If I make will, I can kill you, but it is not my character…. My main goal now is to educate people in more than just show Karate but in the cultural Karate, the real cultural benefits [of Karate].” – Shigeru Takashina, 9th Dan, JKA (1943 – 2013)
Shigeru Takashina was a true stalwart of the Japan Karate Association (JKA). A graduate of the famed JKA Instructors Course, he was one of the first crop of instructors to teach Shotokan Karate outside of Japan for the JKA. He helped established Shotokan Karate on the East Coast of the United States, particularly in the South Florida area.
Takashina was born on 28 September 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan. He and his family survived the atomic bomb dropped on the city, by America on 6 August 1945. His family lived on the outskirts of Hiroshima, so escaped most of the deadly damage caused by the bomb. It should be noted that another JKA legend, Hiroshi Shirai, survived the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, three days later.
In 1959, Takashina came into contact with Karate, while at high school in Fukuyama. He trained at a dojo in the city as Karate was not yet offered at his school.
Takashina enrolled at Ryukoku University in 1962. Ryukoku was a private institution that had originally been founded as a school for Buddhist monks in the city of Kyoto. Once at the University, Takashina promptly joined the university’s Karate club where his instructor was a Sensei Kawakami.
Kumite was in Takashina’s blood from the beginning. As a member of the Ryukoku Karate team, Takashina participated in several All Japan Collegiate Karate Championships. The championships were open to all styles of Karate and mainly involved kumite.
Takashina graduated from Ryukoku University in 1966, with a Diploma in Business Administration. This would serve him well in the future as he established Karate in the South East of the United States and the Caribbean.
Just as Takashina graduated, Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA, was looking for talented karateka to become members of the JKA. On a visit to Kyoto, he sought out the best karateka in the area to enrol on the gruelling Instructors Course at the JKA Headquarters in Tokyo.
Takashina knew where his destiny lay. He moved to Tokyo, enrolling on the JKA Instructors Course, in 1966. Two years later he graduated from the course, being the only student to graduate from the course that year. He became an instructor at the JKA Hombu dojo.
The fire for competitive kumite still burned within Takashina’s blood. He entered the 13th JKA All Japan Karate Championships in 1970, finishing third in the kata event behind Toru Yamaguchi and the winner Yoshimasa Takahashi, 3-time winner and 3-time runner-up of the event.
Later that year, the 1st Karate World Championships took place in Tokyo, Japan. The event ran from 10 October to 13 October and was the first truly international tournament. There were participants from over 20 countries competing. In the team kumite event Japan were allowed to enter several teams. Takashina captained the Japanese “E” team. In a successful tournament for Japan, they made a clean sweep of the team event. Japan’s “E” team won the title, with the “C” team second and the “B” team third.
Like previous graduates of the Instructors Course, Takashina was sent abroad to teach when a position became available. In 1972, at the suggestion of Nakayama, he moved to the United States. He settled in the South Florida area, becoming the youngest JKA instructor in the US. Other notable US-based instructors for the JKA at the time were Hidetaka Nishiyama, Teruyuki Okazaki, Masataka Mori, Takayuki Mikami and Yutaka Yaguchi. They all held Takashina’s competitive prowess and business acumen in high regard.
Takashina, then a 5th Dan, established his main dojo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Knowing that universities were a hotbed for up and coming karateka, he was able to convince the University of Miami to start a Karate club on campus. This eventually led to him becoming an instructor at the University in Karate.
Takashina’s passion for competitive kumite became a benchmark of his dojo, and his students. “Most sensei believe and tell students that winning or losing is not important…. Sensei Takashina’s philosophy was winning was everything”, remembers Jose Ferrand, 7th Dan JKA, and Chief Instructor of the Miami Shotokan Karate Club, as well as one of Takashina’s top competitors. Today, Ferrand is the JKA U.S. National Coach whose students have also obtained success at international and national events, with Takashina’s kumite techniques continuing to be taught to this day.
After a gentle scolding for competing in a WKF event without his permission, Ferrand came to learn that Takashina’s heart was in the JKA and traditional shobu ippon kumite. “He used to say that we need to make sure Budo karate stays untouched and not to confuse Karate as a sport”.
By 1974 the University of Miami Karate Club had established itself on campus as one of the most popular clubs. That year Takashina and the club gave a riveting Shotokan demonstration witnessed by two hundred spectators, at the university’s student union. The demonstration consisted of performing basic techniques; free sparring; board breaking; and defending against a knife-wielding attacker. The event was so successful that it drew the attention of reporters form the Miami Hurricane, the University of Miami’s student newspaper. This in turn led to more students wanting to join the club.
By 1975 Takashina was seeing the fruits of his business plan begin to take root. He established the South Atlantic Karate Association (SAKA), as a Florida corporation. SAKA would later serve as the South Eastern Region of the ISKF, and then under the JKA/WF America, both of which he was an original Founding Member.
As news of Takashina’s success grew, Masatoshi Nakayama and members of the Japanese National Karate Team arrived in South Florida in November 1976, from the JKA Headquarters to give several lectures and demonstrations. The cost of the visit was sponsored by the University of Miami and the lectures and demonstrations were co-hosted by the University and Takashina’s SAKA. The Japanese National Team included Maasaki Ueki (the current JKA Chief Instructor), who had become the JKA Grand Champion in 1967 and 1970, and Masahiko Tanaka, the then current ISKA World Champion. The demonstrations comprised of kata; defensive and office techniques; and kumite. Also present were Teruyuki Okazaki, Chief Instructor of the East Coast; Yutaka Yaguchi, Chief Instructor of the Western US.
Politics began to fragment JKA Karate in America, as it would eventually do in Japan. Hidetaka Nishiyama had been the head of the JKA in the United States. However, there was some disgruntlement in his All-American Karate Federation (AAKF), the Federation of which he was Chief Instructor. Wanting more of a “federation” structure, rather than the traditional “top down” approach, the former which was more “American“, a group of instructors lead by Teruyuki Okazaki split from the AAKF forming the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) in September of 1977. The other instructors who left with Okazaki were Yutaka Yaguchi, Takayuki Mikami, Shojiro Koyama, and Takashina.
The university’s wildly successful Karate Club led to a growing interest by students to have some form of accredited course in Karate. The Physical Education department of the University started researching the possibility of introducing two accredited courses, one in Karate and the other in Women’s Self-Defence. By 1978 the university introduced two Karate courses, both course of which were taught by Takashina, with students taking the courses having the option of joining the University of Miami’s Karate Club.
Takashina, with his very sizeable university student contingent, became the regular US National Team Coach for International Competition. At the 1979 Championships his team won second place in the team kumite event. The club also had successes at individual level. In 1983 L. Muso-Ris won first place in the woman’s kata event. In 1989 Samer Atassi won first place in the men’s kumite event.
By 1996 Takashina had been promoted to 7th Dan and began making plans to purchase his own dojo in Coral Springs (north of Fort Lauderdale). It was from this location that he taught students who sought him out, and it also served as the permanent headquarters for SAKA. He was master at marketing and branding. When asked what sign he wanted on his building, he said simply “Shotokan Karate Center“, rather than “South Atlantic Karate Center” or some other name. “He knew exactly what he was doing, and that was to become a visual magnet for people seeking Shotokan instruction. Every other school with a sigh that said ‘Karate’ was likely Tae Kwon Do”, recalls long time Takashina senior student , Tom Leeman, 5th Dan JKA.
By this point in his career, Takashina was highly sought after nationally and internationally to conduct seminars. In 2002 he was invited by Hideo Ochi to teach in Germany at a gasshuku, in the South Western town of Frankenthal. Ochi reciprocated by being a frequent guest at training camps organised by Takashina in Florida.
From his Coral Springs dojo, Takashina went about expanding his already robust region, including clubs throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, as well as the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. He is universally credited with establishing JKA Shotokan Karate throughout Central America, such as in Costa Rica and Panama, as well as his support of the development of clubs in Mexico.
By April 2007, tensions between factions within the JKA Headquaters in Japan, caused the many Japanese US-base instructors led by Teruyuki Okazaki to decide that the ISKF should leave the JKA, to follow its own path. Although Takashina had always tried to stay out of JKA politics, he felt that the infighting portrayed the JKA in a bad light and did not follow the teachings of the Dojo Kun. However, after further contemplation, Takayuki Mikami, Shojiro Koyama and Takashina, three of the five founding members of the ISKF, decided it was in Karate’s best interests both in the United States and as an international example to others, to remain with the JKA. They issued a joint declaration to members of their respective associations advising of the separation from the ISKF and reaffirmed their strong ties with the JKA.
In a personal letter sent by Takashina to Okazaki, he stated that even though the JKA were not perfect, the organisation that moulded his generation of karateka, continued to offer the best vehicle for promoting Karate around the world and to remain as the “keeper of Japan’s highest tradition”. By June 2007, the ISKF officially split from the JKA.
From 2007 to 2013, Takashina maintained his very busy travel schedule, teaching at camps across his region and around the world. He also continued his very strong alliance with his peers back in Japan, including notable instructors such as Kenji Yano.
Takashina’s health began to deteriorate and he ultimately died from cancer on 3 September 2013, just shy of his 70th birthday. He was survived by his wife, Masako, and daughter, Fumi, both of whom live in Florida. Following his death he was posthumously promoted to 9th Dan by the JKA.
Shigeru Takashina devoted his life to the teaching and promoting of JKA-Style Shotokan Karate. The youngest member of the first wave of JKA instructors to reside in the United States, it is testament to his character and teaching that his students continue to revere him. His students, under the leadership of his hand-picked successor, Carol See Tai, 6th Dan, JKA, have taken over his Coral Springs dojo. The dojo has been reincorporated as a non-profit institution, and re-branded as “Coral Springs JKA” in honour of Takashina’s city of choice where he placed his dojo, as well as his continued dedication to the JKA. Today, his picture remains conspicuously hanging at shomen.
In his students’ minds, his ultimate legacy remains to be written. “To me, he was the essence of Karate. It left a large void in my life with his passing”, recounts Takashina senior student Dr. Seif Elbualy, 5th Dan, JKA. “While the instructors that we have access to today from JKA Honbu dojo are phenomenal, there was only one Shigeru Takashina, and his loss can be felt“.
Later in life, Takashina devoted himself to spreading his philosophy of JKA Karate to the world. According to Takashina, “The future of Karate belongs to the beginner; an expert’s mind is full of limitations. But a beginner’s mind is open to all possibilities. In all things have a beginner’s mind. To build a future for Karate you need new young enthusiastic people to carry on where we will leave off.”
In his honor and in commemoration of his passing, Coral Springs JKA host an annual Takashina Memorial Camp. The 2nd Annual Takashina Memorial Camp will be held on September 26-29, 2019 in Coral Springs and the neighbouring beach-side community of Delray Beach, Florida with guest instructor, 5-time All Japan Kumite Champion, Keisuke Nemoto, 6th Dan, JKA Honbu Instructor.
“Sensei Takashina was the embodiment of modern Bushido throughout his entire life, both on the dojo floor, in the competition ring, and even towards the end of his life”, said Carol See Tai, his successor and Chief Instructor of Coral Springs JKA. “We honor him by bringing in one of today’s most revered Japanese kumite champions, whose family has also come to Takashina’s dojo after his death to pay their respects when visiting South Florida”.
She continues, “Besides his toughness as a great instructor, Master Takashina had this other intuitive side where he could tell what was going on in your head. He just knew what you were thinking or how you were feeling with that he spoke so much in so few words, words of wisdom with a lot of support and inspiration. He was like a father figure to me and many of his students. He was beloved.”
Today, the Coral Springs JKA dojo remains somewhat of a shrine to Takashina, as a living legacy of his efforts to develop JKA Shotokan Karate in the US. Aside from the many students who continue to train at his former dojo, other karateka who visit South Florida, from throughout the United States and the world make it a point to also train at the dojo during their short visit, in a gesture of honor and respect to one of the last great Japanese Karate Masters.
Thanks to University of Miami and the Coral Springs JKA for providing much of the background information on Sensei Takashina.