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American Family Kenpo is rooted in Mark Sheeley's Kensho-Ryu Karate, which is a dynamic art comprised of Kenpo and Shotokan Karate.  The name Kensho-Ryu is derived from KENpo, SHOtokan and the Japanese word Ryu, which means "way".  American Family Kenpo  seeks to maintain the integrity of Mark Sheeley's Kensho-Ryu Karate and Nick Cerio's Kenpo Karate, and to pass the teachings of Mark Sheeley and Professor Cerio on to new generations of martial arts students.

Professor Cerio was an admirer of Shotokan Karate, and in the development of his own uniquely powerful system of Kenpo drew upon many of the strengths of Shotokan while maintaining the fluidity, speed and devastating effectiveness of the art of Kenpo that he learned from Professor William K. S. Chow.  American Family Kenpo maintains the blend of Shotokan's linear power along with the speed and ferocity of Kenpo that Professor Cerio developed. 

It is the intention of Mark Sheeley's lineage that Kensho-Ryu Karate remain fluid and street effective. All training in Kensho Ryu, is taught with an eye on giving the practitioner the means of defending themselves in the street. Mass attack with both open hand and weapons is the emphasis of advanced training. In addition, Kensho Ryu is a complete Kobudo system with emphasis on Okinawan and Japanese weaponry including the bo, kama, sai, tonfa, ekku, nunchaku, bokken, katana, naginata, koboton and yari. Extensive self defense training against  knife, club, gun and improvised weaponry is the focus of the modern weapons training. Training in American Family Kenpo continues these traditions.

American Family Kenpo strives to continue the lineage passed on by Nick Cerio and Mark Sheeley. 


History Of American Family Kenpo


Due to the scarcity of authentic written records, the exact origin of the Martial Arts is obscure. Most historians agree some form of Martial Arts was practiced in China as early as 1000 B.C. In dealing with Ancient Martial Art history we must rely partially on legend, keeping in mind that legends, however exaggerated, have some basis in fact. Our most reliable information comes to us from Buddhist inspired Martial Arts such as those practiced at the Shaolin Temples. Records indicate that Bodhidharma, an Indian priest, traveled from India to China sometime around 525 A.D. His purpose was to transmit the discipline of Zen to China and integrate those ideas with the existing Buddhist Doctrines.

Bodhidharma, the 28th descendant of the original Buddha, became Abbot of the Shaolin Temple in Honan province shortly after his arrival in China. Legend tells us that when he arrived at the Temple he found the monks to be in a state of physical decay and unable to withstand the prolonged periods of meditation which were essential to the practice of Zen Buddhism. In an attempt to improve the physical condition of the monks, bodhidharma instituted a series of 18 exercises similar in nature to Hatha Yoga. The exact nature of the "18 Hands of the Lo Han," as the exercises were called, is unknown. We do know, however, that they consisted of breathing, stretching, bending and reaching. These exercises apparently were the catalyst for the creation of other physical disciplines used to further the spiritual development of the Zen Buddhists. Prior to Bodhidharma's arrival, meditation was practiced as a purely mental discipline. Afterwards, it became much more successful as a combination of physical and mental disciplines, keeping with the doctrine of Yin and Yang.

Bodhidharma probably never intended his exercises to take on a martial attitude, and they did not until several hundred years after his death. The reason for this new attitude was probably attributable to political unrest, together with increased lawlessness. In any event, the next appreciable contribution occurred in the 18th century, when a Shaolin monk called Ch'ueh Vuen expanded the original 18 exercises to 72 and began practicing them as a self-defense art. Later he left the temple and traveled extensively throughout China in search of other Martial Arts masters to confer with. Ch'ueh Vuen probably obtained techniques and ideas from many different sources. We know that he met two masters, one named Fong and an old man named Li Shao. Together, the three men returned to the Shoalin Temple and expanded the 72 movements into 170 and categorized them into five distinct styles: Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Serpent and Leopard (see Animal Influences in Kenpo). The three men also advanced a set of moral and ethical principles to govern their practice. These five styles formed the basis of the art of Shaolin Chu'an Fa, also known as the "Five Forms Fist." Later, other styles were added.

Many stories relate to the training procedures at the temple, which were apparently quite severe. In order to attain Priesthood, one had to undergo a series of deadly tests ending with the moving of a heavy metal urn filled with red hot coals. Carved into two sides of the urn were reproductions of a tiger and a dragon. In order to move the urn the disciple was required to hug the hot urn with his forearms, lift it and move it, leaving his arms branded with the tiger and the dragon, the marks of the Shaolin priest.

For many years the Shaolin fighting arts were practiced in utmost secrecy. Masters were afraid that the techniques would fall into hands that would use the potentially deadly art for purposes other than what was originally intended. Many factors contributed to the eventual spread of the Martial Arts. Buddhist missionaries to Japan, Korea and Indonesia took their arts with them. Students sometimes left the temple prematurely and passed on what knowledge they had. But the main factor was the ruthless domination of the Manchu Emperor. Secret societies were formed for the purpose of restoring the Ming Dynasty to power and overthrowing the Barbarian Manchus. Most Chan Buddhists were anti-Manchu and many temples were training grounds for pro-Ming revolutionaries. On several occasions the Manchus destroyed temples in an effort to stomp out resistance. Fleeing monks undoubtedly carried many secrets with them, which were eventually spread all over China.

Modern Martial Arts History is much easier to follow. During the 18th century China and Japan were engaged in trade both material and cultural. At that time a senior member of the Mitose Clan of Japan traveled to China to study the Martial Arts at the Shoalin Temple where he remained for many years. Upon his return to Japan he introduced the Art of Chu'an Fa which he called Kenpo (Japanese for "Way of the Fist").

The art was practiced and passed down in the Mitose line until James Mitose, who lived in Hawaii in 1940, began teaching publicly. One of his students, William Chow, who also studied Martial Arts from his own family, took over teaching the classes. Chow In turn taught a young New Englander named Nick Cerio, who eventually developed Kenpo into the art we know and practice today.

Professor Cerio, had many brilliant students. One of them Mark Sheeley, founded Kensho-Ryu International in 1998. Kensho-Ryu International is one of the largest Martial Arts Organizations in the east coast of the United States.

Matt Jacome has trained extensively under both Nick Cerio and Mark Sheeley.  He continues the lineage of both Mark Sheeley's Kensho-Ryu Karate and Nick Cerio's Kenpo Karate in his American Family Kenpo.


This outline is merely an introduction to the history and development of the art. Serious students should seek to further their knowledge of the subject through individual research.


James Mitose (1916-1981)

James Masayoshi Mitose was born in Hawaii in 1916. At the age of five, Mitose was sent to Japan to study his ancestors' art of self-defense, Kosho-Ryu Kempo, a direct descendent of the original Chuan Fa. He studied this art for 15 years under his uncle, a Kosho-Ryu master, and returned to Hawaii in 1935 to open the "Official Self-Defense" club in Honolulu, where he eventually promoted six students to black belt. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Mitose had to come to terms with the fact that he was Japanese by birth but American by citizenship, and he began training fellow servicemen and civilians, expounding upon the merits of his Japanese Kosho-Ryu Kenpo. Much of what is now Kenpo came from Mitose's Kosho-Ryu. James Mitose passed away in California in 1981. 


Thomas Young (1915-1995)
Thomas Young was born in Honolulu, HI in 1915. He was the first student to earn the rank of Black Belt in Jame Mitose's "Official Self-Defense" club. He was also Mitose's Senior Assistant. Mitose's other assistant was William Chow. It has been noted that Chow's black belt certificate was actually signed by Young, and not Mitose. Even though Mitose did not sign the certificate, he was the head of instructor of the school at the time. It is unlikely that Young would have signed it without Mitose's approval. When Mitose stopped teaching in 1953, he left his Hawaii Dojo in the hands of Young. Mitose's art was characterized by escape techniques and the avoidance of conflict and violence. Young also taught in this manner. One of his sayings was" "No trouble trouble unless trouble, unless trouble troubles you." Thomas Young passed away in 1995, outliving both Mitose and Chow.


William Chow (1914-1987)
William Kwai Sun Chow cultivated the seeds of American Kenpo. Primarily a student of his Chinese father, Chow learned the Chinese ancestral art of Five Animal Kung Fu passed down from Bodhidharma. Chow later studied Kosho-Ryu under James Mitose, and seeing merit in both systems, Chow began to modify Kenpo. He left James Mitose in 1949 to open his own school, and it was Chow who coined the term "Kenpo Karate" to distinguish his system from Mitose's. Chow's Kenpo was a quick, vicious style developed as a response to the violence that was commonplace in the pre-statehood Hawaii. Chow was a street fighter, and while he learned many circular and flowing movements from his father, he incorporated some of the linear movements and take-downs he learned from Mitose. Some twenty years later, William Chow renamed his system "Chinese Kempo of Kara-Ho Karate." Chow died in Honolulu in 1987.


Edmund Parker (1931-1990)
Great Grandmaster Edmund K. Parker, 10th degree black belt, is the undisputed Father of American Kenpo Karate. A native of Honolulu, Parker was already a black belt in Judo at age 16, when he began studying Kenpo with Frank Chow in Hawaii. Parker quickly learned everything Frank could teach him, and Frank soon arranged for his brother, William Chow, to help Parker reach a higher level. After only two years of training, Parker earned his brown belt. Like Chow, Parker was a street fighter and adapted what he learned to fit with the type of fighting he encountered on the streets, and Chow imparted in Parker the necessity for change in the Kenpo system to meet the modern needs of the American people. Parker organized every technique and movement into a format that could be broken down into levels for all students and renamed it "American Kenpo Karate." When Parker moved to Provo, Utah to attend Brigham Young University, he opened his first studio. After graduating in 1956 with a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology, Parker moved to California, opened his second school and founded the International Kenpo Karate Association. By 1964, when he held his first tournament, Parker had become a household name in Hollywood, teaching his art to the likes of Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen. Parker passed away in 1990, at the age of 59, in Honolulu.


Nick Cerio (1936-1998)
A legend of the martial arts, Professor Cerio did more than just continue the lineage—he truly made an indelible mark on it. Throughout his illustrious career he brought the lines of Kenpo back together from potential splits that could have damaged the system. It all began in the early 1960’s when Professor Cerio, began training under George Pesare. By the mid-1960’s he had opened his first studio and studied Kenpo under Master Ed Parker.  A short time later he began studying under Professor William K.S. Chow, and in 1971 received his 5th Degree black belt from Professor Chow.  By the early 1980’s Ed Parker awarded Professor Cerio his 9th Degree Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate and the title of Shihan (Master).  In 1989, Shihan Cerio, was named a Professor by Professor Thomas Burdine and awarded the “above Ranking Status” by the World Counsel of Sokes (founders). This elevated him to 10th Degree Black Belt.  Professor Cerio passed away on October 7, 1998. His passing marked the end of a monumental life.


Mark Sheeley
Kyoshi Mark Sheeley began his martial arts training in Tae Kwon Do earning his Black Belt at the age of twelve under Master Paul T. Cho. In the early 1980s Kyoshi Sheeley, started training in American Kenpo under T. and S. Sullivan. And in 1987, he began studying exclusively with Professor Nick Cerio. By the mid 1990s Kyoshi Sheeley had trained hundreds of Black Belts and served as Master Instructor to several Kenpo Jiujitsu Karate schools in New England. During this time Kyoshi Sheeley, won numerous competitions in both open hand and weapons forms. He was nationally rated in competition for three years in a row and was the first Kenpo stylist to go #1 in ranking. He has been inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame 9 times, and 10 National Champions have trained under him. Kyoshi Sheeley is the founder of Kensho Ryu International, and is currently the director of 15 schools. Kyoshi Sheeley is an 9th Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Jiujitsu Karate with a 7th Degree Black Belt in Komushin Ryu Jujitsu.



Rules of the Studio

  • Show respect to the art of Kenpo through personal behavior. Do not show off your art by throwing kicks and punches in public.
  • Students must show respect to all advanced ranks. This does not mean just Black Belts.
  • Do not demonstrate or take part in any exhibition of karate or Kenpo with the express permission of your Sensei.
  • Do not use your art for any reason other than your own personal safety in protection of your own life (or another's), and then only to the necessary degree.
  • Exhibit extreme control at all times in practice or competition.

Five Principles Of Conduct

EFFORT – Effort means to try your hardest in everything you  do.

Etiquette means to use good manners.

Sincerity means to tell the truth.

Self control means to control your body  and emotions, control your self.

Character  means to be your self, do not try to be like anyone else.




The Bow

In American Family Kenpo we use the Chinese bow. This bow has come down to us from the Shaolin Temple. The left hand is held open and is placed vertically against the right hand, which is in the form of a fist.The bow is a salute. It is also a sign of peace. The right hand represents your martial knowledge and your willingness, if necessary m to use that knowledge in defense of yourself or your loved ones. It also represents your Energy/Power. The left hand Represents your desire to come in peace and shields the aggressive power of your right. if you are forced to defend yourself, your bow demonstrates that you have the secret knowledge of Kenpo.

When to Bow

  • The student should greet the instructor and other black belts that are present with a bow.
  • The student should bow when entering the dojo, as a sign of respect for those who have studied the arts before him / her, to show respect for the knowledge they are about to learn. The student should also bow when leaving the dojo, once more for respect for the teachers and masters who have some before them, and also out of respect for the knowledge that they have received.
  • We bow to Sensei to show respect; for the masters who trained him / her; for the years of training that has been put in; and for the training which him / her is about to give and has given us.
  • We bow and stand in front position (feet together and pointing out at a forty-five degree angle with the hands held in a Chinese bow) when a black belt enters the dojo and ties on his / her rank. This is out of respect for the masters who trained him / her, as well as a sign of respect for the knowledge and dedication that they posses.
  • We bow at the beginning and ending of each class. The bow is directed to the past masters, to the instructors and to the flag.

  • Before a student puts on or removes his / her rank they must be sure to ask the permission of the instructor. This is a sign of respect for the knowledge that the instructor has given the student that is represented by the color of the belt that the student wears.

  • The student also bows before engaging an opponent in kumite or an imaginary opponent in kata. The bow is always used as a sign of respect, whether to an opponent, an instructor, or a fellow classmate.

Animal Influences

American Family Kenpo seeks to teach from nature and the animals in it.


From the Tiger we learn Strength and Tenacity. The Tiger is very powerful and direct. The Tiger commits its entire mind and body into each move. There is no hesitation in the Tiger's mind.


From the Leopard, we learn Speed and Cunning. The Leopard is extremely fast and angular. It sneaks up on its enemies and uses the element of surprise. The Leopard is not as big as the Tiger, but is capable of "providing great effect."


From The Snake we learn Chi and endurance. The Snake attacks with its fangs and control. Certain Snakes can suffocate their opponents.


From the Crane, we learn Grace and Balance -- Fluidity. The Crane is very aware and evasive. Many people underestimate the Crane's power. It utilizes its beak for poking and its wings for trapping.


From The Dragon, we learn Knowledge and Wisdom. The Dragon can change into any animal at any moment. This is a key part of the secrets of movement.


American Family Kenpo 19 Depot Street  Uxbridge, MA
(508) 838 - 8438