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Shotokan Karate of America (SKA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach traditional karate-do in the United States. It was founded and is still led by Tsutomu Ohshima, a direct student of Gichin Funakoshi, the father of Shotokan karate. Today, Ohshima is recognized as the shihan (chief instructor) of many other SKA-affiliated Shotokan organizations worldwide. SKA's national headquarters are in Los Angeles.
Ohshima (1930-) began practicing karate at the Waseda University club in 1948, after having already trained in sumo, kendo, and judo during his childhood. At the time, Funakoshi, in his early 80s, was still teaching at Waseda and other universities. Ohshima's leading seniors at Waseda included Hiroshi Noguchi and Shigeru Egami, and he became captain of the club in 1952. In 1955, he moved to University of Southern California to continue his studies, and led his first U.S. practice soon afterwards. In 1957, he started the first university karate club in the United States, at Caltech, and in 1959 founded the Southern California Karate Association. As more dojos were opened in California and throughout the U.S., the organization was renamed to Shotokan Karate of America in 1969.
SKA conducts regional special practices known as "Special Trainings" (or gasshuku in Japanese) twice a year, usually in the winter and summer. These consist of a series of intense practices held over a short period of time, in a communal setting. Special Training is considered a crucial aspect of SKA practice, as Ohshima writes, "I hope that all Shotokan members will attend at least one special training because this is the essence of traditional martial arts practice." One strict rule of Special Training is that no participant may leave until the Special Training is officially over; leaving early without permission of the chief instructor entails automatic expulsion from SKA.
SKA uses the ranking system originally introduced by Gichin Funakoshi, with eight kyu ranks, and five dan ranks. Contrary to many other karate organizations, there are no ranks above godan (5th dan), which Tsutomu Ohshima was awarded by Funakoshi in 1957. The godan rank is the highest rank ever awarded by Gichin Funakoshi. In SKA it is attainable by talented individuals with several decades of dedicated practice and teaching.
SKA maintains a directory of SKA dojos in the United States on its website. Tsutomu Ohshima is also recognized as the chief instructor of several SKA affiliates outside the United States, including: