This Week in history (4 December – 10 December)

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 Horishima, 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 instructor of Kyokushinkai 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 Kyokushinkai 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, traveled 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 Funikoshi.

Many of Gichin Funakoshi’s 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 Shotkan 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 were 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.

10 December

On 10 December 1933 Shotokan master Takayuki Mikami was born in Nigata Prefecture Japan. He was the first professional karate instructor to be sent by the JKA to teach Karate full-time in another country.

Mikami arrived in Tokyo in 1952  to study Japanese Literature at Hosei University. Being a farm boy in a big city, he began learning Karate as a way of building his confidence. His first instructor was Kimio Itoh, a direct student of Gichin Funakoshi.

After graduating, Mikami was invited to enroll on the newly formed JKA Instructor Training Course. The aim of the course was to train high caliber instructor who could teach and expand the growth of Karate. The course was the brain child of Masatoshi Nakayama and Teruyuki Okazaki.

Alongside Hirokazu Kanazawa, Mikami, was one of the first students of the Instructor Training Course. It was a one year intensive course. They would have to spar against senior grades, including Teruyuki Okazaki, Hidetaka Nishiyama and Taiji Kase. They would also cross train in other styles.

In 1957 Mikami was sent by the JKA to the Philippines to teach. He was there for three months, teaching  an introductory Karate course at the University Karate Club of Manilla. This teaching engagement was eventually extended to a year.

Mikami was sent to Los Angeles in the United States in 1963 to teach Karate. He would eventually relocate to New Orleans, where he has remained.

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