White Belt / Yellow Belt Info Sheets

Soke Yoichi Nakachi, Grandmaster of Butokukan


In 1944, Yoichi Nakachi at the age of 12, started studying karate under Yon Pon Gun in Kushimoto, Japan. In 1948, when the ban on martial arts was lifted, the open practice of Shinpu-ren resumed. By this time, at the age of 16, Nakachi had his 2nd degree black belt . Because of business, Gun often visited the small fishing village of Kushimoto, Nakachi's home town. This was during the ban on Japanese budo (martial arts), enacted by the American military government under General MacArthur (1945 - 1948). In spite of this ban, Nakachi and his schoolmates continued to study martial arts in secret under the instruction of Yon Pon Gun and several other Koreans in the Kushimoto area. Due to the economic hardships of the post-war period, the practice of the martial arts took place outdoors, either in the surrounding mountains, in open fields, or on the beaches near the Kushimoto area, since a "dojo" was a luxury that people could not afford. This meant that training was often interrupted by rain or darkness. The small group of students with which Nakachi trained, and in 1950 came to lead, was made up of a small group of high school students. These seven or eight students would get together after school to practice what Yon Pon Gun had shown them on his last visit to Kushimoto. The outdoor classes were usually done in their school uniforms and consisted of kumite and kicking drills, as well as some weapons training. In 1950, Yon Pon Gun and the other Koreans stopped going to Kushimoto, and since Yon Pon Gun had left for Korea, Nakachi took over the group,as he was "sempai" (senior student).

In 1959, Sensei Nakachi came to the United States (age 27), to study at the University of Washington, under a college scholership in philosophy, supported by the Tenri-ko religion. He started to teach karate in the University District, when he found there was more of a desire to learn it than judo ( which he also knew ).

In 1961, Nakachi switched studies to Olympic College in Bremerton, and started to teach at the "Y" in downtown Seattle (5 nights a week). He taught at a health club in the downtown area as well. Olympic College asked him to teach classes for 4 days a week. Master Nakachi studied during the day, taught at Olympic College 4 times a week, and taught at night at the YMCA 5 times a week. Master Nakachi quit school and did this whole routine for 2 years, before teaching at night only. It was during this time Master Nakachi met Bruce Lee (1962), and they shared and exchanged many ideas about the martial arts. It was Master Nakachi that suggested to Lee that he try the nunchaku, since it was less cumbersome than the three-sectional staff.

In 1963, Shihan Yoichi Nakachi changed the name, crest and katas from Shinpu-ren to Butokukan.  The new crest shows the white fist coming head-on, with the red master ring around it.  For more information on the crest, Click Here.  The older Shinpu-ren crest originally showed an upright fist, similiar to a Goju-ryu crest.

From 1963-64, the school was still small. In April of 1965, Shihan Nakachi staged the first open Butokukan tornament, which also encompassed Armstrong's Isshin-ryu, and Bill Ruter's Goju-Ryu.

In May of 1965, Shihan Nakachi had to leave to return to Japan. Before he left, he made Sensei Robert Hill Nidan ( 2nd degree Black Belt ), and gave over the reins for Butokukan in North America. In 1967, Shihan Hill re-established the classes at Olympic college, and they are still being taught there by his students.

Shihan Nakachi , on his return to Japan in 1965 found that his Shinpu-ren black belts from before he left Japan had dispersed and were inactive. He began to teach and ascended some students to shodan, but after he moved to Tokyo, they too, went inactive. Master Nakachi was working six days a week, eight hours a day teaching swimming , and was working on adapting karate techniques to accommodate older people.

Shihan Nakachi passed away in 1998, almost a year after his dear beloved wife died from an prolonged illness.  It was well known by Shihan Hill and other high ranking Butokukan blackbelts that he would not venture over to North America to visit the fruits of Butokukan, simply because he needed to go each day to the Japanese cemetary where his wife's grave lay, to visit her.  This was just a reflection of the dedication that our master had, and had exhibited in the study of karate.

A Canadian Butokukan Student's Visit to Kushimoto, Japan ( Christmas, 2002 )

Soke Robert Hill, Grandmaster of Butokukan


Soke Robert Hill started taking karate from Master Nakachi in September 1961, after two years of learning some Tae Kwon Do from his brother who was in the army.  He also learned from books. He started 2 days a week, but quickly changed to 4, with lots of outdoor practice. He worked out with the Seattle class every other week. Master Hill has learned much from reading and doing, and as Soke ( Grand Master ) he still today encourages his students and senseis to "learn by doing."  This is the second "motto" besides "Confidence Through Knowledge".

In June 1963, Sensei Robert Hill received his Shodan (1st degree Black Belt) from Master Nakachi.  Master Hill then went back east with a brown belt (Ed Mehus)to Boston, Massachussets.  Upon returning after a period of 9 months, Master Hill found that Shihan Nakachi had changed the katas, changed the crest, and changed the name of the Okinawan-style Shinpu-ren to Butokukan, reflecting the softer, faster style of Kenpo karate.  In 1965 Shihan Nakachi had to return back to Japan, leaving the reins of the style in the hands of Sensei Hill (at this time a Nidan, 2nd degree black belt).  After Shihan Nakachi had left, other schools in the area, like Goju-ryu and others, tried to take over the school.  Master Hill had a meeting with the other schools, and told them who we are, and that we would not be leaving or changing our school. From that point on, the other schools respected his wish.  Master Hill has continued teaching, and has also supplemented the basic karate core of techniques he has learned with some Wing Chun Kung Fu, Aikido, and other styles, to enrich the abilities of Butokukan.

Master Hill, at the beginning of 1997, was elevated to Kyudan, or 9th degree black belt.  In June of 2003, Shihan Hill was elevated to 10th dan or Soke, and has also been given the title of Grandmaster of Butokukan, the only one of Butokukan now that Master Nakachi has passed on.  This was also the time that Sensei Chris Olson become our second Shihan, or Master, Hachidan or 8th dan, so now Butokukan would have two Masters.  Being a master of a style doesn't mean you're above any other people; it only means you have studied the style sufficiently to be able to master the style.

Soke Hill currently resides in Gig Harbour, Washington State.

Butokukan Karate
      As mentioned before in Shihan Hill's history, Butokukan started officially in 1963 when Shihan Nakachi changed the style from Shinpu-ren to Butokukan, to reflect the more fluid moves of Kempo.  We now had a new crest ( our present one ) and new katas to go along with it.  Butokukan, by it's name, means training hall of the virtue of the martial arts, and this means that we take the good parts of other styles and add them to our own, so we are always a changing style, being flexible enough to see that there are good things in other styles, and that we should take advantage of them.  Butokukan has at it's core karate, but we also add such things as Wing Chung gung fu, Tae Kwon Do, Jui-Jitsu, Judo, and various other influences.  In this way, we try to go by Shihan Hill's creed, to "learn by doing".