Profile: Hidetaka Abe

Karate it is a way of life

Hidetaka Abe

A direct student of Wado-Ryu Karate founder, Hironori Ohtsuka, Hidetaka Abe is a pioneer of Wado-Ryu Karate in the United States.

Hidetaka Abe was born in Odate, Akita Prefecture, Japan in 1943. In 1955 he began practising Judo at middle school, like most boys of the time. By the time he graduated from high school, he’s been promoted to 2nd Dan.

In 1961 Abe enrolled at Meiji University, Tokyo, to study Agricultural Economics. He joined the University’s Karate club, where he trained under Hironori Ohtsuka. Dedicated to his training, he trained 3–4 hours a day, 6 days a week. During the spring and summer, he attended intense week-long training courses.

By 1965 Abe had become the co-captain of the Meiji Karate Team. That same year, he was a member of the team that won the All-Japan Collegiate Championship. He was named the outstanding competitor of the tournament.

Ohtsuka promoted Abe to 2nd Dan in 1966. He Abe also graduated from Meiji University in 1966. Shortly after graduating he became the coach of the Meiji University Karate club.

In 1967 Abe accepted an offer from Yoshiaki Ajari to assist him in the United States with his US Wadokai Karatedo Federation. Ajari a student of Ohtsuka, had established the US Wasokai Karatedo Federation on 7 April 1963. Abe’s contract was to be for a year.

Abe enrolled at UC Berkeley to attend graduate school in 1967. He also became the Head Instructor at the UC Berkeley Karate club. The club had been established in 1965 by a group of students.

1968 saw the Goodwill Games take place between the United States and Japan in San Francisco. Ohtsuka gave a knife demonstration and was assisted by Abe. For Abe, this was a great honour.

After Abe’s one-year contract was up with the US Wadokai Karate Federation, he remained in the US. He started teaching Karate in schools and colleges in the Bay Area of San Francisco. He also established the Wado-Kai Karate-do Association.

In the 1970s Abe was one of the founders of the Northern California Collegiate Karate Union (NCCKU). The NCCKU was made up of instructors teaching at local colleges and universities. The NCCKU organised regular tournaments in the Bay Area. Abe’s UC Berkeley team won the NCCKU’s Championship two years running.

Abe’s teams did not just compete in the United States. On five occasions he took his teams to compete in the Wado-Ryu World Championship Tournament held in Japan.

Abe was promoted to 6th Dan by Ohtsuka in 1981.

On 29 January 1982, Hironori Ohtsuka died. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Wado-Ryu by Ohtsuka, a Wado-Ryu World Championship Tournament was held in 1984. Abe took a team to compete.

In 1991, Ohtsuka’s son Hironori (Jiro) Ohtsuka II, promoted Abe to 7th Dan.

Abe had originally been a member of the Japan Karate Federation Wadokai. However, when Hironori Ohtsuka split from the Federation over differences and founded the Wadoryu Karatedo Renmei on 1 April 1981, Abe followed him. In 2006 Abe rejoined the Japan Karate Federation Wadokai. Initially, he was given the rank of 5th Dan. However, after taking a grading exam in Japan, he was promoted to 6th Dan.

On 17 April 2010 Abe was a part of the United States team selection panel for the Wado Kai Karatedo World Cup. The panel included Yoshiaki Ajari and Sadaharu Kurobane. The panel selected a team to compete in Nagoya, Japan on 14-15 August 2010.

From his dojo in UC Berkeley, Hidetaka Abe has helped build the Bay Area into a hotbed of Wado-Ryu Karate in the United States. Now ranked as an 8th Dan he has adhered to the teachings of Wado-Ryu founder, Hironori Ohtsuka, becoming a much-respected teacher.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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