… I want to cultivate skilled, knowledgeable and well rounded people who are respectable member for society.Keiji Tomiyama
One of the most senior Shito–Ryu instructors in Europe, Keiji Tomiyama was part of the second generation of Japanese instructors to arrive in Europe, after the likes of Tatsuo Suzuki, Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, and Keinosuke Enoeda.
Keiji Tomiyama was born in Osaka, Japan, on 6 March 1950. His father had been an amateur sumo wrestler.
Growing up Tomiyama was musical and learned to play the trumpet. He became a member of the Yao High School brass band.
In 1967 Tomiyama began learning boxing. At the same time, his cousin started learning Shito-Ryu Karate. Around a year later, he and his cousin had a match to compare fighting styles. To his surprise, Tomiyama was soundly beaten by his cousin. He gave up boxing and started training with his cousin.
Tomiyama graduated from Yao High School in March 1968. He enrolled at Doshisha University, located in Kyoto, where he studied Management Science.
At Doshisha, Tomiyama joined the University’s Karate club where he trained every evening, apart from Sunday.
The Karate club has been founded by Goju-Ryu Karate founder, Chojun Miyagi. When Miyagi returned to Okinawa, Shito-Ryu founder, Kenwa Mabuni, took over the running of the club. Mabuni continued teaching a version of Goju–Ryu off at the club. However, he did teach Shito-Ryu in the Osaka area.
Tomiyama trained under Shukokai founder, Chojiro Tani. As a student, Tani had trained under Mabuni at the university club. He would also travel to Osaka to train with Mabuni. He eventually changed styles from Goju-Ryu to Shito–Ryu, some years later. After graduating, Tani had been invited to teach at the club. Years later, under his leadership, the club changed from Goju-Ryu to teaching Tani–Ha Shito-Ryu. However, the club returned to teaching a mixture of Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu. Eventually, Tani’s style of Shito-Ryu became known as Shukokai.
By 1970 Tomiyama was studying hard and also training hard at the Doshisha Karate club. Around this time Tani asked if any of the club students would be willing to travel to the United States to assist Shigeru Kimura with teaching Karate or travel to Europe to assist Yasuhiro Suzuki. This was to be for a period of 1-2 years after graduation. This was to help with the spread of Shukokai Karate. Tomiyama was one of the students to express an interest.
In March 1972 Tomiyama arrived in Paris, France with the Doshisha University Karate club captain, Naoki Omi. They had been sent to assist Yasuhiro Suzuki, the Chief Instructor of Shukokai in Europe. They were tasked with helping him establish Shukokai in Europe.
Yasuhiro Suzuki, a student of Chojiro Tani, arrived in Europe in 1969. He had arrived as an employee of Toyota.
Initially, things were hard for Tomiyama and Omi. They spoke no French and very little English. However, over time things improved. Apart from training and teaching they also took lessons to improve their French.
In 1973 Suzuki moved to Belgium to work at his company’s Brussels office. Tomiyama also travelled to Belgium to assist Suzuki with teaching Karate classes. With the growing popularity of Shukokai in the country, a large central dojo was opened in Brussels.
Suzuki and other instructors like Shigeru Kimura and Yoshinao Nanbu spread Chojiro Tani’s Shukokai across Europe. In 1975 the Euro-Cup was established as a yearly tournament. It was held in the Belgian town of Pepinster from 1976 to 1978.
In 1975 the large central dojo was closed. Suzuki and his students moved to a smaller dojo. This new dojo became the headquarters of the Shukokai World Karate Union Europe (SWKUE) and remained so until 1978.
To help further the development of Shukokai in England, Tomiyama settled in Nottingham in 1978.
In 1979 the Euro-Cup was held in Paris for the first time. That year also saw the appointment of Tomiyama as the General Secretary of the SWKUE.
It was decided that the SWKUE needed to have better organisation. To formalise the structure of the organisation it was decided that membership fees would be collected for administrative costs and services. The Belgian group, one of the founding members of the SWKUE disagreed with paying membership fees. Unfortunately, they decided to leave the SWKUE, thus bringing an end to Shukokai being practised in Belgium.
In 1980 the Euro-Cup was held in Peterborough, England. Yasuhiro Suzuki attended the tournament and also conducted a grading. Tomiyama, Omi, Hiroshi Okubo, Tsutomu Kamohara were graded to 5th Dan.
1980 saw Chojiro Tani make a visit to Europe. He was accompanied by his wife and several instructors.
Yasuhiro Suzuki did much to establish Shukokai Karate in Europe. However, by 1981, he returned to Japan for work reasons. Tomiyama and Omi replaced him as Joint Chief Instructors. Tomiyama, Omi, and Okubo became the senior instructors left teaching in Europe.
By 1980 there were several groups in Europe calling themselves Shukokai. Tomiyama and Omi decided to rename the SWKUE to Kofukan International after Yasuhiro Suzuki’s Japanese dojo. This was done to differentiate themselves from the other Shukokai groups.
In 1986 Tani made a return visit to Europe. He conducted a grading, where Tomiyama, Omi, and Okubu were graded to 6th Dan.
The Kofukan Euro-Cup was held in Slovenia in 1987. Sweden, Norway, Scotland, England, France, The Channel Islands, and Yugoslavia competed in the tournament. Tani attended the event.
1987 saw Doshisha University Karate club celebrate its 50th anniversary. Tomiyama took some of his students to Japan to attend the anniversary. The group has the opportunity to train Tani.
Under the leadership of Tomiyama and Omi, Kofukan International grew. 1990 saw the beginning of the rapid expansion of the organisation. Bulgaria, Georgia, Portugal, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Japan, Israel, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Greece all join Kofukan International.
In 1992 Kofukan International celebrated its 20th anniversary. A special event was held in Oslo, Norway. Tani was meant to be the guest of honour. However, he was hospitalised in Japan, so could not attend. Representatives were sent in his place. Tomiyama was awarded a Shihan diploma.
The Shukokai 45th Anniversary Championships took place in 1994. The event was held in Kobe, Japan. Tani graded Tomiyama and Omi to 7th Dan. Omi was also awarded his Shihan diploma.
Having increased in size, Kofukan International underwent restructuring. Tomiyama with named President with Omi was named Chief Executive. Tomiyama and Omi were named Joint Chief Instructors.
April 1997 saw Kofukan International celebrate its 25th Anniversary. An open training course conducted by Tomiyama and also a World Championships was held. Tani was a guest of honour at both events.
On 11 January 1998 Chojiro Tani, the founder of Shukokai Karate, died from liver cancer.
Tomiyama’s book, “Pinan Katas in Depth” was published in 2006.
In 2017 Kofukan International celebrated its 45th Anniversary. A special event was held at the Kofukan World Cup in Paris.
On 4 November 2017, Doshisha University Karate Club celebrated its 80th anniversary. Tomiyama had taken 20 Kofukan members to Japan. They had trained at the Karate club with current students and previous graduates of the club. A celebration of held at the Kyoto Hotel Okura, where 250 guests were in attendance.
On 6 November 2017, Kofukan International decided to leave the Tani-Ha Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Shukokai. They wanted the freedom to develop their own organisation.
Tomiyama returned to Japan in May 2018, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary Reunion of graduation from Yao High School. 80 of the 500 students who graduated that year attended the event.
As a Chief Instructor of Kofukan International, Tomiyama frequently travelled the world visiting member countries where he conducted training courses and grading. On 1 November 2019 he arrived in Kiev, Ukraine, via Birmingham, and Frankfurt. He conducted a course for 3rd Dans and above, followed by black belt gradings.
Between 22–23 February 2020, a weekend seminar was held in Nottingham. Both Tomiyama and Omi led the training. On the first evening, an early 70th birthday celebration was held for Tomiyama. After the birthday meal and gift presentation, Tomiyama played some tunes on his trumpet. The following day, a black belt grading was held.
On 6 March 2020, Tomiyama travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he conducted a weekend training course for 3rd Dans and above, followed by a black belt grading. The training and grading were held at Kofukan Denmark’s new dojo. A celebration was also held to celebrate Tomiyama’s 70th birthday.
The Kofukan International Cup was due to take place in Copenhagen between 4 –5 April 2020. However, the event was cancelled due to the global Covid-19 Pandemic.
Keiji Tomiyama is currently still Joint Chief instructor of Kofukan international together with Naoki Omi, who is based in France. Currently ranked at 8th Dan, Tomiyama is also the Chief Instructor of Kofukan England. He frequently travels the world, visiting Kofukan International members, where he conducts courses, seminars, and gradings.