Known as the father of the JKA and Gichin Funakoshi’s right hand, Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei was born on April 13, 1913 in the Yamaguchi prefecture of Japan. Coming from a family with a rich martial arts history he used to practice Kendo in his youth and then later on he moved to karate, through which he led his mark on the world of martial arts. He was a direct descendant of the Sanada clan, who were known as Kenjutsu instructors, with both his father and his grandfather being martial arts practitioners.
His grandfather, Naomichi Nakayama was a surgeon in Tokyo and also the last one in his family to teach Kenjustsu, while his father was an army physician and a Judoka.
Nakayama entered Takushoku University in 1932 to study Chinese language as his father was assigned to Taipei several years. Upon entering the university he decided cu continue practice of Kendo, but misread the schedule and arrived at the Karate class instead. When he joined the Dojo, he saw Karate being practiced and fascinated by what he saw he joined the class. He would later mention, “I forgot about Kendo completely”.
At that time Sensei Funakoshi was teaching there and the training was exhaustive with hundreds of repetitions of a single technique, and the practice of one kata could go up to 50-60 repetitons
In addition to the five daily hours of practice of Karate, Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei followed a course of History and Chinese language a few months in Manchuria during 1933 and then again in 1937 in an exchange program with the University of Beijing. Finally, he remained to work for the Chinese government. During his stay in China, Nakayama Sensei continued with the practice of Karate but also studied several other Chinese martial arts. He ended up spending the War World II in China.
When he returned from China in May 1946 he found that several of his compatriots of Karate and the Dojo Shoto Kan, had perish during the war. He got together with fellow Shotokan practitioners from his university days to revive Shotokan Karate tradition with Gichin Funakoshi as Supreme Master. He began to organize classes and in 1949, he helped to set up the Japan Karate Association (JKA). Funakoshi Sensei was the formal head of the organization, with Masatoshi Nakayama appointed as Chief Instructor.
By 1951 Nakayama Sensei was promoted to the rank or 3rd dan, and then promoted to 5th dan by 1955
In 1952, Nakayama was head of the physical instruction in the JKA and would ascend to director of that section in the future, and in 1955 the headquarters Dojo was built at Yotsuya in Tokyo
In 1965, alongside Teruyuky Okazaki, he restructured the Shotokan Karate training program to follow both traditional Karate and new methods developed in modern sport science.
Under Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei direction the new two-year instructor program was founded to ensure that the true essence of Karate Do was passed down correctly with the JKA being the only Karate organization whose full-time instructors continue to get together every day for joint practice. Through this program, JKA instructors constantly endeavor to refine and perfect their Karate.
Nakayama Sensei also invented Karate First Match system, with the first ever JKA All Japan Karate Championship being held at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in October 1957. It is same year that Funakoshi Sensei passed away and the JKA was approved as a corporation by the Japanese Ministry of Education.
In 1972, Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei, with some help from the young Hirokazu Kanazawa, set up a personal Dojo in the basement of his apartment building, naming it Hoitsugan. The Dojo is located in Ebisu, Tokyo, being close the JKA Honbu Dojo and foreign students used to live in the dormitory rooms and used to train in the early 70’s
In 1980 he was promoted to the rank of 9th dan, becoming the first Shotokan master to be awarded that rank while living.
Nakayama Sensei continued to teach up until his death on April 15, 1987, in Tokyo leaving behind a true legacy after helping promoting Karate worldwide and reorganizing Karate training.
Nakayama Sensei also wrote many books, including the 11-volume BEST KARATE series. Among his books we can also mention: Practical Karate: Defense against an unarmed assailant, Best Karate: Comprehensive and Dynamic Karate.
Unfortunately, after his death the JKA divided in two faction which lead to further splintering within the organization. However, the JKA still stand today as the Mecca of Shotokan Karate being the highest representative of the true spirit of the art of Karate Do.