This week in history (23 November – 29 November)

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.


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 14 medals (5 golds, 7 silvers and 2 bronzes). Britain was second and France third.

Tsuguo Sakumoto 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, 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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


26 November

On 26 November 1988 the 3rd Shotokan Karate International (SKI) World Championships began at the Utsunomiya Grand Hotel, in Japan. Hirokazu Kanazawa gave the opening speech to the Championships.

In the men’s kata final K Kato defeated M Murakami. Both men performed the kata Unsu. The woman’s individual kata title was won by S Mukai of Japan, performing Unsu, defeating compatriot S. Yoshimura who performed the kata Empi.

The individual kumite title was won by S Sugimoto who defeated K Kobayashi in the final. In 1983 Sugimoto had been runner-up to Aidan Trimble and third in 1985. The woman’s title was won by Kerry Flynn of Australia who defeated S. Yoshimura of Japan.

Ireland made it to the team kumite final, losing to a strong Japanese team. Japan also won the team kata title performing Unsu in the final. They defeated Australia who performed Gojushiho Dai. The ladies team kata title was won Japan who defeated Ireland. Both teams performed Nijushiho in the final. 


On 26 November 2002, Kyokushin Karate legend, Kenji Midori was promoted to 6th Dan. He began his Kyokushin journey with Tsuyoshi Hiroshige.


On November 26 2017 David Coulter was awarded his 8th Dan by the SKGB, at the Scottish National Kumite Championships held at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell.


On 26 November 2017, three-time World Champion, Takuma Kouketsu of Japan, became the latest person to complete the gruelling 100-Man Kumite Challenge, in Nagoya, Japan.


27 November

On 27 November 1932, Toru Arakawa, a former Technical Director of the Japan Karate Federation, was born in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Wado-ryu founder, Hironori Ohtsuka sent Tatsuo Suzuki, together with Arakawa and Hajime Takashima, on a 2-month tour to Europe and the United States, to demonstrate Wado-ryu Karate.


On 27 November 1980 the 5th World Championships began at the Palacio de Deportes, Madrid, Spain and finished on 30 November. 

Japan topped the medal table, winning 11 medals (4 golds, 5 silvers and 2 bronzes) ahead of  hosts Spain (3 golds, 1 silver and 7 bronzes) and France (1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronzes). 

This was the first World Championships in which women were allowed to compete. However, they only competed in the individual kata event. Japan won the gold and silver through Suzuko Okamura and Mie Nakayama, who would go on to win three individual world titles. Bronze medals went to Maria Victoria Moreno of Spain and Marina Sasso of Italy. 

Tokey Hill of the United States became the first American to win an individual world title, winning the 80-kg kumite event. His compatriot Billy Blanks of later Tae Bo fame, won a silver in the open kumite event and a bronze in the +80-kg kumite event. 

Spain won the team kumite event ahead of the Netherlands, France and Great Britain. Britain would become the dominate force in this event over the coming years. 

There was no team kata during this championships. The team kata event was introduced at the 1986 World Championships. 


On 27 November 2012 Tadahiko Ohtsuka, an expert in Goju-ryu master and a Karate scholar, died aged 72. 

Born in 1940, he began his Karate training under Sosui Ichikawa, who could trace hie Karate lineage back to Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-ryu Karate. 

In 1970 Ohtsuka founded his own association, Goju Kensha, with the blessing of Ichikawa. He had a progressive approach to Karate, incorporating soft styles like Tai Chi into his training.


28 November

On 28 November 1934 Frank Cope, a pioneer of British Shotokan Karate, was born in Liverpool. A long time member of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB he would become one of the first Karate black belts in Britain.


29 November

On  29 November 1964 Clive William Nicol took his black belt examination and earned the rank of Shodan. 

Born on 17 July 1940 in Neath, C. W. Nicol is best known for his book Moving Zen – Karate As A Way To Gentleness, a must read for all martial artists. The book provides a fascinating insight into the early days of the Japan Karate Association (JKA). 

In Moving Zen Nicol describes his Karate training at the JKA’s original headquarters at Yotsuya, Japan, under Masatomo Takagi, Masatoshi Nakayama and Hirokazu Kanazawa. He also describes his relationship with martial arts historian Donn Draegar

Author: Patrick Donkor

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