Although he may not be as well known as some other JKA masters, Minoru Kawawada was a longtime instructor at the JKA Hombu. For many years he went about his task of teaching excellent Karate to his students. He is also considered to be one of the best competitors of his generation, equally at home competing in kata or kumite. Humble and friendly, he is known for his immense Karate knowledge.
Minoru Kawawada was born on 16 January 1952 in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Growing up, he wanted to practice Karate after being influenced by the TV series. Karate Fu Un Ji (Karate Adventure). The program was about a karateka in early Meiji Okinawa, he travelled the country, challenging Budo Masters, and learning the essence of true Karate.
Kawawada’s father, who was a judoka, didn’t want him to practice Karate, as at the time it was associated with gangsters.
In high school, Kawawada began learning Karate from Naonosuke Otsu of the JKA. He also trained at Otsu’s dojo.
After high school Kawawada enrolled at Takushoku University. He joined the university’s Karate club training under Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA.
In 1972 Nakayama established the Hoitsugan dojo, located in the Ebisu district of Tokyo, in a six-story building. His residence was on the top floor of the building. The dojo had dormitories where foreign students could stay when they visited.
Meaning “The place where people with the same goal practice and study together“, the Hoitsugan dojo’s aim was to provide a place where people could train, regardless of politics, race, or colour. Nakayama’s student, Hirokazu Kanazawa, helped him establish the dojo.
In 1974 Kawawada graduated from Takushoku University. He was due to enrol on the JKA Instructors Course. However, he suffered a hernia, so was unable to take up his place. Nakayama asked him to help with teaching at the Hoitsugan dojo.
Kawawada enrolled on the JKA Instructors Course in 1976. Two years later he graduated from the course alongside Masaki Komaki and Fujikiyo Omura. He became a full-time instructor at the JKA Hombu as well as teaching at the Hoitsugan.
Apart from teaching, Kawawada was also a successful competitor.
In 1985 at the 28th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Kawawada finished in third place in the kumite event. Later that year he competed at the 1st Shoto World Cup Karate Championship Tournament held in Tokyo. In the kumite final, he defeated Masaaki Yokomichi. The match was refereed by Teruyuki Okazaki. Kawawada also defeated Masao Kagawa in the kata final. He was crowned Grand Champion.
Kawawada’s success continued into 1986. At the 29th JKA All Japan Karate Championships he defeated Takenori Imura to win the kata title. Yoshinobu Ohta finished in third place.
On 15 April 1987, Masatoshi Nakayama died. A memorial training session was held at the Hoitsugan dojo in his honour.
Nakayama’s widow turned over the running of the Hoitsugan dojo to Kawawada. He became the Chief Instructor of the dojo, following in the footsteps of the man who had greatly influenced his Karate.
On 27 September 1987, the 30th JKA All Japan Karate Championships were held at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. This was the first All Japan Championships held after Nakayama’s death. Kawawada finished ahead of Tomoyuki Aihara and Yuji Hashiguchi, to claim the kata title. By finishing in joint third place with Tomio Imamura, behind Masaaki Yokomichi, and Katsutoshi Shiina in the kumite event, he was named Grand Champion.
Around three years after the death of Nakayama, internal divisions within the JKA led to 2 opposing factions being formed. Both factions claimed the use of the JKA name.
On 10 June 1999, the Japan Supreme Court awarded the Nakahara faction the exclusive rights to the JKA name.
As a JKA instructor, Kawawada was frequently invited to give training courses around the world. He has given courses in Sweden, France, Portugal, and India. He has conducted courses alongside Yusuke Inokoshi, Toshiro Mori, Kazuhiro Sawada, Mai Shiina, and Keisuke Nemoto.
In 2020. It was announced that Masahiko Tanaka and Kawawada had retired from the JKA. Even though Kawawada has retired from the JKA Hombu he continues to teach at the Hoitsugan dojo several evenings a week.
Before retiring, Kawawada had been the Vice General Manager of the Technical Division of the JKA. He is still a member of the JKA Shinhankai (Technical) Committee. He is also a member of the Kanjikai, alongside Masaaki Ueki, Takeshi Oishi, Takenori Imura, Kenro Kurasako, and Yasunori Ogura.
Currently ranked as an 8th Dan, Minoru Kawawada is a phenomenal instructor who is known to challenge his students, both mentally and physically. It is being said that he can look at a student and immediately see what they have to do or think in order to improve.