Sensei Junki Yoshida
Tournament Director and Host
Ryobu-Kai Northwest Classic Invitational
Sensei Junki Yoshida was born in Kyoto, Japan on December 7, 1949, the youngest of seven children. He began to study karate as a child. In 1968, at the age of 19, Yoshida Sensei decided to move to America. With only $500 in his pocket, he purchased an airline ticket, boarded a plane, and arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport on a cold January day. Yoshida Sensei immediately cashed in his return ticket and bought a used Plymouth Valiant, his “home” for the next several months. It did not take long for him to discover that conquering the language barrier and finances would be major challenges. Though he lived in his car, his funds disappeared quickly. His situation was so dire that he was hospitalized and treated for starvation on two separate occasions. His family had cut off financial support in an attempt to force him to come home.
Sensei supported himself by working as both a gardener for private residents and as a kitchen employee for the airlines. He eventually enrolled at Highline Community College to study English, where he traded classes for karate lessons. It was here that he met his wife, Linda.
For the next five years, Sensei and Linda remained in Washington State where he trained, competed, and taught karate. Sensei subsequently opened his own successful karate schools. His success in training, competing, and teaching led to his prestigious appointment as Japan Karate Federation’s Chief Instructor for the States of Washington and Oregon, by Grand Master Konishi in Japan. Also because of his karate skills, Sensei was asked to design and implement a police-training program based on martial arts techniques for law enforcement officers throughout the Northwest.
Sensei moved his family from the Puget Sound to the Portland area. It was here that Sensei began giving home-made bottles of his teriyaki-based cooking sauce as Christmas gifts. Based on his family’s 60-year-old “secret recipe,” the cooking sauce was a hit. The Yoshidas cooked up batches of sauce in the basement of his karate school and gave them away as gifts. Sensei began to market Yoshida’s Gourmet Cooking Sauce in 1982 while working out of the karate school basement, filling empty syrup bottles by hand with sauce made in a ten-gallon pot. Some of his current black belts helped in the cooking and bottling of Yoshida Sauce at the Beaverton Dojo. Yoshida’s Gourmet Cooking Sauces became a national favorite and Yoshida Sensei became a true American example of an immigrant ‘rags to riches’ businessman. In 2003 the US Small Business Administration inducted him into their National Hall of Fame with 23 other companies who had used loans from them to grow their business. Those companies included such well-known names as AOL and Intel. Currently he owns a conglomerate of 18 diverse companies with more than 400 employees, generating a little over $250 million annually. In 2009 he was recognized as one of the 100 most respected Japanese in the world.
Yoshida Sensei was a very active karate tournament competitor in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Canada. Sensei also became a licensed referee, receiving his World Union of Karate-do Organizations (WUKO) license in Taipei in 1982. He refereed in several international tournaments, including the World Championships in Brussels, Belgium in 1984 and in Sydney, Australia in 1986 where he had the honor of being the chief referee for the Finals. Three of Sensei’s students were part of the US National Team at those Sydney World Championships: Mark Heyerdahl, Jay Farrell, and Brad Marineau. Sensei Mark and Sensei Jay remain active with his karate organization to this day.
Yoshida Sensei continued his affiliation with the WUKO until his business demands exceeded his ability to maintain the intense training and travel required to stay current and proficient as a referee. WUKO became the World Karate Federation (WKF) in 1990 and is the governing body for karate in support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In the US, the USA National Karate-do Federation (USA-NKF) became the governing body for karate. Yoshida Sensei kept his organization active in the USA-NKF and its regional support organizations. He has offered his financial support throughout the years, and in 2008, expanded that support by helping to create a new national organization: the USA-NKF Professional Foundation. Its guiding purpose was to provide a non-profit organization to serve and support athletes, coaches, and officials of the USA-NKF in their endeavor to achieve sustained international competitive excellence in the sport of karate.
The good fortune and financial success of his companies have allowed Sensei the means to provide generous financial support to an endless list of community and charitable organizations such as the Kids on the Block Program’s annual Yoshida’s Sand in the City fundraising event. In addition to serving as a Port of Portland Commissioner and a member of the Oregon Business Development Commission, Sensei is also an advisor to the Oregon Governor on international economic issues. Additional he is a member of the International Trade Commission, Children’s Cancer Association, Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature, a trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities NW and board member of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Providence Hospital Cancer Research Foundation, and the Highline Community College Foundation. Often honored for his incredible contributions and lifetime achievements, Sensei continues to travel the globe as an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, entertaining and inspiring others.
Today Yoshida Sensei oversees 13 dojos in three states. He currently holds the rank of 8th degree black belt as awarded by the current Grand Master Konishi. Yoshida Sensei was inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame in 2010, receiving a Gold Life Achievement Award. Yoshida Sensei continues to teach karate in the hopes that he can pass on to younger generations the valuable life lessons and sources of strength that karate has to offer and that have served him so well throughout his life.