In 1962 Lawrence C. Hawkins, Jr. began his training of Chito-ryu under Dometrich Sensei at the Yoseikan Hombu. At a time of racial and social unrest, Dometrich Sensei wholly accepted Hawkins, an African-American, as his student just as O Sensei had accepted a Caucasian-American soldier to train in his dojo during post-WWII era Japan. Hawkins, the current Chief Advisor of the United States Chito-ryu-karate Federation and founder of Yoseikan II Cincinnati, left left for a three year stint in the U.S. Air Force. Upon Hawkins Sensei’s return to the Hombu, Dometrich Sensei said to his student “I don’t need anymore tournament champions, I need teachers.” Hawkins Sensei was working at Proctor and Gamble during the day, attending law school at night and practicing karate during his spare time. Conflicting schedules with law school, work and karate resulted in Hawkins Sensei requesting permission to start his own karate school in 1971.
The first location of Yoseikan II Cincinnati was in the Mont Michel Apartments in Clifton from 1971-1972. One of the initial students offered their apartment as a training space and when there were too many students to train in the apartment, training moved to the clubhouse of the apartment complex. In 1972 the dojo made a bold, daring move to its first public domain on Woodburn Ave. There was no locker room, but there was a small bathroom (4x6ft.) in which 2 or 3 students could change. The next location was on the second floor at Peebles Corner (1973-1982), at the corner of McMillan and Gilbert, across from a bus stop and TV store. There were two small rooms with a common stairwell between them; one room had a tiny office attached. Students used to change in a mop closet in the stairwell. In the winter, the pipes would sometimes freeze, resulting in no heat, and the floors would become covered with ice. Once, Hawkins Sensei delivered a kiai and cockroaches actually fell off the wall. It was also very hot in the summer. One morning, the students arrived to find one of the two doors kicked in. Someone had broken in and stolen some training tools.
The school’s location moved around a few more times to include a day care, the Alms Hotel and Burnett Woods before being established at the first building Hawkins Sensei owned on Reading Road in North Avondale. From the fall of 1984 to the winter of 2007 this location transformed from an empty warehouse into a dojo with a wooden training deck, a Japanese garden, separate male and female locker rooms, a social center (complete with a beer tap!), a fitness center, and a sauna. Of course, none of these amenities could compare to Hawkins Sensei’s dedication and commitment to his teacher, students and Chito-ryu karate.
As the number of dedicated students joining Hawkins Sensei’s school grew each year, it became apparent that the dojo was not going to be able accommodate them. In November of 2007, Hawkins Sensei announced the move of Yoseikan II to its present location at Taconic Terrace in Woodlawn. A former television studio was transformed into a state of the art dojo and law office. The Yoseikan II Chito-Kai Kan, as named by Dometrich Sensei, represents the years of dedication, hard work and loyalty by Hawkins Sensei. His achievements as a karate teacher and lawyer have inspired his students and others to embrace and pursue endeavors as would the martial artist and that is to live life with the passion and discipline required to properly learn and understand what one is doing.
Thank you, Kyoshi Hawkins, for the opportunity to train in the martial arts under your tutelage.
Written by Sensei Nazanin Tork