Karate is Karate. The main thing is the man himself – not the school he belongs to, not the style he practices.Teruo Kono
A direct student of Wado-ryu founder, Hironori Ohtsuka, Teruo Kono was among the first instructors to teach Wado-ryu Karate in Europe. British pioneers Peter Spanton and Walter Seaton recalled training with him and just how good he was.
Teruo Kono was born in Yokohama, Japan in 1934. He came from a family steeped in Budo culture. His father was from a samurai family. A building contractor, Kono’s father had been in the Imperial Officer during World War II. He held a black belt in Kendo.
Kono’s first interaction with Karate began in 1947 when he started learning Shotokan Karate under a Mr Tsucida.
In 1951 Kono enrolled at the prestigious Nihon University, Tokyo, to study architecture. He joined the university Karate club, changing from Shotokan to Wado-ryu Karate. Hironori Ohtsuka was his instructor.
Kono found his Karate home in Wado-ryu. He was selected to be a member of the club’s Karate team. He soon became captain of the team.
On graduating from University, Kono worked for several building firms.
Kono was a top competitor. In 1955 he was the inaugural champion at the 1st All Japan Wado-ryu Championships. He retained his title the following year at the 2nd All Japan Championships. In 1957 at the 3rd All Japan Championships he finished in third place.
Although Kono was working in the building industry, he also taught Karate at several universities from 1962 to 1964. This included Chubu, Chukyo, Aichi and Nagoya universities. In 1963 he was selected to be the National Coach of Japan.
In May of 1965 Ohtsuka asked Kono and Yutaka Toyama to teach Wado-ryu Karate in West Germany.
Later in May of 1965 Kono travelled to England to assist Tatsuo Suzuki in teaching. Technically gifted and a very good instructor, Kono influenced the likes of Peter Spanton and Walter Seaton.
When Masafumi Shiomitsu arrived from Japan to assist Suzuki, Kono moved to Holland in 1966. He became National Coach, a position he held until 1970.
Apart from teaching in Holland, Kono also taught Karate at several universities in Belgium and Yugoslavia. In Belgium, he taught at the universities of Louvain and Liege, and the Technical College of Mons. In Yugoslavia, he taught at the University of Belgrade.
In 1968 Kono began coaching Karate at the University of Hamburg. He held this position until 1990. It was during this time that he established his Wadokai Deutschland Association.
During the 1970s Kono was National Coach for several European countries. From 1970 to 1971 he was a National Coach of the Yugoslavian team. From 1973 to 1983 he was the National Coach of West Germany. He was also a technical advisor and coach of the National Team in the Deutscher Karate Verband (DKV) i.e. the German Karate Association.
In 1986 Kono was named chairman of the Federation of European Wado Kai. That same year his book, “Karate – training, technique, tactics” was published.
1993 saw Kono become the Special Representative for the Japanese Government at the Expo 2005 Aichi, held just outside of Nagoya. The event was held from 25 March to 25 September, attracting several million visitors.
Kono was awarded the title, Hanshi (Grand Master) by the JKF Wadokai Japan in 1995. That same year his book “The way to the black belt” was published.
On 22 April 2000, Teruo Kono died in Hamburg, Germany, from acute pneumonia. He was survived by his German wife and children. Four years later a biography, “Mastering His Life – The Life Philosophy and Biography of the Karate Grand Master Teruo Kono” was published.
Also holding an 8th Dan in Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu, Kono holds an important place in the development of Wado-ryu in Europe. Like his mentor Hironori Ohtsuka, he realised the importance of establishing Karate in universities. He introduced Karate to a new generation.