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Ashihara kaikan (?????) is a stand-up, full contact Japanese martial art that was founded by Hideyuki Ashihara (December 5, 1944-April 24, 1995) in 1980 and existed under his direction until his death, by ALS, in 1995. The official name of his organization is New International Karate Organization (NIKO) – Ashihara Karate Kaikan (in Japanese: Shin Kokusai Karate do Renmei Ashihara Kai Kan).
The style is partly based on Hideyuki Ashihara’s studies of Kyokushin Karate, but also includes many original techniques that he himself developed and taught. Often referred to as “fighting karate” by its practitioners, it is known for its emphasis on practical techniques and “hard contact” approach to training. The core curriculum of techniques is known as the Sabaki Method – to move to the side and attack from a safe angle.
Hideyuki Ashihara was born in 1944 near Hiroshima, Japan. In 1960, he moved to Tokyo and in 1961, began studying Kyokushin Karate under Mas Oyama, Kyokushin’s founder. Ashihara earned shodan in 1964. In 1966, he was assigned by the Kyokushin organization to open a dojo in Shikoku, first in Nomura and then in Yawatahama. Ashihara soon developed a reputation as a superlative karate instructor. Students from throughout the world traveled to Japan to receive instruction from him. One of his local students, Joko Ninomiya, won the 1978 Kyokushin All-Japan Tournament.
By the mid-1970s, Ashihara had developed and begun teaching his own techniques at his dojo. His techniques were more circular and less linear than the Kyokushin techniques. He moved his main dojo to Matsuyama where he continued to teach his style of karate. Perhaps due to his departure from the traditional Kyokushin instruction curriculum, along with other reasons, Ashihara and the Kyokushin organization parted ways in 1979. In 1980, he founded NIKO – Ashihara Karate Kaikan. As head of the organization his formal title was “kancho” (grandmaster).
Many of Kancho Ashihara’s advanced students assisted with the spread of Ashihara Karate by becoming instructors for the organization and opening dojo in other parts of Japan and in other countries. Over time, the organization grew in size and membership. Kancho Ashihara passd away from complications from ALS in 1995. His son, Hidenori Ashihara, took over as head of the organization and leads the organization today.
Under Hidenori Ashihara’s direction, NIKO reportedly has changed its philosophy somewhat. Some of the original kata that Hideyuki Ashihara had developed have been changed. Also, another belt (grade) was added. Furthermore, the method of instruction at the organization’s dojo may also have been modified to some degree.
Several other organizations exist that are “offshoots” or variations of Ashihara’s original organization. David Cook, a former student of NIKO, formed the European Ashihara Karate Organisation in 1990. In 1993, the International Ashihara Karate Organisation (IAKO) was formed at the European Summer Camp in Holland. Hoosain Narker and Dave Jonkers were part of the founding process. Later that year, after David Cook’s visit to South Africa, Hoosain Narker parted ways with the IAKO and formed Ashihara Karate International (AKI). Another style founded by a former Ashihara student is Shintaikudo, founded by Makoto Yoshida. In 1988, Joko Ninomiya, one of Hideyuki Ashihara’s students, left NIKO to start Enshin Karate, based in the U.S. Enshin is based on Ashihara’s teachings but contains much of Ninomiya’s own ideas and techniques. Additionally, in 2007, Miguel Rios, a member of the Enshin Karate Organization, resigned from the organization and founded Jissen Karatedo Shurenkan. Based in New Jersey, USA, Karatedo Shurenkan incorporates many of the principles inherited from Enshin Karate. However, they have reintroduced the Kyokushin kata that had been eliminated from Ashihara Karate and Enshin Karate.