Masaaki Ueki

Always remember the mind and body are one.

Masaaki Ueki

Masatoshi Nakayama, the former Chief Instructor of the JKA, once wrote of Masaaki Ueki:

The hands and feet of Masaaki Ueki are worth watching, for they are very fast and truly sharp. It is not surprising that many opponents have been defeated.

Masaaki Ueki’s technique has always been exceptional. He is a multiple JKA All Japan Grand Champion. He is the first living 10th Dan in JKA history.

Masaaki Ueki was born on 24 March 1939, in Tokyo, Japan.

At school, Ueki was taught Judo. However, his frame was too small. In 1955 he started learning Shotokan Karate from Motokuni Sugiura, a member of the JKA. He trained at Sugiura’s Kimonenba dojo.

By 1958 Ueki had graduated from Asia University. He enrolled on the JKA Instructors Course.

In 1961 Ueki graduated from the JKA Instructors Course and started teaching at the JKA Hombu and Waseda University. The 1961 graduation class included Keinosuke Enoeda, Satoshi Miyazaki, Osamu Mori, Yoshimasa Takahashi, Katsuharu Kisaka, Ken Nakaya, and Eiko Ogawa.

A well-rounded martial artist, Ueki was a dominant competitor through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1965 at the JKA All Japan Karate Championships he became Grand Champion by winning the kata event against Hideo Ochi. In the kumite event, he lost to Katsuya Kisaka in the final.

Over the following years, Ueki developed a healthy rivalry with Ochi. Both men would become JKA All Japan Grand Champion on several occasions.

At the 9th and 10th JKA All Japan Karate Championships held in 1966 and 1967, Ochi was crowned Grand Champion. He defeated Ueki in the 1966 kata final. The following year both men reached the final again. This time Ueki was victorious.

In 1968, at the 11th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Ueki gave a dominant displayed to become Grand Champion for the second time. He defeated Yoshimasa Takahashi in the kata final. In the kumite final he defeated rival, Ochi.

Ueki missed the next two JKA All Japan Karate Championships. He returned at the 14th JKA All Karate Championships in 1971 and became Grand Champion for the third time. In the kata final he defeated Yoshimasa Takahashi. In the final of the kumite event, he lost a Takeshi Oishi.

In 1974 and 1975 Ueki won two further All Japan kata titles. At the 17th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, he defeated Yoshiharu Osaka in the kata final. The following year both men met in the final again. Ueki was victorious again.

In 1979 Ueki appeared in Masatoshi Nakayama’s 11 books series ‘Best Karate‘. He appeared in ‘Book 3: Kumite 1‘, where he can be seen sparring against Mikio Yahara. He also appeared in ‘Book 8: Gankaku, Jion‘, where he performed the kata Gankaku. In ‘Book 11: Gojushiho Dai, Gojushiho Sho, Meikyo‘, he performs the kata Gojushiho Sho.

Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA died in 1987. Motokuni Sugiura succeeded him as Chief Instructor. Nobuyuki Nakahara, a Tokyo businessman, became the Chairman of the JKA. Some instructors like Tetsuhiko Asai disagreed with the appointment. This led to a split in the JKA into two opposing factions. The Nakahara faction consisted of Ueki, Yoshiharu Osaka, and Masahiko Tanaka. The Matsuno faction consisted of Asai, Keigo Abe, Akihito Isaka, Mikio Yahara, and Masao Kagawa. Both factions referred to themselves as the JKA. There followed a 10-year legal battle between both factions.

On 22 July 1995, Ueki was appointed the Managing Director of the Nakahara fraction of the JKA.

In 1999 a Japanese High Court awarded the Nakahara faction the sole use of the JKA name. This led to the Matsuno faction leaving the JKA. The faction eventually split, with the main instructors forming their own associations.

Through the turn of the century, Ueki worked tirelessly, teaching and promoting Shotokan around the world. In 2000, the JKA moved to a new purpose-built Hombu dojo in Iidabashi, Tokyo.

On 29 May 2010, Ueki was appointed the third Chief Instructor of the JKA. He had been promoted to 9th Dan earlier that year. Sugiura had retired the previous year, aged 85.

In 2015 the 1st Asia Oceania Karate Championships were organised by the JKA. The Championships were held in Bangkok, Thailand, between 22-23 August. Ueki was the tournament’s, Chief Judge.

The Asia Oceania Junior Karate Championship Tournament was held on 22 August. The age groups were from 9-21 years. Japan was dominant, winning the majority of medals on offer.

On 23 August, the Asia Oceania Senior Karate Championship Tournament was held. Japan repeated the dominance of the previous day. They won the majority of medals on offer. Iran, Australia, and China were the only countries, apart from Japan to win medals, in the team events.

As head of the JKA, Masaaki Ueki continues to travel the world, giving seminars to JKA members. Now in his 80s, his techniques remain exceptional. He provides a direct link to the origins of Shotokan Karate.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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