Kenji Kurosaki

In my eyes, Kyodo is the purest of all martial arts, an archer is of all budokas the one who cares least about winning or losing. For him, only Budo exists.

Kenji Kurosaki

Known as a pioneer of kickboxing and Muay Thai in Japan, Kenji Kurosaki’s contribution to the history of Kyokushin Karate has been forgotten by many. He was one of Mas Oyama’s first assistants and was present at the beginning of Oyama Karate and Kyokushin Karate. He has instructed many of the legends of Kyokushin, including Tadashi Nakamura, Terutomo Yamazaki, Shigeru Oyama, and Yoshiji Soeno. He also has a reputation for being a tough fighter in and out of the dojo.

Kenji Kurosaki was born on 15 March 1930, to descendants of the samurai, in Kuwamura, Japan. From a young age, he showed an affinity for the martial arts. He gained a foundation in Judo and Kendo.

Growing up Kurosaki was a little hotheaded, and it was not unknown for him to get into fights.

In 1951 Kurosaki began learning Goju-Ryu Karate under Gogen Yamaguchi. It was around this time that he met Mas Oyama, who was training at the dojo at the same time. They became training partners.

In 1953 Oyama opened a dojo in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo. It was located in a former dance studio behind Rikkyo University. He taught Oyama Karate, an amalgamation of the different styles of Karate he had learned.

Kurosaki, alongside Masashi Ichibashi and Eiji Yasuda, became instructors at Oyama’s dojo. Eventually, Kurosaki became Oyama’s right-hand man in the early days. Although he typically worked in the background, he can always be seen next to Oyama in many of the photos taken at the time.

By 1958 Oyama Karate had become popular. That year Kurosaki opened a second branch dojo in Narimasu.

In the spring of 1963, Thai Boxer, Osamu Noguchi issued a challenge to the Oyama dojo. This was an attempt to see which was the better style. Oyama chose Kurosaki, Hirofumi Okada, Yasuhiko Oyama, Tadashi Nakamura, and Akio Fujihara, to face the challenge.

In August 1963 a month-long training camp was held at Kinugawa, in preparation for a trip to Thailand in October. The trip was postponed to December, with a further postponement to January of the following year. Unfortunately, Hirofumi Okada and Yasuhiko Oyama were unable to travel to Thailand.

Kurosaki, alongside Tadashi Nakamura, and Akio Fujihara, travelled to Bangkok, Thailand in February 1964. They were due to compete at the famed Lumpini stadium.

Aged 34, Kurosaki had initially travelled to Thailand as the coach of Nakamura and Fujihara. They had been expecting to take part in a bare-knuckles contest. However, the rules were changed to Muay Thai rules. Also, a third match was required. This meant Kurosaki had to fight.

Not willing to back down, Kurosaki faced Rawee Dechehai, the Thai Champion, in their bout. A last-minute stand-in, Kurosaki was knocked out by Dechehai. He later admitted that he had underestimated his opponent. Nakamura and Fujihara won their bouts. Japanese Karate was declared the winner of the challenge.

The loss had a big influence on Kurosaki. This made him change the way he fought. He began incorporating Muay Thai techniques into his training. He returned to Thailand several times, where he trained in Muay Thai. His fight with Dechehai would eventually play a part in the formation of what would become Kickboxing

In April 1964 Oyama Karate was renamed Kyokushin Karate.

In 1965 Kurosaki traveled to Hawaii to teach Kyokushin Karate. Later that year he was invited by Jon Bluming to teach Kyokushin in The Netherlands. He spent 11 months in Holland. He also helped spread Kyokushin to other European countries.

Kurosaki returned to Japan in 1966.

Together with Ab Pruis, and good friend, Jon Bluming, Kurosaki saw the publication of their book, “Kyokushinkai 1 Karate” in 1967. The following year “Kyokushinkai 2, Karate“, was published. Both books were published in Dutch.

By 1969 Kurosaki had been promoted to 5th Dan. In March of that year, he established the Meijiro Gym, located in the Meijiro district of Tokyo, it would become one of the centres of Japanese style Kickboxing

Kurosaki brought over Muay Thai instructors to teach his students. This included Napont Siri, who would help him combine Kyokushin Karate and Muay Thai into a style of Kickboxing.

Much of what Kurosaki taught at his gym would become one of the bases of Dutch Kickboxing. Jon Bluming would send his students to the gym to train. Many of these students would help to establish Kickboxing in The Netherlands.

In 1976 Kurosaki left the IKO (International Karate Organisation), the organisation established by Mas Oyama. Kurosaki had become unhappy with the commercial direction he thought the IKO was taking.

Some have felt that Kurosaki’s departure from the IKO meant that his place in Kyokushin history had become diluted. It is fair to say that he is not mentioned in the same light as some of the other legendary practitioners of the time.

In 1978 Kurosaki’s student, Toshio Fujiwara became the first non-Thai to become a Muay Thai World Champion in Thailand. He had a fight record of 141 fights; 121 wins; 13 losses; and 2 draws. 99 of his wins were by knockout.

Kurosaki was appointed the Honorary Chairman of the International Budo Kaikan (IBK) in 1992.

By 1998 Kurosaki had been promoted to 10th Dan.

In 2012 Kurosaki was appointed the Chairman of the WKB (World Kyokushin Budokai).

Kenji Kurosaki has made his name as an instructor. He is a pioneer of Full-Contact Karate and Kickboxing in Japan and Holland.

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