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Overseas Okinawan attains Karate world’s highest level

Date Posted: 2012-02-17

A 71-year-old Okinawan now living and teaching karate in Brazil has been honored for achieving karate’s highest rank.

Ikutaka Yonamine, who was born and raised in Nishihara Town but now lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil where he teaches karate, has been awarded the 10th dan rank in karate, the highest rank an overseas resident has ever earned.His certification ceremony and party was held in Sao Paulo last month, with 270 of his students from both Brazil and Japan participating to congratulate their “Yonamine-sensei” .

The president of the Okinawa Karate Goju-style general headquarters, Shigetoshi Senaha, traveled to Brazil the award ceremony, and delivered the certificate by hand. Yonamine was also presented the Sao Paulo Honorary Citizen award. According to Senaha, only 20 people have the highest 10th grade master rank in Japan.

The rules stipulate that the recipient must have held the 9th grade master rank for seven years, and be at least 70 years old. Emphasis is also placed on the recipient’s personality. Yonamine started Karate when he was 13 years old, noting he often fought matches with U.S. military personnel. In 1961, Yonamine emigrated to Brazil with his family when he was 20 to start a farm.

He opened his own Karate school and dojo, and gained fame as a sensei who never took a fee from people who were living in needy circumstances.
Yonamine says “The responsibility is weighty. I will make a stronger effort on human resources training.”

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