Master Hidetaka Nishiyama

From the 36th AAKF National Tournament program (1997)

Master Hidetaka Nishiyama is considered to be one of the great masters and pioneers of Japanese Traditional Karate. He began his study in 1943 at the age of fifteen, with Master Gichin Funakoshi, the man who introduced Okinawan karate to Japan. At that time, karate was not yet popular. Other martial arts, such as judo and kendo were taught as compulsory classes in Japanese middle schools, similar to American phy-ed classes. After a difficult search he found Master Funakoshi and his karate dojo in Tokyo. He continued his study from Funakoshi after he went to college.

In the late 40’s the American Strategic Air Command (SAC) special forces began combat training in judo, aikido and karate. In a recent interview, Master Nishiyama related some of the events of that time period.

“We were invited to the American bases to instruct. I was the youngest. Every time we went to the bases we were expected to give demonstrations. These were very tough, I had to break many boards so pretty soon my hands and forearms were in a bad state. This happened 3 or 4 times a day. Eventually I couldn’t move my arms.” According to a student of Master Nishiyama, “…many times the American instructors would present Mr. Nishiyama with very thick boards that had been soaked in water. Mr Nishiyama never failed to break these boards and never once asked his seniors to break them for him.”

Although this was a difficult time for Master Nishiyama and his fellow karate enthusiasts, it helped him realize that karate could be spread internationally. They were subsequently invited to the United States in 1953 to tour every SAC base in the U.S. and Cuba.

Master Nishiyama later became one of the original founders of the Japan Karate Association, home of the famous JKA Instructors School wich has produced some of the most famous karate masters in the world: Kanazawa, Enoeda, Shirai and Mikami. In 1960 he published “Karate: The Art of Empty Hand Fighting”. It is still considered the definitive text on the subject and the best selling karate book in history. In 1961 he moved to the United States and founded the All American Karate Federation (AAKF).

In 1978, the AAKF completely restructured its organization and changed the name to the American Amateur Karate Federation. The AAKF is a public benefit, non-profit corporation and is the sole Traditional Amateur Karate governing body in the U.S. It is also a member of the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF), the worldwide governing body of Traditional Karate.

The AAKF controls controls national and regional competition and develops technical advancement through special training seminars throughout the US. The AAKF hosted the very first karate competitions between the U.S. and Japan in the historic 1964 Goodwill Tournament held in Los Angeles. in 1968 the AAKF planned and hosted the World International Karate Tournament, the first world scale competition which was held in Los Angeles and Mexico City in cooperation with the Mexico Karate Federation.

The ITKF was founded in 1975 to help avoid confusion between the “new” karate styles and traditional karate, and to maintain consistency in traditional karate training throughout the world. Currently, Master Nishiyama and the ITKF are diligently working with the International Olympic Committee to have traditional karate recognized as an official Olympic event.

Master Nishiyama is now working on a new karate book aimed at karate instructors. He feels that in many geographically larger countries like the U.S., there tends to be a lack of continuity among instructors and their teaching methods because they cannot come together as frequently due to distance. He hopes this book will advance the level of instruction and philosophy of karate in every country that teaches the art.

Master Nishiyama continues to travel throughout the world teaching karate. He is currently the Chairman of the AAKF and President of the ITKF and is one of the highest ranking black belts in karate (9th Dan). He resides in Los Angeles with his wife and their three daughters.