Hirokazu Kanazawa belongs to the group of Shotokan pioneers, who made karate what it is today. He (Kanazawa Hirokazu, 3 May 1931 – 8 December 2019) was a Japanese teacher of Shotokan karate. He was the Chief Instructor and President of the Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation, an organization he founded after he left the Japan Karate Association (JKA). Kanazawa was ranked 10th Dan in karate.
Hirokazu Kanazawa– A success story
He trained in judo during his school years and held the rank of 2nd Dan in that martial art. He began training in karate whilst at Takushoku University under the then-head instructor of Shotokan karate. Kanazawa also learned from the founder of the Shotokan style, Gichin Funakoshi, and was one of the last living karateka (practitioners of karate) to have done so.
Kanazawa was promoted to the rank of 1st Dan in Shotokan karate with less than two years of training in the art; promotion to 2nd Dan came three years later. In 1956, he graduated from university and joined the JKA. That same year, he was promoted to 3rd dan.
Kanazawa won the inaugural All Japan Karate Championship’s Kumite (sparring) championship in 1957. He reportedly won the Kumite competition with a broken hand. That same year, Kanazawa was among the first to graduate from the JKA’s instructor training program. In 1958, Kanazawa won the kata (patterns) title and shared the Kumite title with Takayuki Mikami. Mikami and Kanazawa launched a minimal number of attacks, mainly just circling until the time was up; thus, they shared the Kumite title.
In 1961, the JKA sent Kanazawa to Hawaii to establish karate schools there. He was ranked 5th Dan at the time. He established a dojo (training hall) and served as the inaugural President of the Hawaii Karate Congress. In 1963, he left Hawaii to teach in Europe and Japan. In 1966, Kanazawa became Chief Instructor of the Karate Union of Great Britain, and the JKA promoted him to the rank of 6th Dan that year. In 1973, the All Japan Karate Federation promoted him to 7th dan.
In 1977 he founded the Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation (SKIF). Since then, he taught and promoted karate through the SKIF, including the organization of several karate world championship competitions. His technical prowess and international profile soon attracted many students and countries joined the SKIF. As a result, it is still one of the biggest Shotokan associations worldwide. Despite leaving the JKA, he was reported to maintain some ties with former colleagues in that organization.
The International Martial Arts Federation promoted Kanazawa to 8th Dan in 1978, 9th Dan in 1988, and 10th Dan in 2000.
Kanazawa wrote several books on karate, which include: Kankudai (1969), Moving Zen: One man’s journey to the heart of Karate (2001, co-authored), Karate: My life (2003), Karate fighting techniques: The complete Kumite (2004, co-authored), and Black Belt Karate (2006). He was featured in Paul Walker’s book, Lessons with the Master: 279 Karate lessons with Master Hirokazu Kanazawa.
Later Years and Retirement
In January 2009, Kanazawa suffered a skiing accident. He fell badly, crushing three of his vertebra. He was in his 70s. After he recovered, he continued traveling around the world conducting courses and seminars.
However, after decades of traveling, Kanazawa decided to spend more time in his native Japan in 2012. That year after the SKIF World Championships held in Sydney, Australia, he retired from active traveling and teaching. Over the course of his career, he had traveled to more than 130 countries and instructed a hundred of thousands of students.
Two years later at a special ceremony held in Tokyo on 5 April, 2014 Hirokazu Kanazawa officially passed the leadership of the SKIF to his son Nobuaki and Manabu Murakami. However, it cannot be doubted that nobody has coined Shotokan karate like Hirokazu Kanazawa in the last 50 years. Thus, he is among the most recognizable faces of karate in general.
‘‘For a karateka who goes through the ups and downs of training, it will help him to control himself in whatever else he does, and through patience, he will be able to build up his personality and create a harmonious character.’’