2013 was a special year for the Maryknoll Karate Club as it celebrated its 50th anniversary.
This celebration was possible due to some luck, hard work, strong seniors and eager juniors. It was because of one such eager junior named John Teramoto that a karate club was even formed at Maryknoll, a K-8 Catholic school and church. In 1963, when John was in the eighth grade, he became aware that his Japanese language teacher, Mr. Tsutomu Ohshima, practiced martial arts and asked him if this was true. “A little,” Ohshima-sensei replied. Having no idea that Sensei was a former Waseda University Karate Club captain and one of Gichin Funakoshi’s top students, John was relentless in asking Sensei to teach him and his classmates karate. Finally, after repeated requests and a compromise in the form of parent-signed permission forms, Sensei began teaching the Maryknoll students karate. Thus began the story of the Maryknoll Karate Club.
On Saturday, July 27, 2013, an open practice for all SKA members was held at the Shotokan Ohshima Dojo in Santa Barbara to mark Maryknoll Karate Club’s 50th Anniversary, and to welcome a group from Sensei’s alma mater, Waseda University, that came from Tokyo to celebrate, including Satoshi Fukuda, head coach of the Waseda University Karate Club and president of the Black Belt Council of Shotokan Ohshima Dojo Japan. Mr. Fukuda trained for several years at Maryknoll in the 1980s while he attended graduate school in the U.S., so it made the reunion even more special. We were also fortunate to have Ron Thom, president of SKA, join our practice.
Practice began with godan John Teramoto leading kihon under the watchful eye of Sensei. Although I was not present 50 years ago at Maryknoll, or even alive for that matter, I felt as though I had traveled back through time and was able to catch a glimpse of what practice was like back then. John’s count was crisp yet gruff, brisk yet concise, fierce but controlled. As we made our way through kihon, one could not help but to become embroiled, eager to unleash everything one had with each technique.
Next, everyone sat and watched while each rank performed kata. The white belts went first with Heian Shodan. Then the brown belts did Bassai, followed by the shodans with Kwanku, the nidans on Jion, and finally, sandans and yodans performed Jutte. At the end, everyone was treated to watching the godans engage in iai.
The next day began with a practice in the Maryknoll dojo of the St. Francis Xavier Chapel Japanese Catholic Center. The hardwood floor was filled with current and former Maryknoll Karate Club members, some who had not put on a gi for 30 years, Sensei, and the Waseda group. Also present was Mr. Yasunori Ono, chairman of Shotokan Ohshima Dojo Japan, adviser to the Waseda Karate Alumni Association and former All-Japan University Champion. In the early years of Maryknoll Karate Club, whenever Sensei was away, Mr. Ono, along with the late Mr. Shoji Okabe and Mr. Sadaharu Honda, taught Japanese and karate to the Maryknoll students as Sensei’s substitute teachers. Another honored guest, Jim Sagawa, was also recruited by Sensei in the early years to teach karate to Maryknoll students.
Practice began with kihon, but this time it was led by numerous seniors from both Maryknoll and Waseda. Next, everyone sat and watched as individual katas were performed, alternating between members from Maryknoll and Waseda. After that, were a few rounds of sanbon gumite before the main event of the practice, shiai. Maryknoll fought against Waseda in a team competition. Waseda’s fighters included Tamotsu Nishino, who trained at Maryknoll during his doctorate studies in the U.S. in the 1990s, and who we were also very happy to see again, and Masahiro Maruyama, captain of the Waseda University Karate club and former All-Japan High School Champion (who also happened to win the Nisei Week Tournament this year). The matches were refereed by Mr. Ono and Kei Teramoto, and both sides exhibited exemplary fighting skills.
After practice, everyone quickly changed gears and sweaty gis before heading to the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo for the celebration banquet. The museum is an incredible venue with beautiful architecture, 40-foot ceilings, and a wall made of glass and pillars, which provided a perfect view of the sunset. The gala began with hors d’oeuvres and a buffet-style meal prepared by top-class sushi chef, Katsu. All the delicious sashimi and food one could ask for was meticulously prepared at hyper-speed right behind his sushi bar.
After everyone’s stomach and glasses were filled, the celebration continued with a short video outlining the 50 years of Maryknoll history, including the birth of the dojo, the passing of dojo leadership from Sensei to John Teramoto, then again from John Teramoto to Kei Teramoto and Jose Rivera, the many classes and present-day membership and dojo activities. The highlight of the night came with speeches from Canada Shotokan president Norman Welch, SKA Black Belt Council president John Teramoto, Waseda and SODJ’s Mr. Yasunori Ono, and Ohshima-sensei. Sensei’s speech emphasized, among other things, the importance of filial piety [honoring one’s parents and ancestors], which we all took to heart.
It was a lot of hard work celebrating 50 years of history in one weekend but we sure tried our best, celebrating with seniors and juniors, new friends and old. By looking and paying homage our past, we strived to honor and thank Sensei, our seniors, our parents and our many supporters. Although 50 years is just a blink of the eye in the grand scheme of things, I cannot wait to see what the next 50 years holds.