What do you do when you get fed up with your daily 9 to 5 schedule? Take a vacation to some foreign country, perhaps? Well, a middle-aged Japanese karate instructor by the name of Koshiro Tanaka thought of just that except his idea of a vacation was just a tad bit different. He wasn’t planning on visiting beaches and drinking Pina Coladas on some Caribbean island. No, he was looking for some real action, an actual war zone where he could fight in.
Koshiro was frustrated with the pacifist culture of his home country and had all but given up teaching karate to his fellow Japanese who he thought were unable to keep up with his rigorous regimen. He longed for a chance to follow in the footstep of an ancient samurai and fight (and die) alongside actual warriors. When he heard of the Mujaheddin (Afghan resistance fighters) fighting the Soviet occupation, he finally found his calling.
When he arrived in Afghanistan, he lacked any prior military training or even understood how to fire a gun properly. However, he was a quick learner and soon began accompanying his fellow guerrilla fighters in raiding operations against the Soviet-backed Afghan government. On his missions, he would always carry an extra grenade with him so he could blow himself up in case the enemy ever came close to capturing him.
A holder of sixth-degree black belt, when Koshiro wasn’t spending time on the battlefront, he was educating his fellow Afghan comrades in the use of martial arts in hand-to-hand combat.
He spent a total of four years fighting the Soviets. During this time, he suffered from malaria, kidney stones, jaundice, a broken bone in his foot and was almost killed when a bullet missed his head by mere inches.
In another time, Tanaka Koshiro would have been honored for his exploits but he had been born into a society that has long forsaken its militaristic past. Upon his return home, his actions were met with universal scorn and he was seen as an outcast. This, of course, didn’t deter him much. At home, he would raise funds for the Mujaheddin cause and return to Afghanistan a total of seven times, linking up with many prominent Afghan commanders, including the legendary Ahmad Shah Massoud.
He wrote an autobiography about his experiences in Afghanistan and used most of the proceeds earned from the book to further the Mujaheddin cause. He still teaches Karate to this day as a highly ranked black belt.