spacerE Komo Mai! Frames on   off   

Welcome! The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai was established in 1933 by Karate supporters from Hawaii's Okinawan community. The first instructors of the Seinenkai were Mizuho Mutsu, Kamesuke Higashionna, Seishin Uehara and Thomas Shigeru Miyashiro. Mutsu and Higashionna were visiting from Tokyo. Uehara was an Okinawan immigrant and Miyashiro was an Okinawan nisei.

Miyashiro was originally trained in Karate by Kuniyoshi Sensei. He then trained with Kentsu Yabu (Yabu Gunso) in 1927 and Choki Motobu (Motobu No Saru) in 1932. He had a particularly strong connection to Motobu, who had been detained by Immigration officials in Hawaii and denied entry. Miyashiro trained with Motobu for about one month at the Honolulu detention center. It appears that Motobu had asked Mutsu and Higashionna to continue Miyashiro's training.

Karate classed were established in various locations on Oahu. After Mutsu and Higashionna returned to Japan, Uehara and Miyashiro continued to teach. Members of the Seinenkai also trained with Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-Ryu, during his visit in 1934. Karate classes were discontinued during World War Two. The Seinenkai continued to exist for a few years after the War. It gave a demonstration at the first Okinawan Sumo tournament held after the War. This was in 1948 at the Japanese Consulate in Nuuanu.

For over 50 years, the Seinenaki ceased to exist. As a tribute to its original founders, it was reestablished on January 1, 2001 by Karate instructor and historian Charles C. Goodin of the Hikari Dojo. Goodin had been working on a book about Hawaii's Karate pioneers and had consulted with many of the surviving Karate pioneers and the earliest teacher's relatives.

Mizuho Mutsu
circa 1930

In the early days, Karate was not separated into styles and dan ranking did not even exisit. The sayings were "Character first" and "There is no first attack in Karate." A student was very fortunate to find a Sensei who was willing to accept him. Usually, a person the Sensei respected would have to vouch for the student. Once training began, it was grueling and lasted many years. If the student eventually satisfied his Sensei, he might be permitted to teach... but not for money. In Hawaii, most of the early Sensei taught for free or a nominal amount to pay for the temple or church where classes were conducted.

Karate Sensei, like their counterparts in Judo, Kendo and other traditional arts, were respected members of the community. And they worked hard in their personal lives to deserve this respect. Quiet, dignified, strict, but kindhearted, these are the traits of the Sensei we remember... and should emulate.

Miyashiro, Azama,
Higashionna & Uehara
Honolulu, 1933

Karate Thoughts Blog

spacerHawaii's Importance

Karate originated in Okinawa, with heavy influences from China. The original characters for Karate meant "China Hand" and were pronouced "To-Te" or "Tu-Di". The first Okinawan immigrants to the United States arrived in Hawaii in 1900. This was even before Karate had been introduced to the Okinawan school system. The immigration would continue until by the mid-1920's, there were over 20,000 Okinawans living in Hawaii.

Okinawans naturally brought their martial arts with them. Karate and kobudo experts and students worked on the sugar plantations and occassionally demonstated their arts at cultural events, such a Bon Dances and weddings. Other plantation workers, and even gangs which preyed upon elderly immigrants, soon discovered the Okinawans' "secret" art of self-defense. Early Hawaii immigrants (issei), such as Seio Morikone, Chinzen Kinjo, Seiichi Urasaki, Chonin Sanra Arakaki, Watoku Higa, Kizo Teruya, Seishin Uehara, Shuichi Agena, and Ansei Ueshiro, were students of Itosu, Motobu and Kyan, among others. Many where familiar with the Naihanchi kata, but not the Pinan kata as the Pinan had not yet been introduced by Itosu before they left their homeland.

Some of the many senior Karate instructors who have visited Hawaii over the years include Kentsu Yabu (1927), Choki Motobu (1932), Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashionna (1933), Chojun Miyagi (1934), Mas Oyama (1952), Hirokazu Kanazawa (1961), Tsuyoshi Chitose (1961), Kanki Izumigawa (1961), Akio Nozoe (1961), Shigenobu Nakano (1961), Hironori Otsuka (1962), Masataka Mori (1963), Gogen Yamaguchi (1966, 1969), Tetsuhiko Asai (1966), Shoshin Nagamine (1969, 1978, 1984, 1996), Seigi Nakamura (1978), Seikichi Odo (1982 - 2002), Chokei Kishaba (1985), Chosei Motobu (2001), Katsuhiko Shinzato (1985, 2003, 2005), Chosei Motobu (2001), Morio Higaonna (2004), and many others.

Kamesuke Higashionna
from Karate Kenpo, 1933

Polynesian Boxing, circa
1795. A Boxing-Match in
Hapaee, by John Webber

Other Martial Arts. Of course, Karate was not the first martial art to be practiced in Hawaii. Upon their arrival in Hawaii in 1885, a large group of Japanese contract workers gathered at Iolani Palace where they gave demonstrations of Kendo and Sumo! Ju Jitsu was taught in Hawaii before 1900. There was a strong Ju Jitsu group in Hilo, Hawaii. It was there that Henry Seishiro Okazaki (founder of Danzan-Ryu) learned Ju Jitsu and other arts, including Ryukyu Karate. He later taught on Maui and eventually settled on Oahu. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, came to Hawaii in 1913 and September, 1932. See the History of Judo in Hawaii at the Judo Black Belt Association of Hawaii website. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, came to Hawaii in February, 1961. Koichi Tohei (founder of the Ki Society), who had come to Hawaii to teach in the 1950s, accompanied Ueshiba Sensei. See Aikido in Hawaii at the Aikido Hawaii website. One of their students in Hawaii was Sadao Yoshioka.

Combining elements of Karate and Ju Jitsu, Masayoshi James Mitose formulated Kempo Jiu-Jitsu, later popularized by instructors such as William K. S. Chow, as Kenpo Karate.

And Hawaiian warriors had their own armed and unarmed martial arts for hundreds of years. The Hawaiian art of hand-to-hand combat was known as Lua and continues to be taught in the Hawaiian community. See LUA: A Fighting Chance, by Betty Fullard-Leo, at the Coffee Times website.


The goals of the new Hawaii Karate Seinenkai are as follows:

spacerSeinenkai Salutes

The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai salutes the many Karateka who have come to Hawaii since the turn of the century (1900) to help establish and spread the art.

Hawaii's own Karateka also deserve recognition for their contributions to the art, as do their students, families and supporters. We are what we are because of all of them!

The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai salutes (click here for Alphabetical Listing):

Visitors to Hawaii Before WWII:
(lists sorted by birthdate):

An historic gathering of Okinawan Karate masters, 1937. Three of these masters came to Hawaii. Can you identify them?

Visitors to Hawaii After WWII:
Hawaii Karateka (and Supporters):

spacerHawaii Karate in the Media

History is only history when someone writes it down! Remarkably, very little was ever written in English about the early days of Karate in Hawaii. The groundbreaking work in documenting the subject was undertaken by Bruce A. Haines in his 1962 University of Hawaii master's thesis, Karate and Its Development in Hawaii to 1959. Haines later wrote Karate's History and Traditions (Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1968), a broader text which includes a chapter on Karate in the United States, including Hawaii.

The general lack of literature, however, has led many people to incorrectly assume that Karate was not present in Hawaii until after World War Two (when returning GIs brought back the art with them). This is incorrect. Karate students and teachers were present in Hawaii from the earliest days of Okinawan immigration (1900). In fact, one of the original twenty-six immigrants was a Karate student (and his son would later sponsor the visit of Miyagi Sensei in 1934)!

Click above for this article

The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai encourages Karate journalism, particularly articles and features in various media about the history of Karate in Hawaii. See:


Kentsu Yabu and students
Honolulu, 1927

Karate's roots in Hawaii should be preserved. By learning about our forefathers, we gain a better appreciation of this peaceful art and the rich Okinawan culture from which is arose. When we practice Karate, we can feel their eyes reaching across time to observe our technique and composure.
Charles C. Goodin
4253 Halupa Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96818 USA
tel/cel: (808) 488-5773
The spirit of Karate is the Aloha spirit

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