Suspension of Practice


Given the rapid spread of COVID-19, local school closings, and mass cancellations of other Chicago-area classes and events, Ravenswood Shorin-ryu Karate Dojo has decided to clear the remainder of our March training schedule pending further reports.

While we do not find it healthy to give into hysteria, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution at this time – particularly since karate is a close quarters, contact activity. We recommend our regular membership maintain their personal practice during this period as a part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

RFUMC Spaghetti Dinner

A few of us were able to make it out to support Ravenswood Fellowship UMC’s annual Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser. They always put together a good plate of (all-you-can-eat) spaghetti, bread, salad, and beverages!

It’s a relaxing time for friends and family to get together, share a meal, and catch up with community folks. The dinner is held in the same gym where we practice, and service was provided by youth coaches of the Sansei Yonsei Athletic Association (SYAA) Basketball Clinic.

RFUMC has been very supportive of our program since its inception in 2012, so we like to show up and support in return whenever we can! Next up: Aloha Breakfast late May/early June!

Ravenswood Dojo’s First Black Belts


L-R: Ye, O’Neill, Matsunaga, Ishii, Noonan

On February 28, 2020, we were honored to promote our dojo’s first black belts, Mr. Ye, Mr. O’Neill, and Mr. Noonan. All three gentlemen are of fine character, professionals and contributors to the community in their own right. To assist in evaluations, Art Ishii sensei, from Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, made the trip from California; Ishii sensei has been our advisor since the dojo’s formation in 2012.

Shodan (first degree black belt) does not denote mastery. It is a beginning. It means that one has amassed enough clay to begin sculpting. To be a yudansha at Ravenswood is a responsibility to represent the dojo, Okinawan Shorin-ryu as a system, and oneself 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, understand physical principles, bunkai, and oyo, but if you have no manners, if you treat others discourteously, if you don’t maintain a core measure of etiquette, self-control, and personal convictions (“Not felony convictions,” Ishii sensei has been quick to clarify), you will never earn a dan ranking at Ravenswood Dojo.

We wish these three well in their continued journeys, and thank them for their hard work and support. We are proud to have them as our first yudansha. Their grades will be internationally certified through our parent organization, WMKA, based in Okinawa, Japan. Much gratitude goes to Ishii sensei for his encouragement and guidance.

Clark & Division: Japanese Americans on Chicago’s Near North Side, 1940s-1960s

Clark Division Subway Sign

Photo courtesy of Erik Matsunaga

Discover Nikkei, an online resource of the Japanese American National Museum, has published Erik Matsunaga’s research into a WWII-era Japanese American enclave in the Clark & Division neighborhood of Chicago’s Near North Side.

Ravenswood Dojo advisor Art Ishii from Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu of Little Tokyo was born in this neighborhood upon his parents’ resettlement from Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, and it was the first Chicago stop for Matsunaga’s family out Gila River War Relocation Center.

Many who would later go on to establish our dojo’s host church, Ravenswood Fellowship UMC, also initially resettled in this neighborhood out of various camps as they got their bearings for a new life in a new city.

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Map courtesy of Erik Matsunaga

2019 Comes to a Close

Last Practice 2019

Final practice of the year. Thank you to all who have been supportive of our dojo, particularly our host Ravenswood Fellowship UMC. We have enjoyed training with, and getting to know, everyone who joined us on the floor over the course of 2019, whether it be for one evening, a few weeks, a few months, or all year long. Wishing you a Happy New Year and the best for 2020!

Hirokazu Kanazawa Passes

We are saddened by the passing of legendary Shotokan master Hirokazu Kanazawa, at the age of 88. A tremendous loss for the karate community, we should all be grateful for his studious nature and contributions to the art on the world stage. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family. May he rest in peace.



Historic Lakeview Chicago Japanese American Community Walking Tour

On November 2, Ravenswood Dojo instructor Erik Matsunaga facilitated a walking tour of Chicago’s historic “unofficial” Japantown in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side, based on a map he’d developed in 2014 for 30 Years of Lakeview: Chicago’s Japanese American Community, 1960s-1990s, an article published on Discover Nikkei, an online project of the Japanese American National Museum.

The tour also acted as a companion piece to Katherine Nagasawa’s extensive 2017 investigative report for WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s Curious City program, What Happened to Chicago’s Japanese Neighborhood?

The neighborhood was once heavily populated by Japanese Americans mostly resettled from WWII camps as a result of Executive Order 9066, and lasted from roughly the 1960s to the 1990s. A handful of legacy businesses remain scattered about, a couple dating back to the original 1940s WWII-era resettlement enclave of Clark & Division.

Thanks to JACL Chicago’s Kansha Project for sponsoring and Katherine Nagasawa, multimedia producer for WBEZ’s Curious City, for coordinating everything behind the scenes. Also much appreciation to all the special guest speakers along the way: Joe Takehara (former resident, business owner, and founding member of the Illinois Aikido Club); Fred Sasaki (former resident); Ross Harano (former Japanese American Service Committee board member); Paul Yamauchi (former resident and son of Hamburger King founder Tom Yamauchi); and Mike Tanimura (lifelong resident).

Twenty-five Eventbrite tickets sold out, and a couple who could not get tix after selling out said the heck with it and showed up to buy tickets in person anyway!