This week in history (20 January – 26 January)

20 January

On 20 January 1909 Gōju-ryu legend, Gōgen Yamaguchi, was born. Nicknamed the Cat, he was famed for his feline-like speed and prowess.
Yamaguchi was a direct student of Gōju-ryu Karate founder, Chojun Miyagi. He began training with him in 1929.


On 20 January 1938 Cyril Cummins, a pioneer of Shotokan in Central England, was born.

Cummins began his Karate training in 1964 at the Kyu-Shin-Kan School of Judo Ltd, located in Birmingham. His initial instructors were Jonny Brown, Tommy Ryan and Les Hart. They had learnt their Karate mainly from Hidetaka Nishiyama‘s book, Karate: The Art of ‘Empty-Hand Fighting. They eventually joined the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB).

Cummins gained his 1st Dan in 1966 from the Budo of Great Britain. After training with Hirokazu Kanazawa, he re-took his Dan grade under the auspices of the JKA/KUGB.


On 20 January 1984, the 3rd World Open Tournament took place in Tokyo, Japan. The three-day event (20-22 January) was organised by Mas Oyama’s International Karate Organisation (IKO).

192 competitors from 60 countries took part in the tournament. Japan claimed the top three positions. Makoto Nakamura defeated Keiji Sanpei in the final. Akiyoshi (Shokei) Matsui finished in third place.


22 January

On 22 January 1961, Hirokazu Kanazawa was sent to Hawaii by the JKA, to become their Chief Instructor in Hawaii. He held this position for two years.

Introducing the new art of Shotokan Karate to Hawaii was not without its problems. Kanazawa faced challenges from other instructors of other Karate styles and martial arts. They wanted to test the authenticity of his Karate. Through talking he was able to prevent many conflicts. However, on five occasions he faced challengers who could not be dissuaded from conflict. He defeated them.


On 22 January 1964, the British Karate Federation (BKF) formally accepted the Japan Karate Association’s (JKA) invitation to become their agents in Great Britain. This was in response to a letter dated 19 December 1963.

In the letter, written by Vernon Bell to Masatomo Takagi, the BKF agreed to the following terms with the JKA:

  • The payment of a registration fee to the JKA.
  • The wording of the official registration diploma to include all domains coming under the legal jurisdiction of Great Britain.
  • Anyone wishing to join the JKA would have to first become a member of the BKF.
  • Anyone wishing to join JKA could not do so directly. They would have to do so through the national federation of the county acting as the JKA’s representative.
  • An official certificate of affiliation would only be forwarded by the JKA headquarters once the registration fee to them had been paid and also the terms for membership had been agreed.
  • The BKF would be the only authorized association to conduct gradings and confer belts on behalf of the JKA.
  • Ranks above 3rd kyu could only be conferred by a JKA approved examiner.

In the same letter, Bell also inquired about the Shodan (1st Dan) diploma and badge that were promised to him.


23 January

On 23 January 1949, Henri Plee was graded to his Judo 1st Dan under Mikinosuke Kawaishi.

Plee became the 16th Judoka to attain this rank in France.


24 January

On 24 January 1987, Tetsuji Murakami, an early pioneer of Karate in Europe, died from an incurable disease after a long illness, in his adopted city of Paris. He was only 59 years old.


25 January

On 25 January 2000, Kyokushin Karate legend, Hiroki Kurosawa made his kickboxing debut in the K-1 Kickboxing promotion.

K-1 was the brainchild of Kazuyoshi Ishii and was designed to promote the best stand-up martial artists. In his debut, Kurosawa faced American Maecus Ruiz, who he knocked out in just 56 seconds.


26 January

On 26 January 1964 Tetsuji Murakami performed his last official grading for the British Karate Federation (BKF) at their Blackpool dojo.

Murakami’s association with the BKF had begun in July 1959, when he arrived in England from France. He conducted his first lesson and grading at 12 Maybush Road, Hornchurch.

Murakami has been described as an exceptional exponent of Karate. He taught Yoseikan, a form of Shotokan Karate. Vernon Bell described him as a good and popular teacher. He had been awarded his 1st Dan by the Japan Karate Association (JKA).

When Murakami arrived in Europe, it was assumed that he was the JKA’s European representative. However, following correspondence between Vernon Bell, Jurgen Seydel (Bell’s counterpart in Germany) and Masatomo Takagi of the JKA, it transpired that Murakami did not represent the JKA.

Bell and members of the BKF felt betrayed. Correspondence continued between Bell and the JKA. The JKA indicated they that would not recognize any grades bestowed by Murakami.

On 16 November 1963 Bell applied for the BKF to become members of the JKA. The BKF would become affiliated to the JKA and severe ties with the Yoseikan association.

Murakami eventually moved back to Japan in 1968. He became a student of Shigeru Egami learning Shotokai Karate. He was awarded his 5th Dan from Egami. He eventually returned to Europe teaching and promoting Shotokai.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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