Founder of Aikido in Chicago
Dr. John T. Omori
Dr. John T. Omori died quietly
September 13th, 1999.
Largely responsible for bringing Aikido to Chicago and the Midwest, John Omori
started the Illinois Aikido Club, in the early 1960's with a handful of close and faithful
Dr. Omori made contacts with Hombu Dojo and many
other Aikidoists such as Motogaki Kawamukai (nick-named Carl Mokai, by John for
easier pronunication), Yoshihiko Hirata, Koichi Tohei, and Isao Takahashi, Chester Sasaki,
which made Aikido in Chicago possible. And it is because of the close friendships with
these most notable Aikidoists, that John's dream of bringing Aikido to Chicago - came
In it's meager beginnings, the Illinois Aikido
Club's first members practiced Aikido starting out in a friend's basement (Tony Muranaka's
home), with no mat. It was a little later, that the dojo found it's very first home on
Clark Street and Belmont Avenue, in the city of Chicago. Despite the poor conditions of
the store front, the accommodations were greatly improved with the hard work and
investment from John and the membership.
From the mid 1960's through the very early
1970's, with Isao Takahashi, as it's chief instructor, the Illinois Aikido Club became the
Aikido Hub or center of Aikido activity in the United States. Visiting
Yudanshakai from all styles of Aikido and numerous other martial arts as well, would make
their stops in Chicago to visit, while on their way to the east coast or west coast. These
visiting instructors were often beckoned to instruct classes during their stay in Chicago,
and fortunately for the membership - these martial artists graciously and humbly
accepted. Some of the arts the dojo enjoyed were: Tomiki, Yoshinkan, Daito-ryu, Judo,
Jujitsu, Karate, Kendo, Iaido, etc. The dojo's martial arts culture became rich and
fruitful, as a result.
Illinois Aikido Club (now known as the Chicago
Aikikai), was born out of a true and most honorable desire to bring Aikido to Chicago.
John Omori and his friends, devoted themselves to this goal.
Many of us, as Aikidoists here in the midwest
that have had a chance to practice at the dojo in its infancy, are very fortunate as
benefactors from their labors. We are also very privileged and thankful to have known
these Aikido pioneers.
We will remember Dr. John T. Omori
with the utmost respect and fondness.
He was truly an honorable man.
A note from C. Matrasko:
It was Dr. Omori and his brother that were the
first persons to send me to the Illinois Aikido Club over 34 years ago. The dojo was just
across the street from his office. Sometimes, after Saturday Aikido classes, I would wait
in his office for my father to pick me up.
As a matter of fact, being an Optometrist, he
prescribed my first pair of glasses and contact lenses. He was good man and was much like
a father to me.
It was through John Omori, that my dad and I met Hirata sensei on my first visit to the
dojo. (He was impressive and quite a handsome young man, as I recall.) The second time I
visited, it was for my first day of Aikido class (1965 - July) and I met Isao Takahashi,
my mentor and a great Aikidoist of honor. I will always be grateful to Dr. Omori.
Cheryl Kajita Matrasko
In memory of Dr. John T. Omori