Sugiyama Sensei of JKA Chicago Passes

Condolences to family and students on the recent passing of legendary karateman Sugiyama Shojiro sensei (1929-2015). In 1963, at the invitation of Mr. Walter Nakamoto and the Chicago Karate Club, Sugiyama sensei was dispatched from JKA headquarters in Tokyo to spread the Shotokan-ryu of Japanese karate throughout the Midwestern United States.

After a couple of moves, in the 1970s his dojo permanently settled at Belmont and Clark above Toguri Mercantile, in a neighborhood well-populated by Japanese Americans. Although he retired in 2000, the dojo remained until Toguri’s closing (after 65-years and 3-generations) and subsequent sale of the building in 2013, at which point JKA Chicago moved two blocks west on Belmont to the Japanese Culture Center, where it remains today under the direction of his senior students.

The majority of Shotokan (as well as knowledge of karate in general) in the Great Lakes Region today can be traced back to Sugiyama sensei’s efforts. His innovative training methods have been preserved by his students and through his numerous publications. And many still remember his entertaining demonstrations at the annual Ginza Festival at Chicago’s Midwest Buddhist Temple, one of the city’s longest running celebrations of Japanese and Japanese American culture.


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