Yukichi Tabata

Nicknamed the ‘Happy Giant’ because of his easy-going demeanour, Yukichi Tabata stood over 6 ft, which was tall for a Japanese man. A member of the Japanese National Team for many years, he had a reputation for being a very tough fighter.

Yukichi Tabata was born in Japan in 1943.

After graduating from university in the early 1960s, Tabata enrolled on the JKA Instructors Course, alongside Takeshi Oishi, Keigo Abe, and Shigeru Takashina.

Tabata graduated from the JKA Instructors Course in 1965. He became an instructor at the JKA Hombu.

In 1966 at the 9th JKA All Japan, Karate Championships, Tabata faced Hideo Ochi in the final of the Kumite event. Ochi won the title, with Tabata in second place and Yoshimasa Takahashi in third place.

The following year, at the 10th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Ochi retained his title. Runner-up, Takashi Oishi had defeated Tabata in the semi-final. Tabata and Keigo Abe finished in joint third.

In 1968, Tabata finished in joint third place at the 11th JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Kumite event. Masaaki Ueki defeated Hideo Ochi in the final. Keigo Abe finished in joint third.

The 19th Olympic Commemoration World Invitational Karate Championship Tournament was held in 1968. Not an Olympic event, it was organised by Hidetaka Nishiyama. The tournament was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in front of a disappointing crowd of 3000 people. The venue could hold 20,000 people. Manzo Iwata, Masatoshi Nakayama, Hironori Ohtsuka, and Eiichi Eriguchi were the guests of honour.

There were teams from Europe, Japan, and the United States at the tournament. The European team included Andy Sherry. The American team consisted of Frank Smith, Ray Dalke, James Yabe, and John Gehlsen. Takeshi Oishi and Tabata of the Japanese team met in the Individual Kumite final. It was Oishi who took the title after the final went into several overtime extensions.

Around 1969 Tabata was sent by the JKA to assist Tetsuhiko Asai. Asai had been sent to Taiwan to help spread Shotokan Karate.

At both the 13th and 14th JKA All Japan Karate Championships held in 1970 and 1971, Tabata again finished in joint third. Takeshi Oishi was champion both times, defeating both Yoshimasa Takahashi and Masaaki Ueki. Both Toru Yamaguchi and Norihiko Iida finished in third place.

Tabata was selected to be part of the Japanese team sent to the 2nd WUKO World Karate Championships held in Paris, France. On 22 April 1972, Japan shocked the Karate world when the Japanese delegation, led by Masatoshi Nakayama walked out of the tournament.

During the Team Kumite event, Japan were upset by some of the officiating during their bouts. The kumite team members were Norihiko Iida, Yukichi Tabata, Masahiko Tanaka, and Takeshi Oishi.

The members of the Japanese Kumite Team were banned by FAJKO and WUKO for walking off the mat during their kumite match. They were banned from entering any official event held in Japan or internationally. This meant that they missed that year’s JKA All-Japan Karate Championships. For their part in the walkout, Masatoshi, Nakayama and Hirokazu Kanazawa were also sanctioned, preventing them from holding any future post nationally or internationally.

Tabata was sent to Mexico by the JKA in 1973. A JKA instructor had been requested by Hiroshi Matsuura. Tabata spent around two years in Mexico. He helped to lay down the foundations for Shotokan Karate in the country.

Being based in Central America, Tabata gave courses in the region. In 1974, he accompanied Masatoshi Nakayama and Teruyuki Okazaki, to Georgetown, Guyana, where they conducted a course.

A popular instructor, Tabata was frequently invited to be a guest instructor on courses around the world. He was frequently invited to the KUGB (Karate Union of Great Britain) annual courses held at Crystal Palace.

On 29 March 2003, Keinosuke Enoeda died. This was followed several days later by the death of Yukichi Tabata in April 2003. While in Japan he died in a swimming accident. There is still some doubt as to what happened.

In 2017 the 1st Karate Do Congress was held in Mexico. There were over 130 participants in the Congress. A special tribute was made to him and other deceased Shotokan instructors who had laid down the roots of Shotokan Karate in Mexico.

Yukichi Tabata is not as frequently mentioned as other JKA karateka of his generation. He was a phenomenal fighter, and it has been said that had he lived in another era he would have been a multiple champion. Unfortunately, for him, he lived in the era of Hideo Ochi, Takeshi Oishi, and Masaaki Ueki.

Tabata was also an excellent instructor. Instructors like Keinosuke Enoeda frequently invited him to be a guest instructor on their courses.

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