Kiyoshi Yamazaki

The instructor’s main objective in class is to correct the students, not to train himself. He should allocate time for his own personal training and development.

Kiyoshi Yamazaki

A student of one of the greatest Karate Masters of the 20th century in Yasuhiro Konishi, Kiyoshi Yamazaki has endeavoured to pass on many of his master’s lessons. He has become a well-respected master in his own right.

Kiyoshi Yamazaki was born on 16 August 1940 in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. His father was a Kendo master, who taught his two sons martial arts from an early age.

As a teacher, Yamazaki’s father was a hard task master. The boys would train before school. They would return home at lunchtime for another practice session. After school they would practice some more.

Growing up, Yamazaki was a talented athlete. He was a middle and long distance runner. At school he broke records in both the 15,000 m and 5000 m distances.

Aged 16, Yamazaki began learning Shindo Jinen Ryu Karate, under Yasuhiro Konishi. The training was very traditional and very tough.

Konishi was a phenomenal martial artist who had been a student of Morehei Ueshiba, Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, and Kenwa Mabuni. His style of Shindo Jinen Ryu Karate was a combination of what he had learnt from these great masters. He established the Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai (JKR) as the organisation for his style.

Yamazaki enrolled at Senshu University in 1960, to study Economics. He joined the University’s Karate club. He trained in Shotokan Karate with the Shotokai group, under the instruction of Hironishi Motonobu.

Through hard training, Yamazaki improved rapidly in Shotokan. He became a member of the University’s Karate team. In the team, he joined the likes of Taiji Kase, who was his senior. Even though he was a member of the Karate club, he would train with Konishi whenever he got the chance.

Yamazaki had been training with Konishi since 1956. He had attempted to grade for 1st Dan on three occasions. In 1962, Konishi promoted him to 1st Dan, as his fourth attempt. That same year Konishi arranged for him to travel to Okinawa, to learn Kobudo from the renowned master, Shugoro Nakazato.

In 1964 Yamazaki graduated from Senshu University with a BA in Economics. He returned to training with Konishi. He started assisting him in seminars and demonstrations around the world.

At the invitation of Dan Ivan, a pioneer of Karate in the United States, Yamazaki moved to California in 1969, with the blessing of Konishi. He attended an adult college to learn English. He began teaching Karate at Citrus College in Azusa, California. He later opened a dojo in Anaheim, California. He soon built a reputation for being a good instructor.

The 1st WUK0 World Championships were scheduled to take place in Japan in 1970. Yamazaki was chosen to serve on the committee to select the US Karate team, to participate in the Championships. He served on the selection committee with Fumio Demura and Hidetaka Nishiyama.

Through the 1970s, Yamazaki continued teaching and promoting Shindo Jinen Ryu Karate. In 1973 he organised for his teacher, Konishi, to visit the United States.

By the 1980s Yamazaki had embarked on a movie career. He started working with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bridgitte Nielson, and Terry O’Neill on a variety of roles. He taught them how to correctly use a sword.

In 1982 he appeared in the film, ‘Conan the Barbarian‘. He played the role of a swordmaster. He then worked as a fight coordinator on the films ‘Conan the Destroyer‘ and ‘Dune‘ in 1984. The following year, he worked on the film, ‘Red Sonja‘.

In 1983, Yamazaki’s mentor, Yasuhiro Konishi died in Tokyo.

On 8 February 1985, Yamazaki’s daughter, Mina, was born in California.

Yamazaki had long believed in the unifying force of martial arts. In 1991 he travelled to Iraq with a group of martial artists to promote peace in the country. He believed that martial arts could act as a bridge to help cross political and cultural boundaries.

In 1993 Yamazaki organised a panel to discuss the philosophy of Budo. The event took place at the University of Kansas. Panelists included Dr G Cameron Hurst, Dr Andrew Tsubaki, and Dr John Teramoto.

Yamazaki continued working on films and television. In 1996 he appeared in the film ‘Dragonheart‘. The following year, he was a technical advisor and actor on the television series, ‘Conan the Adventurer‘.

Like his teacher Konishi, Yamazaki believed that at its core, Karate was not a sport. However, Yamazaki believed that the sport element of Karate attracts new people into the dojo. Once in the dojo, instructors can teach them Budo and the true essence of Karate.

In March 2011, Yamazaki was promoted to 8th Dan by the Japan Karate Federation (JKF). At the time, he was the highest ranking JKS black belt outside of Japan. That year he was also promoted to 9th Dan in Shindo Jinen Ryu by Konishi’s son, Yasuhiro(Takehiro).

On 9 September 2012, Yamazaki was appointed Deputy Chief Instructor of the JKR. In November of that year, his daughter, Mina, represented the United States at the 21st World Karate Championships, held in Paris, France. She had started learning Karate from her father, at the age of three.

On 14 August 2013, Yamazaki was honoured at a lunch for the 2013 Nisei Week Pioneers. The 73rd Annual Nisei Week Japanese Festival was held in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. The festival was the celebration of Japanese American culture and history. The other people honoured at the lunch were Fumio Demura, Chogi Higa, Takayuki Kubota, Nori Ugematsu, and Yoshiko Yamaguchi.

Yasuhiro (Takehiro) Konishi promoted Yamazaki to President of the Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai International, on 5 February 2017.

Kiyoshi Yamazaki strongly believes that he can bring people from different cultures together, through a shared passion. He continues to be motivated by teaching others. He has had the opportunity to pass his knowledge to people of different cultures through his demonstrations and seminars around the world.

Away from Karate, Yamazaki enjoys playing golf and practising Iaido.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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