many people falling unconscious and breaking bones during training. Nowadays, Kajukenbo has evolved to be more accessible while still maintaining the rough and defensive style. 

It is common for students to create their own style rather than copy their instructor. This makes Kajukenbo as a spontaneous self-defense method that teaches fighting on instinct rather than learned moves. 

What Do You Wear for Kajukenbo?

You wear black for Kajkenbo, as this is the traditional color, yet instructors only require uniforms for testing. Otherwise, all-black workout gear is fine for training and practice. 

Many other forms of martial arts require a white gi in order to train or compete, but Kajukenbo is not like other disciplines. Instead, Kajukenbo requires black clothing or gi. So, make sure you order the right color when choosing your clothes. 

Kajukenbo dojos don’t require people to wear a gi in order to train, and it’s common to see people wearing black sweatpants or shorts and a black sweatshirt at practice. So, you won’t need to make this purchase in order to learn the basics of Kajukenbo. However, a black gi is required to compete for belts, such as the first belt (purple), and for competitions and tests. Otherwise, a black sweatsuit is perfectly acceptable for practice and training. 

Do You Wear Shoes in Kajukenbo?

You do wear shoes in Kajukenbo. This is necessary because Kajukenbo tries to recreate real-life situations that require self-defense, and you’ll most likely be wearing shoes during such circumstances. Jogging shoes, workout shoes, and wrestling shoes are encouraged when practicing. 

What Equipment Is Required for Kajukenbo?

Kajukenbo doesn’t require equipment, but there are certainly benefits to purchasing safety equipment. Things like headgear, a mouthguard, or fighting gloves can ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Beginners should consider purchasing some safety equipment for training. 

Do I Need To Be Fit To Start Kajukenbo?

There is no level of fitness required to start Kajukenbo, and it’s common for people to start without much fitness experience. In fact, Kajukenbo is a great way to get in shape. It also helps you gain confidence and strength, builds stamina, and teaches self-defense. 

Do I Need To Be Strong for Kajukenbo?

You don’t need to be strong for Kajukenbo, nor is a certain level of strength required to begin training. In this discipline, you build strength as you go, but the primary focus is learning to defend yourself with the strength you already have.  

Kajukenbo will teach you to focus on doing whatever it takes to defend yourself. So while strength is a great asset, it’s not required. 

Do I Need To Be Flexible for Kajukenbo?

There’s no need to be flexible to start to learn Kajukenbo. The discipline allows you to build your flexibility and strength, so there’s no need to have a base level of flexibility to join. Although for general health and combat ability it is a good idea to focus on building mobility and flexibility to a decent level.

Is Kajukenbo Good for Getting in Shape?

Kajukenbo is a great way to get in shape. Training combat techniques and sparring is great exercise and can be engaging enough that you get into good shape without it feeling like exercise for exercise’s sake. This is contingent upon having a reasonable diet alongside training.

Is Kajukenbo Good for Self-Defense?

Kajukenbo is a great discipline for self-defense. Not only was it originally created as a method of self-defense, but it also teaches you to use any method necessary to win. So, if you want to learn how to defend yourself using whatever method is necessary, Kajukenbo is an excellent way to do it. 

Does Kajukenbo Include Live Sparring?

Kajukenbo includes live sparring. You’ll practice techniques on other students during training and later spar in a more realistic fight with other students as you become more experienced. It’s important to note that you should only spar once you have experience under your belt for your safety and that of your training partners. 

Are There Kajukenbo Competitions or Tournaments?

Students can participate in competitions and tournaments in the art of Kajukenbo, but they’re not required. Kajukenbo students are not usually successful in other karate tournaments because moves in this discipline are illegal in most other martial arts. 

Is Kajukenbo Dangerous To Practice?

Practicing Kajukenbo can be dangerous, but most schools will protect their students by pairing up their students for sparring and drilling in a way that allows experienced martial artists to guide new martial artists and keep everyone safe.

Having basic safety gear like a mouthguard and cup can be helpful depending on the school that you attend.

While Kajukenbo has more dirty techniques and is similar to Krav Maga in that way, you really aren’t sparring with full use of these techniques in most training situations, and you can usually opt out of absorbing that kind of punishment in class. Understanding those techniques is part of training the art regardless.

Is Kajukenbo Hard To Learn?

Kajukenbo covers many aspects of combat while it isn’t hard to learn, it does require a long time commitment to master all aspects of the martial art.

How Long To Learn Fundamentals in Kajukenbo?

To learn the basics of Kajukenbo, you’ll need about 40 hours of training. After that point, you’re eligible to test for a higher level. Higher levels mean learning even more aspects of the discipline. 

Training in a classroom setting is often best. However, it’s important to find an instructor that makes you feel comfortable yet can challenge you at the same time. The Kajukenbo experience varies widely from classroom to classroom, typically based on who the instructor is and how much they know. 

How Long To Reach Blackbelt Level Mastery in Kajukenbo?

On average, it takes about three to five years of dedicated practice and consistent training to reach a blackbelt level master in Kajukenbo. Depending on how much time you can put into practice, it may take even longer for some people. There is no straight line or sure way to get a blackbelt within the first few years. 

Can You Learn Kajukenbo at Home?

You can learn aspects of Kajukenbo at home and practice some techniques, but you need to spar with a partner to get the most out of your training. Moreover, an experienced and knowledgeable instructor can help to identify and correct any improper executions.

There are a handful of training videos and online Kajukenbo courses that you can utilize to train on your own time in the comfort of your home. This can be helpful when still building a foundation. Yet, it’s best to also attend classes, as an instructor can help hone these skills and you can spar and practice with other students.

What To Expect at Your First Kajukenbo Class?

Before your first Kajukenbo class, you can expect your instructor to cover the following:

  • The expectations of students
  • Principles of the discipline
  • The basics of Kajukenbo training

In the class itself, you can expect it to follow the basic structure of a martial arts class that includes the following:

  1. Warm-up
  2. Technique demonstrations
  3. Drilling with Partners
  4. Choreographed or Live Sparring

This isn’t suggesting that the first class will be boring or uneventful. A lot of helpful information is presented to you, which you’re responsible for remembering. 

Is Kajukenbo Good for Women?

Kajukenbo is a great discipline for women to learn and be a welcoming environment since it is focused on self-defense. Martial arts that focus on self-defense tend to be very inclusive of women and teach actionable advice to keep their students safe.

Final Thoughts

Kajukenbo is an interesting hybrid martial art that is most commonly found in Hawaii since it is the area of its origin. Some of these schools have a presence in other parts of the world, so if there are classes in your area it might be worth checking out if you want exposure to many types of martial arts techniques within the context of one school.


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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