This Japanese martial art is famous worldwide. Today, around 20 million people worldwide are involved in this sport. Many celebrities are engaged in karate such as Wesley Snipes, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Aniston. Taylor Lautner, the star of the Twilight Saga, was awarded a black belt at the age of 8 and won several World Junior Karate Championships.
Back in the early 18th century karate was introduced to Japan and then began to be taught throughout Japan by several martial masters, such as Gichin Funakoshi or Kanga Sakugawa. Sakugawa created the precursor of modern karate. He was born in the Ryukyu Kingdom in Imperial China which was later annexed by Japan in 1879. Originally the art was called ‘Chinese hand’. This was named to symbolise its origins from China as the combination of two hieroglyphs, literally translating to Tang (i.e. as in the Chinese Tang Dynasty) hand. Then the first character was replaced with an alternative character meaning ‘Empty’ instead of ‘Chinese’ and the art was henceforth referred to as “Empty hand” (i.e. “the martial art without weapon”). Gichin Funakoshi also added one more hieroglyph: do meaning “way” which means “the way of karate,” or “the way of the empty hand”, thus creating karate as it is known today. Hence, the martial art took on a new philosophical meaning.
At the end of the 19th century, during the army recruitment, the Japanese doctors noted that conscripts who practiced karate had an excellent physical aptitude. Since that time, karate was integrated into the school curriculums and became popular among vast masses of people.
Interestingly enough, one of the oldest martial arts hasn’t got a chance to be in the Olympic games so far. For instance, in 2020, karate was on the Program of the Olympic Games in Tokyo but due to the pandemic, the Olympic Games had to be postponed for 2021. Karate was again excluded from the Program of the Olympics in France to be held in 2024. This martial art was replaced by breakdancing and skateboarding.
Nowadays, there are more than 52 well known karate styles. Ashihara karate, often referred to as ”ingenious karate”, is one of them. A distinguishing aspect of Ashihara karate is its focus on hard training and rational, logical techniques that are directly applicable from practice. This karate style is taught at a Japanese Policy Academy. Hence, Ashihara is sometimes called “police karate”.
Ashihara karate style, developed from Kyokushin karate, also integrates judo and aikido techniques. The founder of Ashihara fighting karate is Kancho Hideyuki Ashihara. In 1980, he founded the New International Karate Organisation – Ashihara school. The core curriculum of Ashihara techniques is known as the Sabaki method, developed by Hideyuki Ashihara. Sabaki may be translated as в русском варианте –мгновенное решение – instantaneous decision). Ashihara karate is mainly characterized by body positioning, distance in fighting, as well as speed and agility. While Kyokushin karate tactics emphasize linear movements (forwards/backwards), in Ashihara, the opponents move their bodies around each other in circular patterns, which is what makes Ashihara karate an effective form of self-defence.
Hideyuki Ashihara began training in the club Oyama Dojo, run by Masutatsu Oyama. In 1967, the latter sent Ashihara to the town of Nomura (on the island Shikoku) to teach the Kyokushin karate. With his growing reputation as a teacher, he soon opened his first wooden dojo of 145 sq. m. in the city of Yawatahama. The original building still exists and now it is the ‘sacred site’ for the followers of Ashihara karate. This dojo was built using the funds of Ashihara’s students and his own funds.
In September 1980, Ashihara established Ashihara Kaikan and created the New International Karate Organisation (NIKO).
Today his son, Hidenori Ashihara, continues to lead NIKO. For twenty-five years, he has taught the martial art of Ashihara karate. Once a year, he leaves Japan to demonstrate his mastery and teach others in different countries. Kancho Hindori Ashihara upholds the original culture and traditions of NIKO established by his father. The Organisation continues to grow, with its constantly increasing number of followers. Nowadays, the dojos of NIKO can be found on all continents. In just Japan alone, NIKO’s dojos are found in 161 cities. 110 representative offices in 38 countries can contact the Honbu (headquarters) of Ashihara directly. The main Ashihara karate schools derived from NIKO are located in Japan, Singapore, Denmark, Russia, Romania, Holland, Sweden and the USA.
There is a yearly Danish international summer camp for Ashihara karate fans. Basic techniques such as sabaki, kata, kumite or sparring practice, as well as karate belt grading are on the program of the camp.A small family school in Enshin, Denver, has been teaching Ashihara style for more than 40 years. According to its founder and director, Kancho Yoko Ninomiya, “Karate is more than just a force, more than a method of self-defense… no matter what the activity, a job performed in the spirit of karate-do is done with a selfless awareness of the moment itself. Its spirit is very much like meditation. It is only fitting that karate is often called “moving zen.” Ninomiya arrived in the United States in 1974, dreaming to bring the spirit and technique of real karate to this country. After training hard for many years, in 1988, Ninomiya started his own style, Enshin karate, based on Ashihara karate style.
In Russia, Ashihara karate is represented by the International Ashihara Karate Association (IAKA), founded in 1999.
After the International Tournament in 1991 in Moscow, Ashihara karate began to spread rapidly in Russia and in May 1992 the new championship was held. Shortly before, in February 1992, eight athletes became the first Black Belt holders of Ashihara karate in Russia.
From 2007 on for the next 11 years, the IAKA has been led by Ruslan Goryukhin. With his managerial talent he managed to increase the number of Ashihara martial art fans. During his management period dozens of new clubs were opened, and Russian national teams won prizes at international competitions.
In 1998, in the Moscow Sports Center “Strana sporta” (Eng. ‘Sports country’), Goryukhin started mastering Ashihara style. His teacher was Dmitry Khokhlov who remains his trainer up to now. In 2002, Goryukhin was among other people participating in the weekly training held in the camp in Denmark. In summer 2005, he successfully passed the exam for the 1st dan of Ashihara karate. The examiner was the legendary Vitaliy Astanin, now Russian area manager of NIKO. Later, the practitioners with the belts of the highest rank and the best trainers unanimously voted for the appointment of Goryukhin as president of the IAKA.
Ruslan Goryukhin has come a long way from being a student in this sport to being the leader of the Ashihara Association in Russia. Even after moving to Switzerland in 2015, he continues to train and attend the IAKA events. In 2020, Ruslan Gorzukhin was awarded a medal “The 30th anniversary of Ashihara karate in Russia” as well as the IAKA Black Belt “For meritorious service”.