Moments in History: 1st Hawaii All Stars vs Japan Kyokushin Tournament

Bobby Lowe was Mas Oyama’s oldest and most senior student. They had first met in 1952. Oyama had given his first Karate demonstration in Hawaii, as part of his world tour. He was promoting his style of Karate, Oyama Karate Jutsu. Lowe eventually became Oyama’s uchi-deshi (live-in student).

By 1957 Lowe had opened Oyama’s first school outside of Japan, in Hawaii.

Oyama officially created the style of Kyokushin Karate in 1964. By the mid-1970s Kyokushin had developed into one of the major styles of Karate. It had a reputation for producing phenomenal fighters.

On 4 April 1977 Lowe sponsored the 1st Hawaii All-Stars vs Japan Kyokushin Tournament. The aim of the tournament was to showcase Kyokushin Karate.

The tournament was held at the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu. The well-publicised event had 6000 spectators in attendance. They would have the opportunity to watch eight exciting matches.

The Japanese had a very strong team, that was coached by Mas Oyama. The eight-man team consisted of Sonny Chiba; Isao Kobayashi; Tatsuo Nakamura; Teruo Aonuma; Makoto Nakamura; Toshio Noguchi; Seiji Kanemura; and Takeshi Azusa. Originally Joko Ninomiya and Daigo Oishi were due to be part of the team. However, both men sustained injuries prior to the tournament.

Bobby Lowe coached the Hawaiian team. The team was made up of a collection of very talented fighters. The team consisted of Rodney Dela Pena; Gregg Kaufmann; Emanuel Pritchett; Alan Ige; Mike Harvey; Richard Raymond; Edgar Battad; and Bill Shermer. Teddy Limoz and Ken Wallace had originally been selected but had to drop out of the team.

Matches used modified Kyokushin tournament rules. Fights could be won by:

  • Knockout
  • Waza-Ari, i.e. a strike that makes contact with the opponent, but is not considered a decisive blow
  • Judges decision

Competitors were also allowed to wear protective equipment, but no gloves. It should be noted that the Japanese team did not wear any protective equipment.

In the first of eight bouts, Emmanuel Pritchett faced Isao Kobayashi. Pritchett was a member of Butokukai Karate, and Kobayashi a member of the Tokyo Hombu. The pair fought to a draw.

In the next bout, Taekwondo exponent, Alan Ige, faced Tatsuo Nakamura. Nakamura was an up-and-coming champion. He recorded the Japanese team’s first win.

Bill Shermer, a welterweight Taekwondo champion, fought Teruo Aonuma to a draw. Aonuma was a member of the Hawaii Kyokushin Karate Branch. The fighters were well-matched, with the bout going to three overtime extensions.

Mike Harvey and Makoto Nakamura fought in the next match. Harvey, an Okinawa Shorin Ryu practitioner, fought Nakamura to a draw.

Sonny Chiba, the star of the Japanese team, faced Gregg Kaufmann in their bout. Chiba was a top fighter and action film star. He had featured on the promotional posters for the event. Many in the crowd had come to see him. His opponent Kaufmann was a former East Coast Karate Champion. The crowd were not disappointed by the match. In the second round, Chiba knocked out Kaufmann.

With the crowd on a high, Edgar Battad, a winner of four major Hawaiian Karate tournaments, faced Toshio Noguchi of Japan. Noguchi was another up-and-coming champion. He defeated Battad in the first round, by knockout, with a roundhouse kick.

Seiji Kanemura was a member of the New York Kyokushin Branch. He was a replacement for the injured Joko Ninomiya. He faced Richard Raymond, A Shobukan Karate practitioner. Kanemura defeated Raymond by judge’s decision.

In the final bout, Rodney Dela Pena, a former California lightweight champion faced Takeshi Azuma. Azuma had finished in sixth place in the 1st World Open Karate tournament. In the bout, Azuma defeated Dela Pena by judge’s decision.

Japan won the match with six wins, two draws, and zero losses. Even though Hawaii lost, they gave a good showing. The tournament was a success and was a good showcase for Kyokushin Karate.

Apart from the fights, a number of demonstrations were given by Kyokushin Karate practitioners who were based in the United States. Shigeru and Yasuhiko Oyama wowed the crowd with a sword defence exhibition. The exhibition saw Yasuhiko attacking Shigeru with a sword. Shigeru caught the sword in between his palms. Miyuki Miura gave a sai demonstration.

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