Atsuo Hiruma

When I started, it was quite hard, with rigid muscles. Now it has softened a lot, like Kung-Fu type, you have to achieve speed and power, but without going overboard in the latter.

Atsuo Hiruma

One of the few men to have trained with both Gichin Funakoshi and Shigeru Egami, Atsuo Hiruma was the first Japanese instructor to teach Karate in Spain.

Atsuo Hiruma was born on 3 June 1941 in Kanagawa, Japan. This was at the height of World War II.

Hiruma grew up in postwar Japan. Life was very difficult. Many people struggled to find food.

Aged 16 Hiruma began learning Shotokai Karate at the dojo of Shigeru Egami. He had wanted to learn a martial art to protect himself and become stronger. It just happened that Egami had opened a dojo close to his house.

Hiruma trained hard. Apart from Egami, he was fortunate to train with Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate, and the teacher of Egami. He was also trained by Egami’s assistant Ayahito Sugimoto.

On 26 April 1957, Gichin Funakoshi died in a Tokyo hospital. Egami was present at Funakoshi’s bedside when he died.

In 1958 Hiruma was promoted to 1st Dan by a grading panel including Egami and Sugimoto.

By the early 1960s, Hiruma had graduated from Hosei University with a degree in Economics. During this time he continued with his Karate training.

Wanting to learn to speak Spanish, Hiruma left Japan in 1966. He departed from the port of Yokohama, eventually arriving in Madrid. He aimed to move to Mexico and eventually to the United States.

During this time Spain was under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Karate was prohibited in Spain. To get around this Hiruma claimed that he was teaching ‘personal defence’.

In Madrid, Hiruma met a Spaniard who had spent four years in Japan where he had learnt Karate. Back in Spain, he was looking for a training partner. They began training at the Kadokan, which was a Judo club. Eventually, some of the judoka became interested in the Karate practice.

Hiruma eventually began teaching Karate at the Banzai dojo of Aurelio and Veronica Montenegro. They had opened the Judo club in 1964.

In 1966 Hiruma became the first Japanese instructor to teach Karate in Spain. He was soon receiving requests to teach around the country.

By 1968 Hiruma was teaching two brown belts, four blue belts, and many yellow and white belts at the Banzai dojo.

In 1971 Hiruma visited Japan, after five years in Spain. He spent time learning many of the new changes that had been made to Shotokai Karate during his time away.

Hiruma conducted his first Karate course in the Spanish city of Valencia in 1972. He continued establishing Karate in Spain in the coming years.

In June 1978 Shigeru Egami visited Spain, accompanied by his wife and his student Tomoji‪ Miyamoto. They visited the cities of Madrid, Seville, and Valencia.

During Egami’s visit, Hiruma was promoted to 5th Dan by Egami and Miyamoto. 5th Dan was the highest rank in Shotokai.

In 1978 Hiruma established the ASA (Andalusia Shotokai Association). He also began teaching in Portugal.

On 1 March 1980, the ASE (Shotokai Spain Association) was established. The new association aimed to bring together the different Shotokai groups in Spain. There were representatives from Madrid, Galicia, Catalonia, Valencia, Santander, Valladolid, and the ASA.

On 8 January 1981, Hiruma’s mentor, Shigeru Egami died from a brain tumour.

In 1981 Hiruma’s son Eduardo began training under him.

Hiruma established a Hombu dojo in Madrid in 1982. The dojo also became the headquarters of the ASE and Shotokai Europe.

In 1986 Hiruma began teaching Shotokai in Italy. For the next few years, he continued developing Shotokai in Europe.

Hiruma travelled to Japan in 1998. He visited Tokyo, where he trained at the Hombu dojo.

In 1999 Jotaro Takagi, the President of the Nihon Karate-do Shotokai visited Spain. He conducted a course in Seville.

Hiruma’s son Eduardo began teaching at the Hombu dojo in 2001.

On 28th February 2002 Hiruma, alongside Manuel Jimenez Lopez and Eusebio Comnin, visited Cuba for the first time. They conducted a seminar for around 150 people.

A powerful earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter Scale occurred on the Japanese island of Honshu on 11 March 2011. This initiated a tsunami that led to a nuclear accident at the Fukushima power plant. Over 19,000 people were thought to have died or gone missing. Hiruma made a financial contribution to help the victims of the tragedy.

Between 19–28 January 2013, Hiruma visited Chile for the second time. He established the AKDES–Chile (Shotokai Style Karate–Do Association) and became its Technical Director.

In 2013 Hiruma took a group of students from Portugal, France, Italy, and Spain, to Japan. They trained at the Hiroshima Shibu Dojo.

Between 5–6 December 2014, Hiruma led a European Black Belt course at the Hombu dojo in Madrid. This was repeated the following year.

May 2015 marked the 80th Anniversary of the Nihon Karate Do Shotokai. Hiruma travelled to Japan with Rafael Miffut, Juan Angoloti, Rafael Alvarez, from Spain, and Patrizio Marzili from Italy. They performed a group kata.

On 5 March 2016, Jotaro Takagi, the President of Nihon Karate-do Shotokai, died.

Hiruma celebrated 50 years of his arrival in Spain, on 30 April 2016. An event was held at the VP Jardin Metropolitano Hotel in Madrid. It was organised by the ASE and attended by 180 guests. There were guests from Italy, Portugal, France, and Spain. Other guests included Yasuhiro Ishimi, Osamu Nomura, and Yosuke Yamashita. The Cultural Attaché of the Japanese Embassy in Spain also attended the event.

Juan Angoloti, the President of the ASE, and Francisco Diaz gave speeches at the event. There were also several Karate, Tai Chi, Bo and Tonfa demos. Hiruma received many gifts.

In August 2016 Hiruma took a group of students from Spain to train at the Hombu dojo in Tokyo. This was a part of the celebration of his 50 years of teaching in Spain. The trip culminated with a celebration meal.

Between 23–25 June 2017, the 20th Anniversary of the Karate–Do Shotokai on the Beach was held. The annual Karate and Bo course was organised by the ASA. Hiruma taught the course. The guest instructors were Tomoji Miyamoto and Ken Egami, the grandson of Shigeru Egami. This was followed on the 30 June by a course taught in Seville by the three masters.

Between 26–27 October 2019, the 1st Shotokai Karate–do Seminar was held in Miami, Florida. The course was taught by Hiruma, assisted by Mario Rodriguez. The course aimed to help introduce Shotokai into the United States.

Hiruma continued to spread Shotokai around the world by travelling to South Africa in 2020.

Between 4–5 June 2022, a tribute ceremony was held in Seville for the pioneers of Karate in Southern Spain. Pascual Vidal, Hiruma, and José Correa were honoured with devoting over 50 years to the development of Karate in Spain’s Andalusia region. WKF President, Antonio Espinos, gave a speech and presented the men with their awards. A seminar and several demos were also given.

The 25th International Karate-Do Shotokai internship was held between 10–11 November 2023, in the city of Viano do Costelo. The event was organised by the Portuguese Association of Karate-Do Shotokai. The event also marked the 45 years that Hiruma and Domingos Silva had been teaching in Portugal.

Atsuo Hiruma continues to honour the teaching of Shigeru Egami. Competition is prohibited in his schools. He focuses on the Budo aspects of Karate in his teaching. He wears a white belt to signify the path of his journey through Karate.

Hiruma is the European delegate of the Nihon Karate-do Shotokai.

Apart from Karate Hiruma also practices and teaches both the Bo and Tai Chi.

Hiruma travelled to Beijing, China, to learn Tai Chi from a master Ma. He has found that Tai Chi helps with breathing and fluidity of movement in Karate.

Hiruma has also found that the practice of the Bo has helped with arm conditioning and the proper use of the hips.

Living in Spain for over 50 years, it goes without saying that Hiruma has had a big influence on the practice of Karate in Spain. He laid down the foundations which opened the doors for other Japanese instructors to arrive in Spain to teach Karate.

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    • Anonymous on February 12, 2024 at 4:00 am
    • Reply

    Thank you for providing such inspirational stories and these great, everyday insights into the hearts and minds of so many accomplished Sensei of Shotokan, and all the related Karate-do Ryu. I’m so impacted by these stories; I cannot thank you enough.

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