KANCHO YOSHIJI SOENO
Born September 9th 1947 in Tokorozawa-Shi, Saitama, Japan.
From an early age Yoshiji Soeno had a keen interest in martial arts especially Judo and Kendo. To strengthen his skills he joined the Oyama Dojo (now known as Kyokushin Kaiken).
When attending Johsai University Kancho Soeno founded his own dojo training in karate and kick-boxing. After entering his debut tournament he was considered the favourite and went on to win the First All Japan Karatedo Championship. He was named the ‘Tiger of Johsai’ or ‘Brave Tiger of Kyokushin’.
Soeno would train in many forms of martial arts, seeking out different styles in as many different countries including Muay Thai in Bangkok and America. Also whilst at the Oyama Dojo he won the World Open Kyokushin Knockdown Championship.
At the end of his time at Johsai University he opened the Soeno Dojo and Soeno Gym giving lessons in both Karate and Kick-boxing.
Shidokan as we know it today was founded in 1981 as the World Karatedo Association Shidokan, Japan Fighting Association New Fighting Shidokan. Respecting Japanese Bushido spirits, Soeno incorporates all the good parts from all his experiences with different styles culminating in a complete and progressive Martial art style.
Ever changing his ideas and teaching, Kancho Yoshiji Soeno has Dojos in all corners of the world. Travelling constantly to visit his Branch chiefs, he keeps the style evolving and alive. Shidokan is a globally recognised style with a living Master.
On several occasions journalists have been surprised by Kancho’s reticence to discuss his experiences in Thailand. Below is a short history of that time.
In 1974, soon after the 5th All Japan Open, Yoshiji Soeno, the ‘Tiger of Kyokushin’ (paired with the equally famous Terutomo Yamazaki, known as the ‘Dragon of Kyokushin’) decided to follow in the footsteps of Mas Oyama.
With the blessing of Sosai Oyama, he embarked on a solo mission to Thailand to re-determine which is the ultimate striking art on Earth – Karate or Muay Thai?
Upon arriving in Bangkok, Soeno went immediately to the Rachdamnern Stadium, and approached its organizer, ‘Hasat,’ asking to fight. Hasat was unconvinced of Soeno’s prowess, but Soeno proved it to him by a simple ‘test’ involving an available Thai fighter who was there at the time.
Hasat then asked Soeno to head to Chiang Mai, to make a name for himself in Northern Thailand before coming back to Bangkok again to fight.
And so Soeno flew to Chiang Mai and the organiser there, ‘Osman’, who already knew in advance he was coming, put him up to fight on that very night.
Soeno ran into difficulty in the very first round, getting knocked down by a surprise flying knee kick (rebounding from the ropes) from his Thai opponent.
In the second round he fought back, and using the very same tactics, managed to KO his opponent with a spinning kick to the head.
After that match the jealous organiser set him up, tricking him into reducing his weight to lightweight, then putting up a middleweight fighter to fight him.
Soeno was much affected physically and as a result almost got killed in the subsequent match. It was his mastery of Judo (he threw his opponent out of the ring) and superhuman belief in Kyokushin Karate that saved his life and the match.
In a dramatic reversal, when his opponent grabbed his neck and was about to deliver a coupe de grace, he used a ‘Sutemi Waza’ (sacrifice technique), completely stunning the Thai with an aerial roundhouse kick to the neck from that position.
That bout finally caught the attention of ‘Reiba’, whom they call the ‘Dark Lord of Muay Thai’. Perhaps he was as strong as ‘Black Cobra’ was, if not more so.
Reiba’s prowess struck fear deep into Soeno’s heart. He too knew the aerial triple kick, which he first learned when he saw Oyama’s fight with the Black Cobra 20 years before.
Osman wasted no time in arranging a fight between Soeno and Reiba’s disciple ‘Mongkut Kalop’, the ‘Dark Warrior’.
Preluded by a pompous press conference, this fight began with the high anticipation of all Muay Thai fans in Chiang Mai. Soeno immediately felt the deadly force of Mongkut’s kicks in the first round.
But to amazement and shock of everyone present, he suddenly unleashed the ‘triangle leap attack’ (again using the ropes) technique, knocking out the Thai with a powerful strike to the head in that very round.
Reiba, shocked as he was, immediately gathered himself and asked Soeno to increase his weight to middleweight – he would take him on personally!
However Reiba’s brother ‘Daya’, a bandit chief (really) intervened and said he would slaughter Soeno in his brother’s place.
This time, with live coverage on national TV, this fight would be seen by all of Thailand. Halfway through his ‘Wai Kru’ dance, the wild Daya suddenly attacked Soeno, even before the starting bell was rung!
He had no regard for rules and was like an animal, fighting using the ‘Pahuyuth’ system that hit with every physical weapon available. It was bloody and brutal, as both fighters fought with all the techniques and strength that they had.
Finally in the 4th round, when both of them were almost exhausted, Soeno leapt into the air and struck Daya with an elbow drop to the top of his skull – sending him flat on to the canvas unconscious instantly.
Reiba, already fuming by now, knew that only he himself could take this Karateka. But it was a fight that never was. Four days before the destined battle, Reiba was shot dead by a Thai gangster who was part of a mob to ambush him, controlled by the gambling syndicates.
Ironically, not even the whole bunch of gangsters with weapons could take Reiba; he was shot by one of them whom he spared. In a grand funeral, the mighty Dark Lord disappeared forever into the darkness.
Soeno returned to Bangkok soon after, fighting and beating the top fighters in Lumpinee, but in those victories he felt no joy; the death of Reiba had left an eternal void in his heart of what might have been.
Perhaps in Shidokan’s system lies the true direction that Kyokushin should adopt.