This week in history…(31 July – 6 August)

31 July

On 31 July 1937, former JKA Grand Champion, Hiroshi Shirai, was born in Nagasaki, Japan. Currently holding the rank of 9th Dan, he began his Karate training at Komazawa University in 1955. A graduate of the Kenshusei (Instructors Training Course) he became the JKA Grand Champion in 1962 winning the individual kumite title against Keinosuke Enoeda and won the individual kata title against Takayuki Mikami.

Shirai was a part of the party, including Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, and Keinosuke Enoeda, sent by the JKA to several countries, introducing their brand of Shotokan Karate. He eventually settled in Italy where he continues to teach.

3 August

On 3 August 2016, it was announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), that Karate would be one of the new sports making its Olympic debut at the 2020 Games, held in Tokyo, Japan. It fulfilled a dream for karatekas such as Antonio Diaz, Douglas Brose, and Rafael Aghayev.

However, on 24 March 2020, the IOC and the Tokyo Olympics organisers decided to postpone the Olympic Games due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. The games were rescheduled to start on 23 July 2021.

The decision to include Karate in the Olympics has divided opinion in the Karate world. Some saw this as the slippery slope of Karate losing its Budo soul. However, proponents of Karate’s inclusion feel that it may lead to an increased interest in Karate. Masao Kagawa firmly believes that Olympic recognition should not have an impact on traditional Karate.

4 August

On 4 August 1947, Gichin Funakoshi’s wife died of asthma in Oita, Kyushu, Japan, aged 71. This was the culmination of a difficult two years for Funakoshi. Following the bombing of Tokyo in 1945 by American forces, the Shoto Kan dojo was destroyed. His third son Yoshitaka died from leukaemia. Also, the island of Okinawa was heavily bombed with many deaths and many people were left homeless.

Funakoshi’s wife managed to survive the destruction of Okinawa and made her way to Oita, where the couple reunited.

5 August

On 5 August 1967, Dutchman, Loek Hollander, attempted the 100-Man Kumite Challenge.

According to John Jarvis who witnessed Hollander’s attempt, the temperature in the dojo was 110°F (approximately 45°C). Hollander was successful. However, he spent the next two weeks recovering from numerous minor injuries.

On 5 August 2021, Sandra Sanchez, won the first-ever Olympic gold medal. She won the Women’s Individual Kata event at the Nippon Budokan Pavilion in Tokyo.

6 August

On 6 August 1930, Shotokan Karate master, Tsutomu Ohshima was born. He was a direct student of Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi. He was also influenced by Shigeru Egami at Waseda University.

As an exchange student from Waseda University, Ohshima began teaching Shotokan Karate in Los Angeles in 1955. The following year he founded Shotokan Karate of America (SKA).

On 6 August 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Shigeru Takashina and his family survived the bomb. They lived on the outskirts of Hiroshima, so escaped most of the deadly damage caused by the bomb.

On 6 August 2006, Rafael Aghayev defeated Yerghan Kozhayev of Kazakhstan to win the -70 kg event, at the University World Championships. The championships were held in New York.

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