ORANGES, NJ — When he was crafting his new martial arts system, Eldridge Hawkins Jr. had a simple-but-tricky vision: it needed to be “realistic.” Apparently, this Essex County master of the nunchucks has nailed his target – and then some.

Recently, the North American Nunchaku Association, one of the most respected nunchaku organizations in the world, became the latest group to recognize Ken-Fu Nunchaku Jutsu as an official martial arts system.

Hawkins – the system’s founder – is a former West Orange resident who served as mayor of Orange from 2008 to 2012. He was inducted into the USA Unified Martial Arts Hall of Fame earlier this year. Read More: Ex-Mayor In The Oranges Earns Spot In Martial Arts Hall Of Fame

According to Hawkins, Ken-Fu Nunchaku Jutsu is a “complete” style that aims to combine the iconic martial arts weapon with more traditional striking techniques.

He writes:

“Specifically, this new nunchaku style fuses various elements of competition katas and swinging strikes of the American-style nunchaku system (as taught by founder Grand Master Michael Burke, 9th Dan), with the close quarter fighting of Chinese Kenpo Kung-Fu/Fusion Kenpo (as instructed by Professor Harry Baker, 10th Dan), Ed Parker’s Kenpo Nunchaku teachings, Jujitsu, and [my] own original techniques. More specifically, several of the strikes, locks, throws and more of Kenpo and Jujitsu have been augmented where appropriate to facilitate self-defense techniques utilizing the nunchaku and everyday objects in conjunction with the standard empty hand techniques.”

Because most people don’t usually walk around town with a pair of nunchaku, Hawkins’ system teaches students to strike, trap, choke or otherwise control an attacker with common items such as sticks, belts or even socks. It’s a style that’s realistic and meets national and international training standards of established martial arts organizations, he said.

Several of his peers in the martial arts have backed up his claims.

“I enjoyed the [Ken-Fu] self-defense and thought it was very useful and practical,” said Chris Pellitteri, president and founder of the North American Nunchaku Association / American Kobudo Association.

“Most nunchaku systems don’t focus on self-defense – it was refreshing to see,” Pellitteri said.

There are several other groups that have agreed with the North American Nunchaku Association on this point, including the American Style Nunchaku Federation, Independent Karate Schools of America, and the United States Martial Arts Federation.

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Hawkins, now 42, began his martial arts career at Red Iron Dragon Karate Academy in East Orange when he was 7-years-old. He earned his first black belt in 2001 in Chinese Kenpo Kung Fu. Over the years Hawkins placed in and won several tournaments while studying different forms of martial arts, earning a master-level rank in different styles including Fusion Kenpo, U.S. Ju-Jitsu and American-style nunchaku.

The former politician, who is known to his students as Shihan E. Hawkins, is the senior international rank examiner in charge of training for the American Style Nunchaku Federation, a member of the United States Ju Jitsu Federation Senior Masters Caucus, and has recently been appointed to the role of vice president in the United States Martial Arts Federation.

Despite multiple knee surgeries, Hawkins has used teaching and his work with Ken-Fu Nunchaku Jutsu to remain active in the sport – and lifestyle – that he’s come to love. And his fellow martial artists say it’s good that he did.

“I congratulate Master Hawkins on the new Ken-Fu recognition from NANA and thank him for his ongoing contributions to the martial arts community and American Style Nunchaku Federation,” said Grand Master Michael Burke, president of the American Style Nunchaku Federation.

The Ken Fu Nunchaku Jutsu technical committee – which helps ensure the quality of training standards – includes Professor Harry Baker, 10th Dan of Baker’s Red Iron Dragon; Grand Master Michael Burke, 9th Dan; Hanshi Bruce Bethers, 9th Dan, as well as other black belts Ashanti Shakir, Rodney Armstrong, Sabu Rashidi, and Hawkins’ father, Eldridge Hawkins Sr.

See current Ken-Fu Nunchaku Jutsu system rank requirements here. Interested students or any dojo sensei interested in learning more can visit the UFC Gym, 498 Main Street in Orange, or visit the following websites: or

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