Having incredible flexibility for a big man, Kazuaki Sato was a bruising and powerful fighter known for his exceptional conditioning. He was the first Kyokushin World Champion.
Katsuaki Sato was born on 4 April 1946 on Sakhalin Island, Japan. He was the youngest of four children, having two older brothers and a sister.
During the closing stages of World War II, the Russians occupied Sakhalin Island. For many Japanese, the postwar years were very tough. Sato’s family moved to Nakoso, in the city of Iwaki in 1947.
Sato attended Kinjyo High School during the 1950s. He began learning Judo at the school’s Judo club.
After high school Sato worked as a journalist at the Kyodo News Service. He also studied part-time at Chuo University.
Judo was an important part of Sako’s life. He dreams of teaching Judo overseas. He trained at the Kodokan and also at the Milaka Police Station.
Sato was also a Judo instructor at Taisei High School.
In 1966 Sato’s Judo dreams were dashed when he seriously injured his knee and shoulder. This meant he had to give up his Judo ambitions.
It was Sato’s brother who suggested he begin learning Karate. In 1969 he began learning Kyokushin Karate from Terutomo Yamazaki.
Sato became obsessed with Karate. His strong Judo background enabled him to attain his brown belt within six months. His training regimen was legendary. It is said that every day he ran 12 km; did 1000 situps; and did 300 push-ups.
In 1970 Sato competed in the 2nd All Japan Open Karate Tournament. This was his first competitive tournament. In his bout against Kazuyuki Hasegawa, he was knocked out. Hasegawa would go on to win the tournament. The loss spurred Sato to train even harder.
On 1 October 1971, Sato was promoted to 1st Dan. At the 3rd All Japan Open Karate Tournament held in 1971, Soto had more success than the previous year. He made it to the final where he defeated Yasuhiko Oyama to become the champion. Daigo Oishi and Miyuki Miura finished in third and fourth place respectively.
The October 1972 edition of Black Belt Magazine named Sato as one of the “Top 10 Japanese karatemen“.
On 18 March 1973, Sato was promoted to 3rd Dan. By this time he had also been promoted to 3rd Dan in Judo.
On 1 May 1974, Sato was promoted to 4th Dan.
Sato won his second All-Japan title at the 6th All-Japan Open Karate Championship in 1974. He defeated Takashi Azuma in the final, with Hatsuo Royama and Diego Oishi finishing in third and fourth place.
In 1974, in preparation for the 1st World Open Karate Tournament, Sato travelled to New York with Yuzo Goda, Yoshiji Soeno, Toshikazu Sato, Yukio Nishida, Joko Ninomiya, and Kishi Nobuyuki. Known as the “Seven Samurai“, they trained under Mas Oyama, assisted by Tadashi, Nakamura and Shigeru Oyama.
Between 1-2 November 1975, the 1st World Open Karate Tournament was held in Tokyo, Japan. 32 countries were represented at the tournament. Each country sent a team of four competitors and one coach. As Japan was the host, they were allowed to have six competitors.
Representing Japan, Sato made it easily to the semi-final. In his bout, he defeated his teammate, Joko Ninomiya, to reach the final.
Sato defeated Hatsuo Royama to become the first Kyokushin World Champion. He had managed to avoid many of Royama’s devastating low kicks.
The Japanese competitors finished in the top six positions. Americans, Charles Martin and Frank Clark finished in seventh and eighth place.
Following his successes at the World Tournament, Sato retired and focused his attention on helping run his family’s business.
In 1977, Sato split from the IKO (International Karate Organisation) and founded his own Karate style, called Sato Juku. The style is also known as Odo, which means “The Champions Way“.
Sato opened his first dojo in Mitaka, Tokyo. This was a private dojo. He had no aspirations of establishing a big organisation.
In 1986, the first All-Japan Point and KO Tournament were held. It was an annual tournament held at the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo for Sato, Juku.
Sato’s book, “Royal Road Karate” was published in 1987. The book details the road he travelled to become a World Champion.
Between 2-8 May 2002, Sato arrived in Sri Lanka to introduce Sato Juku into the country. He held a Karate training camp at the Narithasan Hall in Ranpokunagama.
On 27th August 2005, Sato travelled to Los Angeles where he conducted a special training course. He was assisted by two of his students, Kentaro Onishi and Jun Watanabe.
As President of the Sato Juku, Sato oversees a small organisation that has now become international.
On 28 April 2013, the 4th World Karate Tournament Point and KO was held at the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo. There were 50 competitors from 15 countries. His son Noriaki finished in second place, behind Youya Nagata of Japan.
At the 5th World Karate Tournament Point and KO held three years later in April 2016, Sato was presented with a commemorative cup to mark his 70th birthday.
Katuaki Sato currently holds the rank of 10th Dan. He has passed his love of Karate to his son Noriaki, who started learning from him at a young age. His son helps with teaching at his dojo.