This week in history (19 November – 25 November)

19 November

On 19 November 1963 Shotokai master, Mitsusuke Harada arrived in England from Belgium following an invitation from Judo great, Kenshiro Abbe. Harada had started his Karate training in 1943 nder Gichin Funakoshi and Shigeru Egami

Kenishiro Abbe’s organisation, the British Budo Council, had invited Harada to give a Karate demonstration at the Royal Albert Hall during the National Judo Championships, on 23 November 1963. Although billed as a Shotokan master in the event programme, Harada had already made the switch to Shotokai. 

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On 19 November 2011 Jacques Delcourt died. He played an important role in making Karate a truly global art. He was instrumental in helping to create the European Karate Union, the forerunner of many of top organisations in the world today. 

Jacques Delcourt was born in Paris, France on 21 August 1928. During World War II he joined the resistance when he was only 15, eventually joining the Civil and Military Organisation (CMO). At age 16 he was wounded and assigned to the 110th Infantry Regiment. 

Delcourt began his martial arts career with martial art great, Henri Plee, in the art of Judo. Plee was also his teacher when he later made the switch to lean Karate. 

In 1961 Delcourt was appointed the head of French Karate, which at the time was still a branch of the Judo Federation. 

In 1963 history was made when the first international Karate tournament took place in Paris. Delcourt and the French Federation were joined by federations from Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Great Britain. These federations went on to form the European Karate Federation (EKF) in 1965, with Delcourt becoming the organisation’s first president. In 1966, the first European Karate Championships were held in Paris 

In 1970 the World Union of Karate-do Organisations (WUKO) was formed as an international governing body for the EKF and the Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organisation (FAJKO), with Delcourt becoming President of the organisation. At the insistence of FAJKO president, Ryoichi Sasakawa, the first World Karate Championships took place in Tokyo, Japan. In time WUKO would become the World Karate Federation (WKF). 

Delcourt stepped down as President of the EKF in 1997. However, he was made an honorary President of the organisation. Between 1980 to 1992 he was a member of the French Olympic Committee. 

Jacques Delcourt died on 19 November 2011 at his home in the South of France, aged eighty-three.


21 November

On 21 November 1982 the 6th World Championships commenced in Taipei, Taiwan, finishing on 25 November. 

Japan continued their dominance of world Karate by topping the medal table with six golds, two silvers and four bronzes. 

Mie Nakayama began her dominance of the women’s individual kata event by winning the first of her three individual titles. At the previous World Championships, she had won silver. 

Seiji Nishimura, a student of Wado-ryu founder, Hironori Ohtsuka, won the men’s 70-kg kumite event. 

The championships also saw the beginning of Britain’s dominance in men’s kumite at world level. Pat McKay and Geoff Thompson won individual honours, taking gold medals in the 80-kg and the +80-kg kumite events respectively. Alfie Borg won a silver in the 75-kg kumite event. Stewart McKinnon and Jerome Atkinson won bronze medals in the 60-kg and open kumite events. Britain took the team kumite event, beating Italy in the final. Britain finished second in the medal table with three golds, two silvers and four bronzes.


22 November

On 22 November 1984 the second day of the 1992 World Championships were took place at Maastricht, Netherlands. 

For the first time in the championship’s history, Britain topped the medal table, winning a total of eight medals (four golds, one silver and three bronzes) ahead of Japan. 

Britain’s main successes came in the kumite events. Pat McKay retained his 80-kg world title. Jim Collins won the 75-kg event with Cecil Hackett winning the bronze. Jerome Atkinson won the +80-kg title. Vic Charles won bronze in the open kumite event. Beverly Morris won bronze in the women’s 60-kg event. Yvette Bryan won a silver medal in the +60-kg kumite event. 

Britain continued their dominance of the team kumite event, winning their second world team title in a row. 

Japan dominated the kata event, winning four out of six available medals. In the men’s individual kata event Japan won gold and silver with Tsuguo Sakamoto and Masashi Koyama. This was the first of Sakamoto’s three individual world titles. 

In the woman’s kata event, Mie Nakayama won gold, with Setsuko Takagi winning silver. This was Nakayama’s second consecutive world title. 

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On 22 November 1992 the final day of the 11th World Championships took place at Granada, Spain. 

Spain topped the medal table at their home championships, winning a total of eleven medals (four golds, two silvers and five bronzes). 

Spaniard, Luis Maria Sanz De La Hoz, competing in his second World Championships, beat Japan’s Ryoke Abe to become the first Shotokan karateka and first non-Japanese man to win the men’s kata title. 

Great Britain Karate team won 4 golds, 1 Silver at the 11th in the kumite events. Willie Thomas (70-kg), Wayne Otto (75-kg) and Molly Samuel (60-kg) won gold with Jillian Toney (53-kg) winning silver. The men’s team won the team title.


23 November

On 23 November 1963, Shotokai master, Mitsusuke Harada gave a Karate demonstration at the Royal Albert Hall, during the National Judo Championships. Judo great, Kenishiro Abbe’s organisation, the British Budo Council, had invited Harada. 

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On 23 November 1986 the third day of the 8th WUKO World Karate Championships took place in Sydney, Australia. 

Japan topped the medal table, winning a total of fourteen medals (five golds, seven silvers and two bronzes). Britain was second and France third. 

Tsuguo Sakamoto and Mie Nakayama of Japan retained their world titles, winning the men’s and women’s kata events. 

Four of Britain’s kumite stars won medals, Vic Charles (+80-kg gold), Geoff Thompson (+80-kg silver), Pat McKay (80-kg silver) and Molly Samuel (60-kg). The British men’s team also won the kumite title. 

Dutch starlight, Guusje van Mourik, won her third straight world title in the +60-kg kumite event. Van Mourik is one of the most successful kumite competitors, having won numerous titles at World and European level.


24 November

On 24 November 1940 Wado-ryu master, Masafumi Shiomitsu was born in Kagoshima, Japan. 

A powerfully built man, known for his kicking ability, Masfumi Shiomitsu began his Karate training in 1955, aged 15, studying Shorin-ryu. On entering Nihon University in 1959, he became a member of the  Wado-ryu karate club. The chief instructor of the club was Master Hironori Ohtsuka, the founder of the style, assisted by instructors Fumihiro Tanabe and Toru Arakawa. 

As a brown belt Shiomitsu suffered a serious injury, when during training he dislocated a vertebra. He was hospitalised for a year. However, not being one to give up, Shiomitsu eventually returned to training and achieved his Shodan in 1961. 

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On 24 November 1945 Master Gichin Funakoshi’s third son Yoshitaka (Gigo) died from tuberculosis, in Tokyo, Japan. He was 39 years. He was first diagnosed with tuberculosis aged 7 and had been told that he wouldn’t live past the age of 21. He started practicing Karate aged 11. 

Much of modern Shotokan Karate can be attributed to Yoshitaka Funakoshi. He introduced longer stances into the Shotokan style and was also responsible for a more dynamic style of Karate which emphasized more power and speed compared to the Karate of his father. 

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On 24 November 2002 the final day of the 16th World Karate Championships were held at Madrid, Spain. 

France topped the medal table with 11 medals (3 golds, 3 silvers and 5 bronzes), with hosts Spain second (3 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes), and Japan third (3 golds, 1 silver and 1 bronze). Participants from 26 nations won medals. 

France prevented Japan from making a clean sweep of the kata events, by winning the women’s team kata event. Atsuko Wakai retained the women’s kata title, winning her third world title in a row. Takashi Katada won the men’s title. The male team won the team title against Spain. 

Elisa Au became the first American woman to win a world title when she won the +60-kg kumite event. Her compatriot, George Kotaka won the 65-kg kumite event, thus winning America’s only other medal. 

Damien Dovey made history by winning Benin’s first gold medal in the 60-kg kumite event. Dovey had previously represented France winning numerous titles, including the World title in 1994 in the same event. 

Another medallist who had previously won medals at previous World Championships for another country was Junior Lefevre. He had previously won World Championship bronzes in the 70-kg kumite event for Belgium at the 1996 and 1998 championships. At the 2000 World Championships he became World Champion representing Croatia. In the 2002 championship he lost out to Italy’s Giuseppe di Domenico in the final. 

Snezana Pantic won the women’s open kumite event for Yugoslavia. She would later go on to represent Serbia and Montenegro, and eventually Serbia. 

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On 24 November 2004 Shotokan Karate master, Taiji Kase died in Paris, France. 

Kase was one of the first Shotokan instructors to travel overseas to spread Karate around the world. In 1964 he spent three months teaching in South Africa. 1965 to 1966 saw him travelling to the United States, West Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. In 1967 he spent several months living and teaching in Italy. That same year he travelled to France, having been invited by Henri Plee. He and his family eventually settled in Paris. 

Kase had fallen into a coma from which he did not wake. He eventually passed away in the company of his family and some close friends. He was cremated at the Pere Lachaise crematorium in Paris on November 30 2004. The ceremony was attended by around 350 people. 


25 November

On 25 November 1948 the founder of the Okinawan Karate style Uechi-ryu, Kanbun Uechi, died aged 71. 

Born into a family of farmers, in 1897 Uechi fled his native Okinawa to avoid conscription into the Japanese army. He travelled to Fuzhou (Fuchou) in the Fukien Province of China. 

Looking to learn martial arts, Uechi first tried training at the Kojo-ryu school in Fuzhou, under the instruction of master Makabe. However, Makabe mocked Uechi on his speech impediment. 

Uechi left Makabe’s dojo and started training under the tutelage of a medicine hawker called Shu Shi Wa. Wa taught him the Kung-Fu style of Pangai-noon, a style based on hard attacks and soft blocks. During his time with Wa it is thought he was taught the katas Sanchin, Sesan and Sanseryu. 

Uechi supported himself by helping Wa gather herbs to make herbal remedies. Over time Uechi learnt to make these Chinese medicines, enabling him to support himself during his stay in China. 

Uechi eventually opened his own dojo in 1904 in Nansoye, after gaining his master’s grade from Shu Shi Wa. He would continue to make annual visits to Wa in Fuzhou for ten days at a time, to continue training with his master. 

In 1909 Uechi returned to Okinawa to farm his family’s lands. Interestingly at this time he refused to take on any students. 

Facing financial difficulties due to mass unemployment in Okinawa, Uechi took his family to Wakayama, Japan in 1924, where he found factory work. 

In 1925 two of Uechi’s Okinawan workmates persuaded him to teach them martial arts. In 1932 he finally opened the Pangai-noon-ryu Karate Jutsu Club. In 1940, the style was renamed to Uechi-Ryu Karate. 

Uechi returned to Okinawa in 1946, where he remained until his death in 1948. 

Kanbun Uechi’s son, Kanyei, took on his father’s role eventually systemizing the style of Uechi-Rye and spreading it around the world. 

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On 25 November 2012 the final day of the 21st World Karate Championships took place at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy. 

Hosts France topped the medal table winning 13 medals (7 golds, 2 silvers and 4 bronzes). They did not surpass their 2000 World Championship medal haul of 16 medals (6 golds, 6 silvers and 4 bronzes). The majority of France’s golds were won by the women’s team who almost managed a clean sweep of the kumite events. Alexandra Recchia (50-kg), Lucie Ignace (55-kg), Lolita Dona (61-kg) and Nadege Ait-Ibrahim (+68-kg) all won individual titles. Tiffany Fanjat and Emilie Thouy joined Recchia and Dona to win the team event, beating Croatia in the final. 

The French men only managed to win two golds, both in the kumite events. Kenji Grillon won the 84-kg kumite title. He was joined by Mathieu Cossou, Nadir Benaissa, Ibrahim Gary, Azdin Rghioui, Salim Bendiab and Logan Da Costa, to win the team kumite event, beating Turkey in the final. 

History was made when Rika Usami from Japan and Antonio Diaz from Venezuela, both trained by the late Yoshimi Inoue, won the women’s and men’s individual kata titles. This was the first time a coach had trained both of the individual kata winners from different countries at a World Championship. Inoue had previously coached arguably two of the greatest female kata champions, Mie Nakayama and Atsuko Wakai

Italy’s Luigi Busa and Azerbaijan’s Rafael Aghayev resumed their rivalry in the 75-kg kumite event. Busa won the title, having lost to Aghayev in the previous World Championship final in 2010.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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