Founded in 1992, Tohkon Judo Academy is one of the largest judo dojos in the United States. With an international membership of players representing dozens of countries worldwide, Tohkon’s roots nevertheless date back to the period of Japanese American resettlement from WWII incarceration camps.
Judo, a grappling art somewhat akin to wrestling, has been a popular pastime among the Nikkei community since the turn of the century when Japanese began immigrating en masse for plantation jobs in Hawaii and farm and cannery work up and down the West Coast of the mainland U.S.
Tohkon is affiliated with the Chicago Judo Black Belt Association, founded in 1947, who received its charter directly from the Kodokan (Judo World Headquarters in Tokyo). They are additionally affiliated with the United States Judo Federation, USA Judo, and Illinois Judo Inc.
The dojo’s head instructor is Douglas Tono, 7th dan, former world champion and U.S. Olympic Team member, whose parents were Nisei resettlers to Chicago. A volunteer yudansha staff runs a variety of classes for both children and adults, as well as a women’s program.
In 1995, Tohkon partnered with the Japanese American Service Committee in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, building out a sizeable dojo on-site which they have called home ever since. In conjunction with JASC they hold an annual summer picnic as well as a New Year’s Kagami Biraki and mochitsuki.
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Photo credit: Erik Matsunaga