Scott Nakahara is a black belt in karate, but his arm can be twisted if the cause is good enough.
The International Karate League asked its Waimea dojo, where Nakahara is an instructor under sensei Earl Yamamoto, to host its 61st annual tournament, and they said yes “reluctantly.”
“It’s a lot of work,” said Nakahara, who aside from running a dental practice in Honokaa has spent “one to two hours on this tournament every day for the last year.”
The culmination of his efforts comes Saturday when more than 100 International Karate League participants from approximately 15 dojos – the Honolulu-based IKL has six regions spanning seven states – gather at Hawaii Prep’s gym for a competition that doubles as a showcase of the sport.
Karate practitioners of all ages, from 7-year-old Ryu Acidera on up to 70, will compete in kumite (sparring) and kata (forms).
Kumite is self-explanatory and not surprisingly, “Most of the young kids like fighting,” Nakahara said.
He described kata as “make-believe fighting, but you do it on your own.
“(It) takes more discipline, it takes a little more precision, your foot movements, your hand movements and hand coordination and what we call focus.”
With 10 dojos, the IKL’s presence is strongest on the Big Island and two of its most prominent members are originally from Hilo, hanshi Julian Shiroma and hanshi Craig Hamakawa. Oahu has seven dojos and California three.
Captain Cook’s dojo, under Shiroma, annually holds a tournament the first Saturday in November in Kailua-Kona, a competition that is more statewide in nature, Nakahara said. The last time the Big Island hosted an event of this magnitude was 2014 in East Hawaii.
There have been no shortage of prospective students over the years who have entered the IKL’s doors, started with, among other things, stretching exercises and asked, impatiently: When do I learn how to fight?
“Self-defense is a byproduct for us,” Nakahara said. “We teach character first. Some drop out.”
Those who stay are schooled in the IKL motto: through honesty and sincerity come FREE – faithfulness, respect, effort and etiquette.
“The higher up you go, the higher the belt, the more tools we give them,” Nakahara said. “A black belt, we entrust them, we teach them a little bit more.
“A green belt, we don’t teach them as much because we don’t want them to go home and start beating their brothers and sisters up.”
The mainland visitors this weekend include Walter Nishioka, who founded the IKL in Honolulu in 1958 before moving to California, and Hamakawa, who runs a dojo in San Francisco. Among the members there is Nakahara’s daughter, Meimei, who will compete Saturday. The tournament also will honor the late Richard Nakano, a longtime sensei who founded Waimea’s dojo.
“Although we have competition, we treat IKL as a family,” Nakahara said. ‘This showcases our young students and the hard work they put in through the year. Their parents can see how they’ve improved, how they’ve focused.”
The tournament runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. There are various other festivities, and after a picnic Monday at Hapuna Beach State Park, Nakahara’s work will be done.
The proud Honokaa High alum sounds like he has just one regret.
“Honokaa’s 130th celebration is this weekend and I’m going to miss it all,” he said.
Well, it not like they twisted his arm. Actually, maybe they did.