The history of Kenshikai Karate and the Upper West Side dojo is a rich one. It starts many centuries ago when the first forms of unarmed combat that could be described as Karate were created on the island of Okinawa, Japan. The warrior class of the time (the Samurai) were the only members of society allowed to carry weapons and therefore others needed to defend themselves with their empty (kara) hands (te). In 1917, Gichin Funakoshi first introduced his system of Okinawan Karate to mainland Japan. It was named Shotokan Karate. A few years later, he demonstrated his art for the emperor and royal family of Japan. This helped solidify Karate within the culture of Japan.
In 1938 a young man named Mas Oyama, began studying directly under Funakoshi. After many years of training, Mas Oyama began studying another Japanese art, Goju-ryu karate under a Korean master, So Nei Chu. It was the melding of these two systems, Shotokan and Goju-ryu (as well as Chinese Kempo that Oyama studied as a child) that inspired Mas Oyama to create Kyokushin Karate and open his first dojo in 1953. Kyokushin is very similar in style and technique to the Kenshikai we study today.
In 1956, a young man, Tadashi Nakamura began his training with Mas Oyama. Nakamura had trained in Goju himself for a few years and was one of Kyokushin's rising stars. In 1966 Mas Oyama sent Nakamura to the United States to open a Kyokushin branch in New York. He began with a small school connected at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was at this school that a boy named William Oliver first studied Kyokushin Karate. Although this dojo was known as one of the most physically difficult and the boy who would become our Shuseki-Shihan was small, his spirit was unstoppable. He trained and fought with men twice his age and twice his size. In 1976 Shuseki-Shihan Oliver was invited to represent the United States in the All World Kyokushin tournament in Japan. This was a bare-knuckle knockdown event without weight divisions. Shuseki-Shihan changed the world of Karate at this event. He was the first to showcase that acrobatic and exotic techniques, such as jumping kicks, spinning kicks and boxing style footwork could persevere over the traditional, flat footed, power based fighting style of the Kyokushin.
Not long after this event, Kaicho Nakamura, due to political and philosophical differences, decided it was time to branch off from Kyokushin and begin a new system. This was known as Seido Karate. Seido Karate was headquartered in New York and began to flourish immediately. Shuskei-Shihan Oliver became a head instructor at the Honbu (headquarters) in midtown Manhattan. In 1985, Kaicho Nakamura and Shuseki-Shihan Oliver decided it was time for him (Shuseki-Shihan) to start his own program outside of the Honbu. He opened his first dojo on March 12th, 1985 at 99th street and Broadway. It was at this dojo that most of the current instructors and black belts began their training under Shuseki-Shihan. The dojo grew and later moved to a larger space at 104th st. and Broadway.
In the summer of 2001, Shuseki-Shihan Oliver, along with some of the most well renowned instructors within Seido (Shihan Monte Allen, Shihan Leighton Barker and Shihan Paul Sookdar) came to a very difficult decision. Due to concerns within the organization, they felt it was necessary to leave Kaicho Nakamura and Seido Karate. This was the birth of the Kenshikai Association and the newly named Upper West Side Kenshikai dojo.
The Kenshikai Association began to flourish and soon thereafter two more schools joined the Kenshikai family. These are both located in South Africa and are currently headed by Sensei Shaun Burgess and Senpai Bernadine Moorcroft respectively.
November 20th, 2004 was a dark day for the members of the Kenshikai and the martial arts community as a whole. Shuseki-Shihan Oliver passed away in his dojo. We are greatly lessened by his loss yet remember his teachings that were passed from generation to generation "Fall down seven times, get up eight". In this spirit, the Upper West Side Kenshikai would continue. The remaining heads of the Kenshikai Association asked Sensei Matthew Fremon, one of Shuseki-Shihan's highest ranking students, to continue the dojo. January 3rd, 2005 the doors opened at the Upper West Kenshikai's new location at 105th st. and Broadway. Due to the support of all of the students, parents and seniors, as well as the rest of the Kenshikai Association, three years later UWS Kenshikai was able to move up to it's current location at 928 Columbus ave.
We must remember those that came before us, that paved the way for our training. This is the Do, the way.