It is my belief that to polish our waza (techniques) and our minds through Budo will make us healthy, live long and become useful for the community.Hiroshi Shoji
The first JKA All Japan kata champion, Hiroshi Shoji was known for his exceptional timing. An instructor at the JKA Hombu, he was known for his strong basic techniques and his knowledge of kata.
Hiroshi Shoji was born on 30 August 1931 in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. As a teenager, he practised Judo and Kendo.
Shoji was a student at Takushoku University in the 1950s. He joined the University’s Karate club. He graduated from Takushoku in 1954.
On 28 October 1957, the 1st JKA All Japan Karate Championships were held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The Championships featured the best JKA talent. Shoji won the inaugural kata title. The crowd was spellbound by his performances. In the final, he received a perfect score for his kata. Masaru Sakumoto and Shojiro Koyama finished in second and third place. Hirokazu Kanazawa won the kumite title, with Katsunori Tsuyama and Masahide Nakamura in second and third place.
Three years later Shoji won his second kata title at the 4th JKA All Japan Karate Championships. At the 1960 tournament, he defeated Takayuki Mikami and Hirokazu Kanazawa to win the title. 1960 also saw Shoji become an instructor at the Aoyama Gakuin University Karate club.
As a member of the JKA, Shoji travelled abroad to promote Shotokan Karate. On 5 November 1963, alongside Masatoshi Nakayama, Keinosuke Enoeda, Toru Iwaizumi (Yamaguchi), and Katsuya Kisaka, he arrived in Indonesia to teach Karate. The delegation taught the bodyguards of Indonesian President, Achmad Sukarno. They also taught members of the Indonesian Police Force. Shoji and Iwaizumi returned to Japan on 29 November, with the rest of the delegation returning on 27 December.
A humble and good-natured instructor, Shoji’s classes were still very tough. He believed in strong basics. His classes were based on performing numerous techniques. By 1974 he had become the Chief of Instructors at the JKA Hombu.
In 1976, Shoji’s ‘Karate Kata Series‘ was published. Some people consider these the best books ever written on learning Shotokan kata. Written in Japanese, these books have become very rare. The books in the series are:
- 1 – Unsu
- 2 – Gojushiho Dai
- 3 – Gojushiho Sho
- 4 – Sochin and Wankan
- 5 – Nijushiho and Chinte
Masatoshi Nakayama’s 11-book ‘Best Karate‘ series was published in 1979. HS appeared in ‘Book 4: Kumite 2‘, where he is seen sparring against Toru Yamaguchi. Nakayama said of Shoji:
The techniques he has mastered are correct, reliable, sharp and decisive, the essence of Karate techniques. In kumite, he is very impressive, using basic techniques speedily, forcefully and freely in all directions.
Following the death of Masatoshi Nakayama on 15 April 1987, the JKA fell into a state of turmoil. A well-respected instructor at the JKA Hombu, Shoji could have become a Chief Instructor of the JKA. However, he turned down the position as he didn’t want to become involved in the politics associated with the post.
Hiroshi Shoji died on 1 November 2003. By the time of his death, he had received the rank of 8th Dan. A well-respected instructor, he will be forever known as the first JKA All Japan Kata Champion.