Life of Nakayama

Masatoshi Nakayama was born on April 13, 1913. Born in the Yamaguchi Prefecture of Japan, he is a descent of the Sanad clan, which consisted of kenjutsu instructors from the Nagano region. His grandfather Naomici Nakayama was a surgeon in Tokyo and is believed to be the final member of the family to teach Kenjutsu. Nakayama’s father, Naomichi Nakayama was an army physician as well as a judoka who practiced judo. Since Nakayama’s father’s professional life demanded him to stay in Taipei, Nakayama spent some of his initial years in Taipei. All rounder as he was, Nakayama tried his hand in tennis, track running, kendo, skiing and swimming apart from his academic life. He grew up to become a world renowned Japanese master who specialized in Shotokan karate. He was successful in establishing the popular Japan Karate Association in 1949. He went on to write many textbooks on karate which paved way to the popularity of his martial art. He toiled hard without ceasing for almost 40 years to spread and popularize Shotokan Karate around the globe until he passed away in 1987. His efforts and hard work paid off when he was awarded the rank of 9th dan and is said to be the first master in Shotokan history to receive it alive.

Academic life

Nakayama chose Takushoku University to study Chinese language in 1932 and started taking classes in karate under the guidance of Gichin Funakoshi and his son, Yoshitaka who was also known as Gigo. Nakayama’s life is a testimony of how a careless mistake can turn out to be life changing experience. As he had already tried his hand in kendo, he had made up mind to continue taking lessons in kendo. But he happened to misread the schedule and ended up joining for karate training classes instead. The karate training that he got to see and experience there seemed appealing to him and he made up his mind to join that martial art group. As soon as he got graduated from Takushoku University, he went on to become a military interpreter during the Japanese occupation of China in 1937. His determination and passion for karate helped him achieve the rank of 2nd dan by the time World War II began. He returned to Japan much later in May 1946 after the war ended.

Nakayama and JKA

The Japan Karate Association was formed in May 1949 by Nakayama, Isao Obata and other colleagues. Nakayama was appointed the Chief Instructor of JKA which was headed formally by Funakoshi. Nakayama ascended heights step by step as he was promoted to 3rd dan, and he went to attain the rank of 5th dan by 1955. He took the Shotokan karate to the next level by restructuring it by incorporating both traditional karate and the methods developed in modern sports sciences. As a feather on his hat, Nakayama was promoted to 8th dan. The kata and kumite tournament disciplines were established by Nakayama for the better understanding of this martial art.

The Success Story

Passionately attached to this martial art, Nakayama transformed the basement of his apartment building into a personal dojo with the help pooled in by one of his students, Hirokazu Kanazawa. This dojo which is located in Ebisu, Tokyo, was a training place for umpteen numbers of karate students even from outside Japan where they got trained while living in the dormitory rooms since 1970s. Nakayama’s success story proudly ends on a note of his achievement of being promoted to 9th dan in the 1980s. He is said to be the first Shotokan master who was promoted to this highest level while alive. Nakayama held on to his favourite martial art and continued teaching the same until he passed away on April 15, 1987.