Yoshimi Inoue

Karate is 99% feeling.

Yoshimi Inoue

For many, Yoshimi Inoue’s name will be associated with the many great kata champions he coached, that included Mie Nakayama, Atsuko Wakai and Ryoko Abe. However, Inoue was more than a great coach. He was a martial artist first and foremost. What made him a unique and successful coach was that he saw competition as being just one part of Karate. He still stressed the martial aspects of Karate in his day to day training.

Yoshimi Inoue was born in the small coastal village of Tottori, Japan, on 27 September 1946. There were no martial arts available to Inoue as a youngster. In 1961 he bought a karate book written by Teruo Hayashi from which he started to teach himself.

In 1962, Inoue began attending Tottori University. It was here that he began his first real forays into the world of Karate. He began training at the University’s Shito-ryu club.

After completing his studies, much to the dismay of his family, Inoue travelled to Osaka in 1964 in search of the Karate school named in the book previously mentioned. In a chance encounter at Sennichimae police station, he met Teruo Hayashi, the Okinawan master that would change his life.

Teruo Hayashi was an accomplished martial artist who had trained under many of the top Okinawan Karate and Kubodo masters. He had been a direct student of Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito-ryu Karate. He also studied under Kosei Kokuba, Shoshine Nagamine, Seiko Higa and Kenko Nakaima. He was the head of the Hayashi-ha Shito-ryu style, which amalgamated many of things he learnt, which he founded in 1970.

Inoue began training at the Sakai branch of Hayashi’s school. He became Hayashi’s uchi-deshi (live-in disciple), his only ever.

As an uchi-deshi, Inoue’s duties included keeping the dojo, office and toilets clean. He would train several hours in the morning. In the afternoon he would help with teaching. His day would finish with more training. His training consisted of lots of kihon and kumite. As he was the only uchi-deshi, his kumite was against Hayashi, considered by many to be a ferocious fighter. There was no holding back during kumite practice. At this time Hayashi was in his early forties and at the peak of his skills and Inoue still a teenager.

Inoue stayed with Hayashi for around four years, living and breathing karate. Unfortunately, Inoue had to return back to Tottori to help support his family, after his father became ill.

In his mid-twenties, after talking to Hayashi, Inoue set up his first school in a small gym in Tottori

Inoue remained a devoted student of Hayashi until his death in 2005. A year after his master’s death, Inoue founded Inoue-ha Shito-ryu Keishin-kai (ISK), a style characterised by fast sharp movements that are well-timed.

In 1986 the Japanese government chose four people to represent each of the major Karate schools, on a tour of the United States. Inoue was chosen as the Shito-ryu representative. During the tour, a Karate exhibition was given in front of Nancy Reagan, the US President’s wife. This includes giving the first lady a self-defence lesson.

The first of Inoue’s great world champions was Mie Nakayama. She had started training with him in Tottori. With only two months of training, she was entered into her first kata tournament, winning the event. She was aged around eighteen at the time.

In 1982 Nakayama achieved international success by winning the Individual kata title in 1982. The feat was further repeated in 1984 and 1986.

With Ryoko Abe and Atsuko Wakai, there was further world title success between 1998 and 2004.

In a coaching career that had seen many highs, the 2012 World Championships saw two of Inoue’s stellar pupils, Rika Usami and Antonio Diaz both become world champions. This was the first time in the tournament’s history that a coach had trained both the male and female individual kata champions in the same tournament. Diaz had retained the title he had previously won in 2010.

Yoshimi Inoue continued travelling the world teaching at seminars, until his untimely death on 1 May 2015 from cancer. Below are links to some of Inoue’s seminars. They give a small insight into what a great teacher Inoue was.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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