The Birth of competition karate and national organizations

20the sportification (gamification) of Karate had been attempted since prior to WWII, but organizational sports had not been successfully implemented. In 1945, while the Budō ban was still valid for other Budō, the Kanbukan was established for the practice of Karate by top students of Tōyama Kanken (1888-1966) in Tōkyō. From this in 1951 the Renbukan ermerged, established inside the Onko Gakkai (Academy for the Study of Old Things) in Tokyo Shibuya Hikawa. It was led under Tōyama Kanken, who followed a „no-style“ principle, i.e. he acticely did not support “style-thinking” in Karate.

At the Renbukan, Kinjo Hiroshi (1919-2013), who was also the leader in post-war Karate journalism, spearheaded the development of Karate with protective equipment as an alternative to kendō armor.This was begun in 1953 and finished in 1954. On December 3rd the same year the Renbukan carried out the first nationwide Karate tournament of Japan, the 1st Nationwide Karate Championship during which protective equipment rules were used.

In 1959 the Renbukan had achieved the support of the Taiwanese businessman Sai Chōkō . Sai was born in 1914 the oldest son of a mayor of a ward in Taiwan, which was still under Japanese control since 1895. Already in his youth he had studied Crane Boxing (tsuru kenpō) and Ancestors Boxing (taisoken), both of which have been mentioned as sources for early Okinawan Karate. In addition, he was a 9th Dan in Karate and 8th Dan in Jūdō. In addition, among others he also worked as the editor of the Kōdōkan Jūdō magazine and in 1958 published a book on Karate.

Sai Choko: Tsuru Kenpo 1958

Sai Choko: Tsuru Kenpo 1958

„Still, in February 1941 the Japan Times published a photo of some men doing what looked like karate above this caption: ‘A new form of defense has been worked out by Mr. Choko Sai, of Formosa [Taiwan], combining points of judo and a kind of boxing perfected in the Loochoo [Ryukyu] Islands.‘“

Source: Noble, Graham: Masters of the Shorin-ryu: Chotoku Kyan. In: Journal of Combative Sport, Aug 2000. 

Sai Chōkō’s support helped fascilitating the development of the old Japan Karate Federation in 1959, with the headquarter being Tōyama Kanken’s dōjō named Shūdōkan. With Tōyama Kanken as grandmaster of the headquarter dōjō, Sai Chōkō as president, Konishi Yasuhiro (1893-1983, Shindō Jinen-ryū) and Kinjō Hiroshi (Kanbukan) as vice presidents as well as Ōtsuka Hironori (1892-1982, Wadō-ryū) , Yamada Tatsuo (1905-1967, Nihon Kenpō Karate-dō) and Gima Shinkin (1896-1989, Shōtōkan-ryū) as advisers, a great number of Karate leaders in those days assumed office.

Yamada Tatsuo (left) with Motobu Chōki in 1926

Yamada Tatsuo (left) with Motobu Chōki in 1926

In this year, 1959, they hosted the All Japan JKF Championship , in which Shōrinji-ryū Karate-dō Renshinkan, the Nihon Chitōkai and others participated. However, the protective equipment used at the time did not sufficiently ensure safety and nessecitated high risk allowances.

Currently under the patronage of the JKF Renbukai this tournament is still held under the name of „National Championships of Karate with protective equipment“. It is thus Karate’s oldest nationwide convention.

Front row far left: Yamada Tatsuo at the Butokusai in 1938.

Front row far left: Yamada Tatsuo at the Butokusai in 1938.

© 2015, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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