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Hiromi Hishiki – Women of Shotokan

Hiromi Hishiki is an extraordinary Karateka in many respects. She started her training under Masatoshi Nakayama and Tetsuhik Asai. The unprecedented spirit of this time coined her whole later life. Hiromi Hishiki belongs to the pioneer women, who dared to brake through cultural norms and customs.

While Japanese society excepted from her to get married with age 24 and not make a career she chose a different path. She became a successful business women and radio operator. With that attitude she is among the women who paved the way for future female karatekas.

Today, she runs her own dojo in Yokohama. Fighting spirit, equality, values, constant learning, and the will to create a better future for others have guide her actions since then. Let yourself become inspired by Hiromi Hishiki´s portrait and interview in our Women of Shotokan series.

Portrait: Hiromi Hishiki

  • Age: 60s
  • Karate since: 1967
  • Origin and residence: Hokkaido, Japan
  • Rank: 6th Dan
  • Dojo: “Hirokukai”( Hero Karate club), under the direct control of headquarters of Japan Karate Association (JKA) and “Karate lessons for women”, “karate Girls Dojo”, “Karate Kids in English” classes at Yomiuri Culture Center Yokohama, Japan

Additional information:

  • JKA Instructor B
  • 1978: 1st place Kata Women the 16th All Hokkaido Karatedo Championship
  • 2005: 1st place Kata Women (over 55yrs.) the 5th All Japan Jukurensha Karatedo Championship
  • 2006: 1st place Kata Women (over 55yrs.) the 6th All Japan Jukurensha Karatedo Championship
  • 2007: 1st place Kata & Kumite Women (over 55 yrs.) the 7th All Japan Jukurensha Karatedo Championship
  • Master’s thesis: “Dojo establishment by female Karate instructors in their local area and the development of their activities”
  • Member of Karatedo Specialist Subcommittee of Japanese Academy of Budo
  • Oral presentations at:
  • “A study of the founding of dojos by female karate instructors and their teaching activities” at the 1st (2013) International Budo Conference
  • “Karate, English and Children’s General Education: A Collaborative Venture” at the 2nd (2017) one of Japanese Academy of Budo.

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

Hiromi Hishiki: When I was a high school student, I saw an article titled “Karate girls in New York” along with four pictures. It showed a Shotokan Karatedo Dojo in New York. It took me all by surprise that American girls learned Japanese Karatedo. I had never known or had been interested in Karate before. Fortunately, a JKA branch was found in my town and I started to train.

Hiromi Hishiki during a foto session for a motorcycle company.
Hiromi Hishiki during a foto session for a motorcycle company.

What do you like about Shotokan Karate?

Hiromi Hishiki: I like the dynamic, exuberant, and gorgeous techniques of Shotokan Karate. But I also like the passionate, dedicated and perspective JKA headquarters instructors, Sempai (senior colleague), friends, and my students, who are all my fortunate and favorite factors.

Especially, Master Asai Tetsuhiko had taught Women classes of JKA headquarters, Ebisu, Tokyo on Tuesdays and Fridays in the 1970- 80’s. He gave us valuable opportunities, such as special women training camps in Tokyo, Chiba, Philippines, Taiwan, Hawaii and karate demonstrations.

In 1974, he organized the 1st All Japan Female Joint Training Camp for the period of 6 days from August 3rd until 8th at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, Tokyo. It consisted of 34 participants and scheduled for 15 hours from 6 am. until 9 pm. In those days, female Karate practitioners were still rare. Therefore, Master Asai aimed to teach correct skills to women. He sought to develop female abilities, female instructors, athletes for Kata competitions.

Despite his noble thought, I could no think of anything except putting up with severe training. Now, approx. 45 years passed, more than one third of participants have become active karate instructors. To mention only two: Kikuchi Takako-Sensei, Ooki Rumiko-Sensei. Without Master Asai’s perspective and passionate guidance, I would not have become a Karate instructor despite of my 20-year-break.

Hiromi Hishiki
Hiromi Hishikis QSL Card for Amateur Radio Operators

Is there something you do not like? What is it?

Hiromi Hishiki: It is very regrettable to say that there no female specialist instructors locker room exist in the headquarters Dojo. They have to use the same locker room like general female members including white belts. On the contrary, male instructors have their own locker rooms independently since the early days. The Karate specialist instructor intern training program was made in 1956. This opened the door for female Karateka. Since then there is no female instructors locker room.

Until today, 13 females graduated from the 2 years course since 1960’s. At present, three of them teach as headquarters instructors. Two of them are world Kumite champions. Even the top ranked female instructors are treated unfairly even for a locker room. Being a JKA conference member, I had proposed reform measures for women including this matter. I am still looking forward to find a new female instructor’s room in our 4th stories wide dojo. Will it take forever?

What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?

Hiromi Hishiki: My greatest experience was that grand master Nakayama Masatoshi had the chance to explain Karatedo to His Majesty King Juan Carlos I and Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain during there visit in Japan in 1980. I had an honorable opportunity to perform Kata “Unsu“ in the garden of the State Guest House Akasaka Palace at that event. In addition, eight other JKA supreme headquarters instructors demonstrated passionately the ultimate synthesis of various Kumite and fighting techniques boasted by Great Master Nakayama. Among them were Master Abe Keigo, Master Tanaka Masahiko, Master Osaka Yoshiharu.

  • Hiromi Hishiki
  • Hiromi Hishiki

My worst experience is that I sometimes suffered injuries, after restarting Karate training since my 50s. My consciousness kept vividly the speed and strength of all movements when I had learned in my 20s. Yet, the rusty body caused my knee to lock. Thanks to my physiotherapy my knee was recovered enough so that I could join our generation’s championship and obtain my 6th Dan. But the ruptures of the gastrocnemius of my leg and biceps brachii of my dominant arm were made in succession last year. It’s such a pity! I am awaiting Doctor’s permission to continue my Karate training.

What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from? How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Hiromi Hishiki: When the training became challenging in my youth, I devoted myself to tough training. I did each Kata and technique 100 times in order to clear my mind without any precise motivation. Karate taught me the limit of my physically and mentally endurance.

How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life? Has Shotokan Karate helped you overcome or deal with difficult situations in your life?

Hiromi Hishiki: Karate delivered me great happiness twice in my life. First time it happened in the 1970s. There was an unreasonable Japanese custom that women should got marriage before 24 years. Society expected from or forced female workers to resign office at that age, which irritated me very much. As I wanted to be stronger, I dedicated myself to Karate training after working in the office every day. Ironically Karate Dojo’s were a typical place of patriarchal society. Nevertheless, I was enchanted by the principles of Shotokan Karatedo, the aura of the karate by the headquarter instructors and my peers.

Second, in 2000, I abruptly went to hospital due to overwork after established my company a half year earlier. Soon after, my respective Sempai suddenly called me to return to the Women’s classes of JKA headquarters for the first time since 1981. I had quit Karate back then in order to balance a full time job and caring a baby, while my husband stayed overseas on business. So, without her offer, I would be neither an instructor nor would I have earned a master’s degree on Karatedo.

Has Shotokan Karate has confronted you with difficult situations in your life?

Hiromi Hishiki: I faced great difficulty in my life after I established my own Dojo for several years. As I have my business career in trading transactions over many decades and a 1st class radio operator, I was confident in dealing with any task. However, I realized that the Karate world differs from the one of business and Radio.

  • Hiromi Hishiki

When I started my Dojo

Hiromi Hishiki: Soon after the registration of my own Dojo to headquarters, I appreciated a high ranked instructor who kindly promised me to support kyu grading tests twice a year in my Dojo. After that, however, all fees and kyu registrations got transmitted to the headquarter and his account without delay. Shortly after, he asked me to use his Dojo’s black belts as instructors in my Dojo regularly. It was impossible that other people were not allowed to teach Karate. Because I had exchanged the contract with the commercial based culture center as an instructor in advance.

Another day, he got offended because I named my own Dojo by myself and not the same as his Dojo. I wondered if an inexperienced female instructor is supposed to meet the high ranked instructor’s desire once she asked his assistance. His way might be the chivalrous spirit. He declared that he stopped his support to my Dojo as he had never seen such a rude woman like me. In fact, there are many female Karate instructors who are willing to work under male instructor as his docile assistant permanently.

Disproportionate Number of Female Instructors

I think, it is natural that I should manage my Dojo independently as well as other male instructors do. In the case beyond my ability, I wish to ask other’s help in part. That does not mean to integrate my Dojo into other ones. My research in 2012 has shown, that there has been a significantly disproportionate number of female instructors compared to males. Of the 925 group and branch representatives only 21 are female.

In the world of amateur radio, many female radio operators organized the international YL (Young Lady) meetings voluntarily and spontaneously in various countries since 1991. I also organized the 2nd International meeting with two ladies in Osaka. Some female hams from Europe and the Americas were so powerful to built up a radio shack and antennas by themselves for DX-peditions even in the Arctic, Antarctic or isolated island in Oceans. They show us what women can do!

The picture shows Hiromi Hishiki in 2018, when she received the JKA diligent award “Seirei-sho”. The award was established in 1957. Since then only 5th female recipient received it.
In 2018, Hiromi Hishiki received the JKA diligent award “Seirei-sho”. The award was established in 1957. Since then only 5th female recipient received it.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Hiromi Hishiki: In the 1970s, the JKA headquarter and Dojo surrounded a solemn atmosphere. In addition, there were lots of instructors, trainees and students who all were full of spirit and acted with strict manners. Every training, we had to be prepared to concentrate our minds completely. All headquarter instructors had their individual training ways, which were splendid and marvelous. Not only the women’s classes, but also we were looking forward joining various instructors’ trainings every day.

After training, we, girls, gathered in a coffee shop and reported how we overcame or survived during tense training respectively. Nowadays, many instructors are very tender and friendly in training and in Dojo. That might be in accordance with the changes of our society in Japan, as “enthusiastic teaching is getting outdated”. In 2013, the training by Master Masataka Mori in the New York Dojo impressed me a lot. That clearly reminded me of the training I had experienced in my youth.

Now, two favorable points had been changed. One is that women can take part in Kumite, something I had not experienced in the 1970s. Another is that children and elder people can enjoy Karate training and games, too.

What are your personal Shotokan Karate short- and long-term goals?

Hiromi Hishiki: My short term is to improve Kyu-holder students to Black belts, and to lead present black belts to 2nd or 3rd Dan. So far, about 30 girls and women earned their black belt. For children, I help them to become selected representative members of All Japan elementary and Junior high school Championships.

Being inclusive and make children thrive

Hiromi Hishiki: On the other hand, my kids students recite Dojokun of Supreme Master Funakoshi Gichin both in Japanese and English. Five rules in Japanese are still difficult among kids. I would like to study more how to instruct children to acquire the principles of Karatedo: proper manners, attitudes, respect to others along with techniques, as well as the strictness of Japanese Budo.

Dojokun in Japanese and English by Hiromi Hishiki´s Students

My main purpose to teach Karate is to expand Shotokan Karate’s fan base and introduce the nurturing of a sublime spirit and humility with proper Karate skills to many female and children. Fortunately, my Dojo accepts anybody from beginner to experienced and also those who come from another Karate school. You can take one-day trial Karate lesson in my “Karate lessons for Women” and “Karate girls Dojo” on Saturdays and “Karate Kids in English” classes on Wednesday at Yomiuru Culture Center Yokohama.

Teaching in person and through the internet

Luckily I am happy to have had the opportunity to teach Karate to many women and children from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Colombia, Denmark, Sri Lanka, etc. I welcome you to our Karate classes during your trip in Japan!

For the girls and children from remote places, I would like to offer Karate lessons on Internet soon – this is my dream.

For my long-term goal, as a 6th Dan I am eligible to take the test of A rank instructor. I would like to challenge myself to obtain this, continue my study of Shotokan karate and promotion of Shotokan to others.

How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?

Hiromi Hishiki: Nowadays, there are lots of young and talented girls who accomplish numerous championships. However, almost all of them face to many difficulties to continue their Karate training because of school, college, work, marriage, family-care, etc. As a result, they quit Karate, which is great loss for the karate world.

Hiromi Hishiki teaching in her Dojo
Hiromi Hishiki teaching in her Dojo

Now, I feel the need for a support system with facilities to help female practitioners who proceed their goals to become champions, instructors, high ranked Dan holders and so on. First, women find out their problems precisely, and they gather, seek for the settlement and take actions. Then, it is sure that Shotokan Karate will be very promising!

Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?

Hiromi Hishiki: Of course. It is my great pleasure to recommend Shotokan Karate to my female friends. I would like to see other women become more courageous, focused and developed in many aspects of their lives. I believe that Shotokan Karate can help accomplish this, as well as their goals, in and out of the dojo by making them stronger and confident and, then can contribute to society.

At the end, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Dr. Christian Tribowski who gave me a chance to be here, although I had not gorgeous Karate career like other female Karatekas.

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What is Fighting Spirit? And how to train it!

We can see if somebody possesses fighting spirit or not. Fighting spirit seems to be ubiquitous. We all know what fighting spirit is. Until we are being asked for an explanation. By Michael Ehrenreich

Fighting Spirit: You Know It, When you See it!

When I started competing in the early 1980´s I heard a well-known German coach explaining to one of his students: “You lost the fight because your opponent had more fighting spirit”. I knew exactly what he meant. Even though I was  rather inexperienced as a competitor I  clearly saw that the other fighter wanted it  a little bit more. But what exactly was this karate expert saying? Is fighting spirit something one has and somebody else does not?

The picture shows Michael Ehrenreich during a fight with Shiina. Both show incredible fighting spirit.

Later as a black belt II understood that there is still a lot to learn. So, I went to many seminars. With all the big names. Unfortunately,  fighting spirit never really became a topic in our discussions. Many of the well-known instructors would mention that fighting spirit was the most important thing for a fighter. I believed them. However, it never went beyond these one-liners. Thus,  I researched in fields like psychology, education, neuro science, philosophy, and sport sciences. Being a sport scientist myself I came up with the following idea: Fighting spirit can be understood just like fitness.

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The Puzzle of Fighting Spirit

Fitness is a complex and very balanced combination of a variety of skills like power, speed, endurance, strength, agility, and others more. We only speak of fitness, if all those virtues are being established at a decent level. The same applies to fighting spirit. To illustrated that I have created the fighting spirit puzzle. In this puzzle, all parts are interconnected . Together they constitute our fighting spirit.

The fighting spirit puzzle has six parts: self-confidence, persistence, determination, control, risk-taking, and competitiveness. This  analytical puzzle helps us to  to target specific weaknesses in us. It enables us to reach specific goals. Like in fitness, when we want to increase our speed, we need to work on our maximum strength, do plyometric drills, and practice a specific number of karate techniques at maximum speed. When it comes to fighting spirit we would apply the same principles. We would train a specific part in order to increase our fighting spirit.

6 Different Elements of Fighting Spirit

Self-confidence

But what are the different elements of the puzzle? The first element is our self-confidence. Self-confidence is a central part of fighting spirit. It is a positive feeling, it increases our self-esteem. Self-confidence is based on our skills and our positive experiences with challenges. That means, we have self-confidence in a certain area, whereas in others we might lack self-confidence.

Think, for example, that you as a Karate expert teaches a Karate class. You have the skills, the experience, and hence the self-confidence to teach a successful and exciting class. But than you need to talk about Karate. In front of strangers, hundreds of them. This is still the same topic, but a different setting. As a result, your confidence might  be low. That is why, it is so important, to always implement specific training impulses for specific goals. You cannot increase your self-confidence for a self-defense situation by signing-up for  a kata seminar.

The picture shows Michael Ehrenreich in situation full of fighting spirit.

Persistence

The second elements persistence. With persistence I understand the virtue of standing your ground when under pressure from outside. Pressure from outside can come in all different forms: a strong opponent in a fight, a mean boss, an important test, but also pain. While we don’t have much influence on the things that hit us from the outside, we can consider the way we look at them. We can change our perspective and look for weaknesses in an opponent. We can take lessons from peers who went through the same challenge. Over time, we will get used to all kinds of pain. In doing so, we will reduce the pressure and the stress that comes with it. We will be able to deal with a challenge or threat.

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Determination

The third element  is determination. It is the skill to set a goal and then motivating oneself to reachit. No matter what is being thrown at us. Somebody determined will always be first in class or practice and the last one to leave. She focuses on the possibilities and not on the problems. If she is not satisfied with a situation, she will change it.

Control

Control is the next element of the fighting spirit puzzle. With control I allude to the control over our feelings. The understanding that showing ones’ emotions is a sign of weakness and will not help us reaching our goals. Keeping our emotions under control in times of pressure, stress, and anxiety is an important aspect of a grown-up Karateka and of fighting spirit.

Risk-Taking

Taking risk is another element of the puzzle. We live in a society where taking risks is considered something to be avoided. But in order to progress as fighters and as human beings we need to take risks. As Karateka, if we go into a Kumite class and we do not feel butterflies in our stomach, we probably will not progress much as a fighter.

Competitiveness

Competitiveness is the last element of our fighting spirit puzzle. It is closely related to risk taking. But as Karateka it includes an opponent. It makes a challenge more dynamic. For instance, if we want to increase our fighting skills, we need to fight in class. The less rules we implement the more dynamic a situation will get. It becomes more realistic. Every interaction will be different, always changing. Every interaction will be a challenge. If we find the strength to always seek out stronger opponents, we will eventually get stronger, mentally and physically.

The picture shows true fighting spirit during a JKA tournament.

How to Train Fighting Spirit?

How do we train these elements? Let us assume that we are Karate teachers and there are two young fighters particularly promising. But both do not get the results everybody is expecting from them. Both are in their early 20s. One of them has been cruising through the junior divisions, winning tournament after tournament. He was a talent from the start, picked up techniques and concepts easily, never needed much practice. Even older Karateka respected his talent.

When he was entering the senior division (over the age of 21) though, things did not go quite as smoothly anymore. He started losing, often losing against obviously less talented fighters. Eventually, he was often injured or sick, especially before competitions. The other fighter has also been successful, but not quite as impressive. He never actually won a tournament but placed second or third a few times. When he is in regular class things look very different though. There is almost nobody who can keep up with him in the Dojo. Nobody practices harder and more often than he does. Everybody is wondering, why is he not fighting in competitions the way he is in practice?

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Two Practical Examples

So, we have two young Karateka who do not show the results they could. The causes for that differ . That also means that the way to deal with those fighters needs to be different. The traditional way of treating them the same way, often by simply increasing the number of repetitions, will help neither of them.

The First: Talent Yes, Determination No

The first Karateka draws his confidence from the fact that he is talented, genetically superior. But when he enters the grown-up division, talent becomes secondary. Now quantity becomes a force to reckon with. As a result, we need to explain our student that he will have to step up the number of weekly training hours he puts into Karate. He needs to understand the relation between training hours and competition results. We will need to help him motivating himself by pointing out the benefits of a life as a competitor, fame, trophies, maybe even money. Once he is ready, we will have to teach him about the really important things in life and how success in competition can help to achieve them. This Karateka needs to work on his determination.

The Second: Low Stress Management

The second Karateka does not need to practice more often. He already practices enough. With him we need to work on stress management. We need to help him understand why he is not delivering. If he is showing world class skills in the dojo but keeps on losing the important bouts, then there is something putting too much pressure on him. This pressure results into too much stress. Stress he is not able to cope with.

So, we need to find the stressor, the coach, the parents, peers, audience, or a combination of the above. The first step is to accept the fact that it is this stressor and his inability to deal with it that is holding him back. Then we need to set-up a training program to help managing his anxiety. For instance, with meditation, with visualization, with writing about his anxiety, or/and with practices where he will progressively face his daemons. This Karateka needs to work on his persistence.

The picture shows Thomas Prediger, chair of The Shotokan Times advisory board and organizer of the kumite boot camp. He also shows a lot of fighting spirit.

Conclusion: The Complex Concept of Fighting Spirit

Fighting spirit is a very complex concept. By breaking it down into different elements, the whole issue becomes  understandable and manageable. As a result, we are now able to set-up a specific program for a specific problem or goal. Just as we do with fitness. If we don’t set specific training goals and address those with specific training measures, then Karate training is no more than a lottery. A hit and miss situation. As Karateka we are surely aiming for more.

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Women of Shotokan: Elpida Christodoulou

If we had to award a prize for the most beautiful and concise definition of the spirit of Shotokan in 2019, we were very eager to give it to Elpida Christodoulou, our today´s woman of Shotokan. While she offers many thoughtful and wise insights about Shotokan, the following has been the most striking one for us:

Shotokan karate is not just an art of punches and kicks. It is an art composed of people who upgrade your internal world. So, that you can become a better person for yourself and for your society.

Elpida Christodoulou

Besides her deep understanding of the philosophy of Shotokan Elpida is an incredible competitor. Two weeks ago, she won a gold medal at the SKIF world championship women individual kumite U45 in Czech Republic. At the same event, she also became second with her kata team. Therefore, Elpida is a true woman of Shotokan and a huge inspiration. Congratulations, Elpida!

Portrait of Elpida Christodoulou

Additional information (member of a national team, coach, board member of a Dojo, highest achievements etc.):

  • Member of the national team of SKIF  (individual Kumite, individual kata, team leader women kata, team leader women kumite) 2000 – 2019
  • Member of the national team of WKF in different categories – Greece, from 2000-2012
  • Coach of the National team SKIF boys/girls- men/women kata-kumite
  • Instructor in Shotokan Karate Club Ilision “Yamada Kan” since 2005
  • The picture shows Elpida Christodoulou after her victory.
  • The picture shows Elpida Christodoulou During Kumite
  • The picture shows Elpida Christodoulou With Kancho Kanazawa

Highest achievements:

  • Gold Medal Kumite Women -60kg European Championship Oporto-Portugal SKIF
  • Third Place KATA Women World Championship SKIF Durban-South Africa 2003
  • Gold Medal Kumite Women -60kg European Championship Oporto-Portugal SKIF
  • Third Place Kumite Team Women World Championship SKIF Japan 2006- Team Leader
  • Gold Medal Kumite Women Open World Championship OKINAWA 2007 -All Shotokan Federation -In Memory of 50 yrs Gichin Funakoshi
  • Second Place KATA Team Women World Championship SKIF Greece 2009-Team Leader
  • Second Place KATA Women individual European Championship SKIF Budapest 2011
  • Third Place KATA Women European Championship SKIF Dresden-Germany 2014
  • Third Place Kumite Women -60 European Championship SKIF Czech Republic 2017
  • Gold Medal Kumite Women Open U45 World Championship SKIF Czech Republic 2019
  • Second Place KATA Team Women- Masters World Championship SKIF Czech Republic 2019
  • Etc.
Elpida during competition

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

Elpida Christodoulou: Hahaha😊: I’m starting my answer laughing. Actually, because the reason was quite ridiculous. I was really angry with my sister (age 12). At that time, I used to hang out with a friend of mine who practiced karate. So, I thought to sign up to the karate school that she was going. God bless her for that! The weird thing was that I never used karate against my sister after I joined. The reason I started karate was just a childhood idea that enhanced my life in many levels.

What do you like about Shotokan Karate? Is there something you do not like?

Elpida Christodoulou: About the art of Shotokan karate, I will start by saying that I like everything from the technical point of view – kihon-kata-kumite – and mostly I prefer kata. I like the difficulty and detail which is hidden in between the variety of techniques. And also, how magically they can change your way of life in the best possible way1 When someone practices something so hard, both in the physical and in the spiritual level, as the art of Shotokan karate, he or she is able to gain his/her self-esteem, overcome many adversities in life and become a winner – a winner in life!

What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?

Elpida Christodoulou: In my opinion Shotokan karate is like “solid gold”.

Actually, the greatest and the worst experiences come from the people and situations that constitute Shotokan.

  • The picture shows Elpida Christodoulou medailes
  • The picture shows Elpida Christodoulou after her victory.
  • The picture shows Elpida Christodoulou after her victory.

My greatest experience is that, through Shotokan, I was able to travel in many beautiful places and had the opportunity to meet many people with different cultures and ideas. So , that fact made me a more complete person, with friends in different countries. Great experiences were also all the times I won medals in championships, that made myself, my sensei and my country proud. Especially the Gold Medal in Okinawa in 2007 in the World Championship of all Shotokan Federations, in memory of Gichin Funakoshi (on the 50th anniversary of his death), a great and historical event for Shotokan. And finally, the Gold Medal that I won just a few days ago (19/7/2019) in the SKIF world championship in Czech Republic, when I heard the national anthem…

Worst experience? I cannot recall.

What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from?

Elpida Christodoulou: In difficult and challenging times, I draw power from my sensei, who is unstoppable no matter whatever problems come his way. So, I think to myself: “If he can, so can I.” My sensei also gives me the greatest motivation to keep going and want the best from myself and my karate students of all ages, especially the youngest generations. I am thinking that it is a huge responsibility to transmit the correct way and knowledge of Karate Shotokan as my sensei along with the Japanese senseis did and still do with me. Keeping that in mind, I try physically and mentally to do my best. As the time passes and life’s obligations grow, I am blissful that I have all the right reasons that never let me quit.

How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Elpida Christodoulou: Karate has surely changed and improved me as a person. From the moment I began to realize that, if I really wanted to stand out and be the best possible in Karate, I should dedicate myself to it, without leaving my university studies at the same time. It was difficult to juggle both, but I kept in mind my sensei’s words, who always told me that my studies should be my number one priority and Karate should come second. So yes, Karate changed me in a positive way, because it offered me a special path that not everyone can follow, which meant discipline of yourself, a lot of self-esteem and the feeling that you are doing something completely different than the majority of people.

Elpida during competition

How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life? Has it helped you overcome or deal with difficult situations in your life? Is it helping you on a daily basis with the challenges of life?

Elpida Christodoulou: In a very difficult period of my life, Karate helped me find myself again.

I dedicated myself to my purpose and my long-hours of training every day. That, combined with the people that appreciated my desire and appetite for Karate and believed in me, helped me – without even knowing it – to get out of my darkness.

As I mentioned before, I believe that, when someone is practicing something as hard and special as Shotokan karate, he or she can deal with and overcome many obstacles that come his or her way. That is something I cannot forget in my everyday life.

Shotokan karate is not just an art of punches and kicks. It is an art composed of people who upgrade your internal world, so that you can become a better person for yourself and for your society.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Elpida Christodoulou: My Karate Shotokan is laid on very strong foundations and I always try to progress. Therefore, my Karate has changed and is still changing in many ways. Slowly and patiently. I participate in many seminars, both in my country and abroad, with Japanese and European instructors and I always try to learn from the best.

  • The picture shows Elpida Christodoulou with Ildiko Redai.
  • Elpida hristodoulou with other women of Shotokan
  • The picture shows Elpida hristodoulou with Nobuaki Kanazawa, Manabu Murakami,and team mates.

What are your personal Shotokan Karate short- and long-term goals?

Elpida Christodoulou: My short- and long-term goal in karate is to have the strongest possible dojo and organization I can possibly have. With students that appreciate and love karate as much as I do. So that I can keep passing on the ideals that Shotokan pursues, such as honesty, good heart, straight way of thinking, discipline, self-esteem, politeness. And so that I give them the necessary knowledge to defend themselves and their families in the best way possible, if necessary.

Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?

Elpida Christodoulou: Of course, I would recommend Shotokan karate to my female friends!

Women are a minority in the world of Karate and nature has endowed us with less muscle strength than men, but we are for sure very intelligent, have excellent technique (in many cases better than men) and we are more capable to avoid violence compared to men. As a result, testosterone has destroyed half of our world. Furthermore, as we live in a men’s world, women must exercise as much as they can and learn how to defend themselves if necessary, believe in their physical and mental strength and be healthy and fit at all ages. Stop smoking, do karate. Oss!


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What is Zanshin? – The State of A Fighting Mind

The picture shows karateka in full zanshin expecting the next attack or counter.

Zanshin belongs to the central concepts of budo and Shotokan karate. In this article give you a detailed account about the fighting state of mind. By Thomas D. McKinnon

What does Zanshin mean?

Literally translated, zanshin means ‘left over or remaining heart /spirit/mind’. However, for the dedicated karateka, it means the state of total awareness. Being still within, while aware of one’s surroundings, and being totally prepared for anything.

It also conveys the fighting spirit of the individual after the fight. If victorious, the fighter needs a forward-looking awareness and should not lose focus by the victory. If by chance the fighter loses, he will carry an indomitable spirit with honor and grace. Then no real defeat of the character takes place. To encapsulate in a single sentence:

‘Zanshin can be said to be a state of total, calm, alertness. Before, during and after combat a physical, mental and spiritual state of awareness.

Our friends from WaKu Karate in Tokyo give in this video a hint about the concept.

Some Western Interpretations

I’ve heard many attempts by instructors to translate the concept into English for the western student to understand:

  • being in the zone, a mental state of focused concentration on the performance of an activity; while dissociating oneself from distracting, irrelevant aspects of one’s environment.
  • a state of readiness to do again what you have already successfully done.
  • to focus intently on the moment (without emotion)… a state of sustained, committed concentration.

Other Arts also Require Zanshin

Zanshin is not the exclusive property of karate, or even the martial arts in general. It is a necessary characteristic of any credible soldier, police officer, security operative or martial artist. Also, outside of any fighting formats, the Japanese art of ikebana (flower arranging), chado (the tea ceremony) and Sumi-e (ink painting) requires zanshin: a state of being ever ‘present’.

In kyudo, the Japanese martial art of archery, it refers to the body posture after the loosing of an arrow. The posture reflects the mental aspect (zanshin) maintained before, during, and after an action.

In kendo, the concept describes the continued state of alertness, spirit, mind and body, and readiness to meet the situation maintained throughout the whole situation. Zanshin – maintained before, during, and after an action – is one of the essential elements that define a good attack.

In iaido, the practice is calm and quiet, and the most important feature of iaido is the development of zanshin (a calm, reflective mind) throughout.

Zanshin in Shotokan Karate

In Budo karate competition, shobu sanbon or shobu ippon, to score with a technique requires zanshin. Fighters must maintain the mental aspect before, during, and after the scoring technique and not just a show at the end for performance.

Our author Thomas D. McKinnon exactly knows what zanshin means. He was soldier in the British Army and operated a high-level security company.
Our author Thomas D. McKinnon

Without zanshin, kata would appear only as a number of techniques performed in a dramatic arrangement (as seems to be the case for most sport karate performers). Enoeda Keinosuke Sensei (whom I had the good fortune to have as my chief instructor in my formative karate years), for instance, performed kata like the midst of battle.

Certainly, as well as kime, one of the aspects that a Shotokan karateka should be displaying, at the very latest, in preparation for shodan (that first blackbelt grading) is a solid understanding of zanshin.

Being Aware: The Foundation of Fighting Spirit

The famous samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, reputedly said:

“Both in fighting and in everyday life, you should be determined though calm. Even when your spirit is calm do not let your body relax, and when your body is relaxed do not let your spirit slacken… Zanshin.

Toshiro Mifune as Miyamoto Musashi depicts zanshin at its best.

From a personal perspective: Formerly, as the CEO of a high-end, close personal protection company, I was responsible for selecting the personal protection operatives. All trained martial arts, some were former soldiers, and some were former police officers. Most would say that we obviously engaged them for their martial skills. However, their combat ability, certainly a desirable factor, wasn’t the primary dynamic in their engagement. Each successful CPPO applicant possessed that subjective but essential, qualitative characteristic: zanshin.

Zanshin in Everyday-Life

Zanshin means always being ready to do what is needed when it is needed. Having it in your life has many merits but one of the chief benefits would be the tendency to avoid pitfalls. Think about it: is it not better to avoid disasters than, after the fact, figuring out how to survive them?

Having a sense of when something is not quite right may not be a measurable element.

However, with zanshin in your daily experience, you will fortuitously take the only route through a disaster zone that delivers you, hale and hearty, to the other side. That is part of what it can deliver for you: a more fruitful life experience.

Zanshin is a characteristic that will help and assist anyone who takes on the way of life that we call ‘Karate-do’. Regardless of what other choices you make in your life i.e. career, family, living environment et cetera, zanshin enriches all.