This week in history (2 December – 8 December)

3 December

On 3 December 1941, Shoshin Nagamine gave a public Karate demonstration to members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force and an assortment of dignitaries, including the Police Chief Cabinet secretary and his deputy, plus members of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (Martial Arts section). 

Born 15 July 1907 in Naha, Okinawa, Nagamine is the founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu. Like many of the Okinawan masters of that period he had several teachers, including Chotoku Kyan and Choki Motubu, who both taught him while he was in the Okinawan police force. He was also a skilled practitioner of Judo and Kendo. 

As a police officer Nagamine eventually rose to the rank of Police Superintendent, being in charge of Motobu, a town located in Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture. He would often train his men in the effective use of Karate. 

In 1941 as a 35-year-old Police Lieutenant, Nagamine travelled to Tokyo to demonstrate the efficiency of Karate, to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force. At the time he was the only master-level practitioner of Karate in the police force. His aim of giving the demonstration was to spread the correct use of Karate. During the showcase he demonstrated kata and tameshiwari, breaking three pine boards, each two centimetres thick. 

An excerpt from a newspaper article covering Nagamine’s public demonstration can be found here

Shoshin Nagamine eventually retired from the police force in 1952. He opened his own dojo, Matsubayashi-Ryu Kodokan Karate and Ancient Martial Arts Studies, teaching his own style of Karate, until his death on 2 November 1997.

4 December

On 4 December 1965, the Japan Karate Association (JKA) moved their headquarters from Yotsuya to Koraku, in the Bunkyo-ku district of Tokyo. 

Yotsuya, located in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, had been the JKA’s headquarters since 1955. The author C. W. Nicol described what it was like training at the Yotsuya Hombu in his book, Moving Zen: Karate as a Way to Gentleness

Koraku would remain the JKA’s headquarters until 1973 when they moved their Hombu to Ebisu in the Shibuya-ku district of Tokyo.

5 December

On 5 December 1944, the founder of Ashihara Karate, Hideyuki Ashihara, was born in Hiroshima, Japan. He was a direct student of Kyokushinkai founder, Mas Oyama

In 1961 Ashihara began his Karate training under Mas Oyama. By 26 March 1964, he had achieved the rank of Shodan (1st dan). He was only nineteen years old. 

Ashihara was considered a formidable fighter, and by 1966 he was an instructor of Kyokushin Karate at the organisation’s Hombu (headquarters). 

Although still associated with the Kyokushinkai organisation, Ashihara had started the development of his own style, Ashihara Karate. A key principle of the style is the use of tai sabaki, body shifting, during kumite. 

As a Karate instructor Ashihara built up a large following, opening clubs across the south of Japan. This caused some friction with other Kyokushin instructors, who felt he was expanding into their areas. To keep the peace in the organisation, Ashihara offered to relinquish the leadership of the clubs in the conflicting areas. However, this was not enough and he was expelled from the Kyokushinkai organisation in 1978 at the insistence of other instructors. 

Ashihara set up the New International Karate Organisation (NIKO) in 1980, with the main dojo of Ashihara Karate located in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. 

In 1987 Ashihara started showing the first signs of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). His condition gradually worsened and on 24 April 1995, he died aged only fifty.

7 December

On 7 December 1912 Shigeru Egami, an early student of Gichin Funakoshi, was born in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. He is considered the one student who followed Funakoshi’s teachings most closely. 

Egami began his Karate training in the 1932 as a student at Waseda University. He was instructed by Funakoshi and his son Yoshitaka. He helped found the university’s Karate club. 

Shigeru Egami, together with Yoshitaka Funakoshi and Takeshi Shimoda, travelled around Japan with Gichin Funakoshi, promoting and demonstrating Karate. 

As he became more experienced, Egami began teaching Karate at several universities. In 1936 he co-founded the Shotokai with Yoshitaka Funakoshi. 

Many of Gichin Funakoshi’s students died during World War II. Egami was excused military service, having been diagnosed with tuberculosis. 

Following the death of Gichin Funakoshi in 1957, there was a split in the Shotokan organisation, with Egami and the Shotokai following a more traditional approach in accordance with the teachings of Funakoshi. Masastoshi Nakayama and the Japan Karate Association (JKA) would follow a more business and sport-oriented approach to Karate. 

Shigeru Egami died in 1981 from a brain tumour.

8 December

On 8 December 1994 the 12th World Karate Championships held at Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia began. The championship finished on 11 December. 

Japan topped the medal table, winning 11 medals (7 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes). France was second with 11 medals (4 golds, 3 silvers and 4 bronzes) and Italy third with 4 medals (1 gold and 3 silvers). 

Sari Laine of Finland won the women’s 53-kg kumite event. She appears in the Guinness Book of Records, holding the record for winning the most Karate medals. The defeated finalist was Jillian Toney from Britain. Toney’s twin sister Julliet would win the World title eight years later in the 60-kg event. 

The men’s individual kata was arguably one of the greatest in history. All three men were past, current and future world champions from 1992 to 2000. Michael Milon (1994, 1996, 2000) won his first world title. Ryoke Abe (1998) won the silver and Luis Maria Sanz (1992) won the bronze. 

Damien Dovy won his first world title in the 60-kg kumite event for France. He would go on to repeat the feat in 2002, winning the title for Benin.  France defeated Britain in the final of the men’s team kumite event. Britain had won five of the last six World Championships.

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