Spotlight: Keinosuke Enoeda – The Tiger of Shotokan

The “Tiger of Shotokan Karate“, Keinosuke Enoeda, was one of the most respected Karate practitioners to come out of the Japan Karate Association (JKA). Described as

A physical manifestation of determination and willpower

he was nicknamed “Tora” meaning “Tiger” by his fellow JKA karateka for his ferociousness when fighting. Considered one of the best Japanese instructors to teach in the UK, he is still held in reverence by his students.

Enoeda was born on 4 July 1935 in Nogata, Kyushu prefecture, Japan. He was the second of four children, three boys and a girl. Both of his parents were descended from samurai lineage. His father Fukuo, had been a noted runner and a skilled kendoka.

Aged seven years, Enoeda began practising Judo. He continued practising through High School. A strong boy, his proficiency in Judo enabled him to reach the final of the All Japan High School Judo Championships. However, he lost to a much heavier opponent. By 1952, aged Seventeen he was awarded his 2nd Dan.

In 1952 the young Enoeda attended an Open Day for Takushoku University. Members of the Takushoku Karate Club gave a demonstration. He was so impressed by the demonstration given by Teruyuki Okazaki that he knew he had to attend the university. On that day Judo lost a potential champion.

Enoeda enrolled at Takushoku University to study a four-year degree course in Business Studies. As expected, he joined the university’s Karate club. His dedication to training soon got him noticed and he was selected to the club’s kumite team during his first year at the club. This was a very rare occurrence. As a member of the team, he took part in many inter-university challenges.

On 27 November 1955 Enoeda was awarded his 1st Dan. He was the 1200th person to be awarded a Shodan by the JKA. Dedicated to training he progressed quickly. On 23 November 1956 he was awarded his 2nd Dan. Aged twenty-one he became the 333rd person to be awarded this rank. Around this time, he was given the honour of captaining the Takushoku University Karate team.

The founder of Shotokan Karate, Gichin Funakoshi, died on 26 April 1957. With his death a new chapter in Shotokan Karate began. At the 1st JKA All Japan Championships Hirokazu Kanazawa won the kumite title with a broken hand. The kata title was won by Hiroshi Shoji. Enoeda took part in the Championships but did not place. He was very disappointed with his performance. He did however win the East University Karate Championships.

On graduating from Takushoku University in 1957 with a degree in Commerce, Enoeda moved to Kyushu to work in the film industry. However, in 1959 at the invitation of Masatoshi Nakayama in enrolled on the JKA Instructor Course.

The aim of the Instructors Course was to train the best karateka to become instructors with the goal of sending them abroad to teach Karate. The course was very hard and challenged both mind and body. His main instructors were Nakayama and Hidetaka Nishiyama. Once a month guest instructors were invited to teach on the course some of these instructors included Hironori Otsuka of Wado-ryu and Gogen Yamaguchi of Goju-Ryu.

On 13 June 1960 Enoeda was awarded his 3rd Dan. He became the 150th karateka to be awarded the rank. The following year he took part in his second JKA Championships at the 5th JKA All Japan Championships. During the earlier rounds of the kumite event, he defeated Keigo Abe in a bout that went to the judge’s decision. The bout had six overtime extensions. Enoeda eventually lost to Tetsuhiko Asai in the semi-finals. Asai would eventually win the title, defeating Hiroshi Shirai in the final.

In 1961 Enoeda graduated from the JKA Instructors Course alongside seven other students. In his graduating class were Masaaki Ueki, a future Chief Instructor of the JKA and Satoshi Miyazaki, who became the head of the JKA in Belgium.

On 12 June 1962 Enoeda was awarded his 4th Dan. According to JKA records he became the 63rd karateka to be awarded the grade. That year at the 6th JKA All Japan Championships he made it all the way to the kumite final losing to the eventual Grand Champion, Hiroshi Shirai, who had also won the kata title.

At the 7th JKA All Japan Championships Enoeda finally achieved his goal of becoming kumite champion. In in what is considered one of the best ever kumite finals, he defeated the previous year’s champion, Shirai. President Achmad Sukarno of Indonesia was present at the Championships. He was so impressed by Enoeda’s performance that he requested Enoeda travel to Indonesia to teach his bodyguards.

On 5 November 1963 Enoeda was part of a delegation that included Masatoshi Nakayama that arrived in Indonesia to teach Karate. Apart from teaching Sukarno’s bodyguards the delegation also taught members of the Indonesian police force. The delegation returned to Japan around 27 December.

On 18 March 1964 Enoeda was promoted to 5th Dan, becoming the 25th person to be awarded the rank by the JKA. He also taught Karate at the JKA Hombu and also at the Tokyo Art School.

It had always been the dream of Gichin Funakoshi to see Karate practised across the world. It was his student, Nakayama, that fulfilled his dream. The JKA’s Instructor Course, of which Enoeda was a graduate, selected only the best karateka. The aim of the course was to develop world class instructors who would be missionaries for the JKA’s brand of Shotokan Karate.

In 1965 the JKA sent a group of instructors on a tour to introduce the world to JKA Karate. The group led by Taiji Kase, also comprised of Hirokazu Kanazawa, Enoeda, and Hiroshi Shirai, all former JKA All Japan Champions. The first leg of the tour began in Hawaii. This was followed by a visit to mainland USA where they visited several cities. Europe was the next leg of the tour. They visited West Germany, Belgium, Holland, France and England.

The tour ended with a six-month teaching stint in South Africa. Each of the JKA instructors stayed in a different South African city. Kase taught in Durban; Kanazawa taught in Pretoria; Shirai taught in Cape Town; and Enoeda taught in Johannesburg where he was a guest of Stan Schmidt and the Karate Association of South Africa. The six-month visit culminated in the 1st South African Championships. Stan Schmidt became the tournament’s first Grand Champion.

Following the end of the successful tour the JKA received requests from various countries to send instructors. Vernon Bell of the British Karate Federation (BKF) had made such a request and had obtained the services of Kanazawa, who was based in London. Kanazawa made frequent visits to BKF dojos around the UK. He visited the BKF Liverpool dojo on several occasions. He was so impressed by the spirit shown at the dojo that he made a request that Enoeda be sent as a resident instructor for the Liverpool dojo.

In November 1965 Enoeda arrived in the city of Liverpool. Initially he stayed with Terry O’Neill and his mother at their flat for a month before moving into his own flat.

His arrival at the Liverpool dojo ushered in a major step in the Karate development of the club. His military-like attitude and his training methods, considered by some to be harsh, initially led to a fall in membership at the club. It should be noted that he was following the Takushoku formula that had produced many great karateka. His approach involved constantly drilling basic Karate techniques. Apart from the normal class sessions, he would also train with some of his students early in the morning in Sefton Park. The student that did stay would go on to make the Liverpool club one of the most respected dojos in the country.

In 1966 Sadashige Kato was sent to England to be Enoeda’s assistant at the Liverpool dojo. It was also around this time that the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) was established, breaking away from the BKF.

Enoeda was asked by the JKA to travel to the United States for a stay of several months. He assisted Hidetaka Nishiyama in classes and also on various courses. Nishiyama’s students had the opportunity to spar with the former JKA Champion. In an infamous incident he broke the jaw of Nishiyama’s student Frank Smith, who would go on to become one of the finest fighters in the world.

Enoeda also spent time assisting Teruyuki Okazaki at his Philadelphia dojo. Also, during his stay he taught at the New York Karate club, whose students were sad when he eventually returned to Liverpool in 1968.

Kanazawa had become the Chief Instructor to the German Karate Federation. Enoeda assumed the role of KUGB Chief Instructor. With the new role he split his teaching time between Liverpool and London, where he taught at London’s oldest dojo, the Budokwai and the Blackfriars dojo. That same year Shiro Asano arrived to assist him.

On the personal front 1969 was a mixed year for Enoeda. On 17 May he married Reiko Hayashi. Charles Naylor, who would become a stalwart of the KUGB was his best man. The newly weds settled in Kingston Surrey. However, his mother died at the age of sixty-three.

On 1 April 1970 Enoeda was promoted to 6th Dan. He became the 25th person to be awarded this rank by the JKA.

1971 saw Enoeda appear at the beginning of the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. He also replaced Kanazawa as the JKA Chief Instructor to Europe. The year culminated with the birth of his son Daisuke on 31 December. The following year he visited South Africa with with his new family. He stayed with Stan Schmidt, with whom he stayed several years earlier during the JKA world tour.

1972 saw the publication of Enoeda’s first book “Karate – Defence and Attack“. The book was co-authored with John Chisholm.

In 1973 Enoeda set up a permanent dojo at the Marshall Street Baths, London. This became his permanent London base, and an iconic location for students to train at. Students from around the world regularly visited the dojo to train. That same year Hideo Tomita arrived to assist him, replacing Sadishige Kato. The following year Masao Kawasoe also arrived to assist Enoeda.

On 1 December 1974 Enoeda was promoted to 7th Dan. He became the 21st person to be awarded this rank by the JKA.

1975 saw the publication of his book “Shotokan Karate Free Fighting Techniques” co-authored with Charles Mack. The year culminated with the birth of his daughter Maya on 14th December.

From the 1970s through to his untimely death, Enoeda worked tirelessly to make the KUGB one of the biggest and most successful Shotokan associations in the world. His various assistants, that included Sadashige Kato (1966-1973); Hideo Tomita (1973-1978 ); Masao Kawasoe (1974-1982); and Yoshinobu Ohta (1982 to 2003) ably supported him.

In 1980 Enoeda took part in a demonstration match against Hirokazu Kanazawa, at the home of Japanese martial arts, the Budokan. The match was refereed by Masatoshi Nakayama.

1983 saw the publication of Enoeda’s three-volume book set “Shotokan: Advanced Kata“.

On 1 October 1985 Enoeda was promoted to the 8th Dan. He received his award in Tokyo becoming the 17th person to be awarded this rank by the JKA.

1990 saw the fruition of his hard work at the KUGB when his England team beat Japan in Sunderland to win the men’s team kumite event at the 3rd Shoto Cup. Japan had dominated the event since the inception of the World Championships in 1975. The English team was coached by Andy Sherry and consisted of Elwyn Hall, Frank Brennan, Dean Hodgkin, Ronnie Cannings and Gary Harford. Enoeda presented the squad with their medals, in what was one of proudest moments.

From 1996 to 1999 Enoeda had several books published. This included:

  • Shotokan Karate (1996)
  • Shotokan Karate: 10th Kyu to 6th Kyu (1996)
  • Shotokan Karate: 5th Kyu to Black Belt (1996)
  • Shotokan Karate: Defence & Attack (1996)
  • Shotokan Karate: Free Fighting Techniques (1999)

In 2001 Enoeda’s father, Fukuo, died aged ninety years. The following year Enoeda travelled back to Japan to receive specialist treatment for stomach cancer.

On 29 March 2003, Keinosuke Enoeda, the Tiger of Shotokan, died in Tokyo, Japan, from stomach cancer. He was survived by his wife Reiko and their two children, Daisuke and Maya. His funeral took place at the Hozoji Temple in Tokyo. JKA instructor Norihiko Iida was a priest at the temple. Fellow JKA instructor, Kimhide Takechi conducted the funeral. A memorial service was held for Enoeda at the Crystal Palace, London on 1 June. Both events were attended by students and instructors from around the world. The tributes given indicated a teacher who was free of ego and who was liked in and out of the dojo. Many students saw him as a surrogate father. He was also remember for his great sense of humour.

Enoeda was posthumously awarded his 9th Dan in 2003. It was backdated to 29 March 2003.

A memorial course was held in honour of Enoeda in August 2003. The course was conducted by Senseis Ohta, Ueki, Inamura, Tomita, Matsui and Nemota. Reiko Enoeda was the guest of honour.

Keinosuke Enoeda was a man full of spirit and had the ability to bring the best out of his students, who continue to honour him to this day. He is considered by many to be the best Japanese instructor to teach in the UK. He is responsible for laying the strong foundation of British Shotokan Karate carried on by his students, Andy Sherry, Terry O’Neill, Dave Hazard, Bob Poynton, Pauline Bindra and countless others. His legacy still lives on around the world.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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