Yoshukai

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Yoshukai (???, Yoshukai?) karate is a branch discipline of the Japanese/Okinawan martial art, Karate-do, or “Way of the Empty Hand.” Yoshukai, while it includes several kicking techniques such as round house, hook, and jumping kicks, is mainly defined by its wide range of hand/palm/elbow techniques. A certain amount of grappling techniques are also taught, but this usually varies between schools. Sparring is full contact. Kobudo study and kata are also integrated into Yoshukai training.

The three kanji (Japanese symbols) that make up the word Yoshukai literally translated mean: Training Hall of Continued Improvement. The standard English translation is “Striving for Excellence.”

Mamoru Yamamoto had always wanted to be considered “strong.” As a young man, he pursued athletics and excelled in track and field. When he was fifteen years old, he was attacked by a group of older boys, and although he tried to defend himself using the judo taught at his Junior High School, he was defeated and beaten by the gang of ruffians. It was at this time he decided to start training in the art of Karate. He began his karate training in the style known as Chito-ryu (1000 year-old fist from China) under its originator, Tsuyoshi Chitose. [1]

Katsuoh Yamamoto began his formal training in the Chito-ryu style under Tsuyoshi Chitose. In 1959, he opened his own school in Kitakyushu, Japan. From 1960 to 1963, Yamamoto was considered the top competitor in Japan.[citation needed] In 1963 Chitose pronounced him the Grandmaster of the Yoshukai style of karate.[citation needed] Today, Yoshukai is a worldwide organization.

Hiroaki Toyama and Mike Culbreth established the World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization [2], under the authority of Yamamoto. It is important to note that there are many styles of karate that call themselves “Yoshukai” around the world; however, only dojos in the World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization are recognized by Yamamoto as legitimate outlets for his teachings.

In the early 1960s, Chitose gave Yamamoto permission to start his own branch of karate. Yamamoto and his wife Sumiko began training students in their dojo in Kitakyushu, Japan under the name of Yoshukan. It wasn’t until 1963 that Chitose visited Yamamoto and changed the 3rd kanji of their branch’s name from “kan” – meaning to stand alone – to “kai” – meaning association. [1] Chitose did this because he felt that Yamamoto’s work was very strong and had great potential for growth; hence, he foresaw that his small dojo would grow and become a large organization. This small beginning in the Fujitani Judo Club grew to a large number of dojo on Kyushu Island and the southern United States. Yamamoto and some of his students, including Mike Foster, accompanied Chitose on a visit to Canada in 1967, where they conducted demonstrations, a clinic, and presided over the Canadian National Karate Association tournament.[citation needed] This trip was organized by Mas Tsuruoka, widely recognized as the father of Canadian Karate and, later, the founder of Tsuruoka Ryu.[citation needed]

During this time period, Yamamoto worked with Mas Oyama of Kyokushinkai Karate to develop the rules for Japanese Full Contact Sparring. During those times all competitive sparring was subject to the “Sun Dome” rule, meaning that competitors must spar at full speed but cannot make contact with one another. This made judging of fighting very subjective as one competitor might be faster but the other more powerful; thus, it was up to the judge to determine who would prevail in the exchange of techniques. This led Yamamoto to think, “What if they were to actually hit?” It was also commonly believed at that time that if one karate-ka hit another, the one receiving the blow could die.

Yamamoto was a strong individual and in the early days of his school, he participated in a practice called dojo yabe. In dojo yabe, a martial artist visits neighboring schools and fights with its top practitioners. In many cases, if a school is badly defeated, then they usually close their doors and stop teaching. It is estimated that Yamamoto fought in at least 25 other dojos.[citation needed]

Yamamoto was good friends with one Watanade, who was Goju-ryu karate sensei at the Itazuke Administration Annex base gym. Michael G. Foster was stationed at Ituzuke Air Force Base in the late 1950s and studied karate under Watanade. Yamamoto met Foster in 1964 when Foster returned to Japan to test for second degree black belt. Foster spent about three weeks at Yamamoto’s dojo. Foster returned to Japan in September 1964 and lived in Yamamoto’s dojo for approximately 19 months, returning to the US in 1966 as 4th degree black belt.[citation needed]

Foster was eventually named the U.S. officer of Yoshukai karate and was tasked with spreading Yoshukai in the United States.[citation needed] In 1969, Hiroyuki Koda went to the United States to help Foster in Florida with his mission of expanding the number of Yoshukai schools in America.

Mike Foster brought a karate style to the United States in 1965. Hiroyuki Koda came to the United States in 1968 under the patronage of Mike Foster. Hiroyuki Koda was an instructor of the Yoshukan branch of the Chito-Kai style of Karate, under Tsuyoshi Chitose. His purpose was to assist Foster and other American Chito-Kai instructors in proper techniques in kata and weapons.

In 1971 Yamamoto parted from Chitose and the International Chito-kai Yoshukan school became the Yoshukai school. Yamamoto’s North American representative, Mike Foster, also left. The Yoshukai International Karate Do was created in 1971.[3] In August 1971, while Hiroyuki Koda was still in Japan, Gwen Koda opened the first dojo under the Directorship of Hiroyuki Koda, in Lincoln, Illinois, and created U.S. Yoshukai Karate.[4]

In 1973, the Yoshukan branch of Chito-Kai became Yoshukai Karate.[5] Yoshukai Karate began to flourish in the United States.[citation needed] During this time period, Mike Foster split from Yamamoto and Hiroyuki Koda. In 1975 Mike Foster established the Yoshukai International Karate Association and Hiroyuki Koda established the U.S. Yoshukai Karate Association (USYKA). Other former Yoshukai Black Belts also split to form their own Yoshukai groups without the approval of Yamamoto. The USYKA was the only Yoshukai organization sanctioned by Yamamoto[citation needed]; however, other branches of Yoshukai continued to strengthen and in 1989, Mike Foster was awarded the right to use the name “Yoshukai International Karate Association.”[citation needed]