Miki Nakamachi

You are always going to make mistakes in life, but you always have to look at and face up to them. When you stop doing it, then your weaknesses are exposed. Don’t look for affirmation from somewhere else, because that means that you have no self-belief inside yourself… and in that case, no amount of empty praise will change that.

Miki Nakamachi

Known as the ‘JKA’s Queen of Hearts‘, Miki Nakamachi wears many hats. She is an instructor, a competitor, and a mother. She has won numerous kata titles nationally and internationally. Karate has helped her develop a very strong mindset. This has helped her cope with some of the tragedies in her life.

Miki Rebecca Nakamachi was born Miki Rebecca Waterhouse (Nakamachi is her married name) on 14 May 1986, in Kobe Japan. She is older than her identical twin sister, Vanessa Aya, and has an older brother.

Miki Nakamachi’s father, Mark Waterhouse is Canadian. Her mother is a second-generation Japanese-American raised in Canada.

At the age of five, Nakamachi and her twin sister began learning Karate from their father. Currently ranked as a 7th Dan by the JKA, he studied under Jun Sugano, a direct student of Gichin Funakoshi. The twins had wanted to train because they had seen their brother training with their father. They were told by their father that once they started training, they could not quit until they got their black belt.

Growing up Nakamachiand her twin sister attended the Senri International School in Osaka.

By 1996 Nakamachi had started competing in junior tournaments. Her first major tournament was the 1996 Junior All Japan Karate Championships.

On 1 August 1998 the Funakoshi Gichin Cup 7th Junior Karate World Championship Tournament was held in Paris, France. This was Nakamachi’s first international tournament.

In 2005, both Nakamachi and her twin sister enrolled at the prestigious Keio University. Nakamachi studied in the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies. They both joined the University’s Karate club, which was one of the oldest Karate clubs in Japan.

The Keio University Karate club was the first University club that Gichin Funakoshi taught at. Previous ‘Old Boys‘ of the Karate club include Isao Obata, a long time student of Funakoshi.

The twins were the only female members of the Karate club. They were expected to train and fight with the guys. The training was tough. Nakamachi’s sister, Vanessa, eventually stopped training at the club. However, Nakamachi persevered with the training. She believed it made her kumite very strong.

The Keio University club was not a member of the JKA. However, Nakamachi was allowed to do extra training at the JKA Hombu in Tokyo. She took kata classes with Yoshiharu Osaka. She also took several classes with Kunio Kobayashi, with whom she still trains.

Whilst at university Nakamachi started competing at the JKA All Japan Karate Championships. Her first championship was the 49th edition of the tournament, held on 9th July 2006. In the Individual Women’s Kata event, she finished in fifth place.

In April 2007 Nakamachi made history. She won the Individual Women’s Kumite title at the Big Six University Karate Tournament. This was a tournament featuring the six most prominent universities in the Tokyo area. The universities were Keio, Hosei, Meiji, Rikkyo, University of Tokyo, and Waseda. Nakamachi became the first woman from Keio University to win a Big Six University Karate tournament.

Nakamachi graduated from Keio University in 2009. She and her husband, a professional athlete, moved to Fukuoka.

In Fukuoka, Nakamachi joined the dojo of Shinobu Hashiguchi. His son, Yuji, a former JKA Kata Champion, was her main instructor for two years.

On 21 June 2009 Nakamachi competed at the 52nd JKA All Japan Karate Championships. In the Individual Women’s Kata event, she finished in third place. Her previous best finishes had been fifth place in 2006 and 2008. The following year she repeated her performance, finishing third at the 53rd JKA All Japan Karate Championships.

In 2011 Nakamachi moved to Yokohama. She joined the dojo of Kunio Kobayashi, who apart from being an instructor at the JKA Hombu was a coach of the JKA National Team.

On 10 July 2011 Nakamachi finished in second place in the Individual Women’s Kata at the 54th JKA All Japan Karate Championship. This earned her a call-up to the JKA National Team.

On 21 August 2011, the Funakoshi Gichin Cup 12th Karate World Championship Tournament was held in Pattaya, Thailand. The Japanese team were dominant, winning the majority of medals on offer. Nakamachi won a silver medal, behind Nozomi Oshima in the Women’s Individual Kata. Serino Fukasaku finished in third place.

2012 was another big year for Nakamachi. She was appointed a coach at the Keio University Karate Club. She also gave birth to her first child, a daughter.

On 1 July 2012 Nakamachi competed at the 55th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, one month after giving birth. During the tournament, she breastfed her daughter in between rounds. Remarkably, she won the Individual Women’s Kata title. She retained her title the following year.

Nakamachi met Tadashi Kaneko, a master of stretching in 2013. He helped her deepen her understanding of stretching and posture in relation to Karate. She acquired a qualification as a Proper Posture Instructor.

On 29 June 2014 Nakamachi won her third consecutive Individual Kata title. At the 57th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, she retained her Kata title. This earned her selection to the JKA National Team.

The Funakoshi Gichin Cup 13th Karate World Championship Tournament was held in Tokyo on 19 October 2014. Nakamachi won her first world title. In the women’s Individual Kata, she defeated teammates Ayano Takagi and Nao Hikawa to win the title.

2015 was a mixed year for Nakamachi. She graduated from the Japan Stretch Trainer Academy. At the 58th JKA ALL Japan Karate Championships, she finished in second place in the Individual Kata event.

On 15 December 2015 Nakamachi’s son Hugo was born. However, tragedy struck when he died two days later from a medical complication. For what was a difficult time for her and her husband, the support of the Karate community helped with her loss.

On 25 September 2016, Nakamachi competed at the 59th JKA All Japan Karate Championships. She normally performed the kata Gojushiho Sho in competition. However, in honour of her son, she decided to perform the kata Unsu. Meaning ‘Cloud Hands’, she saw Unsu as representing her son’s little hands in the clouds. She was very happy with her sixth-place finish. She wasn’t interested in winning the event.

2016 saw Nakamachi open her Stretch Studio. At the studio, she taught women’s flexibility, Karate, and the importance of having good posture.

In 2017 Nakamachi gave birth to her second daughter. At the 60th JKA All Japan Karate Championships held that year. She changed her kata to Sochin. She saw the kata as representing the strength of her second daughter. She finished in second place.

At the 61st and 62nd JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Nakamachi finished in second place behind Ayano Nakamura. At the age of 33, she was selected to another JKA National Team.

In August 2019 the JKA 2nd Asia Oceania Karate Championship Tournament was held in Bangkok, Thailand. Nakamachi won both the Women’s Individual Kata and Women’s Team Kata events.

Karate was due to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 games held in Tokyo. To promote the games, top Karate competitors, Rika Usami, Miki Nakamachi, Ken Nishimura, and Ryutaro Arago, shot a film to promote Karate at the 2020 Games.

Miki Nakamachi has shown that women can compete at the highest levels of Karate, even after starting a family. She strives to be a good role model for her daughters. Her aim is to show that Karate is a lifestyle open to anyone. It is not dependent on one’s gender, race, background, or age. Both of her daughters practice Karate.

Nakamachi continues to lead a busy life. She continues to teach Karate at Keio University Karate Club, which now has a strong women’s team to match the men’s team. As a member of the JKA, she sometimes assists with translating for international seminars held at the Hombu and abroad. She also conducts seminars on Karate and correct posture.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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