Taiji Kase

Taiji Kase: 9 Fascinating Facts About His Life

By Patrick Donkor and Dr. Christian Tribowski

Taiji Kase lived a life of a libertine. Like no other, he chose his way of Karate dependent on his own interests and convictions. Younger generations might know him from videos as a stout elder Karate grand master with incredible fast hands. However, a look back into his biography reveals his fascinating life. We are going to present you the 10 most exciting facts about Taiji Kase.

Taiji Kase Searched for Gichin Funakoshi

Taiji Kase was born in 1929 in Chiba Prefecture. In February of 1944, the young Kase began his journey into the world of Karate. He had come across Gichin Funakoshi’s book, Karate-Do Kyohan, originally published in 1935. The book featured photographs of Funakoshi performing various techniques and kata. This was radically different from anything the young Kase had previously seen. His interest grew so strong in the new art that he contacted the book publishers to find the location of Funakoshi’s dojo.

Yoshitaka “Gigo” Funakoshi Refused to Teach Him, But Also Influenced Him

When he arrived at the “Shoto-kan” he found out that Gichin Funakoshi had retired from day to day teaching. Sensei Funakoshi was already in his 70´s. Therefore, his son Yoshitaka oversaw much of the daily classes, assisted by Shigeru Egami and Genshin Hironishi. But when Kase initially arrived at the dojo, Funakoshi’s son, Yoshitaka, refused to teach him. In the perception of Yoshitaka, he was too young for Karate. Fortunately for Taiji Kase, Yoshitaka realized his abilities after they had talked with each other. So, Kase began his his training at the original Shoto-kan dojo in the Meijiro district of Tokyo.

Kase recalled in later interviews that the younger Funakoshi’s dynamic style of Karate influenced him a lot. Yoshitaka Funakoshi had a very progressive approach to Karate.

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Yoshitaka "Gigo" Funakoshi, who developed the style further, had a huge influence on Taiji Kase. He also introduced Mawashi Geri.
Yoshitaka “Gigo” Funakoshi, who developed the style further, had a huge influence on Taiji Kase. He also introduced Mawashi Geri.

Taiji Kase Wanted to Be A Kamikaze Pilot

During the war years, Kase was a cadet in the Japanese Navy. Because of the nationalistic and patriotic nature of the times he had enlisted in the infamous Kamikaze Corp of the navy. However, just before he was due to be deployed the war came to an end.

He Received His 3rd Dan With 20

Kase would train up to eight hours a day. By 1949, Kase had graded to 3rd Dan. At 20 he was the youngest to be awarded the grade. His grading had taken place in front of a panel of senior grades from Keio, Chuo, Takushoku, Waseda, Hosei and Senshu universities. The senior grades were from the Karate clubs and old boy clubs located at the universities.

Taiji Kase Worked as A Bodyguard

After graduating from Senchu University, Kase briefly worked as a bodyguard for a friend of his father whose business had run into some union troubles.

The young Taiji Kase was a tough fighter. It is said that he managed all the challenges the JKA received.
The young Taiji Kase was a tough fighter. It is said that he managed all the challenges the JKA received.

He Taught in the Infamous JKA Instructors Course

Hidetaka Nishiyama, who was the JKA’s Chief of the Instruction Committee, invited Kase to join the JKA. Kase had the the interest to teach. Therefore, joining the JKA provided a suitable opportunity. He was one of the few non-Takushoku graduates teaching at the JKA. He taught alongside Nakayama, Nishiyama and Teruyuki Okazaki, one of the originators of the JKA’s Infamous Instructors Course.

Apart from teaching at the JKA’s dojo, located in  the Yotsuya district of Tokyo, Kase also taught kumite three days a week on the Instructors Course. His students included future All Japan Kumite Champions Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda, Hiroshi Shirai and Hideo Ochi.  Students knew him as a hard but fair instructor.

Kase Fought Many Challengers

Not much information exists, but people thought that he also handled any challenges made to the JKA.

When he arrived in Europe, Kase faced a number of challenges. He faced the challenge of being in a new country with its different language, cuisine and culture. In addition, he also faced the challenge from other martial artists who wanted to test the validity of his Karate. Suffice to say he successfully handled all of these challenges.

Taiji Kase was a Kumite specialist.

Taiji Kase Held a 3rd Dan in Judo

Henri Plee invited Kase to France in 1967. Plee, who had introduced Yoseikan Karate to France and the rest of Europe, would later recall the immense respect he held for Kase. Plee, who was also a Judo black belt, would like to test the skills of an invited instructor by sparring against them. He would occasionally perform a throw to test his opponent. However, against Kase nothing worked. He admitted that Kase was one of the toughest fighters he ever faced. Plee offered him a one year contract to teach at his Paris dojo.

Even in his later years, Taiji Kase was a very agile fighter.
Even in his later years, Taiji Kase was a very agile fighter.

He Founded his Own Association

Following Nakayama’s death in 1987, the JKA faced political in-fighting among some of the factions within the association. Never one for the politics, Kase founded the World Karate-Do Shotokan Academy (WKSA) in 1989, alongside Shirai. The aim of the association was to be free of the politics that plagued Shotokan Karate. It also taught Kase’s style of Karate called Shotokan Ryu Kase Ha. Kase always strived to continue the teachings of Yoshitaka Funakoshi. In his understanding the JKA seemed to had largely forgotten these teachings. In addition, he sought to explore other avenues, such as the principles of Miyamoto Musahi’s School of Two Swords. He spend much time to apply it to Karate. The WKSA broke away from the JKA.


The Shotokan Times has to express its gratitude to Patrick Donkor of Finding Karate – Journey of a Karate-ka, who provided the biggest part of this article.

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