"The Best Martial Art in St. Louis"

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Our System


Tae Ryu-Jitsu History

Shoubukan History

Our Style

Our Belts

Tae Ryu Jitsu History

In 1981, Master John Nelson, Grandmaster Jerry Williams, Master Otis Hillary, and Master People united their martial arts skills and formed the Tae Ryu-Jitsu Karate Association.  They spent the next seven years mastering and unifying the Japanese, Korean, and Okinawa martial arts styles.

Tae Ryu Jitsu History
Tae Ryu Jitsu History

Serious Training For Serious Martial Artists!

1984 - Master John Nelson opened the first Tae-Ryu Jitsu Karate Studio in St. Louis, MO.

1986 - 2nd Tae Ryu-Jitsu Karate location.

Present - Tae Ryu-Jitsu Karate Studio

Shoubukan History

Shoubukan is one of the original styles of Karate.  Yoriuki Yasuzato (Azato) is considered to be the founder of Shoubukan Karate.  He spread the karate style of his grandfather Anko Azato outside of Okinawa and began calling the style that he taught Shoubukan in the 1950’s.  However, the roots of Shoubukan go back to the root of Karate in Okinawa.  Shoubukan Karate is a descendant of the Shuri Te style, one of the original three Karate styles of Okinawa (Shuri Te, Tomari Te, and Naha Te).  To understand this, we must go back to Yoriuki Yasuzato’s grandfather Anko Azato and his teacher Sokon Matsumura.


Anko Azato (1828-1906) is one of the Great Karate Masters of Okinawa. Some say his style of Karate was/is the most powerful and dynamic to date. He was a ‘warrior’ and a military advisor to the King of Okinawa. At the time he formed and taught his Karate style to a handful of students.  The Japanese had outlawed the open practice and training of all martial arts on the Ryukyu Islands. The Okinawans were more like a Polynesian culture similar to the Tahitians or Hawaiians, yet they were subject to the rule of the Japanese at this time. Anko Azato’s Karate Instructor was Sokon Matsumura (1798-1890) who served as body guard to the King of Okinawa and Martial Arts teacher to the King’s guards.  He is considered to be one of the original creators of Karate and many of the modern styles have roots back to him.


Anko Azato’s training sessions were done in private at his home late at night. According to documentation by Gichin Funakoshi, one of Azato’s students, these training sessions were long and very arduous. Azato was the main instructor of Funakoshi. Some state his training was so difficult and challenging that Funakoshi did not stay with Azato too long. Gichin Funakoshi left Okinawa in 1922 and moved to Japan. He introduced Karate to the Japanese and formed the Karate style of Shotokan. Anko Azato’s son, Anri, studied Karate with Azato alongside Gichin Funakoshi.


Yoriuki Azato (1905-1974), Anko’s grandson, moved from Okinawa in the 1950’s to Sasebo, Japan. There in Sasebo he introduced his grandfather’s Karate in his new dojo. Originally the Karate style was referred to as a Shuri Te style. Since Azato lived near the village of Shuri. However, Yoriuki called his the dojo the Sasebo Shoubukan. Shoubukan (Shobukan) means ‘house of the martial way’ or ‘house of the warrior way’. As time went by the term Shoubukan was applied to the style which Yoriuki Azato taught. Furthermore, the name Azato was given a surname of Yasu, Yoriuki Yasuzato was his new name.  The Sasebo, Japan dojo still exists today and is renowned for developing excellent Karate students. Sasebo Naotakeya Dojo.

Joseph Adam Picou (1938) served 3 tours in the Vietnam War. It was during this time frame that he began his Karate training in Sasebo, Japan under Sensei Yoriuki Yasuzato. Joseph Picou became the most prolific American Shoubukan student to have been trained by Sensei Yasuzato himself.  Sensei Picou taught the traditional Shoubukan techniques and arduous  training methods in his dojo in Rota, Spain and on Navy bases and ships throughout his career in the Navy. While enlisted in the Navy, John Nelson continued his Martial Arts studies (that began in St. Louis and continued in Chicago) under Sensei Picou and earned his black belt in 1974.  During his enlistment he studied Martial Arts around the world including Cuba, Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, and Okinawa.  He taught Shoubukan Karate to service men and women and others around the world until his enlistment ended.  Upon returning to the United States, Sensei Nelson continued teaching the Shoubukan style and the traditional training and conditioning techniques unique to Shoubukan. In 1981 Sensei Nelson joined with then Sensei Jerry Williams and others to integrate the training techniques of Shoubukan with the also extreme training of Uechi Ryu  and other Karate styles to form the Tae Ryu-Jitsu Karate Association.  Presently Master Nelson continues to teach Shoubukan Karate as well as Tae Ryu Jitsu Karate at his dojo in St. Louis, MO. and continues to be in contact with Master Picou.

Master Joseph Picou


Master John Nelson


Our Style

Tae Ryu-Jitsu welcomes all styles of Martial Arts.  Martial Arts is the larger umbrella that encompasses every style that exists. The meaning of our style, Tae Ryu-Jitsu, is:


Tae Ryu (Open System)

Jitsu (The Art of Throwing)


It is the unification of the Japanese, Korean, and Okinawa Martial Arts styles.


The open system of Tae Ryu-Jitsu and its integration of styles makes it very effective in fighting and self defense for close range, grappling, throwing, and weapons.

The integrated styles include:

- Uechi-Ryu

- Shoubukan - See Shoubukan History Above

- Aikido

- Judo

- Jui Jitsu

- Shudokan

- Shorin-Ryu

- Martial Arts Weapons

Our Belts

There are many different belt systems in use by martial arts schools.  The karate belt, also known as an "obi", color changes as a martial artist's skill and dedication increases in the style.  Click here for further details on the obi across styles.


Below is a list of the belts used in Tae Ryu Jitsu Karate.

White Karate Belt

White Belt - Just beginning, learning basics and rules.

Yellow Karate Belt

Yellow Belt - Still the beginning stage of karate.  Student understands the basics, but also displays the focus and discipline to move up in rank.

Green Karate Belt

Green Belt - Intermediate level.  Student can now use their focus and discipline to learn many new skills and gain more knowledge about the martial arts

Blue Karate Belt

Blue Belt -  Student begins combining the acquired skills/techniques and develops their own knowledge or idea of what is being taught.

Purple Karate Belt

Purple Belt - Advanced level.  Student's technique and knowledge is beginning to mature.  The results of the hard work as a beginner and intermediate are starting to be realized.

Brown Karate Belt

Brown Belt - Student now displays and understands all results of hard work as a beginner and intermediate.  Also understands how to control their skills and power.

Black Karate Belt

Black Belt - The new beginning.  Student now seeks new, advanced, and broad knowledge of the art. Student may now begin to teach other students and rise in the rank of Black belt.

Remember that Belt rank is not the true measure of one's ability.  Hard work, knowledge, and skill advancement are the true measure of mastery of Martial Arts.

Lets start your Black belt journey

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