7 June, 1935 - 15 August, 2006
Tetsuhiko Asai (Asai Sensei) studied at the famous Takushoku University Karate club. He enjoyed many competition successes, including becoming Grand Champion (Kata and Kumite) at the 5th All-Japan Championships. From this success he went on to teach many hundreds of thousands of students throughout the world, becoming a hero of traditional Karate.
This traditional Karate was the foundation for his future developments. As Asai Sensei travelled the world, he gained a wealth of experience from other country's fighting systems, allowing him to build on his foundations and create his own, unique style. He endeavoured to make his body as supple as a willow tree to maximise the efficiency of his karate. However, to achieve a higher level, he found it essential to develop not only the torso but also the head, arms and legs. From the development of each body part, his technique can spring forward like a "Thunderous Storm". By developing the torso, arms and legs separately, it's much more difficult for an opponent to see an attack coming. Combine this with Asai Sensei's lightning speed, and it makes for a deadly combination.
This particular training has allowed Asai Sensei to increase his strength to levels that some people would think of as super-human. However, these techniques are separate from Shotokan-Ryu, they are Asai-style karate. Therefore, from this point onwards we would like the reader to put aside all their pre-conceptions of what karate is. Only by doing this can you learn Asai Sensei's karate.
Asai Sensei has spent almost his whole life searching for "The Way". He says "People should forget everything and jump headfirst into what they want to do. Although the average person can't comprehend such a way of thinking, or to be in such an environment, this type of environment, however, is essential for one's success."
The oldest son in the family, Asai Sensei was born in 1935 in Ehime, Shikoku prefecture, Japan. Raised in the countryside, Asai Sensei grew up to become a very strong, fast and energetic young man. As a young boy, he often practised sumo, sometimes competing in the traditional five-man challenge, and winning every time. From his father – a policeman – he learned judo, kendo and the spear. Even at this young age, his athletic ability was easily recognised. After being thrown, Asai sensei would always land on his feet.
A pivotal point in his life came when he was 12 years old. One day he saw a boxer fighting a karate-ka, in a real fistfight. Not so important as to who could win such a match, however, what was forever instilled in Asai Sensei's mind was the karate-ka's kick that disabled his opponent from further attacking him. Thus the image of karate being strong was implanted in his brain. This event happened just after the end of the Second World War at a time when the Japanese community was uncertain about their future. People didn't know what was right anymore. Fighting and theft were common events within that society. Asai Sensei wanted to be both physically and mentally strong, so he started training karate.
The next turning point in his life came one day when walking to school with a friend. As they walked near the school, they both noticed a man in a dogi (karate suit) practising Karate. Asai Sensei was amazed by this man's strength. He also thought to himself that this person appeared stronger than him! As that thought was going through his mind, his friend made the following comment: "Ah, he is from the Fighting University Karate Club. The Takushoku Karate Club". From that moment on, all Asai Sensei could think of was how to enter Takushoku University to train on their karate team. Asai Sensei decided to study very hard in order to pass the entrance examination for Takushoku University. Despite hating to study, six months later, Asai Sensei passed the entrance exam and was able to enter Takushoku University.
Takushoku also highlighted Asai Sensei's great determination. Most people can't sustain such a path. 150 people started with Asai Sensei at the karate club, but within a month it had been reduced to a handful. There was no happiness in the dojo, or at the university at large, just training, but Asai Sensei persevered, and soon he was allowed to live at the karate dormitory. It was a great honour to be allowed to live there, and all of the world leaders of Shotokan came from there. Asai Sensei, despite the hardship, was happy as he had a chance to become strong, and others were amazed by him, claiming the only time he never trained was when he ate or slept.
Asai Sensei graduated in 1958, and Nakayama Sensei insisted he must continue his Karate. In fact, in a joking manner, Nakayama Sensei told him that he couldn't do anything but Karate! So he entered the Kenshusei program (instructor's course). It was the golden age of the JKA, with many strong and different characters. He could train with these people daily, and it cemented his decision to follow the karate way throughout his life. This hard training and diligence paid off, and in 1961, in front of the crowned prince, Asai sensei became grand champion (Kata and Kumite), beating the favourites, Mikami sensei and Shirai sensei.
He also travelled the world extensively, bringing his brand of karate to hundreds of thousands of people. Finally, he returned to Japan to become the technical director of the JKA.
In the year 2000 Asai Sensei created the Non-Profit Organization Japan Karate Shoto-federation, as a way to further the development of karate. His focus is on spiritual growth and not just technique development. He firmly believes in developing one's spirit as a way to kindness and respect towards other people. Also, he created wheelchair karate as a method for introducing karate to all people regardless of any disabilities they may have. He believes through this Community Service, Spirit-Development will the same for everyone and not only the physically talented or physically fit.
Sadly, after a life dedicated to karate, Tetsuhiko Asai passed away at 2:50 pm on August 15, 2006.
His legacy lives on through the thousands of people who train JKS today.
"People should forget everything and jump headfirst into what they want to do. Although the average person can't comprehend such a way of thinking, or to be in such an environment, it is this type of environment, however, that is essential for one's success."