Okinawan Heritage

Suibukan of Indiana is run by Shihan Kris Gravender and Shidoin Brian Bengtsson. Both have over 15 years of training under O'Sensei Yamashita's karate. They took over the dojo in 2016 from Hanshi Jerry Wroblewski, who ran the school for over 40 years after Renshi James Ninios retired. Use the links above to trace our ancestroy back over 400 years to the island of Okinawa.

 
Kris Gravender, 4th Dana Karate, 4th Dan Kobudo, 1st Dan Aikido

Kris Gravender, 4th Dana Karate, 4th Dan Kobudo, 1st Dan Aikido

Brian Bengtsson, Shidoin, 3rd Dan Karate, Shodan Kobudo, Shodan Hojutsu

Brian Bengtsson, Shidoin, 3rd Dan Karate, Shodan Kobudo, Shodan Hojutsu


Sensei Jerry Wroblewski, Period of time: 1975-2016

Sensei Jerry Wroblewski, Period of time: 1975-2016

Sensei Wroblewski began training under Sensei Ninios in his teens, and has given the majority of his adult life to the study and instruction of karate. MKA is adorned with trophies  and awards from his performances at tournaments and demonstrations. Sensei’s karate career has taken him on international travel several times, including trips to study under Sensei Nakazato in Japan. He routinely hosts Sensei Yamashita's seminars at MKA. Sensei remained a close personal friend and steward to Sensei Ninios after accepting responsibility for running the school from him. Tall, fast and powerful, Sensei is as welcoming and caring for the well-being of his students as he is intimidating to fight. He is well known for the pursuit of perfection of character through the practice of karate. Once, upon learning of Sensei's Kyoshi title ("teacher of teachers", or "master teacher"), a student asked "What should we call you? Sensei? Kyoshi?" Without hesitating, Sensei told his student to, "call me Jerry." 


James Ninios, Period of time: 1965-2013

James Ninios, Period of time: 1965-2013

Midwest Karate Academy mourns the loss of our founder, Sensei James Ninios, on September 15, 2013. His martial arts career was storied, including a record of only one loss in 33 fights as a black belt in competition. He is sorely missed and fondly remembered by all his students.

Extracted from his obituary, "...While serving in the United States Marine Corp in Okinawa, Jim was awarded his Black Belt by Master Eizo Shinabuku Sensei in 1962. Returning to South Bend, he met Tadashi Yamashita and formed Midwest Karate Academy in 1964 which continues today. Jim was Japanese Karate Association Grand Champion for two years. Jim was also American Karate Association Grand Champion. While preparing to defend his championship title in December of 1967 in Los Angeles, he suffered a brain aneurism. Jim fought back and continued to teach until he retired from instruction in 1977. Jim was inducted into the Karate Association Hall of Fame in 1972..."   


Tadashi Yamashita, Period of time: 1942 - present

Tadashi Yamashita, Period of time: 1942 - present

Master Tadashi Yamashita, possessor of 10th dan in Shorin Ryu Karate do, Kobayashi branch, and 10th dan in Kobudo, Yamashita-Matayoshi style, is the chief instructor of Shorin Ryu and of Zen Okinawa Kobudo Renmei in the USA. Born in Japan in 1942, he lived in Okinawa starting at the age of 8. He started the study of martial arts 10, and he won his first dan at the age of 16. Today, he lives permanently in Los Angeles, where he moved at 24. Master Yamashita Tadashi is one of the most well known instructors at an international level and he is considered to be an authority in traditional arms of Okinawa worldwide. He is the youngest karateka in the history of Japan to reach the 7th dan, when he was 27 years old. The title was awarded to him after examinations in 1968 by Choshin Chibana, and his personal teacher in Okinawa, Shugoro Nakazato. In the United States there are over 60 traditional dojos under his supervision.


Shugoro Nakazato, Period of time, 1919-2016

Shugoro Nakazato, Period of time, 1919-2016

Described as a "one punch artist" by some of his American students, Nakazato has developed his karate sparring into a fine fighting art. He first started karate training in 1935 under Seiichi Iju at Minato ward, Sakai City, Osaka, staying with him until 1940. At the same time Nakazato trained in the kobudo weapons bo, sai, nunchaku, tonfa and nichokama under Seiro Tonaki. Next, Nakazato entered the Japanese army, where he taught bayonet and military discipline to new recruits on the mainland. He returned to Okinawa to become a student of Chosin Chibana. In 1951 Nakazato opened a dojo in conjunction with Chibana, which he called The Chibana Dai Ichi Dojo. In 1955, after receiving his shihan license from Chibana, Nakazato opened his present dojo at Aja, calling it The Shorin-ryu Shorinkan, Nakazato Dojo. He also resumed bojutsu training under Seiro Tonaki's teacher's son, Masami Chinen. On November 4, 2007, The Prime Minister, under the hand of the Emperor of Japan, awarded to Nakazato Sensei the "Order of the Rising Sun with Gold and Silver Rays" - Asahi Soukou sho. From all the prefectures in Japan a total of 960 Asahi medals had been awarded in various fields with Shugoro Nakazato Sensei being the ONLY martial artist to be presented with this prestigious award.


Choshin Chibana, Period of time, 1885-1969

Choshin Chibana, Period of time, 1885-1969

Choshin Chibana was born into a distinguished family in Okinawa's Shuri Tori-Hori village (presently Naha City, Shuri Tori-Hori Town). Choshin began his study of martial arts under Anko Itosu when he was about fifteen years old, and studied under him for thirteen years. When Itosu died at the age of 85, he continued to practice alone for five years, and then opened his first dojo in Tori-hori district at the age of 34. During the World War II Battle of Okinawa, Chibana lost his family, his livelihood, his dojo, a number of students, and nearly his life. He fled the war, but afterward returned to Shuri from Chinen Village and began teaching again. In May of 1956, the Okinawa Karate Federation was formed and he assumed office as its first President. By 1957, Chibana had received the title of Hanshi (High Master) from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association). On April 29, 1968, was awarded the 4th Order of Merit by the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his devotion to the study and practice of Okinawan karate-do. Chibana was the last of the pre-World War karate masters, also called the "Last Warrior of Shuri". He was the first to establish a Japanese ryu name for an Okinawan karate style, calling Itosu's karate "Shorin-Ryu" (or "the small forest style") in 1928.


Yasutsune Itosu Period of time: 1831-1915

Yasutsune Itosu Period of time: 1831-1915

Itosu began his tode (karate) study under Nagahama Chikudun Pechin. His study of the art led him to Sokon Matsumura. He was famous for the superior strength of his arms, legs and hands. Itosu served as a secretary to the last king of the Ryukyu Islands until Japan abolished the Okinawa-based native monarchy in 1879. In 1901, he was instrumental in getting karate introduced into Okinawa's schools. In 1905, Itosu was a part-time teacher of To-te at Okinawa's First Junior Prefectural High School. It was here that he developed the systematic method of teaching karate techniques that are still in practice today. He created and introduced the Pinan forms as learning steps for students, because he felt the older kata were too difficult for schoolchildren to learn. The five Pinan forms were created by drawing from two older forms: kusanku and chiang nan. Itosu is also credited with taking the large Naihanchi form and breaking it into the three well-known modern forms Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, and Naihanchi Sandan. While Itosu did not invent karate himself, he codified the kata learned from his master, Matsumura. He taught many karate masters, including Gichin Funakoshi . Itosu’s head student and successor was Chosin Chibana, who formed Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu from Itosu's version of Shuri-Te.


Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura Period of time: 19th aeon

Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura Period of time: 19th aeon

Bushi Matsumura was born in 1797, and died in 1889. Matsumura grew up in Yamagawa village of the city of Shuri, Okinawa. He began his training in karate-do under Sakugawa when he was 14 years old. According to tradition, it was at Bushi’s father’s request that Sakugawa teach him. Sakugawa trained him up until his death. Bushi was recruited into the service of the Sho family. It is also known that he served as a bodyguard to the last three Ryukyuan Kings. Many sources say that Bushi Matsumura trained in China, and it is certainly a strong tradition. We do know that he spent at least 20 years there from the records that were kept for the Okinawan King. He also trained under the Chinese military attaché Kusanku. Matsumura originated the Pinewood kata Chinto and created the karate style of Shorin-Ryu. Among his noteworthy students were Yasutsune Azato, Yasutsune Itosu, Choshin Chibana, Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan.


Tode Sakugawa Period of time: 18th aeon

Tode Sakugawa Period of time: 18th aeon

"Tode" Sakugawa was born in 1733 in Shuri, Okinawa. He is considered a pioneer in the development of Karate. He studied under Peichin Takahara and Kusanku, who was a Chinese military attaché stationed in Okinawa. Sakugawa is known to have made several trips to China where he combined Chinese kenpo techniques with Okinawa-te. Through Sakugawa, the kata Kusanku was introduced. Also, important innovations were the Sakugawa Bo Form and dojo kun (dojo etiquette). Sakugawa is known to have studied the staff in China and later lived in the Akata village, Shuri. He taught the use of the staff to his most significant student Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura.