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.