Karate is more than a simple sport. It can be used as a sportive activity in our society but it is an art and the Budo spirit should be present in everything related to it. Even in sports events, the Budo spirit must be there. Budo Karate is for all and can be practised forever. As an athlete, you will reach one day when you can’t compete anymore and that is the end. But as a karateka, you keep training and practising for all your life.Shoko Sato
A pioneer of Shito-Ryu Karate in South America, Shoko Sato is considered one of the greatest masters of his generation. He is primarily known for his ability, dedication, and immense knowledge.
Shoko Sato was born on 25 October 1945 in Miyagi, Japan.
Growing up Sato practiced Judo with his friends. However, this wasn’t anything formal.
Around 1963 Sato enrolled at Toyo University in Tokyo. He joined the university’s Karate club, training under Shito-Ryu master, Manzo Iwata, who was a direct student of Shito-Ryu founder, Kenwa Mabuni.
In keeping with the times, training at the university club was extremely tough. The training was intended to develop a “true warrior spirit“. Sato has admitted that there were times when he wanted to give up. However, he was determined to persevere with his training.
Sato eventually became the captain of the Toyo Karate Club. In 1967 he led the team to an All Japan Karate Championship.
In 1968 Sato graduated from Toyo University. He worked briefly as an economist.
Sato was asked to go to South America to spread Shito-Ryu Karate in Latin America. He arrived in Venezuela in 1968. He introduced Karate in the country and would eventually become known as the “Father of Venezuelan Karate“.
In 1969 Sato opened the Shoko Sato Dojo. It was the first dojo in Venezuela to teach Karate to children. Up to this point Karate had only been taught to adults.
By 1971 Sato had successfully begun to grow Shito-Ryu in Venezuela. On 20 March of that year he took a team to the 2nd Pan-American Shito–Kai Tournament, held at the Teodoro Palacios Flores Gymnasium in Guatemala. There were also teams from Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Guatemala, He competed in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 2000 people. Fumio Demura was the highest-ranking Shito-Ryu master in attendance.
Sato was graded to 5th Dan by Manzo Iwata in Mexico in 1971.
In 1972 the 1st Shoko Sato Cup was held in Venezuela. This would go on to become one of the premier Shito-Ryu tournaments in Latin America.
On 25 November 1973, the 1st National Karate-Do Championships (Shito-Ryu) was held in Venezuela.
In November 1975 Sato was graded to 6th Dan by Manso Iwato in Venezuela.
Through the 1970s and 1980s Sato firmly established Shito-Ryu in Venezuela. In 1985 the 1st International Karate-Do Cuba Tournament was held in Cuba. Sato headed the Venezuelan delegation that attended the tournament.
In 1987 the 15th Shoko Sato Cup was held in Miranda Park, Caracas, Venezuela. Manzo Iwata was in attendance. He also graded Sato to 7th Dan.
Having established Shito-Ryu in Venezuela, Sato left the country in the 1990s to establish Shito-Ryu in other Pan-American countries. He did return frequently to teach in Venezuela.
In April 1991 Sato returned to Cuba for the third time. His aim was to introduce Shito-Ryu into the country. Shito-Ryu was officially approved to be taught in the country.
Between 23-24 November 1991, the 1st Shito-Ryu Pan American Championships were held in Cuba. The event was attended by Kenei Mabuni, Nobuyoshi Murata, the head of the Mexican delegation, and Shoko Sato.
Behind the scenes, the likes of Manzo Iwata had been trying to unite the different factions of the Shito-Ryu Karate world. In 1993 the 1st Shitoryu Karate World Championships were held in the Budokan, in Tokyo, Japan. Both of Sato’s sons competed in the tournament. Daisuke Sato finished in fourth place in the Men’s Individual Kata. Kenji Sato finished in fourth place in the Men’s Individual Kumite. They had received their black belts from Iwata when they were aged 11 and 12 respectively.
On 4 June 1993, Sato’s mentor Manzo Iwata died from a heart attack.
In 2002, Sato who was aged 57, was graded to 8th Dan in Japan. He became the youngest man in Shito-Ryu to achieve the rank.
Shoko Sato is currently the President of the PSKF (Pan-American Shitoryu Karate-Do Federation. He is also the Vice-President of the WSKF (World Shitoryu Karate-Do Federation). He has been at the forefront of Shito-Ryu Karate in Latin America, as a teacher and administrator, and continues to impart his Karate knowledge.