Born on the island of Shikoku in the province of Ehime-ken, the 10th Dan Master received his academic training at Matsuyama College in Shikoku and the University of Keio in Tokyo. Thanks to a noble ancestry, he was virtually destined for a life in the martial arts.
Karate then, as opposed to now, was not the storefront dojo filled with trophies and impressive looking documents of achievement. Like the nobility of European nations, certain teachings were meant to be handed down from father to son, generation upon generation, always to remain within the family. Not for the masses was higher learning: mathematics, philosophy, medicine, which would provoke minds to progressive thought. In the Orient in centuries past, the martial arts was among the teachings that fell to the sons with royal lineage.
One of the most venerated names in samurai history is that of Ryoma Sakamoto, held by the populace of his era to be a saint. Eizo Onishi's ancestors had extremely close ties with the famous warrior and to this day possess a scroll personally written and signed by him. The Onishi family crest bears the 5-7-5 leaf cluster of the Imperial Family of Japan, found impressed upon coins up until barely a quarter of a century ago. One of Master Onishi's ancestors was also considered by his peers to be a king among samurai. It was only natural then that the mystical teachings of the oriental fighting arts should be handed down ceremoniously to the scion of so noble a line of samurai.
Master Kanken Toyama was Eizo Onishi's first sensei, his only sensei for approximately ten years. Under his direction, Master Onishi achieved the rank of 6th Dan and then, having reached a superior level of ability, was given a letter of recommendation by Master Toyama to seek further study and gain necessary knowledge with Master Juhatsu Kiyoda, then the star pupil of Kanryo Higaonna.
For those who merely walk into a dojo, plop down the designated amount of dollars and begin immediate instruction in karate today, the reminiscences of Master Onishi should be of some thought provoking interest.
Master Kiyoda, it so happened, lived on Japan's southern most island of Kyushu in the city of Beppu. It was a good two days travel from Master Onishi's home on Shikoku, yet he made the trip monthly, letter of recommendation in hand, only to be refused an audience time and time again. The best he could obtain was a fifteen minute sympathetic ear with one of Master Kiyoda's senior students who invariably told him to return at a later date when perhaps - perhaps - Master Kiyoda would acknowledge his existence. So Master Onishi did, faithfully for a year, month after month until at last he was received and accepted - and his learning augmented by his demanding maestro of the martial arts.
Master Kiyoda was indeed an exacting but benign taskmaster, and a perfectionist to boot. Consider that it took Master Onishi three years of intensive study to perfect and perform the sanchin kata to Master Kiyoda's satisfaction. It wasn't that Master Onishi was slow to learn, rather, it was the traditional way of instruction back then. Every move was dissected, analyzed, grouped, and executed again ana again until it was as natural a function as breathing out and in. It was not the assembly line certificates of rank for these masters: they earned their way though the system.
Under Master Toyama, Eizo Onishi learned the Shurite style of karate: under Master Kiyoda it was to be the Nahate. After years of instruction, both sensei at last confided to Master Onishi that his studies with them were complete, but they urged him not to stop, not rest complacently while there was yet more to be done. Go out and learn, they insisted, go to other lands, study other systems, research and build upon that research, develop and perfect.
And so he did - and still does, branching out, visiting various countries, studying the differing systems, always learning, building, perfecting.
Master Onishi is a very unprepossing man. It's not his slight build, the 5'4" height or the 130 light-weight pounds that make him so. Humble and basically uninterested in even the most meager of luxuries, he shuns outward appearance for inner light. He seeks not that which will enhance his own personal image, but that which will strengthen and perfect the image of karate. Although qualified, he does not wear a red belt. The only ornamentation on his gi is that of Karate Gaku: the study of karate do.
But this is not merely a matter of studying styles. It's a total commitment to the full development of the individual. It's a study of the science, the art and philosophy, the mental and spiritual essences in order to perceive a complete picture, in order to gain a harmonious state with one's self and one's surroundings. Master Onishi's life is devoted to the achievement of these ends. With his intense dedication to the task before him, it seems only inevitable that he will realize success ... and pass it on to those who come after him in the best time-honored tradition from which he himself evolved.