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Biography of Osamu Ozawa
by James Tawatao


Shihan Osamu Ozawa was born into a samurai family on November 25, 1925 in Kobe, Japan. His family is believed to have descended from the Takeda clan. Takeda Shingen was 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 and in December 1938, 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. Kimio Itoh was the team captain and the chief instructor was Grand Master 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, Shihan Ozawa was drafted by the Japanese Navy. He reported and enlisted as a Kamikaze pilot. The kamikaze which means divine wind, were an extremely elite force who were subjected to many intensive tests: physical, psychological and emotional. The kamikaze trainees were sent to a secret air base 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 were 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 take off 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 and also started karate training at the university again. 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 rags 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 Charlton 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 he was met by Hidetaka Nishiyama, today the Chief Instructor of International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF). 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. He opened a dojo in Las Vegas in 1981 and 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 to start with grew to be one of the largest and most prestigious tournament of its kind in the world. During the January 1986 tournament, the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) headquarters in Japan asked Dan Ivan, as an official representative of the federation, to present Master Ozawa with his 8th degree black belt. The certificate was signed by Prince Higashikuni, president of IMAF and uncle of the emperor Hirohito. 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. Presently, the Traditional Karate Tournament International is consistently attended by more than 1200 competitors from 25 to 40 countries around the world including the US.

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 International and two days after the tournament, on April 14th-Tuesday, between the hours of 11:00 PM and 12 midnight, Master Ozawa passed away due to natural causes. His wife, Magaly Ozawa, James Tawatao and a few of his long time students were at his side during his final moments.

The Traditional Karate Tournament Interna-tional which Master Ozawa founded and used to promote goodwill amongst all traditional karate practitioners and as a means to educate the public in the art of karate and his philosophies of the art, will continue in his name.

We at the Las Vegas School of Shotokan Karate hope that we continue to receive the support of the Masters, Instructors, Students and their families in the future, for the perpetuation of public education in the wonderful art of karate through Master Ozawa's traditional karate tournament.