Toru Takamizawa – my Sensei

A tribute to Toru Takamizawa Kyoshi Shihan 7th Dan

There are 4 Instructors from late 60’s to the early 80’s who influenced greatly my karate training  – Fred Kidd, 1st Dan my first Instructor at Middlesbrough Budokan; Peter Spanton, a 3rd Dan in the late 60’s/early 70’s & visited the club 2/3 times a year; Ticky Donovan, a 4th Dan in the mid 70’s & visited my ‘Cumbria School of Karate’ Clubs after in Carlisle on 2/3 occasions and the Sensei who had the most influence & who I credit for the high technical standard of Chojinkai, was Toru Takamizawa Sensei, a 5th Dan when we joined him in the late 70’s.

At this time I was a 1st Dan with around 300 members in my group of clubs, ’the Cumbria School of Karate’ within the BKA – the British Karate Association.  After seeing him at the BKA Northern Championships in the North East, I wrote to him to ask if I could start training under him & started visiting his club in Birmingham on as many occasions as possible.  In 1977 we affiliated to & became founder members of his group, the Tera Karate Kai (TKK) & we trained under him until 1982 when I decided to form my own Association – the British Karate-Do Chojinkai – to concentrate on further developing what is now recognised as “Chojinkai Karate” – a Wado Ryu based style, comprising 90% of the karate that Sensei Takamizawa taught me.

Toru Takamizawa was born in 1942 in Nagano Prefecture, Japan & studied in Foreign Studies at Tokyo University. He came to England in 1966 to assist Sensei Tatsuo Suzuki 7th Dan within the UKKW & was a 3rd Dan at that time. He later left the UKKW in mid 70’s & joined the BKA, then eventually starting his own group the Tera Karate Kai (TKK) which later became an autonomous association.

Throughout my time training under Toru Takamizawa, I would travel by train to his full time dojo in Birmingham every few months at the renowned Temple Karate Centre, for a 1 to 11/2 hour private lesson, then travel back to Cumbria to teach on the same evening. In addition to these training sessions, he himself travelled 2/3 times a year teaching at most of the TKK clubs & when he visited our area, he always stayed at our house – we spent many hours after training, chatting & putting the world to right, sometimes until the small hours of the next morning.

In 1980 I asked Toru (as he preferred to be addressed out of the dojo) if he could come up with a Japanese name for my group (at that time I had ‘Cumbria School of Karate’, ‘North East School of Karate’ & ‘Newcastle Karate Centre’) and wanted to bring them all under one banner & this was when ‘Chojinkai’, which loosely means ‘super force or powerful’ group was named.

In the late 80’s Toru formed the ‘Takamizawa Institute of Karate’ along with Steve Rowe, who was the then Chairman & now has his own group Shi kon, that covers multi Martial Arts.

Toru told me stories of his life & training in Japan & I can remember him telling me that the grading system was very simple in his day, he wore a white belt for around 2 years, until one day he was told “you are now a black belt”. While he trained at the Wado Ryu HQ of the founder Grandmaster Hironori Ohtsuka, he trained regularly with his son Jiro Ohtsuka & once a month with the Grandmaster himself.

In late 80’s he rekindled his association with Jiro Ohtsuka & the Japanese Wado Senior Instructors & was awarded 7th Dan Kyoshi by Jiro Ohtsuka, who became the 2nd Grandmaster on the death of the founder in 1982. Jiro remained in that position until his death in 2015, when his son Kazutaka became the 3rd Grandmaster.

Toru Takamizawa passed away in 1998 of cancer aged just 57 & I, along with many of his former students & current students were able to pay our respects at his funeral. Although we had gone our own way with Chojinkai in early 80’s, we had numerous conversations over the years & I cherish the time I trained under him, as the most formative years of my karate career.


with Steve Rowe

Toru Takamizawa Kyoshi Shihan 7th Dan with the late Jiro Ohtsuka Saiko Shihan 10th Dan, 2nd Grandmaster along with his personal student, Peter Hill Sensei 7th Dan circa 1994,

photo courtesy of Peter Hill