An enormous discipline was required and our exercises were always based on the kihon.Satoshi Miyazaki
Many people outside of the JKA may not have heard of Satoshi Miyazaki. A contemporary of JKA legends such as Keinosuke Enoeda, Hideo Ochi and Maasaki Ueki, he was known for his strong Karate, especially for his murderous kicks. As head of the JKA in Belgium, he oversaw the growth of the association, seeing it become one of the biggest Karate groups in Belgium.
Satoshi Miyazaki was born on 17 June 1938 in the small village of Sagai, in the Saga district of Japan. Like most boys of the time, he started learning Judo and Kendo around the age of 12.
A neighbour of Miyazaki’s parents practised Shotokan Karate. Miyazaki started taking lessons from him around 1952 at the age of 15. Three months later he officially registered with the Karate club where his neighbour trained. As would be expected, training was physically tough. He eventually gained his black belt. Sometime later he also gained a black belt in Goju-ryu Karate.
In 1958 Miyazaki enrolled at Takushoku University, in Tokyo, to study economics. He had been recruited by JKA head and “old boy” of the University, Masatoshi Nakayama. Nakayama was responsible for recruiting talented students from all over Japan and helping them attend a suitable university.
At Takushoku, Miyazaki studied economics. As expected he joined the University’s Karate club. As was the custom he returned to being a white belt. The idea was he was a novice (kohai) in relation to his seniors (sempai). In Japanese culture, this concept is more important than the rank/belt one holds.
Nakayama was the main sensei at the club and for the next eleven years, he would be Miyazaki’s teacher. As expected training at the club was intense. There were three training sessions a day, Monday to Friday. The first session started at 6 am; the second at 12 pm; and the third from 6 pm to 8 pm. There was also one session on Saturday. On top of his gruelling training session, he also had to attend his normal university lectures.
Under Nakayama’s tutelage, Miyazaki’s Karate improved. He was also a team member, alongside team captain Shiro Asano, Hideo Ochi, Kazumi Tabata and Katsuya Kisaki. The team competed against other university teams in inter-university tournaments. In 1958 the team won the first All-Japan University Championships.
After graduating from Takushoku University with a BA in Economics and a 2nd Dan, Miyazaki was asked by Nakayama to enrol on the JKA Instructor Course. Again, he was asked to start as a white belt. Others enrolled on the course included Maasaki Ueki and Kinosuke Enoeda. As befitted the course training was intense and extremely tough. On completion of the course, he was awarded the rank of 4th Dan.
For the next couple of years, Miyazaki helped teach at the JKA Hombu. He saw many of his peers and colleagues take teaching assignments abroad. His chance finally came in 1967 when Belgium applied for a Japanese instructor from the JKA. Taiji Kase was sent to Belgium where he taught for six months. Miyazaki was asked to take over from him. He arrived in Belgium on 1 December 1967, joining Kase in France, Enoeda in England and Hiroshi Shirai in Italy as the four JKA instructors teaching in Europe.
In 1968 Miyazaki formed his federation, the Belgian Karate Union (UBK). The next couple of years saw him build and develop the Federation. In the years to come, he would be assisted by Kazuhiro Sawada. He eventually became the Technical Director of the Belgium Karate Federation (BAKF) in 1977.
On his visit to Japan, Miyazaki asked his former student Norihiko Iida if he knew of any students that could assist him in Belgium. Iida suggested Sawada who was attending Taisho University and was a member of the University’s Karate club. Sawada was the captain of the team and had led them to three All-Japan University Championships. On graduating from Taisho University, in 1975 he joined Miyazaki in Belgium. He would remain his assistant for the next ten years.
Miyazaki, assisted by Sawada, travelled around Belgium for the next couple of years, growing the BAKF into one of the premier Karate associations in the country.
In 1977 Miyazaki returned to Japan as coach of the Belgian Karate team, at the 2nd IAKF World Championships held in Tokyo. The Belgian kata team consisting of Sergio Gneo, Dirk Heene and Bruno Lorefice came second behind the Japanese team in the team kata event. The result was a testament to how far Belgium Karate had come in such a short time.
Following the World Championships Miyazaki remained in Japan. In 1978 he was awarded his 7th Dan. He returned to Belgium to continue his work.
In 1985 Miyazaki appointed his longtime student, Sergio Gneo, as Assistant Chief Instructor of the Belgium Karate Federation.
In 1987 the Shotokan world was rocked when Miyazaki’s mentor, Masatoshi Nakayama, died. The following years saw much infighting between the different factions within the JKA. Highly respected by his peers, some members of the JKA wanted him to return to Japan and be a part of the new JKA. However, not being a political animal, he decided to stay in Belgium and continue to build the JKA’s presence in the country.
Miyazaki was diagnosed with a stomach condition in the early part of 1992. In May of that year, he underwent an operation for the condition. Remarkably, he was back in the dojo training and teaching four weeks later.
February 1993 saw one of Miyazaki’s dreams come to fruition. JKA-Europe was founded. The aim of the organisation was to act as a unifying force for all JKA Karate across Europe. Also, it intended on keeping JKA Shotokan Karate pure and consistent.
On 31 May 1993, Satoshi Miyazaki died from stomach cancer aged only 55. Amazingly very few people knew how sick he was and how much pain he was in. Mentally tough, he continued teaching up to his death.
Miyazaki was cremated in a Buddhist ceremony. Many of the top Japanese instructors from across Europe and Japan were in attendance. Half of his ashes were flown back to Japan and the other half remained at his beloved Belgium dojo.
Following Miyazaki’s death, his assistant Gneo was appointed Chief Instructor of the Belgium Karate Federation. Miyazaki had made arrangements for Gneo to succeed him. To commemorate Miyazaki ‘s birthday an annual training course has been organised by JKA Belgium.
Satoshi Miyazaki has largely gone under the radar in terms of people outside of JKA knowing who he is. An understated man he was a phenomenal martial artist who has had a big influence on European Shotokan Karate, especially in his adopted home of Belgium.