This week in history…(19 December – 25 December)

19 December

On 19 December 1963 Vernon Bell received a letter from Masatomo Takagi, the General Manager of the JKA (Japan Karate Association), requesting that the BKF (British Karate Federation) officially act as the authorized representative of the JKA in Britain.

Earlier that year Bell had received a letter from Takagi indicating that Tetsuji Murakami (Yoseikan Karate), who had been teaching and grading on behalf of the BKF, was not the official representative or delegate of the JKA to Europe. This was in response to a letter Bell had written, requesting clarification of the BKF’s status with the JKA and also of Murakami’s credentials.

It seems Murakami had not been entirely honest with the BKF about his credentials. He had trained with the JKA. However, he was not a 3rd Dan under the JKA as he had claimed, but was rather a 1st Dan. He had also claimed that he was the JKA’s representative in Europe.

Bell accepted Takagi’s offer. The BKF severed ties with Yoseikan Karate and became the official representatives of the JKA in Great Britain.

21 December

On 21 December 1957 Trevor Guilfoyle and Gerald Tucker become the first karateka in  Britain to be graded to 3rd kyu, under the BKF (British Karate Federation). The grading was conducted by Vernon Bell at 12 Maybush Road, Hornchurch, London.

Guilfoyle and Tucker were two of Bell’s earliest students, taking part in the first Karate class ever held in Britain, in 1956. Both men were regularly part of Karate demonstrations given by Bell.

Gerald Tucker was employed as a physical education teacher. He was twenty-five years old when he started training with Bell in 1956. He went from 6th kyu (white belt) to 3rd kyu (green belt) in less than six months. Unfortunately, Tucker resigned from the BKF in 1958 after taking up a new teaching position in Somerset.

Vernon Bell described Trevor Guilfoyle as the greatest expert he ever trained, going 6th kyu to 3rd kyu in less than six months, aged only nineteen. Initially, he had started training with Bell in Judo. Guilfoyle temporarily resigned from the BKF in 1958, to join the SAS. It is believed he may have died while serving in the army.

22 December

On 22 December 1964, Osamu Ozawa arrived in the United States with the aim of selling a film he had produced. His first stop was Honolulu, Hawaii where he stayed the night with Masataka Mori, who was teaching Karate in Hawaii for the JKA. The following day He flew to Los Angeles where Hidetaka Nishiyama met him.

Ozawa struggled to find a buyer for his film. He sustained himself by teaching private Karate lessons to celebrities such as Natalie Wood and Rock Hudson. During the day he pursued his tv/film career. He did this for the next three years.

On 22 December 2019, In the early morning hours, it was announced on social media and the Internet that the 81-year-old Karate master, Keigo Abe had died peacefully in his sleep. He had been suffering from cancer.

23 December

On 23 December 1911 Kenko Nakaima was born. He was the grandson of Norisato Nakaima, founder of the Okinawan family Karate style, Ryuei-Ryu.

Kenko Nakaima, the third headmaster of the style, is credited with opening it to non-family members. One of his top students was Tsuguo Sakumoto, a three-time WKF Kata World Champion.

25 December

On 25 December 1938, Goju-Ryu Karate master, Morio Higaonna was born in Naha, Okinawa.

Higaonna began his Karate journey by first studying Shorin-Ryu Karate. He later changed to Goju-Ryu Karate, studying under Eiichi Miyazato, a senior student of Goju-Ryu founder Chojun Miyagi.

Higaonna was awarded his 1st Dan by Miyazato in 1957. He has gone on to be one of the foremost Goju-Ryu masters, promoting this style of Karate around the world.

On 25 December 1976, Hawaiian, Bobby Lowe was promoted to 7th Dan by Kyokushin Karate founder, Mas Oyama.

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