Saturday, September 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Soke Kubota!

Soke Takayuki Kubota
Eighty years ago today, a karate legend was born in Kumamoto, Japan.  

Takayuki Kubota was born on September 20, 1934 and began his martial arts training at age 4 under the direction of his father.  It was the beginning of his long and rigorous training journey that continues to this day.

A young Takayuki Kubota demonstrating his tamawashi prowess to an audience of American professional wrestlers in Japan circa 1961.
He first came to America in 1964 to give a demonstration of his martial arts prowess at Ed Parker’s First Annual International Karate Tournament in Long Beach, California.  Soon thereafter, he permanently relocated his International Karate Association (IKA) to Los Angeles and taught self-defense techniques to the Los Angeles Police Department for several years.  He created his own style of karate naming it Gosoku-ryu (“hard-fast style”) and also created a self-defense tool popularly known as the kubotan.

Black Belt magazine September 1965 cover shows a young
Takayuki Kubota  shattering a 100-lb. ice block with shuto-uke.

I had the pleasure as a teenager to be a member of and train with the Sacramento Chapter of his IKA with Sensei Ron McCausland, an early disciple of Takayuki Kubota.  I remember him when he was in his late 30’s and the look on his face as he carefully watched my performance during rank testing in the early 1970’s.  After testing, he would briefly lead us through a post-test workout session.  I watched in amazement as he moved like a cat on a hot tin roof when demonstrating technique.  There was something different about his karate techniques and movements than what I had seen before. 

During this period, I knew him as “Shihan” which is a Japanese martial arts title for expert or senior instructor.  Later in my training journey, he became known as “Soke” which, among its several meanings, describes a singular leader of a martial art style such as his Gosoku-ryu.

Soke Takayuki Kubota acted the role of a karate master with
Charles Bronson in the movie "The Mechanic" circa 1972.
My training took a long sabbatical when I joined the Army after high school, went to college and began my career but almost twenty years later, I resumed my training under his disciple Sensei Kenny Kuch who taught IKA-style karate classes where I then lived. 

After dusting off my rust and playing some serious catch-up, I had the opportunity to personally test and receive my shodan and nidan belt rankings from Soke Kubota in his Gosoku-ryu karate.  I actually tore my ACL while training at his headquarters dojo that required reconstructive surgery and, after some diligent rehabilitation, jumped back on the saddle and continued with my training.

While I am now a retired martial artist, I have very fond memories of the Gosoku-ryu chapters of my life and am grateful to Soke Takayuki Kubota for the opportunity to be part of his International Karate Association.

So today – as he enters a new decade of his life as a newly-crowned octogenarian - I extend my very best prayers and thoughts that he is enjoying good faith, family, fitness, fortune and health and that a wonderful rest of his life awaits him.  

Happy Birthday Soke Kubota!

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum