Norihiko Iida

Masatoshi Nakayama, the former Chief Instructor of the JKA, once said of Norihiko Iida:

Iida’s changing techniques are admirable. They bring to mind the mysterious technique of twirling one’s fingers as if to hypnotise a dragonfly. One never thinks he will fall for the trick, but in the end, he succumbs

A powerfully built man, Norihiko Iida was a fantastic fighter and a mainstay of many of the successful JKA teams of the 1960s and 1970s. Known for the versatility of his attacks, he was an intimidating opponent to face.

Born around 1943, Norihiko Iida graduated from the Instructor Training Course in 1967. Among those who graduated with him were Masao Kawasoe, Kunio Higashi, Hideki Okamoto, Shunsuke Takahashi, Kenji Yano, and Taketo Okuda.

Upon graduating from the Instructors Course, Iida began teaching at the JKA Hombu and also at Taisho University, in Tokyo.

In 1969 Iida competed in the 12th JKA All Japan Karate Championships. In the Individual Kumite final he lost to Takeshi Oishi. However, he did become the inaugural champion at the 1st National All-Styles Tournament, also held in 1969. The following year he reached the quarterfinals of the kumite event at the 13th Japan Karate Championships.

On 10-13 October 1970, the 1st WUKO World Championships were held in Tokyo, Japan. In the Team Kumite event, Japan entered several teams. Iida was selected to represent Japan. He was a member of Japan’s E team. He won all four of his bouts, helping the team win the world title. Japan C and Japan B were second and third respectively.

The following year at the 14th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Iida finished in joint third alongside Yukichi Tabata in the kumite event. Takeshi Oishi beat Masaaki Ueki in the final. However, Ueki was crowned Grand Champion, having won the kata final.

In the October 1971 edition of Black Belt Magazine, Iida was named as one of the ‘20 Top Fighters in Japan‘.

On 22 April 1972, the 2nd WUKO World Karate Championships were held in Paris, France. Isobe was selected to the Japanese team sent to Paris. However, the Japanese team walked out of the tournament during one of their matches. They were upset about the officiating during their Team Kumite bouts. The team consisted of Iida, Yukichi Tabata, Masahiko Tanaka, and Takeshi Oishi. The Japanese delegation was led by Masatoshi Nakayama, who was the tournament’s Chief Referee.

For their part in the walkout, Iida, Tabata, Tanaka, and Oishi were banned by FAJKO and WUKO from entering any official events held in Japan or internationally. Nakayama was sanctioned by FAJKO. He was prevented from refereeing at any future tournaments or assuming any future posts at national or international events.

1973 represented the 50th Anniversary of the introduction of Karate into Japan by Gichin Funakoshi. An international tournament was organised by the JKA to commemorate the event. The tournament was held at the Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo, a day after the JKA All Japan Karate Championships. There were 1000 competitors from 29 countries competing in front of a crowd of 15,000 spectators.

Japan dominated all the events. Yoshimasa Takahashi won the Individual Kata title. Japan won the Team Kata event. The Individual Kumite event was won by Takeshi Oishi. The Japanese team consisted of Takeshi Oishi, Norimasa Hayakawa, Masahiko Tanaka, Mikio Yahara, and Norihiko Iida. Japan beat Belgium in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, they beat the United States 5-0. In the final, they defeated Italy 5-0.

At the 17th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, held in 1974, Iida lost to Masahiko Tanaka in the kumite final. They had faced each other on several occasions with Iida victorious on each occasion.

At the 21st JKA All Japan Karate Championships held in 1978, Iida finished in joint third with Yoshiharu Osaka. The event was won by Toshihiro Mori, with Mikio Yahara in second place.

Masatoshi Nakayama’s 11 books series ‘Best Karate‘ was published in 1979. Iida appeared in ‘Book 3: Kumite 1‘ where he is seen sparring against Yoshiharu Osaka. In ‘Book 7: Jitte, Hangetsu, Empi‘, he is seen performing the kata Jitte.

In 1985 the Hungarian National Team spent 72 days in Japan. They had the opportunity to train with Iida at his dojo at Taisho University and also at the JKA Hombu. Years later, many members of the team remembered it was a great learning experience for them.

Masatoshi Nakayama died in 1987. Following following his death, the JKA split into two opposing factions. What followed was a 10-year legal battle between the opposing factions.

Apart from teaching Karate, Iida is a practising Buddhist monk. In 2004, Hideo Ochi, another JKA legend, who was teaching in Germany, had the idea to build a memorial for JKA instructors who had died abroad.

A large black memorial stone was erected at the Hozoji Temple, located in Tokyo. The memorial is looked after by Iida. The names of dead JKA instructors such as Satoshi Miyazaki are carved on the stone. Some of their ashes are also buried in an urn by the memorial.

Norihiko Iida is an honorary member of the JKA Shihankai Committee. He is an 8th Dan JKA instructor.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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