Chicago-born Erik Matsunaga began his martial journey in the vein of many Midwestern American pre-teens, with folkstyle wrestling as a compulsory facet of public school physical education from grades 6 through 12.

In 1989, at the age of fifteen and inspired by a karate demonstration at Ginza Holiday, the Midwest Buddhist Temple’s annual summer festival of Japanese arts and culture, Matsunaga initiated training in eastern martial arts. Over the course of the ensuing nine years, this path would lead him to the tutelage of instructors Song, Sugiyama, and Nemoto.


Erik Matsunaga demonstrates a bo kata at Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu of Little Tokyo’s annual New Year’s party. Ishii sensei looks on at far left.

In 1998, upon relocating to California for business, Matsunaga was introduced to the karate dojo of Art Ishii, located in the social hall of a Japanese church in the historic Little Tokyo district of Downtown Los Angeles. It was here that Matsunaga began a new path of training in Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu under Ishii sensei, a longtime student of Eihachi Ota and Takayoshi Nagamine.

Upon returning to Chicago and settling into family and career, in 2012 Matsunaga founded Ravenswood Shorin-ryu Karate Dojo as a community-based group in conjunction with the space-sharing program at Ravenswood Fellowship United Methodist Church. Founded in part by Japanese Americans resettled from WWII incarceration camps (from whom Matsunaga also descends), RFUMC graciously shares its facilities with many outside organizations, supporting both the Ravenswood neighborhood and community-at-large.

Matsunaga maintains an unrelated day job and manages the dojo both out of a passion for the art and as a means to build community through Japanese & Okinawan martial culture. He resides, with his wife and children, on the city’s North Side.