Ashihara Karate has its roots in the Kyokushin heritage. The Founder of Ashihara Karate, Hideyuki Ashihara, was a 5th Dan Shihan within the Kyokushinkai and taught at the Kyokushin Honbu Dojo in Tokyo during the seventies. In 1980 he started his own Organisation, NIKO, in search of a better form of Karate. Hideyuki Ashihara wanted to create a more technical form of the type of Full-contact Fighting that Sosai Oyama had nurtured.
To further refine this kind of combat, Kancho Ashihara put a lot of emphasis on footwork, to make it easier to outmanoeuvre an opponent. This way of outwitting an opponent, by use of footwork, kicks, punches and sweeps, Kancho Ashihara called "Sabaki" and he made it the backbone of his System. To make his ideas about Karate available to his students he then constructed a series of new Kata techniques.
Unfortunately Kancho Ashihara suffered from a cerebral haemorrhage in the beginning of the nineties and was unable to continue his pursuit of a more efficient form of Karate. Kancho Ashihara died in the Spring of 1995. Without a suitable Japanese candidate to shoulder the position of Kancho, Ashihara Karate has dimnished within Japan.
Although Kancho Ashihara had a lot of ideas about how Karate should be
practised, it was not until the System spread to Europe that it really started
to develop into the form we see today.
Shihan David C. Cook had been the driving force behind the spreading of Ashihara Karate outside of Japan. With a background as a prominent Kyokushin teacher, Shihan Cook has almost single handed introduced the Style to several former Soviet Republics (Russia, Ukraine and Moldova) as well as many other European countries. At the time of Kancho Ashihara's death, he was the number one Shihan of the Style. Shihan Cook took over the responsibility of refining and improving the training methods of Ashihara Karate. With the help of his assisting instructors within the Ashihara International Karate Organisation (AIKO), Shihan Cook has turned Ashihara International into a very effective System.
Under Shihan Cook's leadership, the training forms were the first things to
change. Instead of the solo training common in traditional Karate, Shihan Cook
makes his students do almost all their training together with a partner. He also
put much more emphasis on training with focus pads and air shields, giving his
students more power in their techniques. The result of this kind of training
regiment was overwhelming. All students without exeption increased their
fighting skills dramatically. With the old System of solo training, only those
students with natural fighting ability were able to make use of the techniques
in sparring. But with the new training methods every student, regardless of
their background, can perform sparring with reasonable ability within their
first couple of months of training.
The development has also resulted in modifications in the way of training Kata, in order to make them more effective as a training instrument. All the combinations are directly related to fighting, and they are all practised with one or two partners. Furthermore Shihan Cook has added a number of punching drills and fighting combinations to the grading syllabus. This has been done to enlarge the students' repertoire of fighting combinations and has proven to be an invaluable training aide to the instructors. The punching techniques in these drills have been greatly influenced by western style boxing and the elbow techniques have come from Muay Thai. The fighting combinations are mainly of the Japanese Kickboxing character and suited for Knock-down Fighting. Shihan Cook has also developed a number of Goshin (self-defence) Kata forms, providing the students with an opportunity to defend themselves without spending years of training Karate basics first.
In the summer of 1995
was promoted to the rank of 8th Dan by
10th Dan. Shihan Bluming, who also has an 8th Dan in Judo, is a true legend
and probably the most respected non-Japanese Karate Master in Japan. He is the
leader of the Kyokushin Budokai and is associated with a constellation of
several Budo and Full-contact Organisations in Japan. The most notable of these
are led by Shihan Kenji Kurosaki 10th Dan, Shihan Maeda and Shihan Takashi Azuma
8th Dan. These men are probably the most respected and influential Leaders on
the Full-contact scene in Japan today.
Shihan Kurosaki was the number one Instructor within the Kyokushinkai until he left the System in the sixties to develop Japanese Kickboxing. Shihan Maeda is the leader of the Japanese Free Fight Tournaments - "Rings". Shihan Azuma, also from the Kyokushin lineage, can boast a 4th place at the 2nd World Knockdown Championship, and he won the All Japan Knockdown Champions. He is today the leader of his own Organisation, the Dai-Do-Juko. The recognition of Shihan Cook and the Ashihara International shall also be seen as the beginning of a mutual exchange of techniques between AIKO and Shihan Bluming's Kyokushin Budokai.
The AIKO System however, is not perfected in the eyes of Shihan Cook. With the help of Shihan Bluming and
(6th Dan AIKO and 3rd Dan Judo), Shihan Cook is now on his way to incorporate a variety of Judo techniques such as
(choke and strangulation techniques) into his teachings and thereby making Ashihara International a more all-round fighting System.
The AIKO is the only large well organised group for Ashihara Karate left in the world. Shihan Cook has decided to use the name Ashihara International to differentiate it from the already outdated form which came from Japan.