Mie Nakayama can arguably be considered one of the greatest kata competitors, male or female, of all time. A three-time consecutive world champion, she is ranked in many top ten lists of the best ever Karate competitors. Her signature kata, Nipaipo, showcases her graceful yet strong techniques. One of the Karate world’s most prominent women, she has successfully made the transition from competitor to coach. Some of her students have also gone on to become world champions.
Nakayama began training in the style of Hayashi-Ha Shito-ryu Karate in 1977, in the town of Hamasaka in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan. She was aged around eighteen at the time. She was brought to the attention of Yoshimi Inoue by one of his senior students, for her undeniable talent.
Inoue was a senior student of Teruo Hayashi, the founder and grand-master of Hayashi-Ha Shito-ryu. He became Nakayama’s first teacher. To aid in her Karate development he asked her father to install a makiwara in their home. Nakayama used it everyday to help develop her techniques. In addition, she joined him in his famous 1000-abs a day routine.
Within two months of her starting her training, Nakayama was entered into her first tournament. At the Hayashi-Ha Shito-ryu Kai All Japan Karate-Do Championships she won the kata event with the kata Pinan Nidan. Within two years she had become the Japan Karate Federation (JKF) All Japan Champion in kumite.
By the age of twenty-one Nakayama had earned her 1st Dan in Hayashi-Ha Shito-ryu Karate.
Nakayama’s international tournament career began in 1980 when she was selected to represent Japan at the first women’s kata event ever held at the World Championships. At the tournament held in Madrid she was runner-up to her teammate and inaugural champion, Suzuko Okamura. The following year at the World Games held in Santa Clara, USA, she was again runner-up to Okamura.
Mie Nakayama’s dominance of international women’s kata began at the 1982 World Championships held in Taipei. She would go on to retain her title at the next two World Championships held in Maastrict and Sydney. In 1885 she won the World Games held in London.
Nakayama’s final international tournament success came at the 1987 World Cup held in Hungary. Shortly afterwards she retired, while still at her peak. This was surprise to many people.
In an interview given to Traditional Karate magazine in 1989, Nakayama stated her reasons for retiring. She wanted to retire as champion and at a point where she was still enjoying her Karate. Another reason was so she could teach while still young and energetic. She had started teaching shortly after attaining her 1st Dan.
From 1982 to 1987 Mie Nakayama was the most dominant force in women’s kata. Her major honors include:
- World Championships – Individual kata – 1st place (1982, 1984, 1986)
- World Championships- Individual kata – 2nd place (1980)
- World Games – Individual kata – 1st place (1985)
- World Games – Individual kata – 2nd place (1981)
- World Cup – Individual kata – 1st place (1987)
- Hayashi-Ha Shito-ryu World Champions – Individual kata – 1st place (1982 – 1987)
After retiring from international competition Nakayama became a coach for the Japanese national team. She coached kata, both individual and team. As coach she would meet her charges once a month for three days training and also during competition time. At the 1988 World Championships held in Cairo, Egypt, she had her first coaching success. Yuki Mimura became World Champion, with compatriot Hisami Yokoyama finishing second. The women’s team won gold in the team kata event.
Over the years Nakayama’s coaching success continued. This included coaching the Japanese team to success in the Male team kata event. She has continued with her main passion, which is teaching. She now runs several dojos.
In 2015 Nakayama’s mentor, Yoshimi Inoue died. Inoue had founded his own style, Inoue-Ha Shito-ryu Karate, following the death of his own teacher, Teruo Hayashi. Inoue’s students, Nakayama, Rika Usami and Antonio Diaz have been conducting seminars and courses around the world, in his honor and to also promote his style of Karate.
The following video shows the great champion performing her trademark kata of Nipaipo: