Jon Inomata Kingi
4/1/1980 – 2/20/2018
(Note: Jon was a yudansha at our parent dojo in Los Angeles, Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu of Little Tokyo. This tribute is from LT Dojo, but rings true for Ravenswood Dojo by extension. We will miss our brother.)
Being a part of our dojo means being part of a family. Forget about trading dollars for techniques, payment for services rendered, or treating class like a gym workout and Sensei like a coach where you come in and then leave and never think twice about checking in otherwise. Our karate goes beyond the mere physical manifestation of personal combatives.
In sixty-five years of training with thirty of those teaching, Ishii sensei has not been generous in awarding black belts. To be a yudansha under Ishii sensei is a responsibility to represent him, your fellow classmates, the dojo name, the Little Tokyo community, Matsubayashi-ryu, and above all else yourself with dignity, respect, honor, and spirit. It is a commitment to bringing out the best in others, which in turn brings out the best in you.
You can have the greatest technique, display world class kihon, kata, and kumite on the floor, but if you have no manners, you’ll never make it. If you treat others discourteously, not a chance. If you don’t maintain a set of core principles and personal convictions (“Not felony convictions,” Sensei has been quick to clarify), you will never earn a dan ranking at Sho Tokyo Dojo.
Jon Kingi was among the few. A yudansha of the highest caliber under Art Ishii, he was bestowed this honor through the exemplification of the most positive aspects of all the previously noted attributes. He exuded the dojo’s ethos of Toukon ( 闘魂 ), or fighting spirit, where it’s not about win or lose, but how well you face adversity. I could pretty much end on that note and you’d know without further explanation what type of person Jon was. But the longer I talk about him, the longer it feels like he’s still with us.
Jon was a fine karateka and a fine man. A beloved son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend. He was well regarded among those he labored with and counseled as a social worker for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Los Angeles. Some of us called him Big Jon, because in addition to his height, everything about him was big. Big heart, big laugh, big appetite, big spirit. Even in passing, as an organ donor Jon demonstrated big compassion by continuing to assist others as he had as a devoted citizen of life.
As it often is with family, this is not “goodbye,” but “see ya later.” Whatever may come for you in this new chapter, we’re with you on this side and will catch up with you on the other soon enough. In the next one, I’m sure we’ll all be joining your dojo and you’ll gladly pay us back some hazing with that easy going smile and gentle gait. Till then, the last gyoza on the plate is yours.
Hang loose, brother.