Chuzo Kotaka

Karate is a lifelong progression of learning and betterment. It takes a lot of determination, perseverance, and most importantly, self discipline. These are important qualities of a champion, but they are also the qualities of every day karateka. No matter what your goals in Karate are, always remember to keep those qualities dear to your heart, and you will always go far.

Chuzo Kotaka

A leading light in the development of Karate in Hawaii, Chuzo Kotaka is known for his strong kumite. As a competitor, he competed against the likes of, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Fumio Demura, and Tetsuhiko Asai. As an instructor, he has trained several World Champions, including his son George Kotaka, and Elisa Au.

Chuzo Kotaka was born on 11 November 1941, in Osaka, Japan. His father was an officer in the Japanese Imperial Army.

Shortly after being born, Chuzo Kotaka and his family moved to Shanghai, China. As a high-ranking Army officer, Chuzo Kotaka’s father was allowed to take his family to his posting. At the end of the war in 1945, the family returned to Japan.

When Kotaka was aged five he was hit by a car. The accident damaged his right leg. His leg was almost amputated. He was on crutches for a long time. Unfortunately, his accident left him a target for bullying.

Kotaka approached his father about the bullying. His father was a Judo and Kendo practitioner. However, he recommended his son practice Karate. He helped him find a suitable Karate teacher.

At the age of seven, Kotaka began training under Genryu Kimura, a Shito-Ryu instructor. He later began training under Shogo Kuniba, when he was much older. Later he would also travel around Japan looking to train with other instructors.

By the age of 16 Kotaka had been practising Karate for several years. While still at high school, he began teaching Karate.

After graduating from high school Kotaka got a job working as an engineer.

By the 1960s Kotaka had become a successful kumite competitor. In 1960 he won the All Japan Seishinkai title, repeating the feat the following year.

1962 was a big year for Kotaka. He won his third successive All Japan title. He also won the West All Japan title, Repeating the feat in 1963. His biggest success was at the All Japan Karate Championships. He defeated Fumio Demura in the semi-final, on his way to winning the title.

Kotaka’s success at the All Japan Karate Championships got him noticed internationally. He began receiving letters from abroad to teach Karate. He was given permission by his employer to travel abroad for a year, teaching Karate.

Hawaii was Kotaka’s first international stop. John Burns, the Governor of Hawaii was so impressed by his successes that he asked him to teach Karate at the University of Hawaii. Kotaka ended up staying in Hawaii for 10 months, teaching at the university for one semester.

On leaving Hawaii, Kotaka’s next stop was California, where he stayed for two months before returning to Japan.

Kotaka’s employers were happy to allow him to travel abroad for a further year. They were honoured that he was spreading Karate around the world. During his travels, he had the opportunity to meet the likes of Sean Connery and Chuck Norris. By 1965 Kotaka had returned to Hawaii as part of his Goodwill Tour. It was around this time that Chojiro Tani, the founder of Shukokai Karate asked if he would like to become a professional instructor under him.

In Japan, Kotaka underwent a tough teaching and training regimen before being allowed to travel abroad to teach on behalf of Tani.

Having found the people of Hawaii very welcoming, Kotaka decided to move to Hawaii, where he started teaching Karate. In 1966 he established the International Karate Federation (IKF).

By the mid-1970s Kotaka had established a successful Karate school in Honolulu. He was also married to his wife Hiroko. On 28 July 1977 their son George was born.

Kotaka’s reputation as an instructor was rapidly growing. In 1992 the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Hall of Fame gave him the Outstanding Service Award.

In 1994 Kotaka was one of the 36 founding members of the Hokubei Karate-do Shihankai, the Japanese Karate Masters Association of North America. Formed by Japanese masters living and teaching in North America, the association was dedicated to promoting and maintaining the principles and philosophy of Japanese martial arts.

Other founding members of the Hokubei included Fumio Demura, Morio Higaonna, Tomohiro Arashiro, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Tak Kubota, Takayuki Mikami, Yukiyoshi Marutani, Gosei Yamaguchi, and Teruyuki Okazaki.

In 1996 the AAU Karate Hall of Fame awarded Kotaka with the Outstanding Service Award and also the Outstanding Region Award. The following year the AAU awarded him with the 1997 Outstanding Instructor Award.

By 2000 Kotaka students were beginning to find competitive success internationally. At the 15th World Karate Championships held in Munich, Germany, his son George finished in third place for the United States in the Men’s Individual -65 kg Kumite event.

At the 16th World Karate Championships held in Madrid, Spain, his students had great success. His son George improved his position in the previous World Championships, by becoming World Champion in the Men’s Individual -65 kg Kumite event. He defeated defending World Champion, Lazar Boskovich of Germany in the final. Another of his students, Elisa Au, also became World Champion in the Women’s Individual +60 kg Kumite event.

2004 was another successful year for Kotaka and his student, Au. At the 17th World Karate Championships held in Monterrey, Mexico, Au became a double World Champion in the Women’s Individual +60 kg and Women’s Open Kumite events. That year also saw Kotaka presented with the 2004 Outstanding Instructor Award by the AAU Karate Hall of Fame.

Kotaka and his son George had another successful year in 2008. In March of that year, George Kotaka defeated Louis Lecuyer of Canada to win the -65 kg title at the US Open, held in Las Vegas. He followed this by finishing in second place in the Men’s Individual -65 kg Kumite event at the Pan-American Championships, held in Caracas, Venezuela.

2008 culminated for George Kotaka at the 19th World Karate Championships held in Tokyo, Japan. He defeated Adam Kovac of Hungary in the final of the Men’s 65 kg Kumite event to win his second world title. This represented another world title for the Kotaka dojo to go along with the various titles won by Elisa Au.

Karate has been a family affair for Chuzo Kotaka. His wife Hiroko, son George, daughter Marie, and granddaughter, Taylor, all help with teaching Karate at the family-run dojo in Honolulu. Kotaka is currently ranked as a 9th Dan in Karate.

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