Hiromi Hishiki – Women of Shotokan

Hiromi Hishiki is an extraordinary Karateka in many respects. She started her training under Masatoshi Nakayama and Tetsuhik Asai. The unprecedented spirit of this time coined her whole later life. Hiromi Hishiki belongs to the pioneer women, who dared to brake through cultural norms and customs.

While Japanese society excepted from her to get married with age 24 and not make a career she chose a different path. She became a successful business women and radio operator. With that attitude she is among the women who paved the way for future female karatekas.

Today, she runs her own dojo in Yokohama. Fighting spirit, equality, values, constant learning, and the will to create a better future for others have guide her actions since then. Let yourself become inspired by Hiromi Hishiki´s portrait and interview in our Women of Shotokan series.

Portrait: Hiromi Hishiki

  • Age: 60s
  • Karate since: 1967
  • Origin and residence: Hokkaido, Japan
  • Rank: 6th Dan
  • Dojo: “Hirokukai”( Hero Karate club), under the direct control of headquarters of Japan Karate Association (JKA) and “Karate lessons for women”, “karate Girls Dojo”, “Karate Kids in English” classes at Yomiuri Culture Center Yokohama, Japan

Additional information:

  • JKA Instructor B
  • 1978: 1st place Kata Women the 16th All Hokkaido Karatedo Championship
  • 2005: 1st place Kata Women (over 55yrs.) the 5th All Japan Jukurensha Karatedo Championship
  • 2006: 1st place Kata Women (over 55yrs.) the 6th All Japan Jukurensha Karatedo Championship
  • 2007: 1st place Kata & Kumite Women (over 55 yrs.) the 7th All Japan Jukurensha Karatedo Championship
  • Master’s thesis: “Dojo establishment by female Karate instructors in their local area and the development of their activities”
  • Member of Karatedo Specialist Subcommittee of Japanese Academy of Budo
  • Oral presentations at:
  • “A study of the founding of dojos by female karate instructors and their teaching activities” at the 1st (2013) International Budo Conference
  • “Karate, English and Children’s General Education: A Collaborative Venture” at the 2nd (2017) one of Japanese Academy of Budo.

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

Hiromi Hishiki: When I was a high school student, I saw an article titled “Karate girls in New York” along with four pictures. It showed a Shotokan Karatedo Dojo in New York. It took me all by surprise that American girls learned Japanese Karatedo. I had never known or had been interested in Karate before. Fortunately, a JKA branch was found in my town and I started to train.

Hiromi Hishiki during a foto session for a motorcycle company.
Hiromi Hishiki during a foto session for a motorcycle company.

What do you like about Shotokan Karate?

Hiromi Hishiki: I like the dynamic, exuberant, and gorgeous techniques of Shotokan Karate. But I also like the passionate, dedicated and perspective JKA headquarters instructors, Sempai (senior colleague), friends, and my students, who are all my fortunate and favorite factors.

Especially, Master Asai Tetsuhiko had taught Women classes of JKA headquarters, Ebisu, Tokyo on Tuesdays and Fridays in the 1970- 80’s. He gave us valuable opportunities, such as special women training camps in Tokyo, Chiba, Philippines, Taiwan, Hawaii and karate demonstrations.

In 1974, he organized the 1st All Japan Female Joint Training Camp for the period of 6 days from August 3rd until 8th at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, Tokyo. It consisted of 34 participants and scheduled for 15 hours from 6 am. until 9 pm. In those days, female Karate practitioners were still rare. Therefore, Master Asai aimed to teach correct skills to women. He sought to develop female abilities, female instructors, athletes for Kata competitions.

Despite his noble thought, I could no think of anything except putting up with severe training. Now, approx. 45 years passed, more than one third of participants have become active karate instructors. To mention only two: Kikuchi Takako-Sensei, Ooki Rumiko-Sensei. Without Master Asai’s perspective and passionate guidance, I would not have become a Karate instructor despite of my 20-year-break.

Hiromi Hishiki
Hiromi Hishikis QSL Card for Amateur Radio Operators

Is there something you do not like? What is it?

Hiromi Hishiki: It is very regrettable to say that there no female specialist instructors locker room exist in the headquarters Dojo. They have to use the same locker room like general female members including white belts. On the contrary, male instructors have their own locker rooms independently since the early days. The Karate specialist instructor intern training program was made in 1956. This opened the door for female Karateka. Since then there is no female instructors locker room.

Until today, 13 females graduated from the 2 years course since 1960’s. At present, three of them teach as headquarters instructors. Two of them are world Kumite champions. Even the top ranked female instructors are treated unfairly even for a locker room. Being a JKA conference member, I had proposed reform measures for women including this matter. I am still looking forward to find a new female instructor’s room in our 4th stories wide dojo. Will it take forever?

What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?

Hiromi Hishiki: My greatest experience was that grand master Nakayama Masatoshi had the chance to explain Karatedo to His Majesty King Juan Carlos I and Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain during there visit in Japan in 1980. I had an honorable opportunity to perform Kata “Unsu“ in the garden of the State Guest House Akasaka Palace at that event. In addition, eight other JKA supreme headquarters instructors demonstrated passionately the ultimate synthesis of various Kumite and fighting techniques boasted by Great Master Nakayama. Among them were Master Abe Keigo, Master Tanaka Masahiko, Master Osaka Yoshiharu.

  • Hiromi Hishiki
  • Hiromi Hishiki

My worst experience is that I sometimes suffered injuries, after restarting Karate training since my 50s. My consciousness kept vividly the speed and strength of all movements when I had learned in my 20s. Yet, the rusty body caused my knee to lock. Thanks to my physiotherapy my knee was recovered enough so that I could join our generation’s championship and obtain my 6th Dan. But the ruptures of the gastrocnemius of my leg and biceps brachii of my dominant arm were made in succession last year. It’s such a pity! I am awaiting Doctor’s permission to continue my Karate training.

What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from? How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Hiromi Hishiki: When the training became challenging in my youth, I devoted myself to tough training. I did each Kata and technique 100 times in order to clear my mind without any precise motivation. Karate taught me the limit of my physically and mentally endurance.

How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life? Has Shotokan Karate helped you overcome or deal with difficult situations in your life?

Hiromi Hishiki: Karate delivered me great happiness twice in my life. First time it happened in the 1970s. There was an unreasonable Japanese custom that women should got marriage before 24 years. Society expected from or forced female workers to resign office at that age, which irritated me very much. As I wanted to be stronger, I dedicated myself to Karate training after working in the office every day. Ironically Karate Dojo’s were a typical place of patriarchal society. Nevertheless, I was enchanted by the principles of Shotokan Karatedo, the aura of the karate by the headquarter instructors and my peers.

Second, in 2000, I abruptly went to hospital due to overwork after established my company a half year earlier. Soon after, my respective Sempai suddenly called me to return to the Women’s classes of JKA headquarters for the first time since 1981. I had quit Karate back then in order to balance a full time job and caring a baby, while my husband stayed overseas on business. So, without her offer, I would be neither an instructor nor would I have earned a master’s degree on Karatedo.

Has Shotokan Karate has confronted you with difficult situations in your life?

Hiromi Hishiki: I faced great difficulty in my life after I established my own Dojo for several years. As I have my business career in trading transactions over many decades and a 1st class radio operator, I was confident in dealing with any task. However, I realized that the Karate world differs from the one of business and Radio.

  • Hiromi Hishiki

When I started my Dojo

Hiromi Hishiki: Soon after the registration of my own Dojo to headquarters, I appreciated a high ranked instructor who kindly promised me to support kyu grading tests twice a year in my Dojo. After that, however, all fees and kyu registrations got transmitted to the headquarter and his account without delay. Shortly after, he asked me to use his Dojo’s black belts as instructors in my Dojo regularly. It was impossible that other people were not allowed to teach Karate. Because I had exchanged the contract with the commercial based culture center as an instructor in advance.

Another day, he got offended because I named my own Dojo by myself and not the same as his Dojo. I wondered if an inexperienced female instructor is supposed to meet the high ranked instructor’s desire once she asked his assistance. His way might be the chivalrous spirit. He declared that he stopped his support to my Dojo as he had never seen such a rude woman like me. In fact, there are many female Karate instructors who are willing to work under male instructor as his docile assistant permanently.

Disproportionate Number of Female Instructors

I think, it is natural that I should manage my Dojo independently as well as other male instructors do. In the case beyond my ability, I wish to ask other’s help in part. That does not mean to integrate my Dojo into other ones. My research in 2012 has shown, that there has been a significantly disproportionate number of female instructors compared to males. Of the 925 group and branch representatives only 21 are female.

In the world of amateur radio, many female radio operators organized the international YL (Young Lady) meetings voluntarily and spontaneously in various countries since 1991. I also organized the 2nd International meeting with two ladies in Osaka. Some female hams from Europe and the Americas were so powerful to built up a radio shack and antennas by themselves for DX-peditions even in the Arctic, Antarctic or isolated island in Oceans. They show us what women can do!

The picture shows Hiromi Hishiki in 2018, when she received the JKA diligent award “Seirei-sho”. The award was established in 1957. Since then only 5th female recipient received it.
In 2018, Hiromi Hishiki received the JKA diligent award “Seirei-sho”. The award was established in 1957. Since then only 5th female recipient received it.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Hiromi Hishiki: In the 1970s, the JKA headquarter and Dojo surrounded a solemn atmosphere. In addition, there were lots of instructors, trainees and students who all were full of spirit and acted with strict manners. Every training, we had to be prepared to concentrate our minds completely. All headquarter instructors had their individual training ways, which were splendid and marvelous. Not only the women’s classes, but also we were looking forward joining various instructors’ trainings every day.

After training, we, girls, gathered in a coffee shop and reported how we overcame or survived during tense training respectively. Nowadays, many instructors are very tender and friendly in training and in Dojo. That might be in accordance with the changes of our society in Japan, as “enthusiastic teaching is getting outdated”. In 2013, the training by Master Masataka Mori in the New York Dojo impressed me a lot. That clearly reminded me of the training I had experienced in my youth.

Now, two favorable points had been changed. One is that women can take part in Kumite, something I had not experienced in the 1970s. Another is that children and elder people can enjoy Karate training and games, too.

What are your personal Shotokan Karate short- and long-term goals?

Hiromi Hishiki: My short term is to improve Kyu-holder students to Black belts, and to lead present black belts to 2nd or 3rd Dan. So far, about 30 girls and women earned their black belt. For children, I help them to become selected representative members of All Japan elementary and Junior high school Championships.

Being inclusive and make children thrive

Hiromi Hishiki: On the other hand, my kids students recite Dojokun of Supreme Master Funakoshi Gichin both in Japanese and English. Five rules in Japanese are still difficult among kids. I would like to study more how to instruct children to acquire the principles of Karatedo: proper manners, attitudes, respect to others along with techniques, as well as the strictness of Japanese Budo.

Dojokun in Japanese and English by Hiromi Hishiki´s Students

My main purpose to teach Karate is to expand Shotokan Karate’s fan base and introduce the nurturing of a sublime spirit and humility with proper Karate skills to many female and children. Fortunately, my Dojo accepts anybody from beginner to experienced and also those who come from another Karate school. You can take one-day trial Karate lesson in my “Karate lessons for Women” and “Karate girls Dojo” on Saturdays and “Karate Kids in English” classes on Wednesday at Yomiuru Culture Center Yokohama.

Teaching in person and through the internet

Luckily I am happy to have had the opportunity to teach Karate to many women and children from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Colombia, Denmark, Sri Lanka, etc. I welcome you to our Karate classes during your trip in Japan!

For the girls and children from remote places, I would like to offer Karate lessons on Internet soon – this is my dream.

For my long-term goal, as a 6th Dan I am eligible to take the test of A rank instructor. I would like to challenge myself to obtain this, continue my study of Shotokan karate and promotion of Shotokan to others.

How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?

Hiromi Hishiki: Nowadays, there are lots of young and talented girls who accomplish numerous championships. However, almost all of them face to many difficulties to continue their Karate training because of school, college, work, marriage, family-care, etc. As a result, they quit Karate, which is great loss for the karate world.

Hiromi Hishiki teaching in her Dojo
Hiromi Hishiki teaching in her Dojo

Now, I feel the need for a support system with facilities to help female practitioners who proceed their goals to become champions, instructors, high ranked Dan holders and so on. First, women find out their problems precisely, and they gather, seek for the settlement and take actions. Then, it is sure that Shotokan Karate will be very promising!

Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?

Hiromi Hishiki: Of course. It is my great pleasure to recommend Shotokan Karate to my female friends. I would like to see other women become more courageous, focused and developed in many aspects of their lives. I believe that Shotokan Karate can help accomplish this, as well as their goals, in and out of the dojo by making them stronger and confident and, then can contribute to society.

At the end, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Dr. Christian Tribowski who gave me a chance to be here, although I had not gorgeous Karate career like other female Karatekas.

1 Comment

  1. I loved this article. In particular her comment, „In 2013, the training by Master Masataka Mori in the New York Dojo impressed me a lot. That clearly reminded me of the training I had experienced in my youth.“ Sensei Mori had a great influence on my life as well. It was gratifying to read, how Sensei Hiromi Hishiki was also influenced by him.

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