Leadership of WYKKO

The Life of

Grandmaster Katsuoh Yamamoto

In 1938, in Miyaknoji City, a son was born to Suehachi and Maste Yamamoto; this son would later become the Grandmaster of Yoshukai Karate, Soke Yamamoto. 

As a youth, he studied Judo as a way to become strong.  However, sometime after entering Jr. High School, the young Yamamoto was set upon by a group of young men and beaten.  This defeat made him question his belief of Judo as a practical martial art for self-defense.  After graduating from school, the determined young man entered the Japanese Ground Forces and also began studying karate.  The future karate master had begun his lifelong study of Karate.

After being transferred to the Kumamoto Armed Forces Base, the young Yamamoto began studying under the guidance of Dr. Chitose, the Founder of the Chitoryu Karate.  Between natural ability and great determination, the young man advanced quickly from novice to black belt and from black belt onward to being the Number One Practitioner of Japan by the age of 22, in 1960.  During this time of severe training, Yamamoto Sensei trained to the point of having blood in his urine and undergoing such a strenuous schedule that pushed his abilities to their limits.  Dr. Chitose was a great influence on the young and upcoming karate sensation and would bestow the name Yoshukan as the name of the Yamamoto dojo.  This name would later be changed to Yoshukai when Soke was recognized by Dr. Chitose as a Master Instructor of karate.

In 1967, Dr. Chitose asked Yamamoto Sensei to accompany him to Canada to demonstrate karate.  During this trip, many Canadian and American karate-ka and other fighters challenged Yamamoto to matches but none were successful.  At this time, one of his unique demonstrations was to perform a flying side kick on the rim of a basketball goal by taking only a step to gain his momentum; by the conclusion of the tour Yamamoto Sensei had proven his abilities without any reservations. 

During the 1960's some of Yamamoto Sensei's students would open dojos in the US in Florida and later Illinois and Alabama.  Throughout the following decades, Yoshukai would spread across the United States, Canada, Germany, South America, and around the world.  Soke traveled a great deal to help instruct and inspire his students.  The students in the United States were particularly lucky as Soke visited almost every fall and routinely brought other instructors with him from Japan.  During these annual visits, Soke would often perform feats of what could be called nearly super-human feats of strength and ability.  Many of the American practitioners were inspired by Soke's demonstrations and he enjoyed watching his students challenge themselves and was always gracious when giving advice or reviewing a student's progress.

It is of special notice that Soke was instrumental in the returning of General Yamashita's remains from the Philippines after negotiations with Philippine President Marcos.  Soke raised the necessary funding by fighting a tiger in a cage match.  The match was originally scheduled to take place in Haiti but was re-set and completed in another country due to the Haitian Government canceling the match due to extreme International pressure.  During the next year, after the cancellation, Soke trained in secret for this match which was held at a secret location to avoid more interference.  On the day of the match, Soke and the tiger gazed at each other for over six hours until Soke entered the cage and dispatched the tiger using the traditional bo and sai.  Soke would later state that this match was the most important event in his over six decades of martial arts experience.

In 2000, Soke decided to reorganize the United States branch of Yoshukai under the leadership of Kaicho Hiroaki Toyama and Kaicho Mike Culbreth.  Soke bestowed the name World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization and recognized the WYKKO as the only sanctioned Yoshukai Karate Organization outside of Japan.

In April of 2001, Soke held a celebration of his 50th Anniversary of studying Martial Arts in Kitakyushu, Japan.  Masters from various karate styles were asked to perform demonstrations for the event.  Soke performed a spectacular breaking demonstration by breaking ten slabs of ice with an elbow strike.

Soke continued to visit and tour his various schools around the world over the next decade, assisted by Kaicho Toyama and Kaicho Culbreth as well as chief instructors from Japan.  Soke's last visit to the United States was in late 2016.  Sadly, Soke passed away on February 12th, 2017 after a valiant fight with cancer.  The WYKKO mourned the loss of Soke Yamamoto and held a memorial service in Los Angeles, CA, under the direction of Fuku-Kaicho Gerry Blank, WYKKO West Coast Director.  Yoshukai instructors from across the world attended this service.

Soke Yamamoto's legacy continues to live as he influenced thousands of karate-ka over the decades from all parts of the World.  From his humble beginnings as a youthful practitioner of Judo to his years as a soldier and novice karate-ka Soke always strove to achieve more than his peers.  Soke's ultimate goal of becoming a Master of Karate was recognized at an early age and his life will be remembered as an example of what can be achieved when one's goal is to exceed the limits of what others have achieved before.  Soke's spirit lives in every karate-ka who pushes past their limits.

Thank You, Soke, for your example of a life well lived!  Osu!

Update March 8, 2018

World Yoshukai Directors

Kaicho Hiroaki Toyama

I have been intrigued by the martial arts when I was a child, as is evident with my forty years of experience in training and instructing in martial arts. I took judo and kendo instruction before studying karate. I was lucky to study Yoshukai Karate under our grand master, Mr. Yamamoto and his wife, Mrs. Sumiko. I studied in Kitakyushu City in Japan.

In 1975, I was privileged to travel to the United States to study under and work with Master Yuki Koda, director of U.S. Yoshukai Karate. Master Koda was named 1997 Instructor of the Year by Black Belt Magazine. Even though he passed away in March of 1997 after a battle with cancer.

In the 1970's and 1980's, I competed in many tournaments in the U.S. I was ranked in the Top 10 by Black Belt Magazine in the early 1980's. I was named National Champion in U.S. Yoshukai rankings in 1989 and Instructor of the year in 1992. In 2000, I was proud to receive my seventh degree black belt ranking. During this time, I am proud to have taught many fine students, some of which became interested in kickboxing competition in the 1980's. Two of them have since taken world kickboxing championship titles. They are Gerry Blanck and Cheryl Wheeler. Cheryl was also chosen Woman of the Year by Black Belt Magazine in 1997.

My dedication to WYKKO is also made possible by the support of my wife Donna and three children Crosby, Adam, and Scarlett. Their help and understanding contribute to both my abilities and my time.

We are very proud to have quality instructors and black belts in World Yoshukai, many of which are national champions and nationally ranked. They are both strong and supportive. As Shihan Mike Culbreth and I join together in this organization, we will continue to search for true karate and to teach karate-do.

Kaicho Mike Culbreth


     I began training in Yoshukai Karate in 1974 at 18 years of age in Brewton, AL.  Like every other young kid I was infatuated with the martial arts and had no idea that I would end up receiving my Black Belt much less becoming a Co-Director of the World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization.  It was fate that I was one of the first persons that Mr. Toyama met when he first came to the United States and we have grown toward this phase in both of our lives.  World Yoshukai Karate has become my way of life for me with the support of my wife, Denese and my daughter Brooke who are both Black Belts in Yoshukai.  Denese is the first female to receive a rank of Shihan in the United States.  I am an 8th degree Black Belt in World Yoshukai and I received two of my ranks while in Japan and the 8th degree was received in Canada.  There are only three 8th Degrees presented in the United States by our Grand Master and they are, Kaicho Hiroaki Toyama, Pensacola, Florida Hu-Kaicho Gerry Blanck, Pacific Palisades, California, and my-self.  I was presented my Gold Belt from Master Yamamoto in 2013.  The Gold Belt symbolizes the top level of training and experience in Yoshukai.  I have had the privilege to have known Master Yamamoto for over 43 years.  Master Yamamoto was very close to my family and my wife’s family. When I was a young black belt Master Yamamoto took me under his wing and became a mentor and father like figure in my life.  We had many special moments together.  During this time when Master Yamamoto came to the States he would stay at our home for weeks and months at a time.  Due to this I was able to train and learn directly from Master Yamamoto the true Yoshukai that he founded.  I have trained directly under our Grand Master since white belt.  It helps me to pass on to the World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization the true Yoshukai Karate that he founded.  I was the assistant Director for many years under the direction of Master Yuki Koda before his passing in 1997. We are the Founders of the World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization and were given written permission by Grand Master Yamamoto to form this Organization in the United States in 2000.  World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization is the only Yoshukai that was and is authorized to teach, train and promote karate students and Black Belts with written authorization from Grand Master Yamamoto.   Kaicho Toyama and I never left the direction of Grand Master Yamamoto.  I have been a National ranked competitor in kata, weapons, forms, point fighting and full-contact karate and this was largely due to the training and leadership my Instructors had instilled in me.  I placed second in 1982 and 1984 in Japan at the Knock-Down Karate Championships.  Both wins were by decision.  I have traveled from the United States with the Yoshukai Karate Team and we took first place in the team Japanese Knock-down fighting competition.  I also participated in an Expo in Hawaii and won first place in the heavy weight Japanese knock-down fighting competition.  I have challenged myself in heavy and speed breaking that includes ice, baseball bats, concrete, stones, and multiple boards.  I have competed not only in the United States but internationally as well.  I have gone as far as Peru, Taiwan, Japan (many trips), and other countries to help spread the knowledge of the Yoshukai martial arts.  I have attended many martial arts seminars to help increase my knowledge of the martial arts.  I provide self-defense and rape prevention seminars for many different organizations, such as the Elder Hostel Program, the Department of Welfare, the local Dare program, church groups, and many other local and national organizations.  I have helped train the police department, state troopers and various law enforcement agencies in self-defense classes.  I have been hosting the Southern Region Open Karate Tournament annually since 1979 in Dothan, Alabama and it is the oldest karate tournament in the State of Alabama.  I have hosted or assisted in hosting over 200 tournaments in my career.  I teach World Yoshukai Karate full-time at my private studio, local schools and with the Department of Leisure Services.

One of my goals is to train young leaders to carry on the legacy of World Yoshukai Karate.  I have trained thousands of students over the past forty three years.  I believe that hard traditional martial arts training with emphasis on respect, manners, honesty, and discipline are the backbone of a true Martial Artist.  World Yoshukai helps students to become well-rounded individuals as well as martial artists.  Our teaching does not just emphasize one area but encompasses all areas such as, katas, weapons, self-defense, breaking, point-fighting and Japanese knockdown fighting (full contact).  Yoshukai is known as the actual fighting karate.  Another one of my goals is to have World Yoshukai known as a professional organization and martial arts that works in real life situations to protect yourself and your families.  

I have met many people over the years in my karate training and have many special friends thru Yoshukai and the Martial Arts.  I have seen many Masters of the Martial Arts over the years and in my heart I believe Master Yamamoto was the BEST.

World Yoshukai is Yoshukai now that Master Yamamoto has passed.  He chose me and Kaicho Toyama to carry on his legacy of Yoshukai in all parts of the World.

Updated July 23, 2017