Lineage

Our dojo advisor, Art Ishii, receiving 5-dan grade from Takayoshi Nagamine at Ishii sensei’s Los Angeles home in 1999. The late Nagamine sensei, second headmaster of the Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu system of Okinawan karate, would regularly stay at Ishii sensei’s home and instruct at Little Tokyo Dojo while visiting Southern California.

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The son of Matsubayashi-ryu founder Shoshin Nagamine, Takayoshi sensei was born and raised in Naha, Okinawa. Having trained under his father’s tutelage from the age of seven, he assumed leadership of the system upon his father’s passing at the age of 90. He traveled prolifically, promoting Okinawan karate worldwide until his unexpected and untimely passing in 2012 at the age of 66.

Ishii sensei is a third generation (Sansei/三世) Japanese American born in Chicago of Nisei resettled from unjust incarceration at Heart Mountain War Relocation Center during WWII. He was subsequently raised in postwar Los Angeles, where he attended elementary school in Little Tokyo and practiced judo from ages 10-25 under Frank Emi, Art Emi, Frank Watanuki, Takashi Kikuchi, and Gene LeBell.

Remarking that by his mid-twenties his body could no longer handle the “abuse” of judo (similarly, the late Donn Draeger referred to judo as “the great crippler”), Ishii sensei decided to investigate stand-up arts, studying Wing Chun Gung Fu for four years under Randy Williams sifu at the New Chinatown Gung-Fu Club in Chinatown, until Williams sifu moved to Asia for work and furthering his studies; Goju-ryu Karate for four years under Guy Kurose sensei at Tenri Karate Dojo in Boyle Heights, until Kurose sensei returned to his hometown of Seattle; and finally Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu under Eihachi Ota sensei at his Okinawa Budokan dojo in Central Los Angeles.

In 1990, Ishii sensei was invited to start a dojo at Centenary United Methodist Church, in Downtown LA’s historic Little Tokyo district, as an after-hours activity and a means to continue the church’s community outreach program. While not religiously affiliated with the church, Centenary has been a fixture of outreach, service, and goodwill among the Los Angeles Japanese American community since its establishment by Japanese immigrants in 1896.

Nearly thirty years on, Ishii sensei continues to impart traditional Okinawan karate in J-town under the aegis of the World Matsubayashi-ryu Karatedo Association, today based in Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, under the direction of Yoshitaka Taira sensei.

Kata Applications

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Kata applications are not always obvious, and sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places. “A-List Startenders” bartending school on Montrose and Milwaukee in Chicago offers a cunning hint into the opening of Pinan Yondan.

Picture Itosu sitting in Naha’s Tsuji District at the turn of the 20th century, plotting the Pinans while watching a bartender flip a bottle of Awamori. Aha!

Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment after seven weeks of meditation under the Bodhi Tree; in today’s fast-paced environment, sometimes it only takes two minutes under a traffic light. We shall call this application the “Awamori Flip!”

(We train seriously, but try not to take ourselves too seriously!)

2018 Ohio Visit

The weekend of June 23-24, 2018, members of Ravenswood Dojo traveled to Wooster, OH for an informal goodwill training exchange with members of Pinewoods Okinawan Karate of Iowa City, IA; Seishin Karate Club of Hilliard, OH; and Kodokan Osaka Dojo of Osaka, Japan.

It was a nice visit with old friends, interspersed with excellent training, a local brewery visit, and BBQ grillin’. Special thanks goes out to our gracious hosts, Scott & Jen!

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Back Row (L-R): Murakawa-san (Osaka), Kevin (Ravenswood), Collin (Ravenswood), Derrick (Ravenswood), Jen (Pinewoods), Ana (Seishin), Erin (Seishin)

Front Row (L-R): Scott Schnell (Pinewoods), Erik Matsunaga (Ravenswood), Yuichi Danjo (Osaka), Terrence Tuy (Seishin)

 

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

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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:

http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/chicago-japanese-neighborhood/

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.

Ginza-2017

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:

http://ginzaholiday.com/