Masafumi Shiomitsu

The principles of Wado-Ryu are the principles of Budo: “Work hard and do not waste one’s time” in order to reinforce one’s Karate and one’s mind. Mind is more important than technique. It is important to
build up a strong and healthy mind in order to have the right attitude in life, that is not to turn your back when faced with a problem. Do not stray away from your goal. “When you decide something, you have to start and you have to go all the way to the end.

Masafumi Shiomitsu

Masafumi Shiomitsu is an internationally recognised Wado-ryu master. A powerfully built man, he is known for his no-nonsense approach to Karate. He lives by the principles of Budo, which include working hard and not wasting one’s time.

Shiomitsu was born in Kagoshima, Japan on 24 November 1940. The eldest of two sons, his father was a journalist and later a publisher.

As a young man Shiomitsu developed into a good swimmer. Aged fifteen he saw someone practising on a makiwara at a temple. Intrigued he started training with a local Shorin-ryu instructor. At the time he was not very serious about his training.

In 1959 Shiomitsu entered Nihon University in Tokyo to study Economics. He joined the university’s Wado-ryu Karate Club where Hironori Ohtsuka, in his sixties was the Chief Instructor. Ohtsuka was assisted by Fumihiro Tanabe and Toru Arakawa, both 4th Dans.

Training at the club was hard. The style of Wado-ryu Karate taught was primarily to do with fighting. Technique, was not the main focus of the training. Training consisted of a lot of fighting, in and out of the dojo. On summer training camps lower grades would have to wake up at 4 a.m. to prepare for their seniors.

As a member of the Karate club, Shiomitsu entered many competitions. He was disqualified from some of them due to a lack of control. However, this was due to very poor eyesight. He could hardly see when he took off his glasses. Photographs from the time show him wearing glasses. In later years he was able to wear contact lenses.

As previously mentioned, training at the Karate club was hard. Sometimes senior students would kick lower grades to spur them on. As a brown belt, Shiomitsu suffered a serious injury when he dislocated a vertebra, following a kick in the back by a senior student. A testament to his strength of character was that he did not give in to his injury and by 1961 he had recovered, earning his 1st Dan.

In 1962 Shiomitsu lead the team that won the Zen Nihon Wado-ryu Kumite Championships (All Japan Wado-ryu). The following year he was appointed Captain of the team. The team retained their title.

Shiomitsu graduated from Nihon University in 1964 was a degree in Economics. By this time he has achieved the rank of 4th Dan. After graduation, he opened a Japanese style bar/restaurant in Tokyo. In the afternoon he would also practice and teach Karate.

In the January of 1965 Tatsuo Suzuki, one of Ohtsuka’s senior students, arrived in England to teach Wado-ryu Karate. By August 1965 Teruo Kono, Yutaka Toyama and Shiomitsu had arrived in England to assist Suzuki. Shiomitsu had been looking for a change in his life and saw this as a great opportunity. He had written a letter to Suzuki, who invited him to be his assistant.

On arriving in England Shiomitsu stayed in London assisting Suzuki for a short time. Initially, he found it difficult to adapt to the new country with its language and culture. Later he travelled around England teaching at various clubs. He specialised in free-fighting and had a fighter’s spirit. As such his teaching style and methods were very hard. This hard-nosed approach led to a fall in membership in some clubs. When a teaching position arose in Spain, Suzuki decided to send him to teach over there.

In 1967, Suzuki’s book ‘Karate-Do’, was published. Shiomitsu appeared in the book as Suzuki’s partner.

Shiomitsu eventually moved to Spain in 1969. However, he only stayed for four months. There was an incident where he knocked out a government minister’s son during a freestyle sparring session. This led to a clash with government officials. Even though he wanted to stay in Spain, Suzuki sent him to teach in France.

Shiomitsu arrived in France in 1969 where he stayed for 18 months. He lived in an apartment with fellow Japanese flatmates. This made his transition into France a little easier. This also meant he never needed to learn to speak French.

In 1972 Shiomitsu was sent to Madagascar to introduce Wado-ryu Karate into the country. He remained in Madagascar for four years. It was here that he finally learnt to speak French, as there were very few Japanese in the country. By the time he left he had laid the foundations for a strong Karate association.

Shiomitsu returned to England in 1976. He had no intention of returning to Japan. By this time he was married to his wife Maya.

In 1981 Shiomitsu returned to Japan to celebrate the 90th birthday of Wado-Ryu founder, Hironori Ohtsuka. Shiomitsu was awarded his seventh Dan shortly before Otsuka’s death on 29th January. Ohtsuka’s son, Hironori Ohtsuka II became the new Grandmaster.

Shiomitsu, a member of the United Kingdom Karate-Do Wado-Kai (UKKW), was appointed Vice President for European Wado-Kai. Two years later saw the publication of his book ‘Dynamic Kicking Method’.

In 1989 dissatisfied with the direction Wado-ryu was taking in the UK, Shiomitsu left the UKKW. He formed a new association, the Wado-ryu Karate-Do Academy. Under the chairmanship of Hironori Ohtsuka II, the Association wanted to remove the politics that surrounded Wado-ryu Karate. Shiomitsu wanted a place where Wado-ryu could be practised in its true spirit.

1989 also saw Shiomitsu awarded his 8th Dan from the Wado Ryu Renmei. To commemorate his new grade he took to wearing a white belt. He stated, “To be like a beginner who absorbs all around him”.

Shiomitsu teaching style has changed over the years. It should be remembered that a lack of teaching experience and teaching in a foreign language provided a barrier between him and his early students when he first arrived in the UK in the 1960s. Also, his teaching style at the time was hard and sometimes severe. However, with experience, he has evolved into one of the best instructors in the world. His international courses while tough are very popular. He has a wealth of knowledge that he is able to transmit to his students. In 2005 he celebrated forty years of teaching.

On 26 June 2015, Hironori Ohtsuka II died. He had awarded Shiomitsu his last grade of 9th Dan in 2006.

In 2018 Shiomitsu fell ill and eventually underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, following a subdural bleed. At the time of writing, he is recovering and looking forward to teaching his students.

Shiomitsu was a part of the first generation of Japanese instructors who start teaching Wado-ryu Karate in England and the rest of Europe. As Karate has grown he has changed his teaching style. His love for the principles of Budo has helped develop his Karate and helps make him one of the most respected Karate instructors in the world.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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