Wadokai Founder

Roy Y. Suenaka, Soke

Roy Yukio Suenaka Sensei, founder of Wadokai Aikido™, is one of contemporary budo’s most experienced practitioners and best-kept secrets. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Suenaka Sensei’s martial instruction began under his father, Warren Kenji Suenaka, who taught his son budo basics and carefully selected his primary martial tutors. These included such legends as Kodenkan Jiu-jitsu founder Henry Seishiro Okazaki, Kosho-ryu Kempo’s legendary James Masayoshi Mitose, judoka (and later, aikidoka) Yukiso Yamamoto, and celebrated kendoka Shuji Mikami, from whom Suenaka Sensei received a nidan (2nd degree black belt).

Suenaka Sensei began his aikido study upon Koichi Tohei’s 1953 visit to Hawaii, and continued his study directly under Founder Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu for eight years, beginning in 1961. That same year, Suenaka Sensei received an aikido menkyo kaiden (master-level proficiency) teaching certificate from O’Sensei, and became the first person to open a successful aikido dojo in Okinawa. He also commenced eight years of private study with renowned Matsumura Seito and Hakutsuru Shorin-ryu Karate-do Grandmaster Hohan Soken, receiving from him the rank of rokudan (6th degree black belt). In addition, Suenaka Sensei continued his judo and jiu-jitsu education at the Kodokan under famed Meijin Kazuo Ito, who personally sponsored Suenaka Sensei’s promotion to sandan (3rd degree black belt) in judo and jiu-jitsu.

In 1972, Suenaka Sensei relocated to Charleston, S.C., where he served as Southeastern U.S. director for Koichi Tohei’s International Ki Society until 1975, when Suenaka Sensei resigned to form the American International Ki Development and Philosophical Society (AIKDPS)™. Suenaka Sensei currently teaches Suenaka-Ha Tetsugaku-HoTM Wadokai Aikido™ and Matsumura Seito Hakutsuru Shorin-ryu Karate-do. He is author of the best-selling Complete Aikido, and in 2003 celebrated his 50th year of aikido study.

Instructors:

While his father supervised his early budo training, Suenaka Sensei is fortunate to have had the opportunity to train with many of contemporary budo’s most celebrated practitioners, beginning in Honolulu, Hawaii and later, in Japan and Okinawa. Suenaka Sensei brings his rich experience with these great teachers to his instruction at Suenaka School of Martial ArtsTM.

Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei – 1883-1969

Founder of aikido, referred to even by non-aikidoka as O’Sensei, or “Great Teacher.” Combined traditional sword, spear and bayonet arts with Daito-ryu aikijiu-jitsu to develop fundamental aikido techniques. Profoundly spiritual, O’Sensei declared that “The true nature of budo is in the loving protection of all things,” and that to intentionally or maliciously harm one’s attacker is to harm oneself, all of which is contrary to nature. Recorded on film performing near-mystical feats of martial prowess. Suenaka Sensei studied under O’Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu (headquarters) in Tokyo for eight years, frequently serving as uchi deshi (live-in apprentice). In 1961, O’Sensei presented Suenaka Sensei with an aikido menkyo kaiden (master-level proficiency) teaching certificate.

Koichi Tohei – b.1920

Former judoka who began his aikido study in 1939. Served as aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei’s chief instructor at the Aikikai Hombu (headquarters) in Tokyo, Japan until O’Sensei’s death in 1969. Tohei Sensei formally broke with the Aikikai in 1971 and formed the Ki no Kenkyukai (International Ki Society), teaching his Shin-Shin Toitsu-style of aikido. Suenaka Sensei first studied with Tohei Sensei during the latter’s historic visit to Hawaii in 1953, resuming upon his arrival in Tokyo in 1961. Suenaka Sensei received an okuden (advanced inner teachings) certificate from Tohei Sensei and served as a shihan (senior instructor) for the Ki no Kenkyukai from 1971 until 1975, as well as and Southeastern U.S. director from 1972 to 1975, whereupon he resigned to form the American International Ki Development and Philosophical Society (AIKDPS)™.

Hohan Soken – 1889-1982

Legendary Okinawan grandmaster of Matsumura Seito and Hakutsuru Shorin-ryu Karate and Kobudo, the latter often referred to as the “White Crane” style of karate. Emigrated to Argentina in 1924 to search for work. Upon his return to Okinawa in 1945, taught karate to a limited number of students until his retirement in 1978. Suenaka Sensei was a private student of Soken Sensei from 1961 until 1972, and received from him the rank of rokudan (6th degree black belt).

Yukiso Yamamoto – 1904-1995

Veteran judoka, he commenced his aikido study upon Koichi Tohei’s 1953 visit to Hawaii. Before his departure, Tohei Sensei awarded Yamamoto Sensei a sandan (3rd degree black belt) in aikido and appointed him chief instructor of the newly-formed Hawaii Aikikai. Suenaka Sensei studied both judo and aikido under Yamamoto Sensei, as well as assistant chief instructors Kazuto Sugimoto Sensei and Isao Takahashi Sensei, from 1953 until 1961.

Kazuo Ito – 1898-1974

Judan-ranked (10th degree black belt) judo instructor and meijin (distinguished master). Even into his 70s, was impossible to defeat in judo competition. A deshi (apprentice) of celebrated judoka Meijin Kyuzo Mifune. Taught at the Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan, the international judo and jiu-jitsu headquarters. Suenaka Sensei studied judo and jiu-jitsu under Ito Sensei and often served as his deshi at the Kodokan from 1961 until 1972. Ito Sensei sponsored Suenaka Sensei’s Kodokan promotion to sandan (3rd degree black belt) in judo and jiu-jitsu in 1970.

Kyuzo Mifune – 1883-1965

Celebrated judo judan (10th degree black belt) and meijin (distinguished master). Chief instructor at the Kodokan, the international judo and jiu-jitsu headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Suenaka Sensei occasionally studied with Mifune Sensei at the Kodokan while a student of Kazuo Ito Sensei.

Shuji Mikami – 1892-1986

Began teaching kendo in Hawaii in the 1930s, then again in 1945 following his school’s World War II closure. A celebrated teacher and widely-acknowledged leader in popularizing kendo in the United States. Suenaka Sensei studied kendo under Mikami Sensei from 1955 to 1958, receiving the rank of nidan (2nd degree black belt).

James Masayoshi Mitose – 1916-1981

Credited with introducing kempo to the United States. Born in Hawaii, Mitose Sensei studied his family art of Kosho-ryu kempo there and in Japan, where he lived from 1920 to 1937. Returning to Hawaii, he taught there until 1952-early 1953, when he relocated to Los Angeles, CA. Suenaka Sensei studied Kosho-ryu kempo under Mitose Sensei from 1949 until Mitose’s departure for the mainland.

Henry Seishiro Okazaki – 1890-1951

Founder of Kodenkan jiu-jitsu, later known as Danzan-ryu. Born in Japan, emigrated to Hawaii in 1906, where he lived and taught until his death. Widely credited with popularizing jiu-jitsu in the United States. Suenaka Sensei studied under Okazaki Sensei from 1948 until 1951.

Warren Kenji Suenaka – 1913-2003

Roy Suenaka Sensei’s father and his first martial instructor, beginning when Suenaka Sensei was four years old. Warren Suenaka Sensei was dan-ranked in aikido, kempo, judo and jiu-jitsu, and meticulously shepherded his elder son’s early martial education. He also studied karate, wrestling and boxing, and was an experienced street fighter.

Ranks and Awards:

  • Menkyo Kaiden (teaching license, certificate of complete mastery) in aikido, awarded by aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei, in 1961. Hachidan (8th degree black belt) in Aikido awarded 1977
  • Hachidan (8th degree black belt) in Matsumura Seito Hakutsuru Shorin Ryu Karatedo & Kobudo awarded 1977
  • Rokudan (6th degree black belt) in Matsumura Seito Hakutsuru Shorin Ryu Karatedo & Kobudo, awarded by Hakutsuru Shorin Ryu founder Hokan Soken, in 1972
  • Sandan (3rd degree black belt) in Kodokan Judo and Jiu Jitsu (dual certificate), awarded by Kazuo Ito and Risei Kano, son of judo founder Jigoro Kano, in 1970
  • Nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Kendo, awarded by Shuji Mikami in 1958
  • Hawaiian State Golden Gloves Boxing from 1954 to 1958

Teaching Experience:

  • Assistant aikido instructor for the Hawaii Aikikai upon receiving first aikido black belt in 1956 and until joining United States Air Force (USAF) in 1958
  • Started first recognized aikido school in the continental U.S. in Sacramento, CA in 1958 and maintained until USAF assignment in Japan in 1961
  • Instructed California Highway Patrol between 1958-1961
  • Instructed Military Police at Mather Air Force Base between 1958-1961
  • Taught judo and aikido at Encino High School, CA in 1960
  • Taught both juvenile offenders and counselors at “Boys Town” in Placerville, CA between 1958-1960
  • Taught combative measures as guest instructor in the USAF Strategic Air Command Survival Training Course at Stead Air Force Base, NV 1958-1961
  • While in Japan, Okinawa and Vietnam between 1961-1972, taught hand-to-hand combat to Military Police, Marines, Army Green Berets, Navy SEALS, the Air Commando Program and the Ryukyu Police Department (Naha City, Okinawa)
  • Started first successful aikido dojo (school) in Okinawa in 1961, which required nightly defense from physical challenges issued by local high-ranking karate practitioners. All challenges were met and won.
  • Opened aikido and karate dojo in Charleston, SC in 1972 which is still in operation
  • Taught Air Force Tactical Recovery Teams in Charleston from 1973-1974
  • Sole instructor of Air Force Security Police in a special program initiated by General Sadler to heighten Charleston Air Force Base security
  • Instructed at the Police Academy in Columbia, SC in 1988-1989 teaching State Police, FBI, city and county SWAT teams, SC State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and correction officers at Columbia Correctional Institute maximum security prison (CCI)
  • Taught Costa Rican special task forces and Presidential Secret Service in 1991. Program sponsored by the Charleston City Police Department
  • Taught special course designed for female and smaller framed officers serving in the Charleston City Police Department in 1994
  • Instructed employees of city, state and county police, jailers, bodyguards, State Department officials, Border Patrol, SWAT, bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, DEA, US Marshals and agents for the Foreign Dignitary Protection Service
  • Conducts annual seminars in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New York and special seminars in California, Washington and Colorado
  • Authored Complete Aikido: Aikido Kyohan in 1998 (Tuttle, Boston)

Timeline:

1944-1958 Warren Suenaka (father):  judo, jiu-jutsu, kenjutsu, kempo and boxing
1948-1952 Henry Seishiro Okazaki, founder:  Kodenkan Jiu-Jutsu and Judo
1949-1953 James Masayoshi Mitose, founder:  Kosho Ryu Kempo
1950-1953 Higami, Matsumoto and Yukiso Yamamoto:  Kodokan Judo
1951-1952 Kalama:  lua
1951-1951 Leong:  kung fu
1953-1976 Koichi Tohei:  aikido
1954-1958 Amateur boxing
1955-1958 Shuji Mikami:  kendo
1957-1958 Nishioka:  Shotokan Karate
1961-1969 Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei, founder:  aikido
1961-1972 Hohan Soken, founder:  Matsumura Seito Hakutsuru Shorin Ryu Karatedo & Kobudo
1961-1970 Kazuo Ito, Kyuzo Mifune:  Kodokan Judo
1961-1963 Masutatsu Oyama, founder:  Kyokushinkai Karate
1962-1962 Chosin Chibana:  Kobayashi Karate
1963-1963 Kanei Uechi, founder:  Uechi Ryu Karate
1964-1964 Ubon-Sing Chub:  kung fu
1964-1965 Masanobu Shinjo, Masanobu Kinjo:  Goju Ryu Karate
1967-1972 Eiichi Miyazato:  Goju Ryu Karate
1972-Present Teaches Suenaka-Ha Tetsugaku Ho Aikido (Wadokai) and Matsumura Seito Hakutsuru Shorin Ryu Karatedo & Kobudo in Charleston, SC