The Passing of the Flame – Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura: Part 2

In 1994 Tetsuji Nakamura Sensei was 29 years old and had just accomplished his goal of winning the IOGKF World Championships free fighting category – a task he felt pressured to accomplish having been an instructor at the IOGKF Honbu Dojo. But as he lay in bed the next morning, he thought to himself ‘am I really the best in the world?’ His answer to himself was no. Even though he had achieved an impressive win of the entire tournament, he still felt that compared to many of the IOGKF International senior instructors, he was only starting out as a good traditional martial artist.

It was at this point that he decided to end his competitive career to focus solely on Traditional Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do. He changed his personal training schedule to reflect a greater emphasis on Hojo Undo (supplementary training specific to Goju-ryu) and Sanchin practice. He felt this Karate, strength, power and speed improved drastically as he moved into his thirties.

His commitment to traditional Karate made returning to Japan to assist Master Higaonna in establishing the Ryubukan Dojo a little easier. Master Higaonna decided a strong centrepiece for Goju-ryu in Japan was needed and in turn he established the Dojo in the capital of the land of the rising sun. Sensei Nakamura was training daily and teaching at the Ryubukan as an assistant instructor.  He stayed in Tokyo for three years to help Master Higaonna to establish the Japanese Headquarters.

In 1997, Sensei Nakamura moved to Canada to help his friend, Jim Marinow (former IOGKF Canada Chief Instructor).  The two had practiced together in California under Master Higaonna in the early 1990s.  In 2000, he married Rania and they had their first baby, Emilie, in 2002.

 In same year, Mrs. Alanna Higaonna retired from her position as an administrative director and Master Higaonna appointed Sensei Nakamura as the new person to oversee the running of the International Federation. Nakamura Sensei moved back to Okinawa with his wife Rania and three month old daughter for one year, so he could take over the task of administrative director for the IOGKF. He then moved back to Canada in 2003, as Jim Marinow left the IOGKF in 2002. It was here that Master Higaonna appointed Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura as Chief Instructor for IOGKF Canada.

When Sensei Nakamura declared to his parents that his intentions were to follow his Karate calling after he had finished his university degree, they were not overly impressed. His mother did not speak to him for a great length of time. But when his parents travelled to Canada in 2000 for a vacation, they quickly realised the happiness and the life that Karate had given their son. From this point on, they accepted and supported Sensei Nakamura’s quest to become the best person he could be and to spread Goju-ryu across the world.

IOGKF Canada really began to grow at Sensei Nakamura’s hand and at the end of 2003 he decided that it was time for him to establish his own Dojo. This was the beginning of Shudokan, now one of the world’s most popular Goju-ryu Dojo’s. For a number of years he taught out of a purpose built Dojo, but as his popularity grew he was soon dealing with over 180 students training regularly, it was decided that a bigger venue was needed.

In 2011, a labour of love was created. A very large two story mechanics garage was transformed into the new Shudokan Dojo. Students from all over Canada and World assisted in building the new home of IOGKF Canada and soon the IOGKF World.

Sensei Nakamura’s excellent repour with instructors and students all across the globe, coupled with his rapidly growing International following and his understanding and respect for preserving traditional Goju-ryu; saw Higaonna Sensei appoint him as IOGKF World Vice-Chief Instructor in 2008 and also as an executive committee member for the World Federation.

Sensei Nakamura’s role in how Goju-ryu was protected and spread to the World was now becoming larger and he began travel more and more, having visited over 30 countries in recent years. His humble nature, approachability and sincere desire to want to help every person improve themself through Karate brought exciting prospects to an International organisation which was well past its 30th anniversary.

As the 2012 IOGKF World Budosai approached, Master Morio Higaonna took the time to reflect on his role in traditional Goju-ryu. Now in his mid seventies, Master Higaonna had fulfilled the wishes of style founder, Bushi Chojun Miyagi and spread Goju-ryu to the four corners of the globe. From South Africa to Canada, Britain to Australia & New Zealand, America to the middle east – the IOGKF has an extremely strong foundation in over 55 countries. Master Higaonna then decided he had to look to the future.

A meeting was called for all country chief instructors during the Budosai event. Master Higaonna announced to his most senior students, many of them now respected International instructors in their own right, that he would be stepping back from his role as World Chief Instructor to take up an advisory position within the Federation he had founded.

He then moved to announce that Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura would succeed him as the new IOGKF World Chief Instructor and charged him the responsibility to pass Goju-ryu onto the next generation. This announcement was well received by all attendees at the World Budosai and news quickly spread across the globe.

During the same week, Sensei Nakamura achieved the rank of 7th degree Black Belt from Master Higaonna. When this was announced to the world it was met with thunderous applause.

When Chojun Miyagi Sensei first entrusted Goju-ryu to a young man named Anichi, he told him he had given him a precious treasure, one which he must protect and never lose.

Master Higaonna had now given the same to Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura and the new IOGKF Chief instructor understood the importance of what he has given. “I feel a great responsibility to be chosen as the leader of my generation.”

Today, Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura still resides in Canada with his wife Rania and two daughters, Emilie & Sophia. He is a caring family man and dedicates him time between his home life and Karate practice and instruction.

He will still tell you today that he is not the best in the world. However it is this humility, coupled with the thousands of hours of sincere & dedicated practice and research that really do make Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura one of the best in World. He once told me that he doesn’t think he can ever reach Master Higaonna’s level, but that he will never stop striving to do so. With this passion and spirit towards training and with the backing of the World, the future of Goju-ryu is safe and will continue to prosper under his leadership.