Yosuke Yamashita

I think it would be a fundamental point for every practitioner to study the history of Karate in more depth.

Yosuke Yamashita

Known as the “Samurai of Puerto del Sol“, Yosuke Yamashita was a pioneer of Goju–Ryu Karate in Spain. He was at the forefront of the development of Goju–Ryu in Europe. His many students included King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Yosuke Yamashita was born on 16 February 1941, in Tokyo, Japan. The youngest of two children, he was born into a family descended from the samurai class. His father, Yasazaemon, was a biology teacher of Hirohito the future Emperor of Japan.

In 1948 Yamashita began learning Kendo from his father who was a 6th Dan. He also began practising Judo three years later. He practised for three years.

During the 1950s Karate had a bad reputation amongst some in Japan. Yamashita’s father had forbidden him from learning Karate.

However, in 1954 Yamashita began learning Goju–Ryu Karate in secret. He trained under Yoshihiro Urakawa who was a direct student of Gogen Yamaguchi.

Training under Urakawa was hard. There were frequent injuries in the dojo. Yamashita hid his practice from his parents for two years until he broke a tooth in a training session.

In 1956 Yamashita enrolled at Jiyugaoka High School. On graduation, he enrolled at Nippon University in April 1959.

Yamashita continued his Karate practice. In 1961, he was promoted to 3rd Dan. The following year began teaching Goju–Ryu Karate in Tokyo.

In 1969 Yamashita decided to visit Europe. He travelled to Denmark before travelling to Germany. He stayed in Düsseldorf for six months, where he taught Karate.

In 1970 a Karate tournament was organised in London. Yamashita was invited to compete in the Senior European Championships.

While in London, Yamashita met Shito-Ryu teacher, Yasunari Ishimi, who was based in Spain. Ishimi persuaded him that he would enjoy living in the warm climate of Spain, rather than in Germany.

Yamashita fully relocated to Madrid in 1970, where he was helped by Ishimi to settle in. He promised his father that he would only stay in Spain for two years. However, he ended up staying much longer than two years, joking that it was because of “Sun, good food, and pretty girls“.

In Spain, Yamashita began teaching Karate at various dojos in Madrid, until he eventually opened his dojo.

In 1971 Yamashita was promoted to 5th Dan by Gogen Yamaguchi.

Having found his feet, Yamashita organised the first Japanese Martial Arts Festival in Spain in 1973. In total, 53 masters from the arts of Kendo, Judo, Aikido, and Karate participated in the exhibition of martial arts. Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon was the guest of honour.

Between 1973 and 1977, Yamashita organised the annual festival across Spain. The cities visited were Madrid, Barcelona, Oviedo, Palma de Mallorca, and La Coruna.

In 1974 Yamashita opened a dojo in Madrid.

Yamashita returned to Japan in 1977, where he visited the dojo of Gogen Yamaguchi.

On 25 July 1979, Yamashita married Harumi Osawa in the Spanish Evangelical Church of Madrid. The couple’s first son, Rikiya, was born in 1980, and their second son, Go, was born in 1982.

In 1982, Yamashita established the AGE (Goju–Ryu Karate–do Association of Spain.).

Yamashita received several awards in 1983. In May, he received a Medal for Sports Merit from the Spanish Karate Federation. In October, the Madrid City Council paid tribute to him.

In October 1984 Yamashita was promoted to 7th Dan by the Royal Spanish Karate Federation.

On 20 May 1989, Gogen Yamaguchi died.

In May 1994 Yamashita received an award from the Madrid Karate Federation. The following year, he was promoted to 8th Dan by the Royal Spanish Karate Federation.

In 2004 Yamashita received another award from the Madrid Karate Federation. The following year he was promoted to 9th Dan by the Royal Spanish Karate Federation.

In June 2007, Yamashita was awarded the Diploma of Merit, which was one of Japan’s highest honours. This was for his service in developing an understanding between Japan and Spain. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan presented him with the award.

On 12 June 2009, the Japanese Martial Arts Festival and Culture was held in Madrid. It marked Yamashita’s 40th Anniversary in Spain. Apart from demos of Karate, Aikido, Judo, and Kendo, there were also examples of Japanese culture, such as music and floral arts.

On 12 June 2010, his oldest students and friends held a tribute in Madrid for Yamashita. Goshi Yamaguchi, who was visiting Spain, gave a demonstration of kata at the event.

In November 2011, Yamashita was awarded the Medal of the Rising Sun by the Japanese Government. This was in recognition of his dedication in Spain to the teaching of Karate and the dissemination of the philosophy of martial arts in Japanese culture. He was presented with the medal in a private audience with the Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

On 3 May 2014, the 1st Recognition Gala for the Master of Karate and Associated Sports was held in Madrid. The event, organised by the RFEK (Royal Spanish Federation of Karate), took place at the Melia Hotel. It was hosted by the RFEK President, Antonio Moreno.

Presidents and Karate instructors from all the Federations in Spain were in attendance. Tatsuhiko Hattori, Osamu Aoki, Choyu Hentona, and Osamu Nomura, were recognised for their contributions to introducing and developing Japanese martial arts in Spain. They received their Honorary Diplomas from Antonio Moreno. Yamashita gave the closing speech of the Gala.

Yamashita was promoted to 10th by the Royal Spanish Karate Federation. This was for his lifetime of dedication to Karate.

In 2018 Yamashita was presented with the Shihan of Honor Award for National Legends. This was in the presence of King Don Juan Carlos, his former student.

Yamashita also appeared in a 2018 documentary about aspects of Japanese culture. The documentary was produced by TVE.

On 1 February 2022, Yosuke Yamashita died aged 80. A wake was held for him. Guests at his wake included Olympic Champion, Sandra Sanchez. A special tribute was paid to him by Budo Magazine.

A traditional master, Yosuke Yamashita was described as an important reference point for Goju-Ryu Karate. He was at the forefront of the development of Goju-Ryu Karate in Spain. Sandra Sanchez and Damian Quintero can trace their Karate lineage back to him. His many students have continued his legacy of Karate.

Yamashita developed a close relationship with other Japanese masters residing in Spain. This included Atsuo Hiruma, Yasunari Ishimi, Osamu Nomura, and Sakae Sakakibara.

Away from Karate, Yamashita was an active member of the Japanese community in Spain. He was the President of the Japanese Community Association.

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