Toru Shimoji

In sports, the main goal is to win, but in Budo study, the aim is to learn about yourself in order to continue to evolve, perfecting one’s character along with your techniques. This is the Budo way, always searching, always moving ahead and always sharing.

Toru Shimoji

A student of Hidetaka Nishiyama, Toru Shimoji is known for his superb technical ability. A top competitor, he has gone on to be a top instructor.

Toru Shimoji was born in Koza (now called Okinawa City), Okinawa in 1959. Growing up he was a sickly child who was small for his age.

In 1969 Shimoji’s mother remarried. The following year the family moved to Jacksonville, North Carolina. The family relocated to Hawaii in 1974.

Shimoji’s martial arts journey began in 1974. He began practising Kiyabu-Te, which was a hybrid style of Shotokan Karate and San Soo Woo Kung Fu.

In 1975 a JKA team that included Yoshiharu Osaka and Mikio Yahara, stopped off in Hawaii. They were returning to Japan from Los Angeles, after competing at the IAKF World Championships.

The JKA team gave a series of demos in Hawaii and also competed in a Goodwill tournament against a local JKA team. Shimoji was awed by the skill levels on display. This was his first exposure to high-level Karate.

A friend of Shimoji lent him a copy of Hidaka Nishiyama’s book, “Karate The Art of Empty Hand Fighting“. He studied the book from cover to cover.

In 1976 Shimoji was promoted to 1st Dan in Kiyabu-Te.

Shimoji graduated from high school in 1978. The following year he left Hawaii for the United States. He wanted to travel around the country.

In 1980 Shimoji began practising Shotokan Karate in Waco, Texas. He had met a Shotokan competitor at a tournament held in Oklahoma City, who invited him to Texas to train. He trained in Waco for around six months. During this time he also competed in several open tournaments.

On Shimoji’s return to Hawaii in 1981, he joined a JKA dojo in Honolulu. He trained under Chief Instructor, Ed Fujiwara, who took him under his wing.

Fujiwara had mainly trained under Tetsuhiko Asai, the second Chief Instructor of JKA Hawaii.

In January 1982, Shimoji moved to Los Angeles to train with Hidetaka Nishiyama. By this time he was a 1st kyu (brown belt) and was looking to take his black belt examination with Nishiyama.

In Los Angeles, Shimoji found accommodation. To support himself, he worked at several part-time jobs.

Shimoji trained with Nishiyama every chance he got. He had planned to train with him for six months but ended up training directly with him for nine years. It was during this time that he met fellow brown belt, Avi Rokah, who had arrived from Israel several months earlier. They became training buddies. Other training at the dojo included James Yabe, and Gene Takahashi, to name a few.

In 1982, Shimoji was promoted to 1st Dan by Nishiyama.

At the 1983 AAKF National Championships, Shimoji won the Men’s Individual Kata title. Later that year he was selected to represent the United States at the Pan-American Championships. He finished in third place in the Men’s Individual Kata.

In 1984 Shimoji retained his Individual Kata title at the AAKF National Championships. That year he was also promoted to 2nd Dan by Nishiyama.

Shimoji won his third consecutive Individual Kata title at the 1985 AAKF National Championships. He followed this with victory at the Pan-American Championships, where he won the Individual Kata title.

At the 1986 AAKF National Championships, Shimoji won another Individual Kata title, a feat he repeated the following year. He also finished in third place in the Men’s Individual Kumite. For his performances, he was awarded the Most Outstanding Athlete award.

In 1987 Shimoji was promoted to 3rd Dan by Nishiyama.

While in Los Angeles Shimoji had enrolled at UCLA (University of California – Los Angeles). In 1991 he graduated from UCLA with a degree in Kinesiology.

In 1991 Shimoji was married, and he and his new wife moved to Okinawa to work as language teachers.

Shimoji had received permission from Nishiyama to train in Okinawa. His friend Isami Shiroma, introduced him to Tatetsu Meicho in 1992. Meicho was the JKA Chief Instructor in Okinawa.

Shimoji began training with Meicho, who suggested that he learn Goju-Ryu Karate. Meicho introduced Shimoji to Yoshino Kuba, who had been a student of Seikichi Toguchi.

Kuba had a small dojo in Okinawa city. Shimoji trained with Kuba for around three years. He also learned Japanese calligraphy from him.

During his time in Okinawa Shimoji met many teachers of the different Okinawan Karate styles. This included practitioners of Ishinryu, Ueichi-Ryu, and Shorin-Ryu. He also trained briefly at Eiichi Miyazato’s Jundokan dojo.

Shimoji’s exposure to Okinawan Karate helped improve his Shotokan Karate. He gained new insights into kata and how to apply the techniques found in them.

In 1993 Shimoji was invited to be a guest instructor at the AAKF South Atlantic Regional Summer Camp. He was regularly invited to be a guest instructor at the Summer Camp until 1996.

Shimoji and his wife returned to the United States in 1996. He was appointed the Regional Technical Director for the AAKF South Atlantic Region. He was based in Atlanta and opened the Jinsendo Martial Arts Dojo.

In May 2000 the ITKF Hidetaka Nishiyama Cup was held in Moscow, Russia. This was the first official Karate tournament held in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Shimoji was selected to represent the United States team. He won the Men’s Individual Kata title. He was presented with a trophy by his teacher, Nishiyama.

In his 40s, Shimoji was selected to represent the United States at the 11th ITKF World Championships, held in Belgrade, Serbia. He finished in second place in the Men’s Individual Kata. At the 2002 AAKF National Championships held in Washington DC, she gave a demonstration of the kata Unsu and its associated applications.

On 7 November 2008, Hidetaka Nishiyama, one of the pioneers of Shotokan Karate in the United States, died in Los Angeles.

In 2009 Shimoji was appointed the president of the AAKF (American Amateur Karate Federation). He held the position until 2011.

Through much of the 2010s, Shimoji continued teaching at his Jinsendo dojo in Atlanta and conducted seminars and courses.

In August 2020, Shimoji reconnected with his old friend, Avi Rokah. He left the AAKF and joined Rokah’s WBKA (World Budo Karate Association). The WBKA aimed to carry on the legacy of Hidetaka Nishiyama.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected most of the world in 2020. Many instructors had closed their clubs and started teaching classes online. In October 2020, Rokah and Shimoji conducted a two-day online Anti-Covid Gasshuku for the Czech Traditional Karate Association.

In January 2021 Shimoji appeared in an episode of Netflix’s Cobra Kai series. The episode was set in Okinawa, and Shimoji ‪ can be seen in an outdoor café scene.

Currently, Toru Shimoji is a 5th Dan. He is frequently invited to be a guest instructor on training courses and seminars.

Apart from Karate Shimoji is also a Gracie Jujitsu practitioner. He’s been practising for several years.

Away from martial arts, Shimoji is an actor. He starred in the theatre play “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon”, which played at the Synchronicity Theatre in Atlanta.

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    • jeffhutchings on April 16, 2024 at 1:59 am
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    I am curious as to whether information for these articles is collected fist hand from living subjects, or from others for Sensei who have passed. Are then condoned or reviewed by the individuals written about?

    1. I try to source the information from interviews previously given and articles previously written

    • Anonymous on April 16, 2024 at 2:57 am
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    Patrick, are you aware of this article?

    • Barry on April 16, 2024 at 4:01 am
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    Patrick. Please contact me offline.

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