Born in Chicago in 1974, 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 the Midwest Buddhist Temple’s annual Ginza Festival, 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 Little Tokyo Dojo’s annual New Year’s party.

Through a mutual acquaintance, in 1998 Matsunaga was introduced to Art Takashi Ishii while living and working in Southern California. A lifelong martial artist, Ishii sensei ran a community-based karate club in downtown Los Angeles. It was here that Matsunaga began a new path of training at Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu of Little Tokyo.

Upon returning to Chicago and settling into family and career, Matsunaga founded Ravenswood Shorin-ryu Karate Dojo as a community-based group in 2012. In addition to the dojo, he serves the community through authoring articles for Discover Nikkei, an online project of the Japanese American National Museum, and Windy City Nikkei on Instagram.