In an effort to address some of the most common questions, we have provided an extensive FAQ section. Although several areas are covered in detail, it is by no means a comprehensive list of questions.
The FAQ has been divided into several sections. The links below have been added so that you may navigate this
information more quickly and efficiently.
Regional Offices |
Dojos & Instructors |
Exhibitions & Seminars |
Publications & GENDO |
Visting Japan |
For further information, please do not hesitate
to Contact Us directly. A representative from an IMAF affiliate
office can answer all of your questions.
What is the International Martial Arts Federation, IMAF?
Kokusai Budoin, IMAF (International Martial Arts Federation) was established in 1952 by leading practitioners of
traditional Japanese martial arts in Tokyo, Japan. The Federation is dedicated to the promotion and development of the
martial arts worldwide. The formal Japanese title of Kokusai Budoin, IMAF NPO, which translates into English as
the “International Martial Arts Federation, a Non-Profit Organization”, or the acronym IMAF for short.
What is IMAF’s history?
IMAF was founded in 1952 by a group of Japan’s most prominent martial arts practitioners, including:
Master Kyuzo Mifune, Master Kazuo Ito and Shizuya Sato of Judo; Master Hakudo Nakayama and Master Hiromasa Takano of
Kendo; Master Hironori Otsuka of Karatedo, and Kiyotaka Wake and Sueo Kiyoura. The first Chairman was Prince Tsunenori
Kaya (uncle of Emperor Hirohito, former lieutenant general in the Imperial Army), and was followed Prince
Higashikuni (the first post World War II Prime Minister, the only member of the Japanese Imperial Family to have held
this post). IMAF, then known as the National Japan Health Association sponsored the first, large-scale, public, post
World War II martial arts demonstration in Japan in Hibiya Park in downtown Tokyo in February 1952.
What are IMAF’s purpose and goals?
Among the objectives of IMAF are the expansion of interest in Japanese martial arts, the establishment of communication,
friendship, understanding and harmony among member chapters, the development of the minds and bodies of members, and the
promotion of global understanding and personal growth.
What famous martial artists are associated with IMAF?
Some of the best known IMAF martial artists and leaders include:
- Kyuzo Mifune, Hanshi, Meijin 10-dan Judo
- Kazuo Ito, Hanshi, Meijin 10-dan Judo
- Shizuya Sato, Hanshi, Hanshi 10-dan Nihon Jujutsu and Hanshi 9-dan Judo
- Hakudo Nakayama, Meijin 10-dan Kendo
- Hiromasa Takano, Meijin 10-dan Kendo
- Hironori Otsuka, Meijin 10-dan Karatedo
- Gogen Yamaguchi, Hanshi 10-dan Karatedo
- Hirokazu Kanazawa, Hanshi 10-dan Karatedo
- Kazuo Sakai, Hanshi 10-dan Karatedo
- Katsuo Yamaguchi, Meijin 10-dan Iaido
- Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Aikikai Aikido, and son of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba
Who are the leaders of IMAF?
Click here for information relating to the
current leadership and organization structure of IMAF.
What sort of Non-Profit Organization is IMAF?
Kokusai Budoin, IMAF is registered as a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) with the Japanese government. Additionally,
the Federation is registered in various Branch Countries under a variety of auspices, according to local laws and
What Japanese government ministry recognizes IMAF as a NPO?
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the site of Japan’s national government, is the legal body granting and monitoring
IMAF’s non-profit status.
Is there an IMAF-related dojo near me?
IMAF has 27 Branch Countries and over 10,000 members worldwide. Additionally, interested individuals are
encouraged to contact an official representative in his/her regional should none be available in his/her country of
Please refer to the Contact Us section for more details.
How do I find an IMAF-related dojo near me?
Please see the Contact Us section to locate the nearest office.
If you cannot find a nearby dojo, please contact the Regional Director by e-mail. Select your region and then country
from the drop-down box. This will automatically create an e-mail for you to send.
Can IMAF members train in other IMAF affiliate dojos in other states or countries?
IMAF maintains an open-door policy for all members. Additionally, members are encouraged to visit and train with others
at every opportunity.
Please contact an IMAF dojo directly to request information about training sessions. Keep in mind that IMAF affiliate dojos are individual businesses and clubs. Language barriers, liability issues, local laws and other practical matters
must be considered. Ultimately, all visits are at the discretion of the local IMAF instructor.
Please refer to the Upcoming Events section for more details.
What benefits are there to joining IMAF as an individual?
IMAF membership gives individuals access to the oldest Japanese martial arts organization, with the premier Japanese
martial arts practitioners in the world. Members can get their ranks recognized by the world’s foremost Japanese martial
arts organization. Members have access to IMAF seminars, where they can personally train with a variety of the top
martial artists in the major styles of modern and traditional Japanese martial arts.
Please refer to the
Membership section for more details.
Do I need a minimum martial arts rank or background to join IMAF?
Individuals of all ranks and levels of experience are welcome to join IMAF. We encourage all interested practitioners to
contact us and learn more about our worldwide programs.
I am a parent, and my child is interested in martial arts. What should I look for in a dojo or
martial arts style?
A dojo is a place for the serious study of martial arts. Some are private, small businesses, others are college or
other club-level activities, while others are large, geographically diverse organizations. Regardless, you
should be able to see an interest in the study of Japanese martial arts, a motivation to impart instruction, and certain
camaraderie among the students. You should be able to talk to the instructor to ask questions and become comfortable with
Japanese martial arts cover many different styles. Some, such as Judo, Aikido and Jujutsu, are always
practiced hand-to-hand with an opponent and involve extensive close contact and grappling. Others, such as Karatedo, mix
individually demonstrated katas (forms) and one-on-one kumite (sparring) at a distance.
Still others, such as Iaido (Japanese sword techniques), are often practiced individually in set forms without physical
contact. Some, such as Iaido, exclusive employ dedicated and specialized weapons such as Japanese swords, almost always
modified for maximum safety, while others, such as Karate and Jujutsu employ more improvised and simpler
weapons such as staffs and short sticks.
Different styles appeal to different people, and in fact interests and appeal will change over time.
The Japanese martial arts styles practiced in IMAF have survived for hundreds of years because of their enduring appeal
to a wide range of practitioners. IMAF recommends that interested individuals study, ask questions and personally observe
Please refer to the Divisions section for detailed information
about specific IMAF disciplines & divisions.
How may I contribute to IMAF?
IMAF welcomes participation in a wide range of activities. Some contribute by:
- participating in and/or leading IMAF Seminars
- assisting with administrative activities
- writing reviews of martial arts books & materials
- contributing materials and ideas for IMAF as an organization or the IMAF website
- helping to find and recruit the best practitioners of Japanese martial arts worldwide to join IMAF
Can my college martial arts club join IMAF?
Yes. IMAF welcomes club level organizations. Martial arts clubs are an important aspect of training and tradition in
Japanese modern and traditional martial arts, and international clubs are very welcome.
I would like to join IMAF but do not currently practice Japanese martial arts. Is there a
membership category for those who are interested in contributing in other ways?
IMAF recognizes interested individuals who are not active martial arts practitioners as Consultants, Counsel, and Advisors.
These special positions are determined by Headquarters only.
What are the different IMAF individual membership classes?
Membership is divided into three categories: Regular, Associate and Affiliate.
Regular Membership: This membership is open to all those holding 4th dan or higher
degrees as recognized by IMAF.
Associate Membership: This membership is open to all those who holding 3rd dan or
lower degrees as recognized by IMAF.
Affiliate Membership: This membership is open to all those who have an interest in Japanese martial arts and wish to join IMAF. Registration of degrees & testing, prior experience or demonstrated capability in Japanese martial arts is not required.
How much are the annual dues for the different IMAF membership classes?
- Regular Membership: 5,000 (Japanese Yen)
- Associate Membership: 3,000 (Japanese Yen)
- Affiliate Membership: 5,000 (Japanese Yen)
Can I pay my IMAF dues by credit card?
IMAF membership fees are collected annually by the Branch Directors, and are due at the beginning of each year. In most
countries personal checks are used. At this time, there is no procedure for making payment by credit card.
Are my IMAF dues tax-deductible?
Please check with the Branch Director in each country to determine local tax regulations.
What official IMAF products are available?
IMAF has patches, lapel pins and key chains as well as other items. Soon IMAF will also have links to books, videos,
and other education and instructional material. Please visit our website regularly to see new information and how IMAF
continues to grow.
How do I contact the IMAF regional director for my geographic region?
Please see the Contact Us section to contact the regional IMAF
director in your area. Select your region and then country from the drop-down box. This will automatically create an
e-mail for you to send. In the body of the e-mail, please provide details about your inquiry.
Does IMAF hold seminars in Japan or in my region?
IMAF annually sponsors seminars coordinated by Regional Directors of the Americas, Europe, and Japan. Additionally,
Branch and Regional seminars are held frequently.
Please refer to the Upcoming Events section located on the IMAF
home page for more details.
Does IMAF qualify instructors? How do I qualify?
Yes. IMAF recognizes and commends meritorious individuals by conferring rank, title and Official Instructor Licenses.
Please refer to the Policies section located on the About IMAF
What benefits are there to joining IMAF as a dojo?
IMAF brings the best of Japanese martial arts traditions and training to the world. Joining provides access to new levels
of understanding, technical training, recognition and affiliation as well as access to premier seminars, exhibitions and exchanges worldwide.
I have my own Japanese martial arts dojo. How do I join IMAF?
Instructors of individual dojos are encouraged to learn more about the benefits of joining IMAF. Please take the time
to review this FAQ section carefully as well as other sections of this site.
Please refer to the Contact Us section for details. Select
region and country from the drop-down menus. This will generate an e-mail automatically. In the body of the e-mail, please
provide detailed information about your dojo, your martial arts background, ranks and disciplines studied.
What sort of functions does IMAF sponsor?
IMAF Exhibitions: IMAF holds an annual exhibition in Japan. IMAF members worldwide
join to demonstrate their skills. The exhibit is generally coupled with a series of training seminars with the leading
instructors of IMAF.
IMAF Seminars: IMAF instructors from several divisions travel from Japan to North
America and Europe annually to present seminars to IMAF members. These seminars not only feature Japan’s premier
instructors, but also provide opportunities to practice in different martial arts. Local, national and/or regional
IMAF seminars are also frequently held.
Please refer to the Upcoming Events section for more details.
Who can attend IMAF seminars?
All interested individuals are welcome to attend IMAF sponsored seminars held outside Japan. Attendance at seminars held
at IMAF Headquarters, Japan is limited to registered members.
I do not speak Japanese. What is the official language of IMAF?
The official languages of IMAF are English and Japanese.
Does IMAF sponsor competitive tournaments?
IMAF sponsors numerous seminars intended to provide members with opportunities to study and train together.
Competition, while a significant part of training in many styles, is not the major focus of most IMAF functions.
What is the calendar of IMAF events for this year? Where do I find the schedule?
Please refer to the Upcoming Events section located on the IMAF
home page for more details.
Does IMAF have a periodic publication?
Currently, IMAF publishes the GENDO newsletter bi-annually. The GENDO highlights leadership in various divisions of Japanese martial arts, features member articles in specific disciplines, discusses trends in the field of martial arts and provides a
resource for members to review periodically.
Is the GENDO available in languages other than Japanese and English?
Currently, the GENDO is available only in English and Japanese. As our regional web sites continue to expand, additional
languages will be available. Check back periodically for details.
Is the GENDO available online? Where can I find back issues?
Current issues of the GENDO are available to members only. Back issues are available to the general public one year after
Please refer to the GENDO section for more details.
Can I contribute an article to the GENDO - IMAF’s newsletter?
All articles should be submitted to the Regional or Branch Representative, who will forward material to IMAF
Headquarters, Japan. IMAF HQ, Japan maintains the right to edit, accept or reject any submissions. All material submitted
to IMAF for review and publication will become the property of IMAF and may be reproduced, published and/or distributed
freely by IMAF and affiliates.
Does IMAF recommend any books, films, training materials, uniforms, or other martial arts
materials or equipment?
Yes. Some of IMAF’s recommended materials can be found at the IMAF Library (coming soon).
I would like to visit Japan. How do I contact an IMAF dojo in Japan that teaches my Japanese
martial arts style, so that I can practice there?
Members should check with their Regional Director for details. If necessary, they will contact IMAF Headquarters.
If I visit Japan, what are the restrictions on my transporting and possessing martial arts
Japan’s Sword Act very strictly controls the importation, transportation and possession of live or real swords.
All real swords must be registered with the Japanese government; possession of an unregistered live sword is a felony,
punishable by several years in jail. IMAF discourages any attempt to bring live swords to Japan and will not be
responsible for any acts to the contrary.
Practice weapons other than live swords are generally easily imported into Japan, but prudent common sense should be
exercised. Weapons should be placed in checked baggage rather than carry-on baggage. Weapons should be transported
to the dojo in appropriate cases or in gym bags. It is a common sight in Japan to see martial arts practitioners carry
bows, staffs, wooden and split bamboo swords on public transportation, but they are always covered or in carrying cases.
If possible, IMAF recommends that visiting IMAF members make arrangements to borrow suitable practice weapons from IMAF
instructors. This avoids any potential problems entirely.
Do Japan’s strict laws governing the importation of real swords extend to Iaido, Iaido practice
swords or wooden swords?
In general, no, but it is the sole responsibility of each individual to determine the correct procedure for Japanese
Customs. IMAF Headquarters cannot and will not assume any responsibility in these matters.
NOTE: Under no circumstances can firearms be brought to Japan.