Memories of Kato Shihan

On 16 April 2020 Sadashige Kato Sensei 10th Dan Chief Instructor of the International Japan Karate Association (IJKA), a genius and legend within the world of Karate-Do, sadly passed away.

Personal reflections in words and photos from Cameron Sensei……

Reflections on Kato Sensei…
Sensei was an inspiration to so many people and a very special person.
When you first entered  his dojo as a newbie and a person who he did not know you were just making up the numbers and were ignored.
If you came back a few more times then he might make some small comment. They were often comments you’d never forget…..

If you were seen repeatedly you’d probably get a nick name. 
I was always Afrikaner or Mr Africa for years as he knew I’d worked in Johannesburg and graded to Shodan there but you knew then that he was taking an interest in you.

I became Steve when we went with him to India and I celebrated my 50th birthday there on the beach in Goya. That was an amazing trip with seminars as well.

The days when he screamed and shouted at you were the best because you knew he was really taking an interest in you big time and in your karate.
He was a father figure to us all, especially his loyal senior grades and once you’d gained his respect, which might take many years he took you under his wing and was always looking after you.

When we did the Dragons’ Japan Tour in 2011, my friend Sharad took notes every day of what we did on his phone.
On return I tidied all those up to make the Dragon’s Tale story that’s on the IJKA website. 
It was such a good account I ended up getting hardback books made of it for the 9 of us and that has so many good memories it’s always nice to read through.

Thank you for everything Sensei…
The Shotokan world has seen a handful of truly gifted Sensei since it’s founding by Gichin Funakoshi.

Funakoshi’s successor Nakayama Sensei brought body mechanics to the fore during his time as Chief Instructor of the JKA.

Likewise one of his gifted students, Sadashige Kato was not content to leave Shotokan untouched by progress.

Whilst taking inspiration from famous names such as Nakayama, Kanazawa, Enodea and Asai Sensei, Shihan Kato developed his IJKA karate to push the Shotokan boundaries to unseen limits.

Those who have had the privilege to train with him have been touched by a very special karateka, the likes of whom we shall probably never see again.

He was my Sensei for 25 years and I followed him on seminars in the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Bulgaria, Hungary, Bahamas, Cyprus, India and not least in Japan where 8 of us and Sensei spent 16 days traveling the Southern Islands in a minibus exploring the beautiful country and some of its dojos. Not to mention being guests of honor at a Japanese karate championships for juniors.
Why do all that traveling, well simply because in my book he had no equal.

Kato Shihan took my karate, shook it up and made me the Yondan I am today.
Words cannot describe what he has given me over time but one thing’s certain I’ll miss him deeply as will the whole IJKA community.

He was the only UK based Japanese instructor to open his house freely to any student needing accommodation on weekends when seminars were held in his home town of Whitchurch, Shropshire and enjoyed socialising with his students just as much as teaching them.

He has left his legacy in the form of some wonderful IJKA karateka, far more gifted than me, so the journey will continue.

Don’t try to find a book written by Shihan though because you will be unsuccessful.
Why? Because Sensei’s karate was always evolving day by day, never standing still….

Fushu will be his signature kata and testament to the genius that was Kato Shihan.
Thank you for everything Sensei ~ Rest in peace

The Greatest Gift…
Only when I found Kato Shihan did I learn how important correct natural movement is for good joint health throughout one’s entire life.
That was one of the greatest gifts he gave me through his teachings and Is something I pass on to all my students, so that they to may adhere to Gichin Funakoshi’s precept #9 ~ Karate is a lifelong pursuit.

Cameron Sensei’s best memory…
Returning from a work contract in Johannesburg as a JKA (South Africa) Shodan and with a Shodan certificate signed by Asai Sensei, I joined Kato Shihan’s JKA (GB) organisation as he was badged back then, to keep the JKA linage going.

Without knowing so 25 years ago, that signature on my Shodan certificate had guided me to find the greatest karate instructor we shall ever see in the Shotokan Karate world.
Kato Shihan has enriched my life more than words could ever tell.
I’ll miss him deeply but Sensei will be with me in every dojo I enter and in every move I make in that dojo.
Domo arigato Sensei, rest in peace.

Cameron Sensei’s Yondan (4th Dan) grading…
In March 2015 a small group if us entered Sensei’s Whitchurch dojo expecting a normal weekend seminar with the great man.

He sat at a table and asked us in turn what our favourite kata was and having made a list he then told us we were all being graded that weekend.
None of us had prior warning of a grading.
That grading lasted all day Saturday and Sunday morning, some 7 hours of full on karate.
At the end he took our licenses and money and we all retired to The Raven PH for Sunday lunch.

Afterwards we all headed for home in our respective directions, none the wiser about the grading results.

The following Friday on return from work I found some post….
An envelope with the IJKA  logo on it contained my license and within a tube made of rolled newspaper was my Yondan certificate.
A priceless moment in the life and times of a karateka.

Rest in peace Sensei

Worcester IJKA will not weaken with this sad loss, it will grow stronger…..

A very apt quote from the Dalai Lama
“Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality”.

A final thought…
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened…..

Photographic memories (in no particular order)…

Saturday 12th October 2019 Worcester IJKA held another seminar with Kato Shihan. Bob Duarte (left) and Frank Rhodes (right) were graded to Nidan with one condition, they had to do 100 more renditions of their chosen kata. Kato Shihan gave final recognition and awarded Nidan to them both on Sunday 23rd February 2020. Sadly, now being the last ever Kato Shihan seminar in England, Worcester IJKA treasure memories of the day.

Ticket for the October 2019 seminar with Kato Shihan at Worcester IJKA.

A lovely group photo taken at Worcester IJKA on Super Saturday 23rd March 2019. From the left, Chris Adams, Bob Duarte, Eden Burrell, Kato Shihan, Cameron Sensei, Iben Tromholt, Maya Garbett and Bellwood Sensei. A fabulous photograph holding memories of that truly wonderful day for all to treasure.

Kato Shihan relaxing with Utsumi Takato (Chief Instructor of IJKA Japan), Sozopol, Bulgaria 2018

Cameron Sensei celebrates 50th birthday, Goa, India

Stevie don’t move….Oss Sensei, Goa, India 2007

Kato Shihan wins the contest, Goa, India 2007

Steve McQueen and Royal Enfield, Mumbai, India 2007

Nijushiho practice at the restaurant, Mumbai, India 2007

Signing seminar certificates, Mumbai, India 2007

Kato Shihan and Estonian students, Varna, Bulgaria 2005

Kato Shihan ‘It’s like this’……, Varna, Bulgaria 2005

Kato Shihan, Sofia, Bulgaria 2005

Kato Shihan (The best man) and the Aberdeen crew at Dave and Sandra’s wedding, Market Drayton, Shropshire, England 2009

On the beach ~ Steve Sensei, Alan Sensei, Kato Shihan, Kathy and Sharad Sensei, Nassau, Bahamas 2008

Kato Shihan, Atlantis Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas 2008

Giant of the Karate world, Giant of the automotive world, Nassau, Bahamas 2008

Kato Shihan the fisherman, Nassau, Bahamas 2008

Kato Shihan the fisherman, Nassau, Bahamas 2008

Kato Shihan the fisherman, Nassau, Bahamas 2008

Super Saturday ~ IJKA Seminar with Kato Shihan, Worcester, 23rd March 2019

Super Saturday ~ IJKA Dan grading with Kato Shihan, Worcester, 23rd March 2019

Super Saturday ~ IJKA Seminar with Kato Shihan, Worcester, 23rd March 2019

IJKA England Team with Kato Shihan, IJKA World Championships, Cork, Southern Ireland 2017

Kato Shihan’s 70th birthday celebrations, Burgas, Bulgaria 2013

Chinese lanterns at Kato Shihan’s 70th birthday celebrations, Burgas, Bulgaria 2013

Happy 70th birthday Sensei, Burgas, Bulgaria 2013

Kato Shihan’s 70th Birthday Seminar, Burgas, Bulgaria 2013

Cameron Sensei’s Sandan grading success, Whitchurch dojo, Shropshire, England 2009

Kato Shihan, Shrine island, Hiroshima, Japan 2011

Karate-Do Gentofte, Ordruphallen, Ejgårdsvej 11, Charlottenlund, Copenhagen, Denmark 2013

Lasse Sensei, Kato Shihan, Steve Sensei and John Sensei , Copenhagen, Denmark 2013

Copenhagen brewery restaurant, mine’s a steak, Denmark 2013

Socialising Copenhagen style in a brewery restaurant, Denmark 2013

Old school friends enjoy lunch in a street market restaurant in Shihan’s hometown and birthplace Kochi, Japan 2011

Karate Master and Master sword smith Masoumi in the Reigando cave where the swordsman Miyamoto Masashi wrote the famous Book of Five Rings, Masashi Memorial park, Kumamoto, Japan 2011

Seminar on Clonea Strand, Dungarvan, Southern Ireland 2002

Kato Shihan wearing Cameron Sensei’s fleece, Clonea Strand, Dungarvan, Southern Ireland 2002

Kato Shihan and Cameron Sensei, Ozd, Hungary 2019