Yoshukai Karate Christchurch
Tom Somerville, Neil Frazer, Warwick Lobb

The first Yoshukai International Karate club in New Zealand was founded at the University of Canterbury in 1979.  Since then the club has produced many black belts who are now scattered around New Zealand and the world. 

It all began when Tom Somerville returned home to New Zealand and started the club, after living in the United States and having trained with Charles Scanlon and Kevin Bradford in New Jersey.

In the early 1980's two of Tom's students, Neil Frazer and Warwick Lobb traveled to New Jersey to complete their training and both were promoted to black belt Subsequently Neil Frazer took over running the Christchurch club after Tom left, and with the assistance of Warwick the club continued to grow.

Dave Leathwick, a student of both Neil and Warwick, traveled to New Jersey in 1987 to complete his black belt.  3 years later, Dave started a Palmerston North club, known today as the Tokomaru Dojo.

In 1992, the links between the United States and New Zealand were firmly cemented in place with the visit of a team of senior black belts from Florida, led by Jim Sullivan and Lee Norris.  

The third New Zealand club active today was started by Darel Hall in Wellington in 2004.  An additional club, focusing on growing children into young adult Black Belts was started in Christchurch in 2011 by Raymond Tainui. 

Today there are frequent exchanges between the U.S. based Yoshukai Karate International and New Zealand clubs.  New Zealanders will often travel to the U.S. to train and attend the annual Tai Kai (Summer Camp). 

Neil Frazer now lives and teaches in Sydney from where he continues to lead Yoshukai Australasia.  Therefore there are frequent exchanges between New Zealand and Australia also.

The annual gathering in Hanmer Springs for New Zealanders from around the world will often see many New Zealanders return home from Malaysia, Canada, France, England and elsewhere.

With continued visits from senior members of Yoshukai Karate International, and with continued growth in New Zealand student numbers (an increase of more than 400% in the last 5 years), Yoshukai Karate in New Zealand and Australia has never been stronger. 
Yoshukai Karate history
Dr Chitose, Mamoru Yamamoto, Mike Foster

Okinawa is seen as the birthplace of modern karate.  Prior to karate reaching Japan, very few students were taught the Okinwan Martial Arts, and those that were received their training in secret and directly from a master. 

As the Okinawan Martial Arts emerged from the shadows, Tsuyoshi Chitose was one of the first masters from Okinawa (along side Funakoshi Gichin) to teach the Okinawan Martial Arts to larger groups in Japan.

Dr Chitose had received his training from a number of Okinawan Masters with lineages that can be traced back to the masters of the early 1800's.  He was respected in both Okinawa and Japan for the breadth, depth, quality and lineage of his training. 

Mamoru Yamamoto was a fifteen year old boy when he began his training with Dr. Chitose. With the guidance of Dr.Chitose, Yamamoto became one of his top students, and was an active competitor in the Japanese National Tournament Circuit. He retired undefeated as the All Japan Karate Champion in 1961. Dr. Chitose pronounced him the Master of his own style, which we now know today as Yoshukai Karate.  

In 1963, Mike Foster, a United States Serviceman returned to America after studying several karate styles under several instructors, one of which was Mamoru Yamamoto.  Mike Foster was Yamamoto's representative for Yoshukai Karate in America in the mid 1960's and Sensei Foster (known as the Fighting Sensei) became the United States karate champion in kumite for the years 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.

Through the work of Master Yamamoto, Foster Sensei and many others, Yoshukai Karate began to spread.  Yoshukai Karate is now practiced around the world in many clubs that range from a few students up to gatherings that number in the hundreds.  

As with most martial arts in the world today, there is no single governing body responsible for all Yoshukai Karate clubs.  As is common among styles with similar lineages, several clubs in geographic proximity or with philosophical similarities will combine to form an Association or Federation.

Yoshukai Karate Australasia, which includes all New Zealand Yoshukai Karate Clubs belongs to the Yoshukai Karate International Association. This is a not-for-profit Association that is aligned with our philosophies of placing karate in reach of anyone who wants to learn. 
The history of karate


The history and lineage of karate can be traced back to Okinawa over three hundred years ago. Okinawa was a trading partner with China and the lands of the Far East. Much of the martial arts influence came from China where martial arts had been studied for over 2,000 years. In the early 1500’s the Okinawan King banned the ownership of weapons. This small island was located between China and Japan, leading to conflicts from both sides. In the early 1600’s Japan invaded and conquered Okinawa; being unarmed played a major role in the birth of karate (empty hand) combat, the art we know today. 

The subjection of Okinawa by Japan provided the impetus for a resurgence in the study of unarmed combat and the scattering of the Okinawan gentry lead to the spreading of the arts all across Okinawa.  The passing of knowledge was done in secret and usually from a master to a single student at a time. Knowledge was transferred through the practice of kata (set patterns of movement and techniques).

Eventually the Okinawan martial arts were no longer needed as a matter of life and death and centuries old teachings began to emerge from the shadows.  Okinawan children began to be taught in larger groups after school and in the open.  This fundamental change in the methodology of teaching martial arts would lead to the recognition of the amazing benefits martial arts training had for students.  These benefits were evident both in the students physical performance as well as in developing their mental prowess and character.  This recognition paved the way for the Okinawan martial arts to be formally introduced to the Okinawan educational system.

Within a short period of time, Okinawan martial arts had gained popularity with the Japanese who went on to begin the classification of styles and the creation of Sport Karate and what we have come to know as Modern Karate.  

Many of the great masters of karate came from the villages of Shuri (the capital of Okinawa), Naha, and Tomari (seaports). They would spend a lifetime studying this art. When karate became popular in Japan in the 1920’s (largely due to Funakoshi Gichin), Okinawan masters organized their local arts for national recognition to distinguish the different type of karate they were teaching in the three towns coined “Shuri-te,” “Naha-te,” and “Tomari-te.” The development and influence of Shuri-te by Bushi Matsumura (1797-1889?) and Yasutsune Itosu is also known as linear hard-style Shorin karate. This style uses speed and impact and thought to destroy the opponent. Naha-te is known as a soft-style, circular karate, or the Shorei style.