Yutaka Yaguchi was born on November 14, 1932 in Kure, Hiroshima, Japan to a farming family. He is the Chief Instructor and Chairman of the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) Mountain States Region. Yutaka Yaguchi began karate training in 1952. He later tested under masters Gichin Funakoshi for his 1st dan Black Belt and Masatoshi Nakayama for his 2nd through 8th dan Black Belts. As one of the first graduates of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Instructors’ Training Program in 1959, he has played an important role in the growth of JKA karate and the internationalization of Shotokan karate. Yutaka Yaguchi first arrived in the United States on June 5, 1965, and continues to reside in the United States today. In 1974, Yaguchi founded the ISKF of Colorado, the regional headquarters for the Mountain States Region.
Yutaka Yaguchi was the youngest of five children, he had a happy childhood but the clouds of World War II were all around him. Assigned a job at a shipyard, on the morning of August 6, 1945 he witnessed the flash of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima while waiting to enter the factory building at the shipyard.
After the war, Yutaka Yaguchi was able to resume his education, and was even able to go to university, unlike many of his former school mates. He went to Nihon University in Tokyo, and this is where he first began studying Shotokan karate. He also joined the JKA at that time. The training at this time was very intense and conditioning was of prime importance. Yutaka Yaguchi graduated with a degree in Marine Biology, but didn’t like sailing so after graduation, he found a job with a construction company.
One day in 1957, Sensei Masatoshi Nakayama asked Yutaka Yaguchi to quit his job and join the JKA Instructor Training program full time. Yaguchi quit his job the very next day and enrolled. When he graduated from the program in 1959, he was the fourth graduate behind Hirokazu Kanazawa, Takayuki Mikami, and Eiji Takaura.
Although Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan karate, was adamantly opposed to tournaments, Masatoshi Nakayama was convinced that the future of karate depended on using tournaments to popularize karate to a worldwide audience. At the first JKA All-Japan Karate Championships in 1957, Yutaka Yaguchi achieved the unfortunate distinction of being the first contestant to foul out. Over the next half dozen years or so, he faced many of the greatest karate competitors, many who have subsequently been recognized as true masters of the art: Hirokazu Kanazawa, Hiroshi Shirai, Keinosuke Enoeda, Tetsuhiko Asai, Takayuki Mikami, etc.
In 1965 Sensei Nakayama sent Yutaka Yaguchi to America to began teaching in Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama’s dojo in Los Angeles. Soon after, he was invited to teach in Denver, Colorado by Joe Costello, and Yutaka Yaguchi relocated there for about a year however, finances were extremely tight and he returned to California to continue teaching at Sensei Nishiyama’s dojo through the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In 1972 Sensei Yaguchi permanently relocated back to Denver and was the coach for the U.S. team at the 1972 Shotocup World Tournament in France. The tournament was very controversial and the U.S. team walked out of the tournament objecting to unfair refereeing. In 1966 Joe Costello, the karate instructor who had originally invited Sensei Yaguchi to Denver, died. It was a time of upheaval in the new dojo, with many divided loyalties. Once things settled down, the dojo began to grow.
In 1977 tension among the Japanese instructors in the AAKF, the American organization recognized by the JKA, lead to a heated meeting at the Olympic Motel in Los Angeles. This resulted in a split between the organizations. Hidetaka Nishiyama retained control of the AAKF and the only Japanese sensei to saty with him was Sensei Masataka Mori. The other five instructors Teruyuki Okazaki, Takayuki Mikami, Yutaka Yaguchi, Shojiro Koyama, and Shigeru Takashina formed a new organization called the ISKF. Their first organizational meeting was held in Denver, Colorado in 1978.
In June 2007 Teruyuki Okazaki made the decision to split away from the JKA. He was supported by Sensei Yutaka Yaguchi but the other three Japanese masters, Takayuki Mikami, Shojiro Koyama, and Shigeru Takashina who were part of the ISKF hierarchy decided to remain with the JKA. As Vice Chairman of the ISKF, and as Chairman of the ISKF technical committee, Sensei Yutaka Yaguchi played a central role in the future growth of the ISKF in the United States and around the world.