Kenji Midori

There are a few things that I tell my students. First is to prepare more than others. Second, do not ever give up. Third, do not be average.

Kenji Midori

Standing at around 5’4″ (1.6 m) in height, Kenji Midori is known as the “Little Giant“. He became the first lightweight competitor to win Kyokushin Karate’s World Tournament, where all his opponents were considerably heavier and taller than him. A phenomenal competitor, he always placed in all the competitions he entered.

Kenji Midori was born on 18 April 1962 in Amami Oshima, Japan, to a wealthy family. His father Gemba, ran a large construction company.

At school Kenji Midori love sports. He practised Judo and played rugby. Aged 16 he moved to Tokyo to prepare for his admission entrance exams into university.

In 1978 Midori began training in Kyokushin Karate at the Tokyo dojo of Hiroshige Tsuyoshi. It was around this time that a very close friend of Midori died. Because of this incident, he devoted his time to his Karate training. He eventually started training at Mas Oyama’s dojo.

Midori took part in his first tournament, the 1st Chiba Tournament in April 1980. For the next decade he always placed in all the competitions he entered.

Competing at lightweight, Midori finished in third place at the 1st West Japan Convention in August 1983. The following year he finished in the top eight of the 1st All Japan Weight Tournament’s lightweight division. The following year in June, he won the 2nd All Japan Weight Tournament. In November of that year, he competed in the 17th All Japan Tournament where he finished in fifth place. At the tournament, he received the award for the “Best Fighting Spirit“.

In June 1987 Midori won his second title at the 4th All Japan Weight Tournament. In November he took part in his 1st World Tournament at the 4th Kyokushin Karate World Tournament. He reached the last 16 but lost to Michael Thompson of England. He won the award for the “Best Technique“.

Midori participated in the 1st Sursee Cup in September 1988. This was the first international Swiss tournament. He made the final but lost to local Swiss legend Andy Hug. On 4 December Midori took some time from his Karate to get married.

1990 was another big year for Midori. In June at the 7th All Japan Weight Tournament he won another title. In December he made the final of the 22nd All Japan Tournament. He finished in second place.

In 1991 Midori was ordered home by his father, Gemba, to help run the family business. The 5th Kyokushin Karate World Tournament was close, and Mas Oyama believed that Midori could become World Champion. Oyama visited Gemba Midori and asked if he would allow his son to concentrate fully on training for the World Tournament. Oyama was such a famous man that Gemba Midori could not refuse this request from such a famous guest.

On 4 November 1991 Midori became World Champion at the 5th Kyokushin Karate World Tournament. He defeated Akira Masuda in the final. After becoming World Champion, Midori retired from active competition.

The founder of Kyokushin Karate, Mas Oyama died on 26 April 1994. Oyama’s death led to a period of uncertainty within his organisation, the International Karate Organisation (IKO). The IKO split into the following organisations:

  • IKO–1: led by Shokei Matsui
  • IKO–2: led by Yukio Nishida
  • IKO–3: led by Yoshikazu Matsushima

Midori joined the IKO–2. In 1998 he became the Vice-President of the IKO–2 Gokushin Kaikan Branch. By March 2000 he became a Director of IKO–2 g Gokushin Kaikan. The following March he became the President of the IKO-2.

On 26 November 2002 Midori was promoted to 6th Dan.

October 2003 saw the IKO-2 change its name to the World Karate Organisation (WKO). The reason for the name change was to specify the unique identity of the organisation.

In 2010 Midori was promoted to 7th Dan by the WKO Grading Kumite.

As a competitor, Kenji Midori was a phenomenal competitor. Always fighting men who were considerably bigger than him, Midori was the epitome of the fighting spirit of Kyokushin Karate. He has brought that same fighting spirit to his role as head of the WKO. As head, he wants to see the WKO become the largest Karate organization in the world.

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