It was just last month when we mentioned the birthday of our founder Shugoro Nakazato. Sadly, we were informed of his passing roughly two weeks after his 97th birthday. This issue is dedicated to him.
Shugoro Nakazato was born in Naha city, Okinawa, on August 14, 1919. In 1935, at the age of 16, while attending normal school in Osaka, Japan, he began his lifelong karate study under the direction of Ishu Seiichi. Nakazato studied under Sensei Ishu for six years.
During World War II, he was in the Japanese cavalry. Following the surrender of Japan, Nakazato returned to his home in Okinawa to find his family a casualty of the war. In June 1946, he began his study of karate under Chosin Chibana, who was the Menkyo inheritor of Anko Itotsu. In 1948, Chibana’s Shuri Dojo closed, but Nakazato continued his study with Master Chibana, being personally tutored for over a year in Chibana’s own home. In 1951, Nakazato was instrumental in helping Chibana open his new Dai Ichi Dojo in Naha city at Matsuo.
Chibana continued his personal teaching of Nakazato at the Dai Ichi Dojo until January 10, 1954, when Nakazato received his Shihan Menkyojo and became Master Chibana’s Shihan Dai (Main Assistant). After working as the Shihan Dai in the Matsuo Dojo under Chibana’s direction for one and a half years, Nakazato was commissioned by Chibana to found the Shorin-Ryu Shorin Kan Nakazato Dojo in Naha city at Aza.
Nakazato was appointed as one of the directors of the Okinawan Karate Federation when it was formed in 1956, associating the four major (shiryuha) systems of karate in Okinawa (Goju-Ryu, Ueichi-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu (Ko), and Shorin-Ryu (Matsuo). During this time, Nakazato devoted all of his time and energy to teaching and perfecting Shorin-Ryu karate.
In 1960, the Okinawan Karate Federation promoted him to Eighth Degree Black Belt and titled him “Kyoshi.” Seven years later, Nakazato continued his progress in karate when Master Chibana and the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate Do Kyokai promoted him to Ninth Degree Black Belt and bestowed the title “Hanshi” on him.
Nakazato was designated as an “intangible cultural asset holder” by Okinawa Prefecture in 2000. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, 5th Class with Gold and Silver Rays on November 4, 2007.
I had the privilege and honor of meeting Hanshi Nakazato during my trip to his dojo in 2013. The respect and loyalty for him among his students there and the visiting students with me was an inspiration to continue my studies in this system. We know our system will continue as it is in the good hands of Hanshi’s son Minoru Nakazato, a transition that was planned and underway in recent years.
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