Yasuaki Nagatomo

To truly learn Karate, I believe students need to focus on three things: How to see, when to see, what to see. If they don’t know how to see, they can never learn. If they don’t know when to see, they miss the timing; they never can learn. If they know how to see and they know when to see, but they don’t know what they need to see, they cannot learn. It takes all three to learn Karate effectively.

Yasuaki Nagatomo

Known for his ability to teach children, Yasuaki Nagatomo has had the opportunity to train and be influenced by some of the JKA’s best instructors, including Yutaka Yaguchi, Masahiko Tanaka, Yoshiharu Osaka, Shojiro Koyama, Shigeru Takashina, and Masaaki Ueki.

Yasuaki Nagatomo was born on 1 October 1962, in Kyushu, Japan.

In April 1977 Nagatomo started attending Miyazaki Technical High School. He graduated three years later. In April 1980 he enrolled at Kumamoto University, located in the Kyushu region of Japan, where he joined the university’s Karate club.

Nagatomo graduated from Kumamoto University in March 1984,

On 17 January 1986, Nagatomo arrived in the United States, wanting to learn English. He settled in Albuquerque.

In his first few months, Nagatomo struggled to learn to speak English. He learned to speak much of his English by watching television.

Nagatomo eventually started training and teaching at a dojo in Albuquerque. This led to him teaching karate at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Through teaching at UNM. He met Yutaka Yaguchi, with whom he started training.

In 1987 the 2nd Shoto Cup was held in Brisbane, Australia. Nagatomo was selected to represent the United States team. He and the team finished in fourth place in the Team Kumite event.

The annual Western States Karate Championships held in Phoenix, Arizona, was established by Shojiro Koyama of the JKA. Nagatomo was a frequent competitor at the tournament.

In 1990 Nagatomo became the Kumite Champion at the Western States Karate Championships. Two years later, he became the Grand Champion. He retained the title the following year.

At the I SKF National Tournament held in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1992, Nagatomo finished in first place in Team Kumite and second place in Individual Kumite.

In 1992 Nagatomo established the New Mexico Karate Association. He became the association’s Chief Instructor.

Nagatomo was selected to represent the United States national team at the JKA Pan-American Games, held in Canada. He helped his team to first place in the Team Kumite event.

In the 5th Soto Cup, held in Philadelphia, United States, in 1994, Nagatomo competed in team and individual events. He and the US Team finished in fourth place in the Team Kumite event.

By 1999 Nagatomo had established himself as one of the top Shotokan competitors in the United States. In 1999 he was appointed captain of the US National Team.

At the 1999 JKA Pan-American Games held in Barbados, Nagatomo competed in both the Team Kumite and Team Kwwwata events, where his teams finished in first and second place, respectively.

Nagatomo opened a new dojo in New Mexico in 2003.

As a competitor, his major successes include:

  • JKA Pan-American Games – Team Kumite -1st place (1993, 1997, 1999)
  • JKA Pan-American Games – Team Kata – 2nd place (1997, 1999)
  • ISKF National Tournament -Team Kumite – 1st place (1992)
  • ISKF National Tournament – Team Kumite – 2nd place (1999)
  • ISKF National Tournament – Individual Kumite – 2nd place (1992, 1999)
  • ISKF National Tournament – Individual kata – 2nd place (1999)
  • US Nationals – Individual Kumite -1st place (1995)
  • Western States Karate Championships – Grand Champion (1992, 1993)
  • Western States Karate Championships – Individual Kumite – 1st place (1990, 1992, 1996)
  • Western States Karate Championships – Individual Kata -1st place (1993, 1995)
  • Mountain States Regional – Grand Champion (1995)
  • Master Camp Goodwill Tournament – Grand Champion (1998)
  • Master Camp Goodwill Tournament – Individual Kumite – 1st place (1996, 1997, 1998).

In 2006 Nagatomo became a coach of the US National Team.

By the early 2000s, Nagatomo met and eventually married his wife, Susan. The couple would go on to have two daughters, Emily and Kotomi. The whole family practised Karate.

Nagatomo was becoming recognised as a top international instructor. On 22 March 2014, he held a training course and grading for the JKA/WF Guyana. In May of that year, he was invited by JKA England to be a guest instructor alongside Yoshiharu Osaka and Koichiro Okuma, on their international spring course.

In 2014 the 13th Funakoshi Gichin Karate World Championships took place in Tokyo, Japan. The tournament was held at the Budokan, the home of Japanese martial arts. Nagatomo was the US Youth Team Head Coach.

At the 14th Funakoshi Gichin Cup Karate World Championships held in Limerick, Ireland, in 2017, Nagatomo was a judge at the tournament. He also remained the US Youth Team Head Coach. His eldest daughter, Emily, represented the United States in the 16-18 years old division. She finished in third place in the Individual Kumite event.

In 2019 Emily Nagatomo represented the United States at the JKA Pan-American Tournament held in Columbia. She was second in the 18-20-year-old Individual Kata event.

On 11 March 2020, the Covid-19 Pandemic lockdown began in the United States. All sports and activities were suspended. Like many instructors, Nagatomo had to close all his dojos and start teaching online on Zoom. Unfortunately, several of his students contracted the virus.

Yasuaki Nagatomo continues to be one of the best international instructors. He continues to teach the next generation of karateka at his dojos.

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