Late Headmaster

Takahashi Eishu Hanshi was a 9th degree black belt in Okinawa Seitou Karate-do and Kanchou (Headmaster) of the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo in Japan. Takahashi Hanshi trained with noted master Toyama Kanken until the latter’s death in 1966, and maintained the traditions of Budo (Japanese martial ways) in his dojo located in Oyama city, Tochigi prefecture, Japan. Takahashi Hanshi also taught Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung, and traveled around the world giving demonstrations on Okinawan Karate-do and Kobudo. He passed away from Pancreatic cancer at the age of 71 on November 13, 2011.

Current Headmaster

Takahashi Masao Shihan took over as Kanchou of the Yoshinkan Dojo upon Takahashi Hanshi’s death in November, 2011. He worked and taught alongside his father for many years, polishing his technique and spirit in the way of karate-do. Takahashi Shihan carries on the traditions, techniques and philosophy of the Yoshinkan Dojo and maintains the spirit of budo just as his father had done for over 40 years as a teacher of Okinawa Seitou Karate-do.

Head Instructor in Canada

Stephen Whiffen Shihan is a 5th degree black belt in Okinawa Seitou Karate-do and head instructor of the Yoshinkan Karate-do Canada Dojo located in Surrey, B.C., Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Physical Education and has trained in the martial arts since 1983. Whiffen has been training exclusively in Okinawa Seitou Karate-do since 1988, and he spent 5 years in Japan training under the direct tutelage of Eishu Takahashi Hanshi. Whiffen Shihan holds the titles of Renshi, which he attained in 2004, and Shihan, which he was granted in 2010.

The Techniques

The techniques and fighting methods of the Yoshinkan Dojo are based on Okinawa Seitou Karate-do, a system that was taught by Toyama Kanken of the Shudokan Dojo. The history of this system can be traced back several hundred years to the early pioneers of tode-jutsu (Okinawan fighting traditions based on Chinese kenpo). The evolution of Okinawa Seitou Karate-do through the years has been influenced by many different martial traditions, as is evident by the training methods and style of combat of this system:

  •  the linear, penetrating techniques and deep, narrow stances of shuri-te,
  • the circular, evasive movements of naha-te,
  • the yielding body maneuvers and relaxed power of tai chi chuan,
  • the internal energy training of chi kung, and
  • the weapons training of the sai and bo from Okinawan kobudo.

Beginners are gradually introduced to kihon (basics) and kata (forms), and there are gradings to advance to the next level every three or four months. Basic techniques are repeated every class to build a solid foundation and to gain a thorough understanding of the fundamental principles of the style. Sparring is performed as yakusoku kumite (one-step sparring) or bunkai (interpretation of the kata moves with a partner). Many traditional Japanese customs are practiced in the dojo to retain the essence of budo (traditional martial ways).

The Philosophy

A translation of the basic tenets of the Yoshinkan Dojo according to Takahashi Hanshi:

Health, courage, wisdom and sincerity are four pure virtues naturally inherited by all people and realized through body movements. Under this philosophy we continuously strive to be true to the name Yoshinkan (the place for cultivating sincerity).

Health – training to achieve and maintain optimal health through vigorous physical exercise and internal energy training.

Courage – training to forge an indomitable spirit, the never-give-up attitude and iron will that gives the practitioner the courage to face his/her own fears and stand firm in the face of adversity.

Wisdom – training to gain a thorough understanding of oneself and others, and to possess a calm, composed mind and clear judgement even when faced with danger or during moments of high stress.

Sincerity – training to develop the fortitude to remain true to one’s values, beliefs and moral standards; ultimately to be sincere to oneself. In every endeavour in life, to strive to be pure in one’s intentions, and to commit 100% to the task at hand and follow through till the end, even if failure is imminent.

Training

As in most Budo dojo, training at the Yoshinkan honbu dojo in Japan is intense. Regular training encompasses rigorous repetition of basic techniques, often to the point of exhaustion, until the body can perform the techniques without conscious thought. Once a month, there is additional training for those willing to submit themselves. Takigyo (waterfall training) is one example of supplementary training that delves into the spiritual realm. Under the ancient waterfall at Mount Izuru, the scene of a Buddhist monastery and an hours drive from the Honbu Dojo, Takahashi Hanshi and a few dedicated students practiced under the freezing waters of a waterfall. As you step under the shooting falls, the body reacts immediately to the shock of the ice cold water streaming down. Your whole body soon begins to shake and shiver. It is only by using the mind to calm the body and remain relaxed and focused can one overcome the physical discomfort and stay underneath for any length of time. This “seishin tanren” (spiritual forging) has to be experienced, and words alone cannot adequately express the intensity of the training. There were also advanced Kiko (internal energy) classes once a month where students were encouraged to explore the connection between karate techniques and internal power development. This type of training goes beyond physical technique and is vital if one wishes to progress to the advanced levels of the art.

Atmosphere

When you walk into the Honbu Dojo in Japan, you immediately feel as if you are transported back in history. The dark wooden floor, worn by years of dripping sweat and sliding bare feet, greets you as you bow to the Kami-dana where a miniature Shinto shrine sits at the head of the Dojo. As you walk across the floor, you can almost feel the spirit of Karate-do permeating through the room, a feeling that is at once both frightening and calming, a feeling that becomes quite familiar and comforting over time. Training at the Yoshinkan Dojo is challenging, stretching you to your limits and then beyond. The rigorous training forces you to dig down deep within yourself, to the very essence of your being, to find the strength and fortitude that will carry you through. By developing a strong spirit, you can meet any challenge in life with a relaxed manner and iron will. This is the seishin tanren of Budo that leads us to serenity and inner peace; the spiritual forging that brings us closer to the ultimate goal of training: to perfect our character and maximize our potential as human beings.