Artur Hovhannisyan

Life is like ‘sinusoid” – sometimes we go up, and sometimes we go down – like yin and yang.

Artur Hovhannisyan

Nicknamed the ” Highlander” due to his Armenian heritage, Artur Hovhannisyan had the ability to move lightly for a big man. He had a unique ability to combine Russian strength and power with Japanese technique and know-how.

Artur Hovhannisyan was born in the former USSR district of Gyumri, Armenia, on 11 September 1975. By the age of eight, he was competing in boxing and swimming.

In 1990, aged 15, Hovhannisyan began training in Kyokushin Karate. A friend suggested he train at the dojo of K. Manukyan the Kyokushin Branch Chief of Armenia. There had been lifting of the ban imposed by the USSR on the practice of Karate.

Through dedicated training, Hovhannisyan was eventually awarded his 1st Dan by Steve Arneil.

Hovhannisyan began competing in 1991. He competed in heavyweight and open weight tournaments. On 29 March 1992, he won the 1st Open Tournament Sev. of the Caucasus.

The next year saw Hovhannisyan win a multitude of tournaments. In 1995 he won both the Moscow and Armenian Championships. The following year he won the Russian Championships. In 1997 he won the British National Open Tournament.

In 1999 Hovhannisyan was appointed the Vice-President of the Kyokushin Federation of Armenia. In this role, he helped to put Armenian Karate on the map.

On 18 April 1986 Shokei Matsui became the latest man to complete the gruelling 100-Man Kumite Challenge. With the death of Mas Oyama on 26 April 1994, Matsui became head of the International Kyokushin Organisation (IKO-1).

As a member of the IKO-1, Hovhannisyan knew about the legendary Matsui. In 2004 he was honoured to become an uchi-deshi (live-in student) to Matsui. He made two visits that year, March-May and September-November to train with him. He credits these visits in making him a better karateka.

After winning the European Championships in 20005 Hovhannisyan moved to the IKO-1 headquarters in Tokyo, Japan to become Head Instructor at the Hombu. This was a great honour for him.

The first two years in Japan were a very difficult time for Hovhannisyan. He mainly struggled with the Japanese language and culture. His credits members of the Hombu with helping him to adapt.

Still competing, Hovhannisyan finished in third place at the 9th World Open Tournament IKO-1, out of 192 competitors from 65 countries. The tournament was held in Tokyo between 16-18 November 2007. Everton Teixeira of Brazil won the title, with Jan Sokup of the Czech Republic, finishing runner-up.

In 2008 a Russian TV channel made a documentary about Hovhannisyan, called “Highlander“. The title of the film refers to his Armenian heritage.

On 29 March 2009 Hovhannisyan was asked by IKO-1 head, Shokei Matsui to take the 100-Man Kumite Challenge at the IKO-1 Hombu.

As a white belt, Hovhannisyan had seen Matsui complete the challenge. In preparation for the challenge, Hovhannisyan had trained 3-4 hours a day under the watchful eye of Ryu Narushima.

Hovhannisyan completed the challenge in 4 hours 9 minutes. The toughest part of the challenge for him were fights, 73 to 90. He cannot remember these flights. His last fight was against Brazilian Francisco Filho. The Brazilian had completed the challenge twice in 1995. To date the only man to do so.

Aged 33 years, Hovhannisyan became the first man to complete the challenge in five years. His body was battered and bruised. He was also suffering from dehydration. As a precautionary measure, he was taken to hospital by Joji Hibino.

The last couple of years has seen Hovhannisyan teaching at his Kawaguchi dojo. He has also instituted a program where he invites students to be uchi-deshi as his dojo.

As an IKO–1 representative, Hovhannisyan travels the world overseeing championships and conducting seminars. He is, however, happiest when he is at his dojo teaching his students.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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