Wun Hop Kuen Do Kung Fu

Wun Hop Kuen Do Kung Fu, which means "combination fist art style", was founded by Sifu Al Dacascos in 1969.  Wun Hop Kuen Do (WHKD) is a style of KAJUKENBO that incorporates Chinese and Filipino martial arts into the traditional KAJUKENBO system.  KAJUKENBO is a composite system of martial arts that was formed between 1947-1949 by grandmasters from various forms of martial arts.  Mr. P.Y.Y. Choo brought karate to the system (KA).  Mr. Frank Ordonez brought Ju-Jitsu, while Mr. J. Holck contributed Judo (JU-JU-Jitsu).  Professor Adriano D. Emperado, the only remaining founder of the system, contributed Kenpo (KEN), as well as the Filipino fighting arts.   Professor George Chuen Yoke Chang contributed the boxing (BO) aspects of the art, including both western boxing and Chinese boxing, more commonly called Kung Fu. 

As a composite system, KAJUKENBO sought to adapt and combine martial arts styles to create an all-inclusive system that could be effective in any street scenario.  Sifu Al Dacascos took this further, incorporating significantly more Kung Fu elements into the system, as well as additional Filipino knife and stick fighting (known as Kali, Arnis, or Escrima).  He further modified the system by incorporating 25 unique fighting principles to help consolidate combat knowledge into a common language that can be discussed and referred to in class.  Finally, Sifu Al Dacascos further emphasized practically in his style, resulting in a system that prides itself on being reliable and practical in real-life encounters.

WHKD is commonly referred to as a "system without a system".  The art seeks to adapt to any situation and incorporate new techniques and methodologies as they are encountered by practitioners.  Within this framework, the style still maintains it traditional roots in Kung Fu, teaching the "ways to preserve rather than destroy", and seeking to instill a respect for humankind and sense of calm that should be present in any true martial artist. 

Instruction is based around a set of requirements: blocks, strikes, holds, locks, throws, combinations, setups, history, and fighting principles that are contained in a red binder affectionately referred to as the "Redbook".  The Redbook contains the list of requirements needed for each rank in the system.  Next to each listed requirement is a description of the technique, to aid the student in study outside of class, and a place where the instructor may "sign off' the technique--a form of evaluation used to determine whether the technique is performed by the student at a level suitable for testing.  When all the requirements of a given rank are signed off, the student may test for the next belt.   The ranking system in WHKD is: white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, brown, and degrees of black.  Red belts, which signify assistant instructor, may also be given out under certain circumstances.    

The Evolution of Wun Hop Kuen Do from Kajukenbo, Tum Pai, and Ch’uan Fa



An analysis of the development and differences between the Tum Pai, Ch’uan Fa, and Wun Hop Kuen Do branches of Kajukenbo requires a defining of the time-periods of those arts, as they have all evolved over time.  For the purposes of this analysis, Tum Pai and Ch’uan Fa will be analyzed as they were originally developed from 1959-66, and Wun Hop Kuen Do will be analyzed from its beginnings in 1969 until modern day. 


Tum Pai:


Tum Pai was the first foray into the softer Chinese arts by Sijo Emperado, Sifu Al Dacascos, and Sifu Al Dela Cruz.  As Sifu Al Dacascos put it in a private conversation ‘Tum Pai was an experiment into the incorporation of the Chinese Arts into Kajukenbo.  We started off with the softer styles, like Tai Chi.’  Given this background, I view the original method of Tum Pai (as opposed to Grand Master John Loren’s modern method, although they are indeed similar) as a style of Kajukenbo that attempted to compensate for the hardness of the original method by introducing much softer Chinese Arts into the style.  As an experiment, Tum Pai also represented the first formal incorporation of the Chinese Arts that Sijo Emperado had studied into Kajukenbo.  While Professor Chang had incorporated Chinese Boxing as the Bo in Kajukenbo, much of the subtly and flow of the Chinese Arts is not present in Hard Style Kajukenbo.  With the additional kung fu experience brought by Sifu Al Dacascos and Al Dela Cruz, there was ample expertise in both Kajukenbo and the Chinese Arts to develop a new, more Chinese style.

The result can still be seen in the modern form of Tum Pai; a soft (but still effective) form of Kajukenbo that today also embraces Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  The style emphasizes the development of internal energy and eschews hard style techniques in favor a much softer and definitively more Chinese approach.  While the addition of significant amounts of TCM into the curriculum is more a result of GM John Loren’s evolution of the branch, the soft, internal approach to Kajukenbo seen in modern Tum Pai is firmly rooted in the form that was developed and practiced from 1959-66.


While a successful endeavor that is still practiced widely today, in some ways Tum Pai was overcompensation for the hardness of the Original Method.  In trying to balance the lack of internal and soft disciplines in the Original Method, Tum Pai developed a lack of hard style and to a lesser extent external disciplines, making it equally incomplete in the opposite manner.  Consequently, there was a sense of ‘incompleteness’ as Sifu Al described it, and so further development and integration of the Chinese Arts into Kajukenbo was undertaken.

Ch’uan Fa:


The result of this further integration of hard and soft kung fu was the Ch’uan Fa branch of Kajukenbo.  According to the WHKD historical materials, Ch’uan Fa contains both Northern and Southern kung fu elements.  As described by Sifu Al Dacascos, ‘Ch’uan Fa was a further and broader inclusion of kung fu into Kajukenbo.  It has Northern and Southern elements, hard and soft techniques, internal and external focus.’  Thus, Ch’uan Fa was the first complete incorporation of kung fu into the Kajukenbo system.  It provides a way to express the flow and internal energy typical of many kung fu styles without compromising the hard style roots of Kajukenbo.  It was also the first branch to truly integrate the various component systems of Kajukenbo through the medium of kung fu—using the fact that most martial arts styles are derivatives of aspects of kung fu to re-integrate the component arts of Kajukenbo (karate, judo, jujitsu, kenpo, Western boxing, and Chinese boxing) more seamlessly with each other.  Thus Ch’uan Fa can be seen as a style that enhanced the flow and internal aspects of Kajukenbo, while still looking and feeling distinctively Kajukenbo in many ways.  According to Sifu Ben Fajardo (on the Kajukenbo Café), “Ch'uan fa is only a style when blended with Kajukenbo. Kajukenbo is the foundation. Ch'uan fa is the bricks. Kajukenbo Ch'uan fa fills the gaps between the basic moves. When we do, we save time and energy by using less movement, by working between the techniques.”  As described by Prof. Harry Herrera on the Kajukenbo Café, Ch’uan Fa “put[s] a lot of emphasis on short range techniques, as opposed to the traditional medium and long range strikes, and many of our blocks or checks are sweeping rather that the hard outward block for instance.”  As Sifu Ben Fajardo mentions on the Café,

“Sifu Al's school was called Kajukenbo Chuan fa. Once Prof. Emperado seen it. He said to call it soft style Kajukenbo. The term Sifu was started while at tournaments, students called Sifu Al "Sifu" other students began to ask questions about the difference in the art, which was that Kajukenbo Chu'an Fa filled the gaps between Kajukenbo techniques. Combining Northern and Southern styles of Kung Fu.”


Furthermore, Ch’uan Fa was the first branch of Kajukenbo to include many of the forms present in WHKD, such as: Hau Kuen, Fau Yip, 18 Hands of Lo-Han, Lim Po, Sui Wan, Si-Lum Pak Pai’s #6, 7 and 8, and Lo Han Kuen.  It also included the first evolutions of the WHKD hand combinations, kick combinations, throws and counters, kick counters, and drop & recovers, as well as the Chi Sao and Pak Sao drills.  Thus, we see that Ch’uan Fa is in many ways the first step on the path to the evolution of Wun Hop Kuen Do.  Ch’uan Fa has many of the WHKD requirements and has a similar blend of hard and soft movements to smooth out the Kajukenbo techniques.  In fact, many people, including Sifu Al Dacascos himself, have said that WHKD was simply his personal evolution of Ch’uan Fa.

Wun Hop Kuen Do:


As mentioned previously, Wun Hop Kuen Do started out as Sifu Al’s personal expression of the Ch’uan Fa Kajukenbo, which eventually went in its own direction significantly enough to become its own style.  There are several differences between Ch’uan Fa and WHKD.  The most important distinction lies within the name of Wun Hop Kuen Do, which translates to “combination fist art.”  WHKD is a system without a system, designed to constantly evolve, and “keep its practitioners many steps ahead of the Ch’uan Fa practitioner.” (Sifu Al Dacascos, 1973).  “Wun Hop Kuen Do is the art of ‘blending in’ with all types of opponents and a way of expressing oneself in combat.” (Sifu Al Dacascos, 1973).  There is no one right way of fighting in WHKD, no single set of drills or techniques.  The art evolves and adapts to each person, the environment it is used in, and new developments in training.  There are no ‘components’ in the art of WHKD like there is in the other Kajukenbo styles—one does not do a kung fu parry followed by a judo throw and a jujitsu lock.  One simply parries, throws, and locks.  While this may seem to be just semantics, in practice removing the distinction between the various sub-arts that exist in Original Method Kajukenbo and to a lesser extent Ch’uan Fa allows for a more fluid and holistic approach to the martial arts. 

Sifu Al Dacascos summarizes this central core concept of WHKD: “Wun Hop Kuen Do is a style that is constantly improving its methods to make it the most effective means of self-defense with [an] emphasis on developing chi (flow) or spontaneous action in the deceptive movements.” (Sifu Al Dacascos, 1973)  Thus we see that the central role of deception is another element of WHKD that distinguishes it from Ch’uan Fa Kajukenbo.  A final distinctive element is the inclusion of more close-ranged techniques in WHKD: “unlike Ch’uan Fa, WHKD concentrates on inside close range offensive and defensive tactics.” (Sifu Al Dacascos, 1973). 

From Sifu Al Dacascos’ initial involvement in Tum Pai’s creation, we see a logical and rapid progression from Tum Pai to WHKD, where a new “equilibrium” was reached.  In 1959, Tum Pai was created with the goal of softening Kajukenbo and incorporating the internal arts into a largely external system.  However, in doing so, the pendulum swung too far the other way.  Ch’uan Fa was developed shortly (7 years) thereafter, and proved to be a successful and much more complete incorporation of Kung Fu into Kajukenbo.  However, for Sifu Al Dacascos, the evolution wasn’t yet complete, and only 3 years later WHKD was developed as a formalization of the creative, adaptive, and deceptive principles Sifu Al expressed in his personal martial arts.  The development of Wun Hop Kuen Do has endured for ~30 years without the need for another style; constantly evolving, yet remaining system-less, the development of WHKD symbolized a new plateau in martial arts that has yet to be superseded, and because of the art’s evolving nature, perhaps never will.   

Learning from this Progression:


A study of the development of Wun Hop Kuen Do from Kajukenbo, Tum Pai, and Ch’uan Fa allows a WHKD practitioner to look back at these other styles in a new light, and gain further insight into WHKD and how studying these other branches can help in their personal development of WHKD.  Studying Original Method Kajukenbo strengthens our punch-blocking, our relentless attacking, and our explosion.  It also helps us polish our straight-line force generation.  Studying Tum Pai helps our internal arts: our Qi Gong and Tai Chi, as well as our general sensitivity.  Additionally, it helps us with our medicinal knowledge, an often neglected aspect of the martial arts.  The study of Ch’uan Fa helps us with our flow, with our basic kung fu techniques, and with making the transition between hard and soft movements more seamless.  Thus, the WHKD practitioner has quite a bit to gain by studying the roots of our style, assuming they don’t forgo their regular training, of course.  Just as Sifu Al Dacascos learned and grew through his development of Tum Pai and Ch’uan Fa, which lead to the creation of WHKD, so too can the WHKD practitioner grow and learn by studying those arts that served as the evolutionary steps to WHKD.    


Al Dacascos - Founder

Blackbelt Magazine's 1977 Kung Fu Artist of the Year

United International Kung Fu Federation "Hall of Fame"

Member of The World Head of Family Sokeship Council

Founder of Wun Hop Kuen Do.

Father of Mark Dacascos

August 1998, we saw Al Dacascos on National TV (TNT) Turner Network Television being honored as one of the Masters to Wesley Snipes' "1st Tribute to the Martial Arts Masters of the 20th Century" from New York City. September he was inducted into the prestigious "America's Grandmasters Council" in Orlando, Florida, and the "Eastern U.S. Hall of Fames" in New Jersey.

Since the founding of his unique fighting art, Wun Hop Kuen Do in 1969, Al Dacascos has become one of the most noted martial artists of our era. An eighth degree Black Belt, Dacascos has won over 200 Championships and appeared on just as many martial arts magazine covers over the years. In 1977 he was indoctrinated into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year and again in 1992 by Inside Kung fu Magazine. Two of the worlds most prestigious martial arts magazines. Dacascos was the first practitioner of Kung fu to compete in the American martial arts tournament circuit. As a visionary, he has manifested the dream of creating a network of schools and five generations of black belts to reflect his style.

In 1975, Al Dacascos was invited to appear in ABC's Wide World of Sports, broadcast from Los Angeles. He gave a breathtaking demonstration, exhibiting his power of "Chi" energy. German enthusiasts were so impressed with Wun Hop Kuen Do, that they offered Dacascos the opportunity to expand his schools and seminars throughout Europe. His influence and martial arts genius has helped to design the modern warrior.

At age 11, Dacascos was introduced into Judo and Jujitsu and excelled in it. He performed and competed in any exhibition to gain experience and knowledge from others in the field. After attaining his Black Belt in Kajukenbo at age 18, under Sid Asuncion, He formed a small group to practice and teach in Hawaii, his native home. Dacascos then decided to study with the source of his style, Professor Adriano Emperado. Emperado schooled him beyond the physical. He showed him how to take his techniques into life. Dacascos claims that Professor Emperado enlightened him on the inside.

The reality of having his own students set in and the need to improve his communication skills took precedence. Dacascos moved to California in 1965. Running a school came by trial and error as there were no formal systems anywhere in the US to teach the skills of running a martial arts business until 1967. Eventually, Dacascos was recruited into the Tracy system, a strategic alliance that helped to form the cornerstone of his business organizational skills.

During this time, Dacascos became involved with a group of Chinese martial artists in San Francisco. This exchange of techniques between instructors began to reshape his feelings about his own martial art. By 1969 he had told Professor Emperado that he could no longer call his art Kajukenbo. Instead he wished to develop a style of his own, Wun Hop Kuen Do, which means 밫he way of the combined fist.?

Al Dacascos's next job was to give the art credibility. "When you watch a tree grow" explains Dacascos, "first there are the roots, then comes the trunk, the branches, the leaves, and finally the flowers." He has his roots in Kajukenbo and solid trunk in Wun Hop Kuen Do. Now he had to produce the leaves and the flowers, the champions of Wun Hop Kuen Do.

Mark Dacascos, Al's son, certainly fits the role model of Champion. Presently a fourth degree Black Belt, Mark retired undefeated on both forms and fighting in the European martial arts circuit. Mark Dacascos has now achieved a world wide reputation in the motion picture industry. He has starred in nine motion pictures. In the premier season of 1998, Mark will star in the new television series titled "The Crow, Stairway to Heaven"

Other notable personalities under the Dacascos banner are Malia Bernal, Karyn Turner and Karen Shephard. Each of these women held the title of national champion in their own time. Christian Wulf and Emanual Bettencourt received top accolades in Europe. In the USA, Bill Owens was a national champion in the 1970' and Eric Lee is the reputed "King of Kata."

After numerous seminars in every major city in Europe and the USA, Dacascos techniques also became sought after by military and government agencies. In the United States, Al Dacascos has worked with agents from the FBI, the Hawaiian Metro squad, the US Army Airborne Rangers and some members of the US Marshals. He has also instructed segments of the German Army and Hamburg police department.

Over the years, Dacascos has appeared in numerous US television programs and media presentations such as the Merv Griffin Show, ABC Wide World of Sports and CNN. In 1985, he was a featured member of the USA Martial Arts team sent to China as a "good will exchange." This event became an award winning documentary titled "China's Living Legends."

Presently, Al Dacascos is reforming a world wide Headquarters in Portland, Oregon for Wun Hop Kuen Do. He is also expanding into the motion picture industry. Working with such films as "Jaguar Lives" and "Teenage mutant Ninja Turtles III" has given him another outlet for his art. He has recently formed an alliance with producer/director Debra Mason called the Rogue Dacascos Motion Picture Alliance. They have just finished shooting a children's feature, titled, "The Kung Fu Kids Klub" Next the alliance will produce a series of motion pictures titled, "The Man from Paradise." Al Dacascos will star in the series.