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In Loving Memory

Shihan Osamu Ozawa

Shihan Osamu Ozawa

"Always remember your first intention"


Born: November 25, 1925 Kobe, Japan


Began training in karate in 1938 at the age 13


Direct student of Gichin Funakoshi 


Founding member of Japan Karate Association (JKA)


Kamikaze pilot during World War II


Was the most senior Japanese Instructor in the Western World


Founded Las Vegas Shotokan karate in 1981


Founder of International Traditional Karate Tournament now known as 

Ozawa Cup International Karate Tournament



Master Osamu Ozawa was born of a samurai family on November 25, 1925, in Kobe, Japan. His family is believed to have descended from the Takeda clan. Takeda Shingen is one of Japan's most famous and brilliant warriors and it was into this great and famous samurai lineage that Haruo Ozawa, Master Ozawa's father was born.  The Ozawa family crest (mon) is indeed the famous Takeda bishi or Takeda family symbol.


Shihan Ozawa was introduced to the art of karate in 1937 when his cousin Daiichiro Aizawa came to visit the Ozawa family in Kobe after a devastating typhoon destroyed and severely damaged nearly 50 percent of the city. He started his karate training at the age of thirteen in December 1938 when he went and sought out Kenwa Mabuni, founder of the Shito-Ryu style of karate. He trained under Master Mabuni for two years. 

In March 1942, at the age of 17, Master Ozawa entered Hosei University and was introduced to Shotokan karate when he joined the university karate team. The team captain was Kimio Itoh and the chief instructor was Gichin Funakoshi, the man who first introduced karate to Japan from Okinawa and founder of Shotokan Karate. In September 1944, Gichin Funakoshi promoted Master Ozawa to Shodan or 1st-degree black belt.


In October of 1944, the Japanese Navy drafted Shihan Ozawa. He reported and enlisted as a Kamikaze. The kamikaze, which means divine wind, was an extremely elite force that was subjected to many intensive tests - physical, psychological and emotional.  The kamikaze trainees were sent to a secret airbase and separated for very special training which began with repeated exercises of diving the planes very steeply toward the ground and pulling up at the last second. The kamikaze was assigned to a special dormitory, which was separate from the regular barracks on the base. At 4:00 o'clock in the morning on July 29, 1945, Master Ozawa along with four others solemnly drank the sake of the emperor one last time and climbed into their planes to meet their final destiny. His old airplane crashed shortly after takeoff and found himself twelve days later in a hospital with a punctured lung, broken eardrums and partial loss of vision. He was released from the hospital on October 15 and went directly to try and find his family in Kobe. He finally found his family in Arima City because Kobe was devastated from the bombings.

Slowly recovering from his injuries, Master Ozawa decided to go back to Hosei University in November 1946. He also started karate training again at the university. He graduated from Hosei University in March 1948 with a degree in economics.


In April 1949, the first organized collegiate karate demonstration was held in Tokyo and Master Ozawa was invited to meet with other collegiate "old boys" to discuss the future of collegiate karate. Another meeting was held a month later in May 1949 to discuss and plan the future of karate. Present in this meeting was almost every ranking karateman of the time - from the oldest to the youngest - was there. From Keio University were dai sempai Isao Obata, Fusajiro Takagi, and Shuntaro Itoh. From Takushoku University were Masatoshi Nakayama, Masatomo Takagi, and Hidetaka Nishiyama. From Hosei were Mr. Saeki and Osamu Ozawa. From Senshu was Taiji Kase and from Waseda University were the great seniors Genshin Hironishi, Hiroshi Noguchi and Shigeru Egami. At this meeting, the foundation was laid for the formation of the Japan Karate Association (JKA). Both Master Ozawa and his brother Jun Sugano, were actively involved in the planning for the JKA's future after this meeting. In 1953, the JKA was organized and received official government recognition as the karate governing body for Japan.


In November of 1954, Master Ozawa sponsored the biggest budo demonstration of its time in Japan held at an auditorium in Kobe. Over 10,000 spectators came to watch the demonstration by such prominent instructors such as Master Nakayama who became the technical director of the JKA, Master Okazaki who is today the head of ISKF (International Shotokan Karate Federation), and many others. Shortly after his successful karate demonstration, Master Ozawa was officially appointed the Chief Instructor of the Kansai branch of the JKA, which consists of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto and also passed his 4th-degree black belt.

In a remarkable rag to riches story, Master Ozawa became one of the most respected TV directors in Japan, ultimately directing more than 700 TV programs for the Japan National TV network. One of his most famous shows was "Your Goodwill, Please", a charity show to help raise money for a specific charity such as an organization for the homeless or an orphanage. Many American celebrities appeared in this show. Celebrities such as Charleston Heston, Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark, Shirley Maclaine, Rita Moreno, Clint Eastwood and many more. President Kennedy sent him a personally autographed copy of the book; Profiles in Courage and Frank Sinatra also donated ten autographed records to be auctioned on the show. In May of 1962, Master Ozawa received his 5th-degree black belt diploma from Mr. Takagi, the Managing Director of the JKA.


On December 22, 1964, Master Ozawa came to the US for business reasons, but not before passing his position to his younger brother Jun Sugano who is currently the vice-president of the JKA. His first stop was Honolulu, Hawaii where he spent the night at Masataka Mori's apartment. The next day he continued his trip to Los Angeles where Hidetaka Nishiyama, today the Chief Instructor of International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF), met him. He came to the US to sell his film on the Nippon Budo Emaki, the largest-scale martial arts demonstration in the history of Japan, a fact that Master Ozawa was very proud of. His business did not turn out to be what he expected and he tried to make ends meet by teaching private lessons to such celebrities as Natalie Wood and Rock Hudson.


In 1967 he opened a dojo in San Gabriel, California and in 1974 he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where opened a dojo in 1981. He also held the first Traditional Karate Tournament a month before the opening to publicize and promote the new dojo. This tournament, which had only 30 competitors, grew to be one of the largest and most prestigious tournaments of its kind in the world. Presently, more than 1200 competitors consistently attend the tournament from 25 to 40 countries around the world including the US. During the January 1986 tournament, the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) headquarters in Japan asked Mr. Dan Ivan as an official representative of the federation to present Master Ozawa with his 8th-degree black belt. Prince Higashikuni, president of IMAF and uncle of the emperor Hirohito signed the certificate. The certificate was especially significant to Master Ozawa, in that it was offered by a member of Japan's royal family and because only four other people had ever been honored with such a certificate - Hironori Ohtsuka, 10th degree and founder of Wado-Ryu karate, Gogen Yamaguchi, 10th degree and founder of Goju-Ryu karate, Hiroyuki Ohtsuka, 8th degree and successor to his father as head of Wado-Ryu and Hirokazu Kanazawa, 8th degree the head of Shotokan Karate International.


In 1995, Master Ozawa finally passed his dojo on to one of his dedicated students, James Tawatao.

In April 1998, Master Ozawa hosted for the last time the 18th Annual Traditional Karate Tournament and two days after the tournament, on April 14th - Tuesday, between the hours of 11:00 PM and 12 mid-night, Master Ozawa passed away due to natural causes. His wife, Magaly Ozawa, and a few of his longtime students Rey Braganza, James Tawatao, Chuck Russell, and James Whitehead were at his side during his final moments.


The tournament, which Master Ozawa founded and used to promote goodwill:  peace, unity, and harmony amongst all traditional karate practitioners and used it as a vessel to educate the public in the art of karate will continue in his name.

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