Okinawa Gojuryu Kenkyu Kai
The Okinawa Gojuryu Kenkyu Kai (“Kenkyukai”) exists as a world-wide association of dojo, affiliated for the purpose of researching the Goju Ryu concepts of , the organization’s Chairman. The Kenkyukai has branch dojo, called shibu, in many parts of the world, including the Asia Pacific (New Zealand, Indonesia, Australia, India), North America (Iowa, District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Canada, Wisconsin), South America (Venezuela), and Europe (Lithuania, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Portugal, England, Hungary, Italy, France, and Portugal). The organization follows a written set of regulations (most recently revised on July 3, 2016), collects yearly dues from members, and grades students to and within the black belt level.
The Kenkyukai conducts research on Okinawa Goju Ryu kata, with a focus on the basic technique, to develop techniques that prove practical and effective. The organization aims to further and develop Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate-do, including nurturing skilled instructors, enhancing technical research, studying Goju Ryu, and publishing written material related to research conducted within the organization.
November 2008 Meeting in Okinawa
In November 2008, the Jundokan held a formal gathering in Naha, Okinawa to celebrate the organization’s 55th anniversary. The event spanned several days and included several formal training sessions, a public demonstration, social gatherings, and meetings of Jundokan seniors and officials.
At the time, Taira Masaji trained as a senior member of the Jundokan. Goju Ryu practitioners came from around the world to visit and train at the Jundokan, and many practitioners came specifically for the opportunity to learn from Taira Masaji. Also this same time, Taira Masaji provided his material to followers through a website called "TairaBunkai.com", limiting access to subscribers only. Glenn McIlvride and Brendan Murray created and administered the TairaBunkai website. During the Jundokan 55th anniversary training events, Taira Masaji assembled a "break out" group of TairaBunkai.com subscribers. The group, widely attended by international practitioners, focused on training in Taira Masaji’s methods.
One evening, during a meeting of Jundokan seniors and shibu dojo representatives, a discussion arose about whether Taira Masaji should expose his brand of Goju Ryu openly. Some parties believed the material should remain secret, exposed only to those who attained a high enough proficiency level to put the material in perspective, versus others who wanted even more exposure than the training format at the Jundokan 55th anniversary event allowed for international students.
Immediately following the Jundokan meeting, Glenn McIlvride gathered several close friends and training companions at Sam's Maui, a popular Hawaiian steakhouse restaurant on Kokusai Dori (International Street) in Naha. The conversation included consideration of the value of continuing to participate as a member of the Jundokan versus having a vehicle to conduct bunkai (analysis) research and obtain further understanding of Taira Masaji’s material. The discussion included the idea of establishing a research society (kenkyukai) outside of the Jundokan, to resolve the seemingly difficult conflict. Brendan Murray (New Zealand), Bryson Keenan (Indonesia), Glenn Cunningham (New York), Ken Erridge (England), Brian Loterbauer (Iowa), Tino Rossi (Australia), and Yumiko Pittman (Connecticut) attended this informal gathering.
The original concept envisioned an organization that included individuals from diverse dojo, systems, and even styles of karate could join, while simultaneously maintaining their memberships in their original dojo, systems, and styles. However, the concept evolved over time into something different. Taira Masaji and his friend in Okinawa, Yogi Katsuhiko, began developing a framework in support of the kenkyukai concept, with Glenn McIlvride translating and reporting their discussions to the others. Soon after, several participants at the discussion shared the concept with their friends and training companions, and the concept gained popularity.
In August 2011, Taira Masaji left the Jundokan, after having trained as a dedicated student in the dojo since 1968. Soon thereafter, the Kenkyukai organization formed, with Taira Masaji serving as its Chairman, and several of the attendees of the November 2008 informal gathering becoming its informal leaders, including Glenn McIlvride, Bryson Keenan, Brendan Murray, Ken Erridge, Glenn Cunningham, and Brian Loterbauer (who joined the organization in September 2012). Unlike its original concept, the organization framework required interested practitioners to apply for membership, thereby severing ties with the formal organizations to which they previously belonged. The Kenkyukai issued its first shibu cho (branch dojo head) certificates on January 19, 2012.
The organization first sought to go by the name "Okinawa Goju Ryu Jundokan Karate Do Kenkyu Kai", in tribute to Miyazato Eiichi (1922—1999), who founded the Jundokan (where Taira Masaji began his training). However, Miyazato Yoshihiro (Jundokan kancho ("head of household" and son of the late Miyazato Eiichi) asked that the organization name not include "Jundokan", so as to avoid confusion regarding affiliation. Next, the organization sought to use the name "Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate Do Kenkyukai", but this name clashed with the name of an existing organization. Thus, the organization settled on the name Okinawa Gojuryu Kenkyu Kai.
==="All Hands" Gathering===
The Kenkyukai held its first (and thus far only) "all hands" gathering in October 2013, in Naha, Okinawa. Many present estimate attendees at about 200, including shibu cho, their students, and interested persons from around the world participating. The all hands meeting included a four-day seminar focusing on kata, a shibu cho meeting, training with Taira Masaji at his home dojo, and much opportunity for socializing. When discussion arose as to whether to bar non-members from attending, Taira Masaji declared that all could attend (an example of his openness and generosity), but non-members could not attend certain private events (in respect to the organization’s interests).
Taira Masaji regularly gives seminars around the world, open to any interested participant. Taira Masaji has fifteen seminars scheduled for 2017, in Australia, Italy, Hungary, United States, France, Portugal, Switzerland, and New Zealand. Per a policy established at the 2013 all hands shibu cho meeting, and codified in the Kenkyukai Regulations, only a shibu dojo, or a jun shibu dojo with the cooperation of a shibu dojo, may host a seminar featuring Taira Masaji. The seminars typically occur on Saturday and Sunday, with the host having the option of including Friday. Taira Masaji prefers to have two-to-three weeks downtime between seminars, so he can develop new bunkai material for the next seminar, as well as attend to his own training and personal commitments.
Without exception, Taira Masaji does not teach kids classes. Moreover, children may not participate in seminars, for safety purposes. Taira Masaji makes an exception for children placed in a separate group, away from the main seminar body, with a separate designated instructor.
As of February 2017, the Kenkyukai has over thirty shibu (branch dojo), located throughout the world.
Asia Pacific - 12 Shibu
* Dunedin, New Zealand (Brendan Murray)
* Jakarta, Indonesia (Bryson Keenan)
* Thailand (Cesar Camara Martin)
* Australia (Craig Larson)
* Gold Coast Queensland, Australia (Damien Martin)
* Christchurch, New Zealand (Geoff Blokland)
* Gold Coast Queensland, Australia (Hannah Thornton)
* Melbourne, Australia (Pete Keogh)
* Ganapathipuram, Pallikaranai, Chennai, India (R. Regan)
* Brisbane Queensland, Australia (Sinn Chew)
* Melbourne, Australia (Steve Nedelkos)
* Timaru, New Zealand (Tigana Payne)
North America - 11 Shibu
* Mason City, Iowa U.S. (Brian Loterbauer)
* Washington, DC U.S. (Chris Langello)
* Brewster, New York U.S. (Chuck Nuccio)
* Staten Island, New York U.S. (Glenn Cunningham)
* Saugerties, New York U.S. (John and Nancy Eccles)
* Spotswood, New Jersey U.S. (Mark Kapel)
* Seattle, Washington U.S.A. (Mark Loucks)
* Errington, British Columbia, Canada (Martin Nicholson)
* Syracuse, New York U.S. (Sergey Kushnir)
* Milford, Connecticut U.S. (Tanka Ramos)
* Westerlo, New York U.S. (Thomas Starr)
South America - 1 Shibu
* Venezuela, Caracas (Alvaro Campolargo)
Europe - 12 Shibu
* Vilnius, Lithuania (Aivaras Engelaitis)
* Udine, Italy (Andrea Buttazzoni)
* Kaliningrad, Russia (Ekaterina Sidorova)
* Belgium (Freddy Laseure)
* Geneva, Switzerland (Hugo Cuneo)
* Ericeira, Portugal (Joao Pedro Ramalho)
* Southampton Hampshire, England (Ken Erridge and Sue Robinson)
* Hajduszoboszlo, Hungary (Laszlo Kiss)
* Padova, Italy (Mattia Maritan)
* Paris, France (Nirina Rakotozafiminahy)
* Paris, France (Pascal Duroux)
* Lisbon, Portugal (Rui Catarrinha)
Taira Masaji serves as Chairman of the Kenkyukai. Glenn McIlvride serves as Jimukyokucho (Administrative Director), with responsibility for all non-technical aspects of the organization. The Jimukyokucho serves as second only to the Chairman. The Kenkyukai has no board. Within each individual country, and throughout the organization as a whole, the Kenkyukai bases standings on rank, and to a degree age. Lower ranks defer to seniors, including to seniors outside of their regions. Senior ranks do not have outright control over lower ranks, and lower ranks must pay the proper respect and consideration.
The highest ranking member of each country has responsibility for overseeing the organization within that country. Country seniors must carry out their role in a fair and unbiased manner. When two or more members have the same rank, they each oversee their own area. Members must address problems or concerns to the next highest ranked member in their geographical region. An exception exists in only two situations: (1) if a country senior becomes incapacitated and (2) if a party in a dispute feels the senior has not treated him/her in a fair and reasonable manner.
Kenkyukai dojo heads may grade their students up to and including the rank of sandan (third degree black belt). Nonetheless, students of branch dojo may grade within the Kenkyukai, thereby receiving Kenkyukai certification, for any black belt level. All grading for Kenkyukai certification must occur with the involvement of a grading panel. Furthermore, to grade at a Taira seminar, students must submit to an evaluation a year prior, as a level check.
The Kenkyukai has the grades shodan (first degree black belt) through judan (tenth degree black belt). The Kenkyukai also has the ranks of Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi, which Taira Masaji awards based on considerations such as number of years in grade, age, and activity in developing and spreading Goju Ryu.
To grade for shodan, a student must have attained the age of 16 or older and have a minimum or two years of training. For nidan (second degree black belt) and sandan, a student must have at least one year at the next lower grade. To grade for yondan (fourth degree black belt), a student must have at least two years at the next lower grade, three years minimum for godan (fifth degree black belt), and five years minimum for rokudan (sixth degree black belt). In additional to minimum time requirements, nanadan (seventh degree), hachidan (eighth degree), and kyudan (ninth degree) also have age requirements. Only a person deemed by the Grading Committee as worthy of the rank of judan (tenth degree) may receive such a prestigious honor.
All those grading for shodan through sandan must perform kata Sanchin, and those grading for yondan through rokudan must perform kata Tensho. Those grading for shodan through sandan must perform two kata - one elective and one compulsory - chosen from Gekisai I, Gekisai II, Saifa, Seiyunchin, and Shisochin. Those grading for yondan through rokudan must perform must perform two kata - one elective and one compulsory - chosen from Shisochin, Sanseru, Sepai, Kururunfa, Sesan, and Suparinpei. For grading shodan through rokudan, those testing must perform yakusoku kumite demonstrating five applications from the elective kata. Requirements for higher ranks include a documentary examination. For all grading, consideration also includes the applicant’s character, contributions, and activities within the Kenkyukai.
The Jimukyokucho communicates with most shibu dojo by email and sometimes by phone. The Kenkyukai has a "secret page" on Facebook, which all shibu have authorization to access. Many shibu use this Facebook page as an easy means of communication with other shibu. At one time, the Kenkyukai also used MailChimp to host an organization newsletter for shibu.
The Kenkyukai officially posts video content of Taira Masaji’s material on YouTube via the channel "TairaBunkai". As of February 2017, the TairaBunkaaki channel has 286 subscribers. No Kenkyukai member may post seminar material or bunkai on the Internet, with the exception of promotional teaser clips approved by either the Chairman or the Jimukyokucho. Kenkyukai members may not use Kenkyukai material as self-promotion for monetary gain. Shibu may teach seminars at other Kenkyukai dojo, as long as the dates do not conflict with a Taira seminar.