Katsunori Tsuyama

At the end, there is only one thing that is kihon. Many complain about the monotonous basic training. The body may, however, be aware only by a uniform constant repetition of movements. One should look for the connection of conscious art and physical strength. The technique must be so trained that it settles in the subconscious. If it is needed, it shoots out, as easy as if you were speaking a word.

Katsunori Tsuyama

Known as the ‘Master of the Masters‘, Katsunori Tsuyama’s former students include Tatsuya Naka, Manabu Murakami, Masao Kawasoe, Hideo Ochi, and Yuki Mimura. Known for his devastating mawashi geri (round kick), his emphasis has always been on kihon. He believes that strong basic techniques eventually feed into kata and kumite.

Tsuyama was born in Saha City, Japan in 1936. He began his martial arts journey aged 16 years when he started learning Shotokan Karate.

In 1954 Tsuyama moved to Tokyo, enrolling at Takushoku University. He studied Business Administration. He joined the University’s very strong Karate club, training under Masatoshi Nakayama. He never had the opportunity to train under Gichin Funakoshi.

Tsuyama trained hard. By 1957 he had become the Captain of the Takushoku Karate club.

The 1st JKA All Japan Championships took place in 1957. Tsuyama made it to the final of the kumite event, where he faced Hirokazu Kanazawa. He lost to Kanazawa who had several years more experience than him. Tsuyama would go on to become an All Japan University champion.

By 1958 Tsuyama had graduated from Takushoku University. He returned to Saga City where he worked as a business administrator.

Tsuyama eventually married and worked for his in-laws in their vegetable business. During this time he also taught Karate at the University of Saga, a local high school, and at a military academy.

In 1968 Tsuyama received an offer from his former teacher, Nakayama, to teach Karate at Takushoku University. He accepted the offer.

Returning to Tokyo, Tsuyama was employed as a sports teacher at Takushoku. He also taught at the JKA Hombu. He eventually gave this up, due to a lack of time.

To become a professional teacher, Tsuyama enrolled at the Faculty of Sport Science at the University of Education, in Tokyo. He studied General Sports Science.

In 1972 Tsuyama graduated from the University of Education. Shortly after graduating, he became the Head Coach at Takushoku University.

Masatoshi Nakayama’s 11 books series ‘Best Karate‘ was published in 1979. Tsuyama appeared in ‘Book 3 – Kumite 1‘. In the book, Nakayama said of him:

In close combat, Katsunori Tsuyama’s roundhouse kick as very often come as a complete surprise. He is especially adept at catching the opponent’s punching arm and while pulling him closer, executing a sharp roundhouse kick aimed at the jaw from very close range. Using a higher arc, he can aim a kick at the back of the opponent’s neck with the toes slanting downward.

In the book Tsuyama can we seen sparring against Eishige Matsukura.

On 15 April 1987, Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA died. His death led to a 10-year legal battle between opposing factions within the JKA. Tsuyama was not involved in this conflict. At the time he was focused on his teaching duties at Takushoku.

In the late 1990s, Tsuyama was struck by a car while involved in his favourite past time of walking. Although badly injured, he eventually recovered, through his Karate training.

For over 50 years Katsunori Tsuyama has taught thousands of practitioners Shotokan Karate. His teachings have helped shape many of today’s Masters. Many of them have gone on to become top instructors in organisations such as the JKA and SKIF, to name a few.

A family man, Tsuyama is married with a son and daughter.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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