Building up to BHM: Gakuji Tozaki

Building up to BHM: Gakuji Tozaki

Karateka Gakuji Tozaki (USA) started Karate when he was 9 years old. Now, at the age of 30, he has qualified for his first edition of The World Games. “Qualification for The World Games was not easy. I competed in many international tournaments to improve my performance. Hard work has paid off, and I was ultimately able to qualify after achieving 4th in the World Ranking. Therefore I am extremely proud of qualifying for The World Games,” he says. “I am grateful to represent the United States, and excited to compete at The World Games alongside the best athletes from our sport. I am also happy to be able to compete in front of my family and friends in my home country.” Gakuji Tozaki is this week’s athlete Building up to Birmingham!

I started Karate when I was 9 years old. I loved watching K-1 and Pride (professional fighting) growing up, and I especially looked up to Andy Hug, the Karate fighter. I wanted to be strong like him, so I looked for the closest Karate dojo, which got me into Karate,” Tozaki tells, and continues: “Karate not only taught me the importance of physical strength, but the value of mental strength and self control. My Karate career has been a repetition of creating challenges, setting new goals and overcoming them, which took years of training and dedication. Karate also gave me the opportunity to get in touch with Japanese culture, which makes this sport, or budo, unique from others.

Gakuji Tozaki, or Gakutoro, specialises in the Karate discipline Kata. “I specialise in Kata, which is forms. Since the routine of techniques is already determined, we practice to perfect each movement to improve our scores at competition. On top of karate training (basics, footwork, etc), I add roadwork and also weightlifting to improve my strength and endurance.”

He is already planning his preparations for The World Games 2022 in Bimingham, Alabama in July: “I usually build a training plan for the month in order to approach tournaments. I have been working on improving my strength recently, so I will keep working to be stronger at The World Games. I will also go back to fundamentals and train a lot of basics and breathing techniques.”

At The World Games, if he has the time, he would love to watch all the sports! Tozaki says: “All the sports seem very interesting, especially with the best competitors from all over the world! But if I had to choose, I would love to watch other combat sports (Kickboxing, Muaythai Sumo, Wushu etc)!” And if he had to choose another sport to compete in, he would choose Ju-jitsu – a sport he actually has experience of practicing.

Tozaki’s road to The World Games has not been easy: “I recently received my Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. It was difficult balancing college work and competition, but I managed to graduate while also being a top Karate competitor. I learnt how to plan out a daily and monthly schedule to maximize my time for training and studying.”

Gakuji Tozaki also got a lot of questions on social media.

- Favourite kata?

Chatanyara Kushanku, Kyan no Chinto (Tomari Chinto), Anan Dai, Ohan Dai

- Who is his Karate role model?

Sensei George Kotaka, Andy Hug,

- What is one exercise you do daily?

Morning walks, image training, some stretching/foam rolling

- Would you ever switch to Kumite?

I actually fought until I was 20 years old. I think I was a decent fighter ;)

- Which country is your favourite to visit when competing?

Every country is great; I love exploring and learning about the history of the country. But if I have to choose one, it will be Egypt! I loved studying Egyptian history in Middle School, and it was a great experience visiting the country last year.

- What are the foods that you find give you most energy?

Curry! I always eat curry the day before competition!

-Who was your inspiration growing up?

My family and all my friends.

-Your favourite athlete? Any favourite quotes?

Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Andy Hug, Masato

"The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do" - Kobe Bryant

-What Gi (and gis) is/are your favourites? How do you size them and custom them?

Any gi I wear is my favourite, regardless of the brand. I put great thought behind customising my gi; I treat it as if it's my armour going into battle. When changing measurements, I always record my performances and check how my gi looks from all different angles.

 The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and over 100 countries will take part in The World Games.