World champion in 2012 with the Japan Kata team, N°23 in the world ranking, Koji Arimoto, 3rd Dan, is not only a talented competitor, he is also a great Sensei in the making. At 26 years old, he is an instructor at the JKS Honbu Dojo (Japan Karate Shoto Federation). His Karate debut, his meeting with Sensei Sugimori, 8th Dan, and Shihan Kagawa, 8th Dan, his brilliant athletic career, his future... Koji Arimoto is speaking...

By Florian Fournier


Koji Arimoto is 3 years old when he walks for the 1st time on a Karate mat in an Okayama-shi Dojo, in Southern Japan, on the shore of the Seto Inland Sea. The Dojo is held by Sensei Sugimori Kichinosuke, 9th Dan. Recognized by his peers as a very great Sensei, Sugimori won twice the "All Japan" in Kata. In 1975, he developed the Shushukan school, “those who practice excellence”.
That’s him who passes on the passion of Karate to Koji Arimoto that he will train until he is 15 years old. The student then goes on a… Karate sports-school at Okayama Sanyo high school. At this time, Koji Arimoto met Shohei Toyama, another JKS instructor and member of the Japanese team in the -60 kg category.
At 17, Koji wins the "All Japan" with his high school. He then joined the Teikyo University where he began to follow Masao Kagawa's training (8th Dan JKF and 9th Dan JKS). Kagawa Shihan is the director of the WKF technical commission, a member of the executive board of the Japanese team and the JKS director and chief instructor of the Teikyo University.
At 20 years old, Koji Arimoto becomes Kata team World champion under Masao Kagawa. He Karate wins a new title at the "All Japan" and decides to join the training to become a JKS instructor at the Honbu Dojo in Tokyo. Today, he is still a member of the Japan national team in individual (behind Kiyuna, Shimbaba...) and by team with the Moto brothers (Kazumasa and Ryuji). We met him when he was in France to give several seminars.

How and why have you joined the JKS ?

After my studies at the university, I wanted to continue Karate and to teach it. At that time, Kagawa Shihan talked to me about the JKS, saying it was the best place to live my passion. According to him, I was made to teach at the Honbu Dojo and even all over the world. So, one day, I went to see and tell him that I was ready to start training to become an instructor.

How is this training to become instructor ?

Normally, it lasts two years. But for me, it lasted three years. After the first two years, Kagawa Shihan felt that I was not enough ready to teach yet. I then worked harder for another year to get my instructor exam. It is a training that requires a very high technical level and an outstanding will. I remember that the first months were very tough... With Shohei Toyama, we used every moment of break to sleep and recover from the intensity of training.

What is your Sensei model ?

I would say Sugimori Sensei. Kagawa Shihan is a great Sensei. He got me and still gets me a lot of thing, but Sugimori Sensei is and will remain my first Sensei and my model. I met him very young and he is a very strong Sensei, technically and pedagogically speaking. He is still for me a daily inspiration.

One day, he told me : "if you believe in me, you will be a champion". I think this sentence have really influenced me. It demonstrates a very important meaning to the practice of Karate : all students must have confidence in their Sensei and vice versa. A Sensei must trust his students. This notion will get both very far.

When did you last practice with Sugimori Sensei ?

More than a year ago. We saw each other since but we could not train. Sugimori Sensei is very old (87) and his health no longer allows him to train. But it's always rewarding to be able to interact with him.

Where do you give Karate courses?

As I am in the Japan national team in individual and by team, I only give classes at the JKS Honbu Dojo. I spend the rest of my time training.

To be continued ...