Toru Yamaguchi

Technique will keep on improving, I hope, as instructors understand more about modern technology and its uses. I believe we can develop new technology for our bodies too.

Toru Yamaguchi

Considered one of the best ever JKA instructors, Toru Yamaguchi was a well-rounded karateka. He had good kihon, kata, and kumite. Masatoshi Nakayama once described him as a ‘Master among Masters‘.

Toru Yamaguchi was born Toru Iwaizumi on 13 January 1936 in Tokyo, Japan. He was the youngest of four boys. His father was a surgeon.

In 1954 Iwaizumi enrolled at Komasawa University, one of Japan’s oldest universities. He studied Literature and Social Science. He joined the University’s Karate club, where he trained under Hidetaka Nishiyama.

Iwaizumi graduated from Komazawa University in 1958. He enrolled on the JKA Instructors Course where he was mainly taught by the JKA Chief Instructor, Masatoshi Nakayama. He also had the opportunity to be taught by Hidetaka Nishiyama and Taiji Kase. After he graduated from the course, he taught at the JKA Hombu.

In 1960 Iwaizumi was married. His wife’s family had no male heirs. This meant that their family name would die out. She asked if he would adopt their family name of Yamaguchi. He agreed as his family already had male heirs.

At the 4th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, held in 1960, Yamaguchi finished in joint third place with Tetsuhiko Asai in the kumite event. The event was won by Masaki Sato, with Takayuki Mikami in second place.

Two years later, at the 6th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Yamaguchi finished in third place in the kata event. The event was won by Hiroshi Shirai, with Takayuki Mikami in second place. The following year, he improved his position at the 7th JKA All Japan Championships. This time he finished in second place behind Tetsuhiko Asai. Takeshi Nakaya finished in third place.

Through the 1970s Yamaguchi competed in several JKA All Japan Championships. He primarily competed in the kata event, consistently finishing in the top three positions.

In 1971, Yamaguchi opened his first dojo.

Masatoshi Nakayama’s 11 books series ‘Best Karate‘ was published in 1979. Yamaguchi appeared in ‘Book 4: Kumite 2‘, where he is seen sparring against Yoshiki Sato.

Through the 1980s Yamaguchi travelled around the world on behalf of the JKA, promoting Shotokan Karate. He conducted many courses and seminars.

In 1987 Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA died. This led to a split within the JKA and a legal battle that lasted many years.

After many years with the JKA, Yamaguchi left the Association in 2008. He established Todokai International, meaning ‘The Association of the Way of Master Toru Yamaguchi‘. He wanted to establish a non-profit organisation. He wanted to promote Shotokan Karate, through the teachings of Gichin Funakoshi and Masatoshi Nakayama.

Toru Yamaguchi died on 31 July 2010. By the time of his death, his Todokai organisation had spread from Japan to Canada, France, Morocco, Belgium and Algeria.

A popular teacher, Yamaguchi was a stalwart of the JKA for many years. He travelled the world conducting numerous courses and seminars. Those who trained with him had many fond memories.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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