Tadashi Nakamura

What I would like to say is that modern Karate is now quite popular compared to the past. There are more people studying Karate, more people teaching and more schools compared to before, not only in America but in Japan and elsewhere too. One good thing is that now people have more places to study Karate. But, at the same time, I’m a little afraid of the kind of quality of teaching.

Tadashi Nakamura

For a long time, Tadashi Nakamura was one of Mas Oyama’s top students. He won national recognition when he fought for the honour of Japanese Karate. He has also gone on to lead his own Karate organisation, with over 20,000 students worldwide.

Tadashi Nakamura was born on 22 February 1942. He came from a middle-class family. His mother was a doctor and his father a banker.

In 1953 Nakamura was introduced to Karate by his older brothers, who studied Wado-ryu and Goju-ryu Karate.

Mas Oyama opened a small dojo in 1953. The dojo was located behind Rikkyo University, Tokyo. Nakamura switched styles and dojos in 1956, becoming one of Oyama’s first students. At the time Oyama taught elements of Goju-ryu, Shorei-ryu, and Kobayashi-ryu Karate, all styles he had learnt.

Training with Oyama was extremely tough. Students frequently left training sessions very tired. There were four classes a week, with each training session lasting 3-4 hours. Sparring sessions in the class lasted for over an hour and were filled with a lot of intensity and violence. Many students joined and left the dojo, finding the training sessions too tough. Injuries were no excuse for not training.

Nakamura stuck to his training. In 1959 he was awarded his 1st Dan by Oyama. At the time he was the youngest student to be awarded a black belt by Oyama.

In 1961 Nakamura took part in his first tournament, the All-Japan Student Open Karate Championship. He won the tournament. He was 19 years old at the time. This would be the first of many tournament successes.

Nakamura began teaching Karate at Camp Zama, a United States military base, Near Tokyo. He was the Chief Instructor at the camp until 1965.

An international match was set up in 1962, to find out whether Thailand or Japan had the best martial art and artists.

The Thais had said that Japanese Karate was dead. They issued a challenge to the Japanese, which Oyama accepted. He sent his three top students, Kenji Kurosaki, Nakamura, and Noboru Ozawa. The challenge took place at the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand. The Japanese won two of the three fights. In his bout, Nakamura fought the Thai kickboxing champion, knocking him out. This made him a national hero back home in Japan.

In 1964 Oyama officially founded Kyokushin Karate. He also established the International Karate Organisation (IKO).

On 21 May 1965, Steve Arneil became the first person after Oyama to complete the 100-Man Kyokushin Challenge. The challenge was devised as the ultimate mental and physical test. On 15 October of that year, Nakamura became the next man to successfully complete the challenge.

By 1966 Nakamura had graduated from university, with a degree in Architecture. He was offered a position at the company, Daiichi, at a very good salary. However, much to the disappointment of his parents, he dreamed of travelling the world and teaching Karate.

On 5 April 1966, Nakamura got his wish. Oyama selected him to go to the United States to spread Kyokushin Karate. He became the first overseas Kyokushin Karate instructor in the country.

Aged 24 years at the time, Nakamura set up his first dojo at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in New York.

In the beginning, things were slow to pick up. Nakamura faced challengers who wanted to test him and his style of martial arts. His reputation had preceded him. Many of these challenges eventually became his students. He conducted numerous seminars and demonstrations across the United States, to build up interest in Kyokushin Karate.

By 1971 Kyokushin had begun to grow in the United States. Nakamura was now the recognised head of Kyokushin Karate in America. He had established the North American Kyokushin Karate headquarters, which had over 30 schools affiliated to it.

By 1974 Nakamura had been ranked to 6th Dan. Interest in Kyokushin had spread around the world. There were many requests for instructors to conduct seminars. He and Shigeru Oyama (no relation to Mas Oyama) were sent to run a national training course in New Zealand.

Nakamura made a momentous decision in 1976, by deciding to break ties with his mentor, Mas Oyama, and Kyokushin Karate. This had been a very difficult decision for him. With the rapid growth of Kyokushin around the world, he felt something had been lost in the quality and in the teaching of the Karate style.

Nakamura’s decision was not well received, back in the IKO headquarters in Japan. He had been seen by some as the heir apparent to Oyama and the Kyokushin empire. He was vilified and defamed. Oyama had even wanted him banished from the martial arts world.

Wanting a style of Karate that represented his own beliefs, Nakamura established his own style called Seido Juku Karate. Seido means ‘Sincere Way‘. On 15 October 1976, he established the World Seido Karate Organisation.

There was still a lot of resentment by some, towards Nakamura for leaving Kyokushin Karate. In February 1977 he was shot in a Manhattan parking lot. Luckily he survived the attack and persevered with building his Seido organisation.

Through most of the 1980s, Nakamura worked hard at establishing Seido Karate. 1989 saw the publication of his autobiography, ‘The Human Face of Karate: My Life, My Karate-do‘.

By 1996 Seido Karate had become established internationally. On 20 October Seido celebrated its 20th Anniversary at an event held at the Avery Fisher Hall, at the Lincoln Centre, New York. Nakamura received many congratulatory letters from people like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Nelson Mandela, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in admiration and respect of what he had achieved with Seido Karate. At the event the 1st World Tournament also took place.

Nakamura’s son, Akira, who had started learning Seido Karate from an early age, began teaching at the Seido Hombu in 1996.

On 11 September 2001, the world was shocked by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. The attack hit Nakamura and Seido Karate on a personal level. New York fire captain, Pat Brown, a first responder, died in the attack. Brown was a Seido Sensei.

2006 saw Seido Karate celebrate its 30th Anniversary. A five-day international event was held to commemorate the event.

In 2008 Nakamura officially appointed his son Akira as his successor as head of Seido Karate.

Between 22 October to 2 November 2012, Hurricane Sandy, one of the deadliest superstorms on record, hit the eastern coast of the United States. It led to power cuts in the New York area. However, Nakamura’s students still practised at the dojo, which had no heat or electricity.

2012 also saw Nakamura and his son, Akira, travel to Japan, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Seido Aichi branch. The trip also included a visit to the Atsuta Jingu shrine in Nagoya. They were granted special permission to present Seido to the Budo God of the shrine.

At the shrine, Tadashi Nakamura promoted Akira Nakamura to 8th Dan. He presented Akira with a ceremonial belt that he had worn 35 years before.

In May 2013, Seido made history by promoting five senior women to the rank of 6th Dan. They were Sandi Carter, Michelle Cuttino, Judy Curiale, Maureen Rouse, and Nancy Lanoue.

On 6 June 2016, Seido Karate celebrated its 40th Anniversary, at an event held at the New York Yankee Stadium. The Japanese Ambassador, Reiichiro Takahashi, presented Nakamura with a Certificate of Commendation. The New York Police Department ( NYPD) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) also honoured him. The FDNY Commissioner, Daniel A. Nigro, presented Nakamura with a commendation plaque.

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Seido, 900 students from around the world, gathered to participate in a tournament.

As the head of Sedio Karate, Nakamura has seen Seido grow into an organisation present in 18 countries and with 20,000 students worldwide. His son Akira is now the Chief Instructor of Seido.

Away from Karate, Tadashi Nakamura has established the Seido Juku Benefit Foundation, a non-profit charity. He also holds degrees in Psychology and Architecture.

Author: Patrick Donkor

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.