Masatoshi Nakayama: A Pillar of Excellence in Shotokan Karate

Masatoshi Nakayama

Masatoshi Nakayama

Masatoshi Nakayama (中山 正敏) is a name that resonates profoundly within the realm of Shotokan Karate. Born on April 13, 1913, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, Nakayama Sensei's journey in martial arts influenced and shaped the art of Shotokan Karate worldwide. His legacy as an instructor, author, and leader in the Japan Karate Association (JKA) continues to inspire Karate practitioners globally. In this article, we delve into the life and contributions of this esteemed Karateka. 

Early Life and Formative Years

Masatoshi Nakayama's introduction to Karate began during his university days when he joined the Shotokan Karate Club at Takushoku University. Under the guidance of Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate, and Gichin's son, Gigō Funakoshi, Nakayama honed his skills and imbibed the core principles and philosophies of Karate. This period marked the genesis of his lifelong dedication to the art.

Japan Karate Association

In May 1949, Nakayama, Isao Obata, and other colleagues helped establish the Japan Karate Association (JKA). Funakoshi was the formal head of the organisation, with Nakayama appointed as Chief Instructor as he was the only one without a job, and they needed someone to open and close the dojo during the day. By 1951, Nakayama had been promoted to 3rd dan, and he held the rank of 5th dan by 1955. In 1956, working with Teruyuki Okazaki, he restructured the Shotokan karate training program to follow both traditional karate and methods developed in modern sports sciences. In 1961, Nakayama was promoted to 8th dan. Nakayama established kata (patterns) and kumite (sparring) as tournament disciplines. Students of the large JKA dojo (training halls) subsequently achieved an unmatched series of tournament successes in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nakayama is widely known for having worked to spread Shotokan karate throughout the world. Together with other senior instructors, he formed the JKA instructor trainee program. Many of this program's graduates were sent worldwide to form new Shotokan subgroups and increase membership. Nakayama also held positions in the Physical Education department of Takushoku University, beginning in 1952, and eventually becoming head of that department.

Later Life

In 1972, Nakayama, with some help from one of his students, Hirokazu Kanazawa, set up a personal dojo in the basement of his apartment building, naming it "Hoitsugan." This dojo is located in Ebisu, Tokyo, a short distance from the JKA honbu (headquarters) dojo. Karate students outside Japan lived in dormitories and trained in this dojo from the early 1970s.

After rapid promotion through the ranks in the 1950s, Nakayama still held the rank of 8th dan in 1974. He was promoted to 9th dan in the 1980s, becoming the first Shotokan master to be awarded this rank while still living. Nakayama continued teaching Shotokan karate until his death on April 15, 1987, in Tokyo, Japan.


Masatoshi Nakayama's impact on Shotokan Karate is immeasurable. His technical innovations, teaching methodologies, and global outreach efforts have left an enduring legacy. His dedication to preserving and advancing the art and his commitment to imparting its values continue to inspire Karateka worldwide. Nakayama Sensei will forever be remembered as a pillar of excellence in the world of Shotokan Karate.

Book a Free Trial Class at Bushido Karate Club

Bushido Karate Club is currently accepting new members. Contact us today to book a trial class in Douglas or Carrigtwohill and begin your karate journey. Places are limited so call today to avoid disappointment.