Who and What is Yoshukai?

     Yoshukai (養秀会) International is a association of karate founded by Michael G. Foster in 1977.  Yoshukai International is derived from Yoshukai karate founded by Mamoru Yamamoto in 1961 after his instructor Dr. Chitose gave Yamamoto permission to start his own branch of Karate called Yoshukan.  In 1963 Dr. Chitose visited Yamamoto and changed the 3rd kanji of their branch's name from "kan" (meaning "to stand alone") to "kai" (meaning "association").  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. Yoshukai International is notably different in technique from Japanese or Okinawan karate, as it is adapted for the different body types of U.S. and European practitioners.

History  (Please also visit the "Official" Yoshukai International parent website, http://www.theyoshukaikarate.com/ for further history.)

     The man most responsible for the systemization of karate as we know it today and introducing it to Japan proper was Gichin Funakoshi (Funakoshi Gichin), founder of Shotokan karate.  Afterward, many other masters emerged, including Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose (10th Dan), who developed Chito-ryu karate from a combination of Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu.  Yamamoto (10th Dan) studied under Chitose and developed the system presently known as Yoshukai karate.  (Yoshukai means training hall of continuing improvement and development).

     Michael G. Foster (9th Dan) first studied under Watanade in the late 1950's and then studied with Yamamoto in Japan starting in 1964.  Yamamoto was good friends with 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. 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 dojo for approximately 19 months, returning to USA in 1966 as 4th degree black belt.  Also in 1966 Foster was named the U.S. officer of Yoshukai karate and was tasked with spreading Yoshukai in the United States.  In 1968, Hiroyuki Koda, went to the United States under the patronage of Mike Foster to help him in Florida with his mission of expanding the number of Yoshukai schools in America.

     In 1977 Mike Foster split from Yamamoto organization and established the Yoshukai International Karate Association (YIKA).  At the same time Hiroyuki Koda established the U.S. Yoshukai Karate Association (USYKA).  In 1989, Mike Foster was awarded the right to use the name "Yoshukai International Karate Association".


     Mike Foster was noted as a karate champion in the early days of his career, and though retired from active competition, he is considered one of the premiere karate officials in America.  Other noted champions and officials include Larry Pate (retired), Calvin Thomas and Mike Smith.

Yoshukai International has dojos all over the world, including the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany, Latvia, Australia and New Zealand.  Yoshukai International has approximately 1,800 members in several different countries and over 300 Black Belts.

Philosophy and Technique

     Yoshukai International is unusual in that it uses mainly forward, side and natural stances and technique that emphasizes lack of regression in movement.  Ki is approximately 60 percent hard and 40 percent soft, meaning that the kumite or fighting style incorporates techniques similar to aikido which turn an attack or use it to the advantage of the defender.  All techniques and stances are adapted from Japanese karate to fit taller Westerners with longer legs and higher hara or center of gravity.  Although Yoshukai is considered a full-contact style, students usually participate in light- to medium-contact kumite or sparring within the dojo, and are encouraged to be active in tournament competition.  Students also study traditional Okinawan kobudo as an extension of their karate technique.

Yoshukai International Crest

     Depending on the source, the outline of the crest patch represents a cherry blossom or possibly Yata No Kagami (八咫鏡), the sacred mirror of Japan which stands for wisdom and honesty. 

     The three kanji symbols that make up the word "Yoshukai" across the top of the crest (養秀会), literally translated, mean: Training Hall of Continued Improvement. The flag in the center of the crest is the Nisshōki (日章旗 "sun flag") or Hinomaru (日の丸 "sun disc") and the kanji symbol superimposed on it (忍) is “Nin” which stands for patience.

Dojo Kun

  • 1. To uphold the Dojo name

  • 2. To seek perfection of character

  • 3. To be faithful

  • 4. To endeavor in all things

  • 5. To respect others

  • 6. To refrain from violent behavior

Ranking System

     Most dojos within Yoshukai International use four belt colors without stripes to recognize the standard kyu (below black belt) and dan (above black belt) ranks, although some dojos use belts with stripes to indicate the specific ranks.

White Belt Green Belt Brown Belt
Ninth Kyu Sixth Kyu Third Kyu
Eighth Kyu Fifth Kyu Second Kyu
Seventh Kyu Fourth Kyu First Kyu

Black Belt
1st Degree - Shodan
2nd Degree - Nidan
3rd Degree - Sandan
4th Degree - Yondan
5th Degree - Godan/Shihan
6th Degree - Rokudan

Kata or Form

     Traditional kata or forms from Chito-ryu (and occasionally other styles) are adapted to meet the Western philosophy and style of Yoshukai International. This list of kata includes traditional kanji script as best available:

Name Kanji Description
Nijushichi 二十七 27 Movements
Zenshin Kotai 前進後退 Advancing and Retreating
Heian Kihon 1-4 (H-Forms) 平安 Peaceful Mind, 1-4
Shihohai 四方拝 Four Quarters
Gekisai 撃塞 Attack and Destroy
Tai Ho Jitsu 1 - 5 - -
Seisan 正整 Thirteen Hands
Niseishi 二十四歩 Twenty-four Hands
Rohai Sho 鷺牌 小 Vision of a Crane (minor)
Rohai Dai 鷺牌 大 Vision of a Crane (major)
Sochin 壯鎭 Tranquil Force
Tenshin 荘鎮 Twisting Body Motion
Mugen 無限 Endless
Bassai 披塞 To Penetrate a Fortress
Sanchin 三戰 Three Battles
Chinto 鎮東 Subdue the East
Kusanku 公相君 Viewing the Sky/Night Fighting
Sanshiryu 三十六歩 Thirty-four Hands/Dragon
Ryusan 龍山 Dragon Spiraling Upward
Tensho 転掌 Rolling Palms
Seienchin 征遠鎮 Calm Within the Storm
Tai Ho Jitsu 1 - 10 - -
Hen Shi Ho Jitsu 1 - 50 - -
Hanten - -
Rinten - -
Kakeite - -
Nage Waza - Throwing Technique

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