This week in history (24 May – 30 May)

24 May

On 24 May 1923, Henri Plee was born in the French city of Arras.

Considered the “Father of European Karate”, Plee is a true pioneer. He studied many martial arts with some of the world’s top masters. He held a 10th Dan in Karate, a 5th Dan in Judo, a 3rd Dan in Aikido and a 1st Dan in Kendo. He made it his mission to promote martial arts in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He did this partly through the various books and magazines he published and by inviting many renowned masters to conduct courses and seminars.


27 May

On 27 May 1949, Isao Obata, alongside Shigeru Egami, Masatoshi Nakayama, and others, helped establish the Japan Karate Association (JKA). Obata became the JKA’s first Chairman. Gichin Funakoshi was made Honorary Chief instructor, with Nakayama becoming Chief Instructor. Other appointments included:

  • Kichinosuke Saigo becoming President
  • Masatomi Takagi becoming Administrator
  • Kimio Itoh becoming Director of Administration
  • Hidetaka Nishiyama becoming Chief of the Instruction Committee

On 27 May 1998, Mas Tsuroka was awarded the Order of Ontario. The award was for his significant contributions to martial arts in Canada. It was presented to him by Hilary Weston, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.


28 May

On 28 May 1952, Clive Layton was born in Hertfordshire, England. A Shotokan practitioner, he received his black belt in 1977 from Hirokazu Kanazawa.

It is as a writer that Layton is best known. He has written numerous books on the history of Karate.


29 May

On 29 May 1947, Hamish Adam was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a part of the British team that won the team kumite title at the 1975 World Championships held in Long Beach, California. He was also part of a Scottish team that won the 1973 European Team Championships at their first attempt.


On 29 May 1959, Pat McKay was born in Kilmarnock . Growing up he was a keen footballer.  

When one talks about the great fighters that have represented Britain, the name Pat McKay has to be in the mix. Fighting at light heavyweight (- 80 KG) his record is second to none. He is a 13-time Scottish Champion and a 5-time World Champion. Alongside Vic Charles and Geoff Thompson, he was one of Britain’s first multiple World Champions.


On 29 May 1964, JKA instructor Tatsuya Naka, was born in Tokyo.

Naka started Wado-Ryu Karate at the age of thirteen at high school. He attended the famous Takushoku University where he began learning Shotokan Karate under Katsunori Tsuyama. After graduating from university he entered the JKA Instructors Course, graduating in 1989. Known for his in-depth knowledge of kata, he is a former All Japan Karate Champion.


On 29 May 1981, Elisa Au was born in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. When she was five years old she brought a flyer home from school, advertising a Shito-Ryu Karate school. Encouraged by her parents she started taking lessons.

Au holds a number of firsts in her competitive career. She was the first American woman to win an individual kumite world title. She was also the first person, male or female to win two individual world titles at the same championships (a feat repeated by the great Rafael Aghayev in 2008). A kumite specialist, she is known for her speed and exceptional timing.


On 29 May 2010, Masaaki Ueki was appointed the third Chief Instructor of the JKA. He had been promoted to 9th Dan earlier that year. Motokuni Sugiura had retired the previous year, aged 85.


30 May

On 30 May 1978, Yoshizo Machida and his wife, Ana Claudia’s third son, Lyoto, was born. Like his father, Lyoto Machida is known for his Shotokan Karate. He is also know for his mixed martial arts career.


On 30 May 2003, Minoru Mochizuki, the founder of the Yoseikan School, died in Aix-en-Provence, France aged 96 years. In his later years, he had moved from Japan to France to live with his son Hiroo and his family.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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