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Yōshūkai Karate
Yoshukai logo.png
This emblem is the combination of the Japanese flag, the word, "Yōshūkai" and Yata no Kagami, which are reflected in this mirror, Yata no Kagami are the spirits of Yōshūkai. Also, they express the ambition which is to try to spread the Japanese martial arts all over the world.
Focus Striking
Hardness Full contact
Country of origin Japan
Creator Mamoru Yamamoto
Parenthood Chito-ryu
Olympic sport no
Official website

Yoshukai (養秀会 Yōshūkai?) 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 Kobudō 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 Kobudō 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.[4] 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]

Hiroyuki Koda left Lincoln, Illinois and moved back to Florida later that year. He turned the Lincoln dojo over to Bob Borowiak. Due to knee problems Borowiak retired in 1977, closing the Lincoln, Illinois dojo, and putting Dan Dugan under the direct supervision of Hiroyuki Koda. With Hiroyuki Koda’s permission, Dan Dugan went on to spread Yoshukai Karate throughout Illinois.[5] Dugan would later re-open the Lincoln, Illinois dojo.

In Mike Foster's Yoshukai International, stances and bunkai were modified to incorporate Foster’s ideas about weapon alignment, point and lack of regression. This organization, its schools, instructors, and black belts are not recognized by Yamamoto as legitimate licensed practitioners of Yoshukai karate to this day.

1980s and 1990s

Dugan and his schools left Koda’s Yoshukai organization in 1988 and joined Foster’s Yoshukai International Karate Association. Over time, the instructors closed the Illinois branch dojos, leaving only Dugan’s dojo open in Illinois. After training with Foster for 14 years, Dugan left to train under American karate pioneer, William J. Dometrich, of Chito-ryu Karate. Like Yamamoto, Dometrich was a student who studied directly under Tsuyoshi Chitose.[5]

In 1997, Koda died from pancreatic and liver cancer. According to his wishes, the directorship of the U.S. Yoshukai Karate Association was passed on to his eldest son, David Yuki Koda and managerial duties remained with his wife.

Yoshukai America, which was renamed World Yoshukai, is directly managed under the headquarters of Yoshukai Japan and its offices are located in Pensacola, Florida and Dothan, Alabama. World Yoshukai is the only organization directly administered by Yoshukai Japan. The organization is led by the director and Hiroaki Toyama (vice president of Yoshukai) and Mike Culbreth (vice president of Yoshukai). World Yoshukai now has more than 1,000 members in more than 30 branches throughout the United States, including Florida, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, California, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico.

21st Century

At Yamamoto's request, Hiroaki Toyama and Mike Culbreth started the World Yoshukai Karate Kobudō Organization (WYKKO) in 2000. In 2006 during a trip to Japan, Hiroaki Toyama and Mike Culbreth were awarded their 8th and 7th degree black belt.[citation needed]

In 2000, Gwen Koda, the manager for the U.S. Yoshukai Karate Association for 30 years, resigned and passed her duties to David Koda's wife, Adrienne Koda.[6]

In November 2002, Daniel Dugan started the Yoshukai Karate Alliance. The Yoshukai Karate Alliance has dojos located in Lincoln, Illinois and Williamsville, Illinois.[5]

One of Dugan's former students, Mike Donovan, stayed with the U.S. Yoshukai Karate Associate and runs a Yoshukai school in Normal, Illinois at the YMCA.[7]

David Koda's U.S. Yoshukai Karate Associate dojos are located in the southern part of the United States (Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee) with the headquarters located in Montgomery, Alabama.[8]

In the fall of 1969 Hiroyuki Koda arrived in the United States from Fukuoka, Japan. Koda was an instructor of the Yoshukan branch of the Chito-Kai under Tsuoshi Chitose. His original purpose was to assist American Chito-Kai instructors in proper techniques in kata and weapons.

Koda met an American woman, Gwen Lisk, who was a Chito-Kai black belt. In 1970 they were married in Florida. In 1971 after the birth of his first son David Yuki, Koda had to return to Japan on business. In August 1971, while Koda was still in Japan, Gwen Koda opened the first dojo in Lincoln, Illinois.

In 1973, the Yoshukan branch of Chito-Kai became Yoshukai karate. Koda moved his family to Birmingham, Alabama, where he became a journeyman ironworker. Koda named his organization Mid-South Yoshukai. The Yoshukai Karate Organization grew as students reached black belt status and began opening schools throughout Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Several instructors from other styles transferred their schools to Koda's organization. By 1975 Koda renamed the Mid-South Yoshukai to U.S. Yoshukai karate.

In 1982, the Koda family moved to Texas, where Koda opened two more schools. In 1987, Koda had enough money to practice karate on a full time basis. Since most of the U.S. Yoshukai Schools were in the Southeast, they set up the Honbu Dojo (Headquarters) in Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1997, Koda died from pancreatic and liver cancer. The directorship of the U.S. Yoshukai Karate Association was passed on to his eldest son, David Yuki Koda and managerial duties remained with his wife. In 2000, Gwen Koda, the manager for the U.S. Yoshukai Karate Association for 30 years, resigned her position and passed those duties on to David Koda's wife, Adrienne Koda.

During the 70’s and 80’s Foster continued to teach at what has become known as the dojo above the pizza place located in Daytona, Florida on Beach Street.[citation needed] It was during the early 90’s that Foster relocated to Cocoa Beach to be closer to his job at the Cape. It was here that Foster became friends with Tom Walker, an Aikido practitioner and set up shop at the Sand Drift Dojo for the next seven years.[9] During this time Foster continued to develop the association and made numerous trips to Germany, Canada and most of the schools in the Southeast. Each year the association would hold summer training (Natsu Keiko) at St. Leo College on the west coast of Florida.[citation needed]

In the very late 90’s Foster once again relocated this time to Titusville, Florida. Foster continued to instruct senior grades at the Searstower Mall dojo once a month until 2008. Although Mr Foster continues to run the organization he has developed over his lifetime he is no longer actively teaching due to declining health reasons.

Five Precepts - Shugyosha Gokun

  1. Respect and Manners / Hitostu – Reigi o omonzubeshi
  2. Be Prudent in Action / Hitostu – Taido o imashimubeshi
  3. Be Prudent in Speech / Hitostu – Gengo o tsutsushimbeshi
  4. Keep High Spirited / Hitostu – Iki o sakan ni subeshi
  5. Keep Yourself Clean / Hitostu – Seiketsu o mune to subeshi

See also




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