Tsuyoshi Hiroshige

It is important to determine the strategy, and tactics should be allowed to determine the performers in the field on the basis of their own initiative and knowledge.

Tsuyoshi Hiroshige

A phenomenal instructor, Tsuyoshi Hiroshige was known as a master trainer. He has trained multiple world champions and All Japan champions, including Kenji Midori, Kenji Yamaki, Hajime Kazumi, and Norichika Tsukamoto.

Tsuyoshi Hiroshige was born on 1 November 1947 in Kokura, now known as Kita Kyushu City, Japan.

Growing up, Hiroshige frequently got into fights. His school had a bad reputation in the area. They frequently got into fights with kids from neighbouring schools.

Although not in a gang, Hiroshige did hang around with a group of troublemakers. However, a teacher in his school saw potential in him. He challenged him to improve his grades. His grades improved, through the teacher’s positive influence.

After graduating from high school, Hiroshige attended the Industrial and Technical School of Kokura. Unfortunately, it was not a very good educational institution. Students did not normally go onto well-paying jobs. However, the school had a very good handball team, of which he became a member.

Hiroshige’s handball successes led to him getting a job at the Honda Gakken plant in Kokura. He had great respect for me Soichiro Honda, the founder of the company. When he later became an instructor, he would use many of the principles he learnt whilst working at Honda’s company.

After three years at the Honda Gakken plant, Hiroshige decided to leave. He had begun to find the job restrictive and wanted more from his life.

In 1969 Hiroshige started working for an engineering firm. His new job required much travelling. He spent almost a year working in Algeria.

In Japan, Hiroshige and his friends had messed around with some basic Karate techniques they had seen. They had never formally trained in any style of Karate. However, he would boast that he knew Karate.

In Algeria, Hiroshige and his workmates stayed in a dormitory. On one occasion a knife-wielding thief broke into the dormitory. He got into a fight with Hiroshige. Hiroshige soon realised that the Karate he thought he knew was ineffective.

On his return to Japan, Hiroshige started looking for a Karate school.

By 1972 Hiroshigewas now living in Tokyo. In June of that year, he began learning Kyokushin Karate under Mas Oyama, at the Tokyo Hombu.

By the Japanese standards of the time, Hiroshige was quite big. Big guys like Hiroshige did not last long at the dojo. Oyama had told him so. Big guys made excellent targets during brutal sparring sessions, especially from their sempai (seniors).

The sempai could be brutal. They used their kohai( juniors) as guinea pigs, on who they tested their more extreme techniques.

Hiroshige persevered with his training. Through injuries, such as a broken nose, he returned to the dojo day after day. He did not want to be one of the students who gave up. By the time he had reached brown belt, he had become a good fighter.

Hiroshige had come to Karate late. He worked hard to improve his technique. By 1975 he had become one of Mas Oyama’s ‘Young Lions‘. The Young Lions where uchi-deshi (live-in students) who lived and trained with Oyama for a period of 1000 days.

At the age of 28, Hiroshige took part in his first tournament. At the 8th All Japan Open Tournament he made it to the third round but had to retire after sustaining a knee injury.

During this time, Kyokushin competition was not about winning trophies and medals. For the competitors, it was about testing the effectiveness of their techniques. They were normally no special training sessions held in preparation for a tournament.

At the 9th All Japan Open Tournament Hiroshige had great success, finishing in seventh place. The event was won by the Takashi Azuma. It was during this time that he embarked on a period of self-reflection. He was looking for ways to improve his kumite technique.

Hiroshige had started training in Kyokushin Karate later than other students. He found that he was at a physical disadvantage to them. His sempai, Hatsuo Royama helped him a lot. He even introduced into his Taikken teacher, Kenichi Sawai.

Sawai was a noted Japanese martial artist who had introduced the modified version of the Chinese martial art, Yikuan to Japan. He called the martial art Taikken. Taikken is a method of fighting that focuses on developing natural movement and fighting ability. Sawai has several Kyokushin students who cross-trained with him.

In April 1977 Mas Oyama decided to divide Tokyo into four districts, with each district being run by a Branch Chief. Oyama continued running the Hombu. The Joshai (Western) district was run by Masatoshi Yamada. The Joto (Eastern) district was run by Sensei Goda.

Hiroshige had hoped that he would be selected to run the Jonan (Southern) district. Oyama had intended to send him to Osaka to run a dojo. Hiroshige was disappointed as he wanted to continue his training with his Taikken instructor, Kenichi Sawai. However, Oyama was persuaded to make Hiroshige the Branche Chief of Jonan.

In June 1978 Hiroshige officially opened the Jonan branch. In the beginning, it took a while for students to start training with him. Motomi Yusawa became his second student. Around this time a 16-year-old Kenji Midori started training at the dojo.

Hiroshige had his best-ever performance at the 10th All Japan Open Tournament in 1978. He was one of the oldest competitors. He finished in fourth place. The tournament was won by Joko Ninomiya. The following year he represented Japan at the 2nd World Open Tournament. He finished in fifth place. The tournament was won by Makoto Nakamura, who had won that year’s All Japan Open Tournament.

The Tokyo branch dojos regularly competed against each other. Initially, Hiroshige’s students were not very successful. He was approached by one of the students who said that the other branches did not respect the fighting prowess of the Jonan branch students.

Hiroshige realised he would have to make some changes to what he was teaching. He started introducing new techniques, that in time would become associated with fighters from his dojo.

As time progressed Hiroshige’s students improved. The Jonan branch soon built a healthy rivalry with the Joshai branch. The branch included great fighters such as Akira Masuda and Hiroki Kurosawa.

In 1984 the Jonan branch achieved its first breakthrough in a major tournament. At the 16th All Japan Open Tournament Motomi Yusawa finished in the top eight. This was the first time a fighter from the Jonan branch had managed the feat. This had been a dream of Hiroshige’s students. Yusawa’s success had a big impact on the dojo.

In 1985, at the 17th All Japan Open Tournament, Kenji Midori finished in fifth place. This continued the success of the Jonan dojo.

1991 was a big year for Hiroshige’s dojo. At the 5th World Open Kyokushin Karate Tournament, held on 2-4 November, Midori became World Champion. Teammate Kenji Yamaki finished in fifth place. Yamaki joined the Jonan branch in 1980. Joshai branch rivals, Masuda and Kurosawa finished in second and third place respectively.

On 26 April 1994 Kyokushin Karate founder Mas Oyama died. Shokei Matsui succeeded him as the head of the IKO. In the years that followed there were a number of splits within the IKO.

At the 1995 World Tournament, the first following Oyama’s death, success continued for Hiroshige’s students. At the 6th World Open Kyokushin Karate Tournament (IKO-1), his students Kenji Yamaki and Hajime Kazumi made it to the final. Yamaki won the title. Kazumi had started training at the Jonan branch in 1986.

At the 6th World Open Karate Championship (WKO), held between 27-28 February 1996, another of Hiroshige’s students, Norichika Tsukamoto became World Champion.

In 1998 Hiroshige coached the Japanese Kyokushinkan World Cup team, for the competition held in Paris.

By 2001 Hiroshige’s students Kenji Midori, Kenji Yamaki, and Hajime Kazumi had won multiple titles. In time they would become legends of Kyokushin Karate.

In December 2002 Hiroshige, alongside Hatsuo Royama, and Akio Koyama resigned from the IKO.

On 13 January 2003, Royama created a new organisation called the International Federation of Kyokushin-kan Karate-do. However, in February Hiroshige left Royama’s organisation. He established the Kyokushin Karate Union Kenbukai.

For the next couple of years, Hiroshige built his organisation into a well-respected organisation.

On 18 April 2018 Tsuyoshi Hiroshige died in hospital aged 70.

The ‘Master Trainer‘ Tsuyoshi Hiroshige’s name will always be linked to some of the greatest fighters in Kyokushin Karate. As an instructor, he was able to get the best out of the students. His combination of Taikken and Kyokushin, plus the philosophy of Sochiro Honda, helped make him one of the best instructors in Kyokushin.

Author: Patrick Donkor

1 thought on “Tsuyoshi Hiroshige

  1. Thank you so much for sharing the detailed history about Hiroshige Shihan. I do respect him so much and do hope many people can know his life with your article. When he left Kyokushinkan and established Kyokushinkenbukai was Feb 2017. Please allow me to suggest to put the year in line 159? Because it may give the impression that he left Kyokushinkan only a month after Kyokushinkan was established.

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