Master Tetsuhiko Asai
Master Asai was born in 1935 in Ehime, Shikoku prefecture, Japan, to a policeman father. Raised in the countryside, Master Asai grew up to become a very strong, fast, and energetic young man. As a young boy, he often practiced Sumo, sometimes competing in the traditional five-man challenge, and winning every time. He also learned Judo, Kendo, and the Spear from his father. Even at a young age his athletic ability was easily recognized.
A pivotal point in his life came when he was 12 years old. One day he saw a boxer fighting a Karate-ka in a real fistfight. Master Asai was highly impressed and intrigued because the Karate-ka’s kick disabled his opponent from any further attacks. Thus the image of Karate became etched in Master Asai’s mind. This event happened just after the end of the Second World War at a time when the Japanese community was uncertain about their future. Master Asai wanted to be both physically and mentally strong. So he started to train in Karate.
Master Asai studied hard and gained entrance into Takushoku University. Takushoku highlighted Master Asai’s great determination. One hundred and fifty people started with Master Asai at the Karate club, but within a month they were reduced to only a handful. There was no leasure in the dojo, or at the university at large, just training. Most people could not sustain such a path, but Master Asai persevered and soon he was allowed to live at the Karate dormitory. It was a great honor to be allowed to live there, as all of the renowned Shotokan masters attended and trained at Takushoku U. Master Asai, despite the hardship, was happy that he had a chance to training rigorously and extensively. Others, amazed by him, claimed that the only time he did not train was when he slept.
Master Asai graduated in 1958, and Nakayama Sensei insisted he continue his Karate training. So he entered the Kenshusei program (Instructors Course). It was the golden age of the JKA, with many strong and different characters. He would train with these people daily and it cemented his decision to follow the Karate way throughout his life. This hard training paid dividend and in 1961, in front of the crowned prince, Master Asai became the grand champion (Kata and kumite), beating the favorites, Mikami Sensei and Shirai Sensei.
After finishing the Kenshusei program, he became the first person to bring Karate to Taiwan. Later, based on his success, he moved to Hawaii to continue his teaching. After teaching there for five years, he returned to Japan to become the Technical Director of the JKA and he held that position until 1990.
Master Asai founded two organizations; IJKA (International Japan Karate Asai-ryu) and JKS in 2000 as a way to further the development of Karate. His focus was on spirit development and not just technique development. He strongly believed in developing one’s spirits as a way to kindness and respect towards others. He had also created wheelchair Karate as a method for introducing Karate to all people regardless of their disabilities. He believed that through this community service, spirit development would be the same for everyone and not only the physically talented or physically fit.
Master Asai had spent almost his whole life searching for “The Way”. His Karate path has been likened to a “Thunderous Storm”. He used to say, “People should forget everything and jump head first into what they want to do. Although the average person can’t comprehend such a way of thinking, or to be in such an environment, it is this type of environment that is most essential for one’s success.”
If you were lucky enough to see him and to look into his eyes, you could understand the depth of his knowledge. He had eagle eyes, very penetrating, that reflected the unbelievable relentlessness of his training. He had mastered over 150 kata and was technically unparalleled. Master Asai is still a Karate hero in Japan and all over the world.
To our sorrow, Master Asai passed away on August 15, 2006. The funeral was held in Tokyo on September 1, 2006. JKS granted 10th degree black belt to late Asai Sensei in September 2006.