Japan International Karate Center: History

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Soke Kiyohisa Hirano (1938 - 2009)

Born on January 16, 1938 in Yokohama, Japan, Hirano Kiyohisa began his life in the martial arts at the age of 12, under Kawaguchi Yoshio Sensei, and Otsuka Hironori Sensei, founder of the Wado system of Karate. With rigorous daily training, young Hirano attained the rank of Shodan, or beginning black belt, by the age of 16, and later, began traveling across Japan with Otsuka Sensei, promoting karate through demonstrations and exhibitions.

In 1957, Hirano Kiyohisa was the first person ever to receive a karate scholarship to Nihon University. This unprecedented honor bestowed upon him was largely due to the efforts of Mr. Takaichi Mano, late Vice President of the Japan Karate Federation (JKF), and Secretary-General of the World Karate Federation (WKF). Mr. Mano saw great potential in the young man from Yokohama, and shortly would be proven very right. Soke Hirano went on to become the 1960 All-Japan Karate Champion, and during his senior year he captained his Nihon University team to first place in Japan.

It was on a fateful day in 1962, that Soke Kiyohisa Hirano arrived in Hawaii on yet another demonstration tour to promote karate. This demonstration was different from the others, however, because after this one was over, Soke Hirano had become so taken with Hawaii that he made the decision to stay. On July 1st of that year, he founded the All-Japan Karate Federation Wado Kai Hawaii Branch, and later incorporated the Japan International Karate Center.

Over the next several years Soke Hirano would instruct many promising students who would go on to become great teachers themselves, such as Sensei Ronnie Woodard, Sensei Howard Takahashi, and Sensei Clarice Tsuchiya. By the late 70’s and early 80’s, JIKC membership swelled to over 3000 students in Hawaii alone with an additional 4000 students on the mainland U.S. and in Japan. It was around this time that Sensei Rusty Titus and Sensei Debbi Lewis began their karate training.

At the height of JIKC’s growth, a heart attack on April 1, 1988 redirected and extended Soke Hirano’s lifework towards alternative healing. Failing to respond positively to modern conventional therapy and fearful for his life, Soke Hirano sought out from Japan, China, and even Korea, traditional means of natural healing. The results were more than could have been hoped for and Soke Hirano grew stronger and healthier than ever. He soon became a licensed KI therapist from SAS International Ki Science Association, Tokyo, Japan, and a Master of Qi-Gong, from Shanghai, China. On November 11, 1993 he was awarded a doctorate of philosophy in Parapsychology from the Intercultural Open University. He is also a member of the International Federation of Alternative Medicine. Soke Hirano founded the International Ki Institute of Health Management and Research in Hawaii on September 30, 1990, and since its beginning nearly 10,000 people have regained their health and confidence for living through alternative healing arts.

Along with his work in healing, Soke Hirano simultaneously began to reassume an active role in the day-to-day teaching of karate. The lessons and philosophies that he encountered through his studies had a positive impact upon his karate students and JIKC experienced a new period of growth and development. It was also during this time that JIKC would be introduced to national and international competition and recognition.

Hirano Soke passed away on the morning of October 1, 2009, in his sleep.


Today, at the dawn of a new millennium full of hope and potential, Hirano’s teachings guide students still, with words of encouragement and support, wisdom, and daily lessons which remind us that learning is truly life-long, and that we will always be full-time students of life. His karate is world-renowned, his compassion is empowering, and his experience is a treasure that sets Japan International apart from any other martial arts institution. Dr. Hirano is the Soke (founder) of Heiwa-do, and his style of traditional Japanese karate is taught by the Japan International Karate schools across the world.

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