The history of our school begins in the Kumamoto region of Japan. Nobuyoshi Higashi, the founder of our martial arts school, was born in a small farming village in 1937. At that time Japan was a war-torn place and Nobuyoshi, being in a military family, spent much of his childhood without his soldier father. In keeping with family tradition, Nobuyoshi started training martial arts at a very young age. He would wake up early morning to help with the family rice farm and then immediately head to his morning judo training session, the first of several sessions that day. From a very early age, Nobuyoshi was taught that it was absolutely necessary to combine the practice of martial arts with a strong formal education. This was the belief system of Jigoro Kano, the educator who founded Judo, and it continues to be the belief system of our school today.
Nobuyoshi’s judo was developed by Hikoichi Aida, who was one of Jigoro Kano’s top students. Aida Sensei’s judo was internationally regarded and Kano Sensei took him to Europe to teach. He spent a number of years teaching judo in England, France, and Germany before returning to teach in Japan, where he developed a handful of promising players like Nobuyoshi.
The philosophy and technical lineage of our school traces directly to Kano Sensei and Aida Sensei. Other renowned martial arts masters also played a major role in shaping our school today. Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, taught Noboyushi karate and developed him to black belt in the discipline. Kenji Tomiki, the founder of Tomiki Aikido, also taught Nobuyoshi and promoted him to black belt.
After fighting and coaching for the prestigious Kokushikan University in Japan, Nobuyoshi was commissioned to come to the United States to spread judo and the education system that Kano Sensei developed. It was common in that era for the top universities to send their best fighters and teachers to all corners of the world to spread martial arts. Nobuyoshi was initially tasked to teach martial arts in the middle east but fate had him routed to New York, where he started Kokushikan NY, which would later be renamed to the KBI, in 1963.
Since 1963, Noboyushi Higashi has trained thousands of judokas from across the United States. The KBI has developed elite judokas who took their skills to all levels of the sport, whether it be the Olympics or opening their own martial arts schools. To this date, Noboyoshi sits on the governing board that shapes the rules and practice of judo across the United States. For his contribution to the sport, he now holds the rank of Red Belt. A rank he earned while in his 70s and one of the few Red Belts ever bestowed by the Kodokan.
In the early 70s, he integrated many of the techniques he developed in judo, aikido, kendo, and karate into a comprehensive jujutsu program. To this day, it continues to be one of the largest programs at our school and has developed hundreds of black belts who went on to create their own martial arts schools all over the world.
Noboyushi’s son, Shintaro Higashi, is now head of school. Shintaro, an elite competitor with several national championships, world team membership, and internationally ranked, recently became one of the youngest judokas to ever hold the red and white belt.
The doors of the KBI continue to be open to everyone. All are welcomed on the mats. Our judo program starts as early as age four and we have practitioners who are well into their 80s. Kano Sensei’s belief that martial arts is a tool that can be used to develop the best parts of the human spirit lives on today at the KBI.
We welcome all.