Masters Mag Interview with Ishii Sensei

Masters Magazine recently posted their 2009 interview with our dojo advisor, Art Ishii of Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, CA. Ishii sensei discusses growing up sansei (third generation Japanese American); his background in, and passion for, budo; the role tournaments can play in traditional karate; and the Nikkei Games. This 18-minute discussion was originally included on the DVD supplement of the Summer, 2009 issue.


Rest In Peace


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.

What Happened to Chicago’s Japanese American Neighborhood, on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

“Japanese-Americans never formally designated the area ‘Japantown,’ but at its peak — in the ’60s and ’70s — there were nearly 150 Japanese-owned businesses and institutions in the area, including traditional Japanese restaurants, beauty salons, dry cleaners, and markets.” – Katherine Nagasawa, WBEZ

Bento Happi 1988

Bento Japanese Restaurant with Happi Sushi across the street, near the corner of Roscoe and Clark Streets in the Lakeview neighborhood, 1988. Photo by Robert W. Krueger, courtesy of Chicago Public Library, Sulzer Regional Library.

Listen to the podcast and read the accompanying story with photos here:

62nd Annual Ginza Holiday

Since 1955, the Midwest Buddhist Temple has been hosting its annual Ginza Holiday as a fundraiser and means to share Japanese and Japanese American culture with its Old Town neighbors. Locally renowned for its grilled Chicken Teriyaki lunch, homemade inari & makizushi, udon, corn-on-the-cob, sno cones, etc., each year it also hosts four artisans from Japan who have mastered traditional crafts dating back to the Edo period.


There’s a beer tent, local community group information tables, introductions to Buddhism, and a stage with demonstrations of traditional Japanese art forms. This year’s schedule of budo demonstrations is as follows:

Friday, August 11
7:00pm: Judo (Kokushikan Judo Academy)
7:30pm: Aikido (Oak Park Aikikai)

Saturday, August 12
1:30pm: Kendo (Choyokan Kendo Dojo)
3:00pm: Judo (Kokushikan Judo Academy)
3:30pm: Aikido (Midwest Aikido Federation)

Sunday, August 13
1:30pm: Kendo (Choyokan Kendo Dojo)

For more information, visit:

Taira-kaicho & Uza-sensei

Our good friend Yujiro Uza-sensei, head instructor of Beikoku Shidokan Shorin-ryu of Chicago in Prospect Heights, recently traveled to Okinawa. While there, he ran into WMKA president Yoshitaka Taira, and was kind enough to offer a kind word on our behalf and send us a photo.
Uza-sensei’s dojo is located in Prospect Heights, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago. If you’re in the area and interested in high quality Okinawan Kobayashi Shorin-ryu (小林流), you can find them on Facebook at @chicagobeikokushidokan.

WMKA President Yoshitaka Taira (L) & Yujiro Uza-sensei (R) from Chicago Beikoku Shidokan Shorin-ryu Karate Dojo

Goodwill Exchange with Sankukai Karate

When Martin first set foot in our dojo about a year and half ago, he brought with him fifteen years of varied karate experience including Shotokan, Uechi-ryu, and Sankukai karate. Nevertheless, he humbly donned a white belt as a beginner in Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu.

Martin leading Ravenswood Shorin-ryu Karate Dojo through Sankukai karate kihon.

As a Sankukai yudansha of demonstrative skill and character, we opened the floor to him this past Monday to introduce us to some Sankukai principles and kihon. He changed his white belt to black belt for his portion as a representative of Sankukai, and when class was over he switched back to his white belt to bow out of the dojo as a student; this was of his own personal moral accord and not asked of him.
Sankukai was founded in the 1970s by Yoshinao Nanbu (b. 1943) of Kobe, Japan, after his having studied Shito-ryu and Shukokai karate, as well as judo and aikido. Sankukai is known for circular movement, evasion tactics, and simultaneous defense and attack.
From time-to-time we welcome goodwill exchange training with skilled and principled practitioners of other systems. Regardless of system or style, good budo is good budo. We always have something to learn, and more often than not we find that our similarities are greater than our differences, but those differences serve to widen the perspective of our own training.
Martin represented Sankukai, his sensei, his previous dojo, and himself with honor and dignity, and had a wonderful and patient teaching demeanor.
Thanks for sharing with us, Martin!