A Brief History of the Martial Arts Journey of Nelson Kyoshi

Nelson Kyoshi was born into a military family. His father was a career United States Navy Officer and a Golden Gloves boxing champion, who was also on the boxing team of the battleship USS Idaho in the 1930s, served on destroyers in WWII, and retired in Key West, Florida. Moving there in 1963, Kyoshi began formal Judo lessons, then karate lessons when the Judo teacher was transferred. “At our first lesson we did over two hundred kicks with each leg,” he recalls, “the next day walking was very interesting.” The first katas were Goju, then a serviceman arrived from Japan, where he had just earned his shodan in Shotokan, so Kyoshi began studying with him.

Upon graduating from Key West High School, Nelson Kyoshi attended the University of Florida (UF), where he studied Wado-ryu with Choule J. Sonu Sensei, who had been on the competition karate team at Tokyo University. There were also many students at UF who shared their techniques in Judo, Aikido, etc. Joining the US Navy, after Boot Camp in San Diego, he was stationed at Mare Island Naval Station, Vallejo, CA, where he found a dojo of Shotokan stylist Al Adams. “I was very impressed with this sensei and his students, they were into training realistically and not locked into only classical Japanese methods. They liked my Wado jujutsu-related waza. I went to watch this dojo compete at the Northern California Karate Championships in Sacramento, but when they were short a person for their team, they told me I would enter as part of their team. I was honored, said OK, they found me a spare gi; I eventually lost, but lost to the eventual winner of the brown belt division.”

Next duty station was Radioman School back in San Diego, where he did find time to study some Goshindo karate at the Marine Base with Senseis Frank Von Lenten and John Rosenberry, who were the hand-to-hand combat instructors. He also would take the ferry to North Island to study Aikido with Sekishiro Sensei. “He was the first of my instructors to have a sense of humor, after he threw you about ten feet or so, he would laugh, and then you would laugh, and everybody in the class would laugh, and then you would get up and then he would do it again!”, Nelson wryly recalls. Wanting to enter another major tournament, took the bus up to Los Angeles, entered Ed Parker’s 1966 International’s, was just amazed at all the different colored gi and the different styles present. He says, “Again, the competitor to whom I lost was the eventual winner of the brown belt division, so I was beaten by the champion. I learned a lot at that tournament, too, watching famous fighters like Alan Steen and Chuck Norris. After Radioman School I was stationed in the Philippines for a year and a half, practiced a lot, but did not find a steady teacher.” Back to the states, then onto the USS Tortuga (LSD 26) for a 1969 WestPac cruise, including quite a lot of time up and down the coast of Viet Nam, up and down some of the rivers, including three times upriver to Saigon and back.

Back in the states, Junior College time, then on to the University of South Florida (USF) at Tampa. There, in 1971, he met Jack Swift Sensei, and began Yoshukai Karate training. In the Tampa area at that time, Yoshukai trained at USF, the Jewish Community Center with Bob Bunning Sensei, and at the Tampa Police Gym with Ron Slinker Sensei. Mike Foster Sensei was the overall head of the organization and he would come by for testing and special training. Kyoshi received his 1st Kyu and Shodan through Yamamoto Sensei, then Nidan, Sandan, and Yondan ranks through Foster Sensei, training with him for over 20 years.  Kyoshi then trained with Mike Sadler Sensei in Alabama for 12 years, being awarded 5th, 6th and 7th Degree Black Belts through him, the latter being in 2005. In 2011, Kyoshi’s students surprised him with a certificate signed by all of them, elevating Kyoshi to 8th Degree Black Belt. Nelson Kyoshi reflects, “I have had the good fortune to be trained by some of the best instructors and fighters in the country, probably the world, and I will always honor them and their teachings. There are, of course, many more details of this story to share in the coming years, and I look forward to writing them down. These writings are my opinions only, and reflect my bias toward what I think training in traditional Yoshukai Karate and related Martial Arts should be. If you have the desire to truly learn the Old Ways, come train with us!”

-Kyoshi Nelson, Director, Sekai Yoshukai Karate Association, January, 2013

(© January, 2013. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published, stored in any type of database or broadcast without the prior written permission of Chris Nelson, Director, Sekai Yoshukai Karate Association, 6372 Station Mill Drive, NW, Norcross, Georgia 30092.)