Although the exact date of the first ‘Moto Gymkhana’ type event in Japan is open to debate, it most likely took place in 1964. Murayama Motors, a motorcycle dealer in Tokyo, had a club called the Tokyo Trail Club and ran the first time attack trial in their car park. The whole idea behind the event was to have fun with the customers, promote their dealership and, of course, sell motorcycles!
Around a similar time, Kitatama Motors, a Kawasaki dealer, partnered with another Kawasaki dealer to start a competition series.
The popularity of Moto Gymkhana grew and over the next few years other dealers set up their rider clubs to compete in the Kawasaki competitions. Club teams had colourful names like; Tokyo Hunter, Golden Club, Funny -, Swing and Team Genkai. Some of these clubs are still competing in Moto Gymkhana today.
Unfortunately, the popularity of the sport didn’t drive motorcycle sales as it was initially expected and one by one the dealers quit until only one remained – PowerBrand Kawasaki, but it wasn’t long until Kawasaki pulled out altogether after the sport running successfully for 25 years.
From dealers to riders
In 1992, Moto Gymkhana moved from being a dealer/manufacturer led, to being a rider-led sport under the guidance of a gentleman called Minoru Adachi. In December of that year the first Dunlop-Autoby Cup was run in Tokyo, with 75 riders. This marked the revival in the sport and in 1995 the Japanese Moto Gymkhana Association (J.A.G.E) was formed, marking the birth of Moto Gymkhana as we know it today.
Check out the art of Moto Gymkhan in action…
In 2010 Andrew Freeman, a motorcycle instructor with experience of training in Australia, the USA and the UK, was working with an Australian colleague to launch Japanese styled training programs in the UK, based on Moto Gymkhana.
Unfortunately this didn’t take off the ground but a chance meeting with Duncan MacKillop, the UK licence holder for the American training program Total Control, spawned the idea of bringing Moto Gymkhana, the sport, to the UK. A trip over to Japan in March 2011 ensued to meet with representatives of J.A.G.E and Moto Gymkhana was launched in the UK at the April Prescott Bike Festival, followed by a press launch in May along with the official website going live.
The first Moto Gymkhana took place in October was filmed by RIDE Magazine’s YouTube channel.
Moto Gymkhana goes global
Another trip over to Japan in 2012 saw Andrew Freeman become the first Westener to take part in a Japanese Moto Gymkhana competition. With the rules for Moto Gymkhana now translated into English, the interest in Moto Gymkhana from around the world grew.
The first countries to set up groups were Poland closely followed by the Netherlands. Moto Gymkhana is now in 15 countries and has thousands of riders, with some of the fastest growth in Eastern Europe. In 2015, the first European Competition was held in the Netherlands with riders from across Europe and Japan.
In 2016, Andrew Freeman and Duncan MacKillop, where recognised by J.A.G.E for their services to the spread of Moto Gymkhana around the world.