This week in history (5 October – 11 October)

5 October

On 5 October 1955 Guusje van Mourik, one of the most successful kumite competitors, was born in the Central Netherlands town of Zeist.

Her early exposure to the martial arts was through the sport of Judo. She would eventually receive the grade of 2nd Dan. She competed in the Dutch Championships and won medals on four occasions (1974, 1976, 1978, 1979).

However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Guusje van Mourik was a true superstar of European and World Karate. Described as a “phenomenon“, she was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for winning the most Karate medals.

6 October

On 6 October 1936, Stan Schmidt, a pioneer of South African Shotokan Karate, was born in Kokstad, South Africa.

Sometimes called the “Father of South African Karate“, Schmidt was at the forefront of establishing Shotokan Karate in South Africa, as a member of the Japan Karate Association (JKA). He is one of the highest ranked westerners in the JKA.

Schmidt has been described as the best non-Japanese Shotokan sensei by the likes of Terry O’Neill and Dave Hazard and also as “A teacher of teachers“.

On 6 October 1947, Frank Nowak was born. He began practising Karate in 1963. His first instructor was just a green belt. However, he loved Karate so much, that he trained 4-6 times a week. He eventually had the opportunity to train with Hirokazu Kanazawa and Akio Nagai.

An exceptional karateka, he was one of the few Europeans to complete the gruelling JKA Instructors Course. What distinguished him from other karateka was his attention to detail. This character trait made him into a good instructor and referee. He refereed at six WUKO World Championships, including as Chief Referee.

8 October

On 8 October 1953 Gōju-ryu founder Chōjun Miyagi died, aged only sixty-five.

Born on the island of Okinawa, Miyagi had begun his training in 1902 under Kanryo Higaonna. By 1915 Miyagi had become one of Higaonna’s top students.

Miyagi’s Karate style of Gōju-ryu was introduced to Japan in 1928 via the Kyōto Imperial University Club. In 1934 the name of Gōju-ryu Karate was registered with the Dai Nippon Butokukai, the authority responsible for governing Japanese martial arts.

Chōjun Miyagi died following a heart attack.

9 October

On 9 October 1922 Vernon Frederick Bell, the Father of British Karate was born in Ilford, Essex.

Initially, Bell started learning Karate from Henri Plee who was responsible for introducing Karate into Europe.

Bell was responsible for bringing Tetsuji Murakami and Hiroo Mochizuki to teach for the British Karate Federation (BKF). He was also responsible for inviting the JKA into the UK, to teach their version of Shotokan Karate.

10 October

On 10 October 1928 Shotokan Karate master, Hidetaka Nishiyama, was born.

Nishiyama attended famed university, Takushoku, studying economics. In 1949 he was named the captain of the Karate team, after joining earlier that year.

In the early 1950s, Nishiyama was part of a group, including Masatoshi Nakayama and Isao Obata, selected to teach military personnel from the Strategic Air Command (SAC). By 1960 he had been promoted to 5th Dan and was becoming an important member of the Japan Karate Association (JKA).

In the 1960s Nishiyama moved to the United States. He went on to form the All American Karate Federation (AAKF). He was also a founding member of the Pan American Karate Union and the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF).

He died in 2008 following a long battle with cancer.

On 10 October 1970, the 1st Karate World Championships took place in Tokyo, Japan. The event ran from 10 October 1970 to 13 October and was the first truly international Karate tournament. There were participants from over 20 countries. In the team kumite event, Japan was allowed to enter several teams.

Shigeru Takashina captained the Japanese “E” team. In a successful tournament for Japan, they made a clean sweep of the team event. Japan’s “E” team won the title, with the “C” team second and the “B” team third.

On 10 October 1957, a photograph was taken of Vernon Bell performing tameshiwari (the art of breaking) and was published in an unknown newspaper.

The article, under the heading ‘Secret “Sportsmen” Train to Kill’ was written by journalist Dez Marwood. In the article, a photograph showed Bell breaking a thin piece of wood balanced between two chairs. The technique he used was a downward shuto (knife-hand strike).

On 10 October 2014, Masami Tsuroka, the ‘Father of Canadian Karate’ died in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. He was aged 85 years.

It could be argued that no one did more to promote Karate in Canada, through newspaper and magazine articles; demonstrations; and television appearances, than Tsuroka. At one time the tournament he created, was the biggest in North America.

11 October

On 11 October 1997, Hiroki Kurosawa took part in the 1st Pride Fighting Championships Gala. He was always eager to prove the validity of his Kyokushin Karate.

Pride was Japan’s premier mixed martial arts organisation. Kurosawa’s toughness as a Karate fighter had caught the attention of Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirits (KRS) Consortium, the promoters of Pride. They invited him to compete in Pride to help promote the event in Japan.

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