Moments in history: The 1990 World Shotokan Championships

In 1972 at the WUKO World Championships, the Japanese team, containing many members of the JKA walked out of the tournament. They were unhappy at some of the officiating against their competitors. As a result of the walkout, Japanese officials and competitors were sanctioned by the World Union of Karatedo Organisations (WUKO) and the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organisations (FAJKO).

Masatoshi Nakayama, who had been the Chief Referee at the World Championships was banned from any official WUKO or FAJKO events. Hirokazu Kanazawa also faced a similar ban. Norihiko Iida, Yukichi Tabata, Masahiko Tanaka and Takeshi Oishi were also banned from entering any official tournaments in Japan or anywhere else.

In 1975 the 1st IAKF World Championships took place in Los Angeles, California. It was the JKA’s version of the World Championships and had competitors from all the affiliates of the JKA, around the world.

In 1985 the IAKF World Championships were re-branded as the Shoto Cup. Since the inception of the World Championships, Japan had been the most dominant nation, especially in the Kumite events.

The 7th World Championships (3rd Shoto Cup) took place at the Crowtree Leisure Centre, Sunderland, England. The two-day event took place from 17 to 18 March 1990. There were competitors from thirty countries taking part in seven events, i.e. four individual events and three team events.

The Great Britain team was coached by Andy Sherry who had been practising Karate in England, since its infancy. The Japanese team was coached by Masahiko Tanaka, who had won the Kumite event at the 1st and 2nd IAKF World Championships.

Day one of the Championships featured individual events for both men and women. In the Men’s Individual Kata final Tomoyuki Aihara of Japan faced Frank Brennan of Britain. Aihara won the first of his two individual kata titles. Masao Kagawa of Japan finished third.

Tomoyuki Aihara of Japan in the Individual Kata for Men

Japan made a clean sweep of the Woman’s  Kata event, with all three women performing in the dynamic kata, Unsu. In the field of eight women, Yuki Mimura retained her title. Yoko Nakamura, who was a previous winner, finished second behind Mimura again. Maiko Asano finished third.

In the Men’s Individual Kumite final, Masao Kagawa of Japan was victorious against Ronnie Christopher of Britain. Filipo Allata of Belgium and Jensen or Sweden were joint third.

The Women’s Individual Kumite event took place for the first time at the 3rd Shoto Cup. Yuki Hasama of Japan made history by becoming champion. Britain’s Kay Finley finished third.

Day two of the Championships began with the Men’s and Women’s Kata events. Japan won both titles. In the men’s event, Japan won with a score of 42.9 points, performing the kata Unsu. Runners-up Belgium performed the kata Gojushiho-sho, with a score of 42.2. Britain finished third, performing Kanku-sho for a score of 41.8.

In the Women’s Kata event, Japan’s women, like their male counterparts, performed the kata Unsu, winning with a score of 42.9. Runners-up Britain performed Gojushiho-sho with a score of 41.8. Spain performed Nujushiho to finish third with a score of 41.7.

The Japanese Women’s Kata Team

The final event of day two was the eagerly anticipated Men’s Team Kumite event. Japan were the defending champions and had not lost a match since the walkout at the 1972 WUKO World Championships.

The British team had made it to the semi-final by defeating teams from the USA and Sweden. They had defeated Denmark in the semi-final. Britain was missing two of its best competitors in George Best and Ronnie Christopher. Best had been injured prior to the tournament. Christopher had been injured the previous day in the Men’s Individual Kumite semi-final. Britain still had a capable team in Elwyn Hall, Frank Brennan, Dean Hodgkin, Ronnie Cannings and Gary Harford.

Defending champions Japan had faced teams from France and Portugal. They defeated Italy in the semi-finals. The Japanese had a very strong team. They had Tomio Inamura, a previous World Champion and Masao Kagawa the current World Champion, who replaced Hanzakii in the final team. They also had Koike and Noda, both very capable fighters. To round things off, they also had the previous day’s Individual Kata Champion, Tomoyuki Aihara.

Koike vs Hall in the Team Kumite event

The final was refereed by Ted Hedlund of Sweden. In the first match, Hall faced Koike. Early in the match Hall was penalised for excessive contact to the head. Despite this, he got Britain off to a good start by eventually defeating Koike.

In the second match, Brennan faced Imamura. Both men had a history with each other. At the 1987 world Championships, held in Brisbane, Australia, Imamura defeated Brennan in the Individual Kumite final. However, this time it was Brennan who was victorious. He took Britain to a 2-0 lead over Japan.

In the third match, Hodgkin, the youngest member of the team faced Noda of Japan. In an exciting match, the captivated crowd watched as Noda tried to bring Japan back into contention. The bout was decided when Hodgkin landed a reverse punch to Noda’s body, earning a half-point. The partisan crowd went wild, knowing that Britain had just defeated Japan to become world champions.

Imamura vs Brennan in the Team Kumite event

Even though Japan had lost their world title, Japan showed a strong fighting spirit in the fourth and fifth matches. In the fourth bout Kagawa, the best fighter on the Japanese team, made short work of Cannings by scoring an ippon. Aihara won the last match against Harford. The final score was 3-2 for Britain.

The Team Kumite final between Britain and Japan brought a successful tournament to a close. The final was a culmination of the great Karate spirit shown throughout the two days of the Championships. Although Japan sat on top of the medal table, the tournament showed that the gap between Japan and the rest of the world was closing.

It should be noted that Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA, had died three years earlier in 1987. The 3rd Shoto Cup took place during a dispute between different factions within the JKA.

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