Hiroshi Kinjo

I have always remained faithful to the precepts upon which Karatedo rests and have enjoyed a modest but fruitful life. That is what Karatedo, the art of Karate, is all about.

Hiroshi Kinjo

Virtually unknown in the west, Hiroshi Kinjo was one of the most unpretentious masters. One of the most respected Masters in Japan, he was described as a living encyclopedia on Karate and Kobodu history. He trained under many of the top 2nd-Generation Okinawan masters, many who were direct students of Yasutsune Itosu.

Hiroshi Kinjo was born on 14 February 1919, in Shuri, Okinawa. As a child, he suffered from several serious illnesses, including meningitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and typhoid.

To build up his strength, the young Kinjo started practising Karate, aged 7. His first teacher was his grandfather, Okina (Kinjo) Kanagusuku.

As time progressed Kinjo had the opportunity to train with many teachers, including Shogen Okuzato, Chomo Hanashiro, Shimpan Gusukuma, Sanda Chinen, Chojo Oshiro, Ambun Tokuda, and Chotoku Maeshiro.

Kinjo’s training with his teachers tended to be one-on-one rather than the militaristic Japanese approach that would come to dominate post-war Karate training. The training tended to be application-based and emphasised a lot of body contact and conditioning.

In 1934 Prince Fushinomiya of Japan visited Okinawa. Kinjo and his teacher Chojo Oshiro were part of a Karate demonstration given in honour of the Prince’s visit.

In 1939 another of Kinjo’s teachers, Kanken Toyama, awarded him with an instructors diploma to teach his style of Shudokan. He was 20 years old.

Kinjo moved from Okinawa to Tokyo in 1939 to pursue his studies. At university, he established a Karate club.

In the midst of World War II, Kinjo graduated from university. He joined the army and was deployed to Southeast Asia as a botanist in 1941.

At the end of the war, Kinjo returned to Tokyo in 1945. He was the main instructor at the Kanbukan dojo, where he taught. He also taught Karate at a local police station and also at Ibaragi University.

Around this time, Kinjo and a group of fellow instructors established an organisation called the Taichokai. This was later renamed to the Kenshukai.

Kinjo continued training with as many masters as he could find. He had the opportunity to train with Shito-ryu Karate founder, Kenwa Mabuni. In 1949 Mabuni presented Kinjo with Yasutsune Itosu’s ‘10 Maxims of Karate‘.

Around 1949, Richard Kim, a future Karate legend, had the opportunity to train with Kinjo. He learnt Kobudo from him.

In 1950 Kinjo established the Zen Nihon Karate-do Kenshukai.

Kinjo was a prolific researcher and writer of articles on Karate. In 1957 he edited Japan’s first Karate. The magazine was named ‘Gekkan Karatedo‘.

In 1959, along with Kasuhiro Konishi, he became Vice-President of the All Japan Karate Federation.

Until his retirement, Kinjo continued teaching Shudokan and researching Karate and Kubodo history. He also explored Koryu Uchinadi. Koryu Uchinadi is not a style of Karate. Rather, it is a system of practices that sits under any traditional Karate practice.

Perhaps Kinjo’s most well-known student was Patrick McCarthy. In 1987, McCarthy who had been a student of Richard Kim became a direct student of Kinjo. Through him, he learnt Koryu Uchinadi.

In 2011 Kinjo retired as the main instructor of the Zen Nihon Karate-do Kenshukai.

On 10 October 2011 Hiroshi Kinjo, died aged 92.

In the death of Kinjo, the world lost a great resource on the history of Karate. His encyclopedic knowledge was second to none. However, he left the world countless books, magazines, articles and photos. Although not known in the west, he was highly respected by the likes of Chojun Miyagi, Choki Motobu, Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, to name a few.

Author: Patrick Donkor

1 thought on “Hiroshi Kinjo

  1. I’m one of indigenous as well as pandemic crisis victims here in the Philippines. But I know, life must goes on. I have no idea in martial arts but willing to learn.

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