Akio Nagai

Today Karate is too often practised as only a sport. But it is ‘not‘ a sport, it is a martial art in the way of life. If you only ever search for medals or winning tournaments with a few easy to learn techniques, you will never find out what ‘Karate-Do‘ through hard physical and mental training offers to you.

Akio Nagai

One of the most respected Shotokan Masters, teaching in Europe, Akio Nagai is known for his superb technical ability and his unique teaching style. His unique kihon combinations can surprise and challenge students.

Akio Nagai was born on 19 February 1942 in Yamaguchi, Japan. He was descended from an old samurai family, steeped in military service. His grandfather was a General in World War II. Akio Nagai was the eldest child of Kakbyoshi and Hisano Nagai.

As a young boy, Nagai was interested in football and Judo. However, in 1957 he became interested in Karate. He began learning Shito-ryu Karate under the guidance of Hiroshi Kawamura. He trained diligently for three years before being awarded his 1st Dan at the age of 17.

In 1960 Nagai enrolled at Takushoku University. He joined the university’s famed Karate club, switching to Shotokan Karate. He trained under Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA. His sempai at the club were Shiro Asano and Masaru Muira.

Nagai wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, by joining the army. However, his love and dedication to Karate led to a change of direction. He now wanted to become a Karate instructor.

On graduating from Takushoku University in 1964, Nagai continued his training at the JKA Hombu, in Tokyo.

Nagai’s younger brother, Tezuhiko, ran an electronics factory which exported its products around the world. He invited Nagai to travel with him to Germany.

In 1965 a JKA touring party consisting of Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda, and Hiroshi Shirai arrived in West Germany. They were on a world tour to showcase JKA Shotokan Karate. The demonstrations they gave was such a success that it led to calls for a JKA instructor to teach in Germany.

Nagai returned to Germany in 1965 to teach Karate. He settled in the city of Düsseldorf, which had a large Japanese population. At first he struggled with the language and culture.

By 1965 Nagai was ranked as a 4th Dan. He became the head of the German Karate Federation (DKB), which was founded by Jurgen Seydel. Seydel was an early pioneer of Karate in Germany.

Nagai was one of the first Japanese instructors to reside and teach full-time in Germany. Seeing the spread of traditional Karate had become his life’s mission. For the next couple of years, he worked hard, as the head of the DKB, to establish his brand of Karate in his adoptive home of Germany.

In 1975, Nagai founded Shotokan Karate International Deutschland eV (SKID) (SKI Germany). Two years later, alongside Hirokazu Kanazawa, Shiro Asano, Masaru Muira, and Rikuta Koga, he helped found Shotokan Karate International Federation (SKIF).

Nagai has long been an advocate for the Budo principles of Karate. While he acknowledges that sport is a part of Karate, to him Karate is first and foremost a martial art. He strongly believes in the principle of ‘ikken hisatsu‘ – ‘one strike one kill‘. Like most karateka who trained under Masatoshi Nakayama, Nagai stresses the importance of kihon techniques. A technical teacher, he is known for his difficult and unique kihon combinations.

In 2002 Nagai was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for his services to the promotion of Karate in Germany.

Nagai received his 9th Dan in 2016. He received the grade from Hirokazu Kanazawa.

Like fellow instructor, Hideo Ochi, Akio Nagai has done a lot to establish strong Shotokan Karate in Germany. He has become his life’s work.

Although Nagai spends the majority of his time in Germany, he still tries to visit Japan whenever he gets the chance.

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