6th Anniversary

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L-R: Collin, Erik, Mason, Derrick

Last Monday we celebrated our dojo’s 6th anniversary, so a few of us hit up the corner pub for a drink and snacks after training to celebrate! Our first practice was held on October 22, 2012, and we owe much thanks to Pastor Linda and the Ravenswood Fellowship UMC Board of Trustees for having steadily and patiently supported our little effort every Monday night since that time.

When I (Erik M.) first moved back to my native Chicago from Los Angeles in the mid-2000s, Ishii sensei had intimated that I might look into starting a karate program. I kind of hemmed and hawed, didn’t feel qualified, plus I’d started a new career and got married and had kids and simply didn’t have the time. In the meantime, I self-trained, visited LA when I could, Ishii sensei visited Chicago when he could, and I would send back video training journals for critique.

In the Spring of 2010 I received an inquiry from a gentleman in the Northwest Suburbs who was interested in training and was willing to drive an hour into the city after work. Since we had no space, we initially practiced at a forest preserve near O’Hare. That worked through the summer until the weather changed and then we started training at my house. Some of the characters you run into training outside in the evenings at forest preserves, let me tell you!

When my youngest daughter was born in November of that year, I had to take some time off training and once I was ready to get back to it there was simply no more room at home. So one afternoon in the Spring of 2011 I stopped into J. Toguri Mercantile on Belmont, a longstanding Japanese import store among the final vestiges of a once thriving JA community along Clark Street near Wrigley Field; they were kind of a one stop shop for information and things Japanese in Chicago.

I spoke with the late William “Willie” Toguri about Japanese American community churches that may have social halls and might be interested in a program like ours, ala Ishii sensei’s dojo at Centenary UMC in LA’s Little Tokyo. He grabbed some scratch paper and jotted me a list of Christian congregations and Buddhist sanghas, and after some research I decided to look into Ravenswood Fellowship’s space-sharing program given that they seemed similar to Centenary.

While our program is not religiously affiliated with the church, RFUMC was founded in part by post-war resettled Japanese Americans, some of whom had pre-war roots at Centenary which has served the greater Los Angeles Nikkei community since 1896. Rev. Mark Nakagawa of Centenary was kind in offering us a letter of recommendation based on his experience of hosting Ishii sensei’s program, and Pastor Linda Misewicz-Perconte was very welcoming and inquisitive of our prospective community-based venture. It helped that Choyokan Kendo Dojo had already been practicing in the Ravenswood gym for years and had set a notable example, opening for the possibility of an additional budo group.

And so it was that on October 22, 2012, we held our inaugural practice consisting of my buddy Ryan, my then 9-year old son, and me, and in July of 2013 became a member dojo of the World Matsubayashi-ryu Karatedo Association headquartered in Okinawa, Japan. Since that time both members of the dojo as well as my family have participated in and enjoyed numerous other RFUMC-hosted programs such as the annual Sansei Yonsei Athletic Association Youth Basketball Clinic, Spaghetti Dinner, Pancake Breakfast, Aloha Breakfast, Chili Fest, the annual kids Halloween Party, and have frequented the amazing Midori Market: a small, on-site shop “dedicated to showcasing locally made, fair trade, and environmentally conscious merchandise, and the repair of jewelry and watches.”

Through the formation of the dojo we have been honored to develop friendships with some extraordinary people both karateka and non, in places far and wide. On this anniversary we are pleased to report that the state of the union is strong and we shall continue to pursue good, honest karate while maintaining our ethos of valuing good character and community relations as much as, if not more than, technical ability. That said, we do our best and if nothing else abide by Ishii sensei’s sage, when-in-doubt advice: “If it doesn’t look cool, it’s probably not right.”

Cheers.

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.

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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/