For many people around the world, the Japan Karate Association (JKA) are synonymous with Shotokan Karate. The technical excellence of their instructors are well respected, regardless of the style of Karate practised. Masters like Nakayama, Nishiyama, Okazaki, Kanazawa and Enoeda, to name a few, are held as the pinnacle of Shotokan karate.
Gichin Funakoshi introduced the Japanese to the Okinawan martial art of Karate in 1922. He worked tirelessly to establish Karate in Japan. His dream was to see Karate-do spread to the rest of the world. To help with this he oversaw the production of two films:
- Hien Karate-uchi – A biographical film on Masatoshi Nakayama
- Karate-do – A film showing students practising Shotokan Karate
It was the second film that introduced the wider world to JKA karate.
It was Nakayama that fulfilled Funakoshi’s dream. As Chief Instructor of the JKA he instituted a tough Instructors Course. One of the aims of the course was to prepare a talented group of students for overseas postings as instructors. These instructors would eventually be missionaries for the JKA brand of Shotokan Karate. The first graduates of the course were Hirokazu Kanazawa and Takayuki Mikami.
The JKA World Tour commenced on 29 March 1965 from Hanada Airport, Tokyo. The touring party consisted of Taiji Kase, 6th Dan, who had started training in 1944 at the original Shoto-Kan under Yoshitaka Funakoshi. Hirokazu Kanazawa, 5th Dan, was the next member of the party. He was the first ever All Japan JKA Championships Grand Champion. The next member of the team was Keinosuke Enoeda, 5th Dan. Nicknamed Toru meaning Tiger, he was known for his strong fighting spirit and had won the kumite title at the All Japan JKA Championships in 1963. The youngest member of the group was Hiroshi Shirai, 5th Dan, who had become the third ever All Japan JKA Championships Grand Champion in 1962.
The first leg of the tour began in Honolulu, Hawaii Where they spent a few days. The party was hosted by Masataka Mori, who had replaced Kanazawa as the resident JKA Chief Instructor to Hawaii. The party gave a number of courses and demonstrations that were well attended and well received.
The next leg of the tour was in the United States where they visited a number of cities. They started in Los Angeles where they spent some time, hosted by the All American Karate Federation (AAKF) of Hidetaka Nishiyama. This was followed by a visit to Chicago where they were hosted by Wataru Natomoto and Shojiro Sugiyama of the Karate Association of Chicago. Next on their itinerary was a visit to the New York Karate Club of Hiroshi Orito. Philadelphia was the next stop for the group, where they visited the East Coast Karate Association of Teruyuki Ozaki. The US leg of the tour was completed by a visit to North Carolina. The party was presented with a ceremonial sword by Brigadier General J.W. Stilwell.
On 5 April the party arrived in West Germany for the European leg of their tour. As they had been in the United States, they were a big success. They were hosted by Lothar Fischer and the Deutscher Karate Bund (DKB). During their six-day visit they gave interviews to various newspapers and television channels. A tournament was also held at the Bad Godesburg Town Hall where they gave a series of demonstrations in front of a crowd of 1200 spectators. While the party were in Germany, a grading was held where four Germans were promoted 1st Dan.
The touring party arrived at Brussels Airport, Belgium, on 14 April for the next leg of their European tour. As guests of Leo Aarts and the Belgiche Nationale Karate Federation they visited the cities of Brussels and Antwerp. In Brussels they gave a demonstration at the dojo of a Mr Goetz. In Antwerp they gave another demonstration at the dojo of Aarts. There was also a training session attended by sixty-five students. Over two hundred people watched the training session. In a separate training session, also in Antwerp, Kanazawa and Enoeda taught thirty-five students.
The next top for the touring party was Holland. This was followed by a visit to France, where where they were the guests of the Association Culturelle Internationale de Karate-Do.
On 20 April the JKA party arrived at Heathrow Airport where they were met by Vernon Bell of the British Karate Federation (BKF). They stayed at Bell’s home in Ilford.
The touring party’s itinerary in England began with their first official lesson at the BKF’s Lyndhurst dojo. The lesson was conducted by Kanazawa, and all in attendance were in awe of his technical knowledge. Students in attendance included Eddie Whitcher, Pauline Laville and Rod Butler.
Between 21 to 26 April the touring party gave three authorised demonstrations in London. The first demonstration was held at Kensington Town Hall on 21 April. The second Demonstration was held on 24 April at Hornsey Town Hall. The final demonstration in East London was held on 26 April at Poplar Town Hall.
The touring party continued to the North of England, with visits to Liverpool, Blackpool and Manchester. In Liverpool they gave a demonstration at the St. George’s Hall. The audience contained some who would become some of the best Shotokan practitioners in the UK . This included Andy Sherry, Terry O’Neill and Frank Cope. In Manchester they gave a display at the ITV television studios. It was televised and featured commentary by the JKA instructors.
Around the 30 April the touring party departed London for the final leg of the tour, South Africa. Kanazawa did not travel due to commitments as the resident instructor to the BKF. He would join the party later on the tour.
The touring party spent a six-month teaching stint in South Africa. Each instructor taught in a different part of the country. Kase, who had been to South Africa in 1964, was a guest of Geo Higginson and the Kodokwai Judo Club in Durban. Enoeda was the guest of Stan Schmidt and the Karate Association of South Africa, in Johannesburg. He taught at Schmidt’s dojo. Shirai was the guest of Hugh Saint John Thompson and members of Karate-Do, in Cape Town. When Kanazawa Rejoined the tour in September, he taught in Pretoria for a month.
The JKA’s tour of South Africa culminated in a number of gradings. Schmidt was promoted to 2nd Dan. During his grading he sparred against the formidable Shirai. The 1st South African Championships also took place, with Schmidt becoming the event’s first Grand Champion by winning both the kata and kumite events.
With their tour complete, the touring party returned to Europe. Kanazawa resumed his duties as the resident instructor to the BKF. Kase and Shirai stayed with him for a few weeks, before Kase travelled to his eventual home in France, by way of Belgium and Holland. Shirai travelled to Milan, Italy. Enoeda arrived in the UK in November, settling in Liverpool.
Today JKA instructors are known all over the world. However, it was the touring party of Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keiniosuke Enoeda and Hiroshi Shirai who helped put the JKA on the map, internationally. The kata, kumite, and board breaking demonstrations given by them were well received. It led to many requests for JKA instructors to teach around the world. It’s also helped lay the foundations for the growth of Shotokan Karate around the world.