One of Shito-ryu founder, Kenwa Mabuni’s top students, Manzo Iwata was a phenomenal martial artist, who was a long time member of the Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organisation (FAJKO). A well-respected Shito-ryu master, he was known for his superb technical ability.
Manzo Iwata was born on 9 February 1924, in Tokyo, Japan. He was the second son of a family of tea makers.
In 1930, aged 6, Iwata started practising Aikido, Kendo, and Judo. The legendary Morihei Ueshiba was a friend of Iwata’s grandfather. He learnt Aikido from him whenever he visited.
Iwata enrolled at the Toyo University in 1941, to study literature. He joined the university’s Karate club, training under Shito-ryu founder, Kenwa Mabuni.
Even though the training was tough, Iwata persisted with it, showing great ability. He began learning some Kobudo from Mabuni, who taught him the Bo.
Mabuni and Kobudo master, Seiko Fujita were longtime friends. At Mabuni’s suggestion, the Iwata started learning Jo-Jutsu from Fajita in 1943. Fujita eventually awarded him with a teacher’s certificate.
Fujita was also a master of Koga-ryu Ninjutsu. Iwata became his main student. He had the opportunity to learn many styles encompassed by Ninjutsu. When Fujita died in 1966, Iwata became the heir to many of these styles. However, he did not become the heir to Koga-ryu Ninjutsu.
Iwata had continued his training with Mabuni. In 1944 he was given the authority to teach Shito-ryu Karate, by Mabuni.
In 1946 Iwata graduated from Toyo University. He took over the running of his family’s tea business. He also got married to his wife Shigeko.
Iwata became the Karate instructor at Nihon University in 1943. Three years later he won he also became the instructor at Tokyo University, where his students included Negishi Yuichi and Nogiua Toshiaki.
1950 saw Iwata open his Renku-kan Dojo in Tokyo’s Ueno district.
On 23 May 1952, Kenwa Mabuni died. His eldest son, Kenei, succeeded him as the 2nd Chief Instructor of Shito-ryu Karate-do. Many of his other top students founded there own versions of Shito-ryu.
By this time Iwata had become the President of the Kanto district of Japanese Kai Karate-do Shito-ryu.
On 9 October 1958, Iwata’s son, Genzo, was born.
Manzo Iwata established the East Japan Headquarters of the Nihon Karate-Do Kai. He was named President of the organisation. It operated independently from Kenei Mabuni’s Shito-ryu Karate-do Hombu, which was located in Osaka.
April 1964 saw the coming together of both Mabuni’s and Iwata’s organisations for the 1st All Japan Shito-ryu Karate Championships. That same year the All Japan Karate-Do Federation Shito-Kai was established.
On 1 October 1964, the Japan Karate Federation (JKF) was established. The aim of the Federation was to become an umbrella for various Karate styles and become the official governing body for Karate in Japan.
The founding members of the Federation represented the four main schools of Japanese Karate. Hironori Ohtsuka represented Wado-ryu. Gogen Yamaguchi represented Goju-ryu. Masatoshi Nakayama represented Shotokan. Kenei Mabuni and Manzo Iwata represented Shito-ryu.
Iwata was the youngest of the founding members. He was promoted to 8th Dan by the JKF.
On 19 October 1968, the 19th Olympic Commemoration Invitational World Karate Championship Tournament was held in Los Angeles. There were teams from Japan, Europe, and the United States. During the tournament, demonstrations were given by Hironori Ohtsuka, Masatoshi Nakayama, and Manzo Iwata who performed a kata.
In 1969 Iwata was appointed the Vice-President of the Saitama Prefecture Karate-do Federation. He was also appointed a member of the Technical Committee for the Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organisation (FAJKO).
In 1970 the first WUKO Karate World Championships were held in Japan. Iwata was the head of the Japanese delegation.
Also in 1970, Iwata’s son Genzo who was aged around 11/12 years, began training with him.
In 1972 Iwata was appointed the Head of Arbitration for FAJKO. However, that same year he was involved in a car crash. He was in a coma for two months. After waking from the coma, he eventually regained control of his body and resumed his training.
February 1973 saw the establishment of the Japan Karate-do Federation Shito-kai (JKF Shito-kai) after much work behind the scenes. This saw the merging of the two main Shito-ryu organisations into a single organisation.
On 1 February 1980, Eiichi Tanaka, the President of the JKF Shito-kai, died. Kenei Mabuni was made the Honorary President of the organisation. Manzo Iwata was named President, with Sadachika Tsujikawa was named Vice- President. In the same year he also became the President of the Nippon Karate-do Shito-kai.
Through the 1980s Iwata headed a number of organisations. In 1983 he was appointed President of the Japanese Federation of Shito-ryu Karate-do. In 1986 he was appointed President of the Rotary Club of Iruma. 1989 saw him appointed the Technical Director of FAJKO.
In 1991 Iwata retired as the Technical Director of FAJKO. He became a member of the Honorary Consultative Council.
1993 saw the Japanese Government award, Iwata, with the Budo Korosho, for his services to the martial arts.
March 1993 also saw the Iwata help establish the World Federation of Shito-ryu Karate-do. The aim of the Federation was to unify the Shito-ryu world. Later that month, the 1st Shito-ryu Karate-do World Championship was held at the Budokan, Tokyo on 20-21 March.
Big things were on the horizon for Shito-ryu Karate and Iwata. However, on 4 June 1993 Manzo Iwata died, following a heart attack.
Following his death, Manzo Iwata was posthumously awarded the rank of the 9th Dan. Following his father’s death, Genzo Iwata continued the work of his father.
Kenwa Mabuni recognised in Manzo Iwata a student of exceptional ability. He was impressed at how he was able to pick up the techniques of Shito-ryu and how disciplined he was. Iwata continued the legacy of Mabini, imparting in his knowledge to a new generation of students.