Modern Shotokan Masters

Without them where would we be?

There are a small number of Shotokan Karate teachers in the world today who are unique enough in their own right, to be referred to as, "Modern Masters". Some of the individuals listed below were direct students of either Master Gichin Funakoshi, or of his son Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi. Others were not. However, that in no way diminished their knowledge, their skill, or their right to be considered in the same company.

Most if not all of the Masters listed here were at one time or another affiliated with, or were members of, the original Japan Karate Association (JKA), that first came into being in 1949. Today some of these Master have long since branched out, and joined other organizations, or formed their own. It is important for the reader to understand that this is by no means a definitive list. This is still a work in progress, and no slight is intended to anyone not yet listed here. It is my hope that on your own you will seek out additional details for yourself regarding the merits of these rare few, these "Modern Masters".   

Shihan Masatoshi Nakayama, 10th Dan, JKA. 

April 6, 1913 - April 15, 1987.

A Founding member of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Shihan Masatoshi Nakayama, was born into a samurai family in Kanazawa, Japan, in 1913 and he is known today as the most famous student to have trained directly under Master Gichin Funakoshi. Involved in the founding of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1949 he was placed in charge of karate standards for the new organization. He is best known in later years for his introduction of more scientific ways of training. In the early 1960's it was his decision to send graduates of the JKA instructor program overseas in order to spread the art of Shotokan Karate beyond the shores of Japan that was the driving force that let to the world-wide popularity of Shotokan Karate-do.

The author of a great many books on the subject of Shotokan Karate these publications are today still considered as essential reading on the subject for any serious student, especially his book, Master Text, Dynamic Karate. While his series of books entitled, Best Karate, are one of the premier visual sources used by karate-ka the world over when it comes to reminding themselves of the many important details found in each of the Shotokan katas. The only two katas exceptions not referenced in this series are, Wankan and Jiin. There have been many theories as to why that is, but it simply may be that he passed before these last two kata could be published.

Master Nakayama was the Chief Instructor of the JKA from 1955 until his death on April 15, 1987. With the passing of Master Nakayama, the world of Shotokan karate lost one of its greatest influences and another of the few remaining direct links to the Founder of Shotokan Karate-do, Master Gichin Funakoshi.

Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama, 9th Dan, (ITKF)

November 21, 1928 - November 7, 2008

A co-founder, and member of the Board of Directors of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Sensei Nishiyama is also the author of one of the more popular karate books called, "Karate, The art of Empty Hand Fighting". In 1985 Sensei Nishiyama formed his own karate organization, International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF). As a true Master of Shotokan Karate, Sensei Nishiyama's life long goal remained pioneering the art of traditional Japanese karate which he did by conducting seminars throughout the world. Sensei Nishiyama's passing is a great loss to our world-wide Shotokan family. For additional information on Sensei Nishiyama please visit the ITKF web site at .

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki, 10th Dan, (ISKF)

June 22, 1931 - April 21, 2020

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki was born in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan and he began his karate training at the age of sixteen when he entered Takushoku University in 1948. For the next ten years he would remain a direct student of Master Gichin Funakoshi, the Founder of Shotokan Karate, until Master Funakoshi's death on April 26, 1957. After Master Funakoshi's passing Sensei Okazaki came under the guidance of Sensei Matsatoshi Nakayama, whom he assisted for many years during which he was instrumental in the establishment of tournament rules. He was the student selected to be the prototype for the fledgling two year training program that was to become known as the JKA Instructors Program. The first three graduates of that program were Sensei Mikami, Sensei Kanazawa and Sensei Takaura. In 1961 as the second instructor to be sent overseas after after Sensei Kanazawa. Sensei Okazaki settled in Philadelphia and in spite of not knowing any English when he arrived he has prospered and has been a major contributor to the growth of Shotokan Karate-do in the United States of America.

Today Sensei Okazaki is the Chief Instructor of his own organization the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) which he formed in 1977. For additional information on Sensei Okazaki please visit the ISKF web site at .

Shihan Hirokazu Kanazawa, 10th Dan, (SKIF)

May 3, 1931 - December 8, 2019

Born in Iwate Prefecture in Japan in 1931, Shihan Hirokazu Kanazawa is one of the best known and most widely respected Shotokan Karate Masters in the world today. Shihan Kanazawa's karate was honed during his time at Takushoku University. After graduating he joined the JKA in 1956 becoming a direct student of Sensei Masatoshi Nakayama and he became the second graduates of the Japan Karate Association's legendary, Instructors Training Program.

His victory in the 1957 All Japan Karate Championships and his subsequent victory in both kata and kumite in the 1958 All Japan Karate Championship ultimately led the JKA to send Shihan Kanazawa overseas to Hawaii in 1961. While there he was to be come the first Shotokan sensei to instruct Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi, 10th Dan, Founder of the Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association (FSKA).

It was in 1966 that Shihan Kanazawa's technical skill became well known to karate-ka world wide, after he was prominently featured in Shihan Masatoshi Nakayama's book, Dynamic Karate. After several years in Hawaii Shihan Kanazawa would move to England to become the Chief Instructor for the Karate Union of Great Britain. In 1977 Shihan Kanazawa left the JKA and formed his own organization the Shotokan Karate International Federation (SKIF). Shihan Kanazawa is currently ranked 10th Dan and is one of the very few living Shotokan Master to currently hold this rank. For additional information on Shihan Kanazawa please visit the SKIF web site at .

Sensei Taiji Kase, 9th Dan, (WKSA)

February 9, 1929 - November 24, 2004

Born in Tokyo Japan in 1929, Sensei Kase was one of the very few who can lay claim to having been taught at the original Shotokan dojo by both, the Founder of Shotokan Karate-do, Master Gichin Funakoshi, as well as his son, Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi.

The depth of Sensei Kase knowledge and skill is said to be unrivaled. After the end of the World War II Sensei Kase continued to train at University and joined the fledgling Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1950 where he went on to becoming a Director. In addition, he was responsible for teaching the first post war generation of international instructors such as Sensei's Kanazawa, Sensei Enoeda, and Sensei Shirai. Sensei Kase remained a member of the JKA until 1989 when he co-founded with Sensei Hiroshi Shirai an organization known as, World Shotokan Karate-Do Academy (WKSA) which focused on returning to the teachings of his teacher, Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi.

The WSKA currently restricts the membership in its organization to karate-ka who hold the rank of San Dan and above. The passing of Sensei Kase was another great loss to the Shotokan Karate family. For additional information on Sensei Kase please visit the WSKA web site at .

Sensei Hideo Ochi, 9th Dan, (JKA)

February 28, 1940 -

Born in 1940 Sensei Hideo Ochi started karate during his days at Takushoku University in Tokyo. A former graduate of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Instructor Program in 1964 he began teaching at the JKA Honbu dojo on a regular basis after passing his final exam. An active competitor Sensei Ochi is also a former, All Japan Grand Champion, placing first in both kumite and kata. In 1970 Sensei Ochi was sent overseas to Germany to join Sensei Kanazawa. In 1993 he formed his own organization Deutche Japan Karate Bund (DJKB) as a branch of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) to help return German karate to more traditional Shotokan roots and away from sport karate which was becoming ever more prevalent in that country.

In 1997 Sensei Ochi was awarded the German Medal of Honor for his contributions to the development of German Karate. For additional information on Sensei Ochi and his career please visit the following German language web site at . 

Sensei Hiroshi Shirai, 10th Dan, (ITKF)

July 31, 1937 -

Born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1937 Sensei Hiroshi Shirai began his journey down the karate road in 1956 and he is a graduate of Komozawa University in Tokyo where he studied karate under Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama. Sensei Shirai is also another of the early graduates of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Instructor Program where he came under the influence of Sensei Taiji Kase.

A former instructor with the JKA and a former JKA champion Sensei Shirai has lived in Italy since 1965 and is currently the head of the Technical Committee of the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) and is joined on this committee by Sensei Masao Kawasoe, 8th Dan. The overall head of the ITKF was formally Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama. For additional information on Sensei Shirai please visit the ITKF web site at .

Sensei Yutaka Yaguchi, 9th Dan, (ISKF)

1932 -

Born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1932, Sensei Yaguchi is another of the very few remaining Masters to have trained under the Founder of Shotokan karate, Master Gichin Funakoshi. In addition to grading for his Sho Dan and Ni Dan under Master Funakoshi, Sensei Yaguchi was also one of the graduates of the legendary Japan Karate Association (JKA) Instructor Program. As strong competitor Sensei Yaguchi placed third in kumite at the 1963 JKA All Japan Championship.

One of the first JKA instructor to be sent to the United States by Sensei Nakayama in 1964 today Sensei Yaguchi is the Chief Instructor, Mountain States Region, of ISKF in Colorado, USA. This is an organization founded by, Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki, 10th Dan, in 1977. For additional information on Sensei Yaguchi please visit the ISKF web site at .

Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi, 10th Dan, (FSKA)

September 4, 1937 -

Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi, Founder and Chief Instructor of the Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association started judo training in 1948 under Arakaki Sensei at the Fort Gakuen Japanese Language School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He attended Farrington High School in the Kalihi District and was on the football team and captain of  the Territory of Hawaii Championship swim team (Hawaii was not yet a state). While attending the University of Hawaii on a swimming scholarship he started Kempo training under Adriano Emperado from 1956 to 1959.

In 1960 Shihan Funakoshi started Shotokan training when the Japan Karate Association (JKA) assigned its first Grand Champion, Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa, to teach at the Karate Association of Hawaii. Shihan Funakoshi remained a student of Sensei Kanazawa for the next three years. Then from 1963-1966 Shihan Funakoshi trained under Sensei Masataka Mori, another instructor from the JKA. Finally, from 1966 to 1969 he trained under the third and last instructor sent by the JKA, the legendary Sensei Tetsuhiko Asai, another former Grand Champion from Japan.

In 1969, after training ten years under three of Japan's top Shotokan instructors and then winning the Grand Championship of the Karate Association of Hawaii for five years in a row (1964-1968) Shihan Funakoshi was appointed as the Chief Instructor for the Karate Association of Hawaii. Shihan Funakoshi moved to San Jose, California to teach karate in December 1986.

In 1987 the non-political Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association (FSKA) was founded with its world headquarters in Milpitas, California. The FSKA now has affiliates throughout the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Europe, Russia, Mexico, and many other countries around the world. For additional information on Shihan Funakoshi please visit the FSKA web site at .

Sensei Keinosuke Enoeda, 9th Dan, (KUGB)

July 4,1935 - March 29, 2003

Born in Nogata, Japan in 1935 Sensei Enoeda was descended from samurai lineage and as such was drawn to martial arts from an early age and attained his Ni Dan in Judo by the age of seventeen. Fate however, was to see him walk a different road. His first introduction to karate came when he witnessed a demonstration of karate at Takushoku University. He was so impressed that he enrolled in the university as a business major in order to be able to study karate. After enrolling he joined the karate club and within two years he had earned the rank of Shodan and he ultimately went on to become the club Captain.

After graduating from university he entered the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Instructor Program where he was to spend the years under the watchful eye of Sensei Masatoshi Nakayama. As a top competitor and JKA Champion Sensei Enoeda become known as the "Tiger of Shotokan" a name that would one day be known world-wide.

Sent overseas to the United Kingdom in 1965 he settled in Liverpool where he was to set the tone for English Shotokan karate that was to last for the next forty years. Today the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) continues his legacy. Sensei Enoeda's passing is another great loss for the world-wide Shotokan family. For additional information on Sensei Enoeda please visit the KUGB web site at .


Shihan Keigo Abe, 9th Dan, JSKA

October 28, 1938 - December 21, 2019

Shihan Keigo was born in 1938 and started his karate training when he was a teenager. A graduate of the JKA Instructors Program he trained directly under Shihan Masatoshi Nakayama and in time he went on to become the Technical Director of the JKA. He would go on to form his own organization the Japan Shotokan Karate Association in 1999 during the time when the JKA was splitting into factions. Shihan Abe remained the Chief Instructor of the JSKA until his passing, his loss will be felt world wide. For more information on Shihan Abe please visit the JSKA website at .

Remember: "Greatness was never their ultimate goal. We thrust it upon them to honour their dedication".