“Karate Do is a path to oneself” argues TD McKinnon in his latest column Shotokan Essence. However, most of the people who start this path do not seek to arrive at themselves. Other motives are more relevant for them. That is explains a high number of dropouts. The ones who stay on the path are the ones who are encouraged to follow the Dojo Kun. Thus, karateka should focus on developing and cultivating the Dojo Kun.
Karate Do is a way of training, thinking, conducting oneself; a way of believing in oneself, for life. In other words, Karate Do is a life-long journey of self. The motivating factors for beginning this journey can be many and varied: self-defence, fitness, confidence building, and sporting competition, to name but a few. However, goals change. Your martial path, should you chose to take it, will have many twists and turns along the way, some of them 180°.
One person in 10,000
After a lifetime of teaching, I do know that if you were to ask every wide-eyed beginner on their first day of training, “Why are you beginning karate training?” their motivations would be many and varied.
However, of 10,000 beginner only 50 percent will still train after the first six months. After one year, only 1,000 will be left. Maybe 100 will reach the third year. Maybe less that than 0.1 percent will earn their shodan. But an even smaller amount will go on to receive their Nidan.
What are the Reasons for the high number of Dropouts?
From all those individuals who begin training, there are those who will find out quickly that it is not what they imagined, and not for them. Some won’t make it past the second week.
Some will learn a few techniques, maybe even take a couple of gradings, and then life will get in the way. And they will drift away. They may even promise themselves that they will be back. Very few return.
There will be the achievers: those who will persevere until they achieve that coveted black belt, before moving on to their next achievement.
There will be the sports people, who excel in the sporting arena. They may even have a relatively long career in sport karate. After their own competition days have run the course they might continue as judges, referees and sporting competition coaches. They are the perpetual sports people. To them, the sport isKarate.
Then there are the shining few, who may indeed pass through some or all of the aforementioned phases, but who will then don the mantle and tread the cloistered path of Karate Do.
How Long does the Path of Karate Do take?
If you are seeking only physical benefits the chances are that, after your physical body peaks, you will lose interest.
If it is a status symbol, the time it takes to get to black belt will probably be your maximum.
If it is about self-defence or confidence building and it doesn’t go beyond that, it may be a short term or a long term thing, depending on your situation and life style choices. But eventually it will wane.
If it is mainly the sport aspect that attracts and holds you, then after peaking in the sport, it will fare much the same as any sport. The young will enjoy the competition, and as they mature they may continue in an official role: sporting coach/referee/judge et cetera. However, not unlike any sporting involvement, it diminishes and eventually disappears.
If you find Karate Do to have an honorable code of ethics, worth aspiring to, and Karate Do weaves itself into your very fabric, you may find that Karate-Do is your path, for life.
Karate Do Encourages an Ancient Instinct: Honour
Honour, as a noun, meaning respectability and virtue, or a code of conduct valuing those concepts, is an ancient human instinct. Karate Do seeks to encourage and develop that instinct. The Dojo Kun, a set of philosophical rules for the smooth running and necessary control of the dojo environment, is a guiding light to illuminate the way.
Remember, whatever their underlying motives: this is a group of people who are there to learn how to inflict physical violence on an adversary. When you think about it, that environment could run quite quickly out of control: becoming unruly, aggressive, and possibly quite violent. In my time I have actually witnessed fight training centers, a karate dojo or two, even one Shotokan dojo, where, to one degree or another, this was in evidence.
The Dojo Kun: Its Origins and Implications
The Dojo Kun is set in place to modify behavior, both inside and outside of the Dojo. Most traditional Dojos recite a Dojo Kun, or a modified version of that Kun, at least once every training session. Stating the moral code of the Kun before beginning a class can be said to ready the mind and spirit for learning and practicing implied violence, non-violently. Whereas reciting the Kun on completion of one’s training is like the final, centering thought as you finish a meditation. Resetting the mind before re-joining ‘normal’ society. Some Dojos, emphasizing and promoting humility, recite the Kun at both the beginning and the end of a class.
Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, 1868-1957, the founder of Shotokan, is generally credited with creating of the Dojo Kun. According to Funakoshi Sensei, The Dojo Kun contains the general, guiding principles of Karate. Funakoshi Sensei also set out the Niju Kun: twenty specific and subordinate principles of Karate, encompassing morality, technique, and proper mindset.
Others credit Sakukawa Kanga Sensei, 1733-1815, with creating the Dojo Kun. I would venture that Sakukawa did instigate a Dojo Kun. That being said, however, I would also suggest that wherever the martial arts have been studied, seriously, a Kun (a set of philosophical guidelines) is likely to have been set in place.
The Dojo Kun varies throughout the martial arts fraternities to suit cultural and philosophical differences. Even within Shotokan, now seeded throughout the world, the Dojo Kun has morphed. There remains however a similar, underlining message of humility and respect.
一、人格 完成に 努める こと hitotsu, jinkaku kansei ni tsutomeru koto
一、誠の道を守ること hitotsu, makoto no michi wo mamoru koto
一、努力の精神を養うこと hitotsu, doryoku no seishin wo yashinau koto
一、礼儀を重んずること hitotsu, reigi wo omonzuru koto
一、血気の勇を戒むること hitotsu, kekki no yū wo imashimuru koto
In the West, particularly the UK, the following is a widely accepted translation of the essence of that Kun:
Each person must strive for the completion and perfection of one’s character
Each person must be faithful and protect the way of truth
Each person must endeavor (fostering the spirit of effort)
Each person must respect others and the rules of etiquette
Each person must refrain from hot blooded behavior (guard against impetuous courage)
Concise Dojo Kun
When I began my Shotokan journey in Scotland in the early 1970s, I recited a more simplified version:
Seek Perfection of Character
Put maximum effort into everything you do
Develop Self Control
Since those early days I have heard several terser versions; the following is just one of them:
Karate Do, Dojo Kun and the Path to one Self
The Dojo Kun appears in many styles and arts, varying according to the general precepts of the style. A book could be written on a veritable proliferation of Dojo Kun.
Like the many paths ascending the mountain, striving to reach the summit; so too does any true study and practice of the martial disciplines strive to achieve enlightenment. Hence, practicing Karate Do and following the Dojo Kun means to be on a life long path to oneself.
Stephane Castrique, Chief-Instructor of SKIF-Belgium, sent us a detailed answer about the analysis our managing director and chief editor, Dr. Christian Tribowski, published on Monday. You can find Christian´s analysis here: Quo Vadis, SKIF? Strategy Desperately Needed.Following we have published Stephane´s full answer. Feel free to engage in the discussion in the comments.
Dear Christian, dear readers of The Shotokan Times, this is my reaction to the article “Quo Vadis, SKIF? Strategy Desperately needed”, The Shotokan Times published last Monday. It is important that this is my personal view and not in any way the official point of view of the SKIF HQ.
In the following answer I am going to address some of your questions, clarify some issues you have raised, and show where your arguments become misleading. Again, I only express my own and private opinion and knowledge.
Clarification of some Facts about SKIF
In your article you posted the following statement, in which you referred to the SKIF website:
“according to SKIF, 130 country organisations are affiliated combining several million members”
SKIF is indeed represented in 130 different countries. However not
every branch has the same size. Like in any worldwide karate organization, some
branches are big and have a big following and some branches are very small,
representing just a few dojo or members.
So I agree that SKIF has the biggest worldwide representation compared
to any other “single style organization” but does this automatically mean that
the total combining members results in several million members? I don’t think
We all know that all karate organizations like to boast about their
total membership (and so does SKIF), but I don’t think there is any “single
style organization” that has several million members.
The WKF is not a style organization; it is a sporting organization that brings together many national federations. This is maybe (and I emphasize “maybe”) the only organization that can claim several million members through national federations in many countries around the world.
Hierarchy in the JKA
You also referred to the JKA and stressed:
“today, the JKA has a much flatter hierarchy, integrates more characters, and does not focus solely on one supreme leader.”
Yes, indeed JKA integrates more characters, because the number of HQ instructors is much bigger. This is because JKA is domestically (JKA japan) bigger than SKIF. Why? Well the reason is because JKA has longer history than SKIF, therefore it is much better represented in the many high school karate clubs, university karate clubs, and has more local branches. Anybody who knows the Japanese karate world is aware of this. So, while JKA is still big in Japan it has become smaller over the years due to the big split in the 1990’s.
Obviously I’m not a JKA member but from my info, it is not correct to say that JKA in its management has a flatter hierarchy. I think like most karate organizations it is organized with a strong vertical hierarchy.
SKIF succession secured
“A dispute of succession, would lead to a collapse of the federation and seems very unlikely”.
This statement is very true; a dispute seems very unlikely. Nobody can say that the current leadership is against Kanazawa Soke’s will. It is this new generation that has the responsibility to keep SKIF going.
The field of Shotokan and why we need a strong SKIF
“The loss of the figurehead has damaged the aura of SKIF. Many members came for Hirokazu Kanazawa. But will they stay for Nobuaki Kanazawa and Manabu Murakami?”
My feeling is that almost everybody will stay. Because in any karate
organization the number of members that practice karate as a lifelong
discipline is not usually a large number.
I use SKIF-Belgium as an example. While still many of our dojo leaders
have had frequent exposure to Kanazawa Soke, many of our most motivated young
members, dojo leaders and national team members have had much more exposure and
actual training time with Murakami Shuseki Shihan and other SKIF HQ
instructors. So their loyalty is much more towards this generation.
When dojos or members leave SKIF (or any other organization) the
reasons are seldom because there is a problem at World leadership level. When
people leave it is mostly because they have issues with domestic policy.
Do we need a strong SKIF? As representative of SKIF in Belgium I think it is important. When there are strong and big SKIF groups in other countries it gives more credibility to my own group and what we do. It also gives more opportunities for international exchange (courses, competitions, etc.).
You, however, derive at the following conclusion:
“However, SKIF has now considerably been weakened”
I don’t think so. Anybody who has attended the last SKIF World Championship
in the Czech Republic will testify that the opposite is true. After April 5,
2014, the date of the succession of Kanazawa Soke, the size nor the activities
of the federation have changed.
An international technical seminar has been created and held yearly in Tokyo since 2014. This year’s seminar and Kanazawa Soke’s memorial have been cancelled because of the Coronavirus outbreak, but over 500 representatives from many different countries had already registered.
The five challenges for SKIF
Changing global Karate environment and need for strategy
“Budo and values play a minor role in the WKF system”
Like I said before,
WKF is a sporting organization. Their purpose is to create a platform to allow
karate athletes to compete under a certain set of rules. For some the side
effects of this “sportification” is indeed public recognition and fame, as well
as income and a career. But still more people make an income or extra money by
“teaching” karate than “competing.” There will always be people interested in
learning “karate-do.” WKF can do nothing for these people, but organizations
like SKIF (and others) are still relevant for this big majority.
“attentive observers have already noticed that some national SKIF teams already compete at WKF events”
I don’t see the problem. First of all, each country has organized karate in its own specific way. In some countries SKIF is a part of the national style federation/governing body. In some countries like my own, SKIF is totally outside of the national governing body. In some countries SKIF representatives hold important positions within the national governing body.
Let’s not forget
that Nobuaki Kanazawa Kancho was himself a member of the JKF national team in
the past. (JKF= governing body for karate in Japan). All I can say that all
competitors in a major SKIF tournaments must register with their SKIF dan diploma
number. This has been done so that a major SKIF tournament is really a 100%
“We wrote an e-mail to Nobuaki Kanazawa Kancho and Manabu Murakami about the official strategy of the organization in October 2019. We never received and answer.”
First, it is up to
them to answer to your request or not. But if they answer they should find the
time to formulate an answer together, since the questions were asked to both of
them. As it happens I can confirm that at that specific time both were not
together in Japan for several weeks. Soke was hospitalized from mid-November
and passed away on December 8. I think they had a lot on their mind at the
moment so it is a little difficult to sit together and discuss a common answer
to your question. Once more if they felt it was important to answer you.
With my limited
knowledge of Japanese culture, all I can say that after the passing away of the
figurehead of the organization it is custom in Japan to have a one year of
silence. For example, there were no big changes in the management and/or positions
of the JKS, after Asai sensei’s passing for over one year. And the same can be seen in many
organizations that have their HQ in Japan.
conversations with Murakami Shuseki Shihan, Nobuaki Kancho and several other HQ
instructors there will be changes in the future. But now it is too early, out
of respect for the huge work Kanazawa Soke has done over the years.
My guess is that there will be changes in the future (i.e. examination program, organizational structure, instructor accreditation, etc.). But it will always be centered around Kanazawa Soke’s specific brand of karate and the syllabus he designed.
“The Takudai seminars”
From my understanding, these seminars were organized by the impulse of Nagai Shihan, SKIF representative in Germany. Many Takudai Karate club old boys have a big pride in the fact that they were members of this great Uni karate club. The incredible amount of karate masters and leaders that came via this lineage is recognized by everybody in the Shotokan Karate world. Some people even go as far to say that Shotokan Karate as we know it is “Takudai karate.” All I can see is that there was a lot of JKA activity in Germany the week before the last Takudai seminar and even on the same weekend. So if this initiative has stopped maybe we should look more towards the JKA than SKIF.
“But the problem is: Nobuaki Kanazawa Kancho did not attend Takushoku University”
That Nobuaki Kanazawa Kancho has not attended Takushoku University is not a problem in my view. Anyway, when he reached the age of going to university, the Takudai karate club was closed, so it was impossible for him to join. Kancho joined the Taisho University Karate club. As an old boy from this also famous karate club he now has his own connections within the Karate world. Many famous karate instructors graduated from Taisho: Iida Norihiko, Sawada Kazuhiro, Ogura Yasunori, Hanzaki, Koh Iwamoto, and also some very good female karateka like Baba and Takahashi Yuko.
Founding instructors of SKIF about to retire
“The loss of the founding fathers of SKIF will considerably weaken the federation overseas”
First of all, I
think that SKIF is a strong federation overseas. It is 100% true that Asano
Shihan, Nagai Shihan, Miura Shihan, Koga Shihan and Kawasoe Shihan (deceased)
have built SKIF in Europe. They are a special generation of pioneers that have
faced many adversities when they first arrived in Europe. It takes a special
kind of man come to Europe, without knowing the language, the customs and
survive here just by teaching karate. When they faced problems within the JKA,
Kanazawa Soke stood up for them. This got him into trouble in Japan, and the
rest is history as they say.
For about eight
years now there is also a board of directors of SKIF in Europe. The founding
instructors of SKIF have their voice in this board trough their senior students
that are part of this board. So slowly but gently some changes have taken
Let us not forget
that in their own countries a lot of students became members of SKIF because of
their charisma and karate skill. The loyalty towards SKIF and Kanazawa Soke was
thought to these students by following the example of their Japanese
But we must also face the truth. As I said before, it takes a special kind of man to come to Europe, without knowing the language, the customs and survive here just by teaching karate. The founding fathers were successful because of their hard character. With all respect, but I would not describe them as “normal” Japanese men. This has also over the years created some fall out. There are also people who have left SKIF with pain in their hearts. But cooperating with founding fathers became impossible for them. Therefore, a generation change might well be a window of opportunity for future growth and old members returning to SKIF.
The need for an instructors Program
We cannot compare JKA to SKIF too much. It is a fact that JKA employs 25 instructors at their HQ in Tokyo. But as I said before the domestic workload inside Japan is bigger for them. JKA is a government recognized institution. Therefore, I would not be surprised that there is also some government funding for the JKA. SKIF is a non-profit organization. The structure is very different.
JKA has a constant influx of university graduates because a lot of university karate clubs are JKA style and use JKA instructors. The pool of young people that are crazy enough to pursue a career in karate is much bigger. Same for JKS, because Kagawa Shihan is the main shihan at Teikyo University. To my knowledge only two or three university karate clubs have a connection to SKIF. Also, these Karate clubs are part of universities with a higher academic status. The members of these clubs practice karate mostly as a hobby and these clubs do not attract young Japanese karateka that look for a hard training environment to improve their karate and of course their tournament skills.
I am almost sure
that SKIF management is aware that it should have an influx of new young
instructors but the pool to find them is smaller. A career as a SKIF HQ
instructor is not all roses. For many young Japanese people a job as a karate
instructor is not attractive, neither financially nor status wise. Even
Murakami Shuseki Shihan’s own mother asked him until 2006 when he would quit
and get a “real” job.
There is an instructor’s program also at SKIF HQ. At this very moment, my own student, Mr. Huglo Paul, will probably graduate from this course beginning of April. Hiyori Kanazawa will probably also graduate, but I’m not sure whether she will be a “full” instructor or a “junior” instructor as their training program and training volume was not the same. From my conversations with Murakami Shihan and Kanazawa Kancho the course is basically 2 years. Until now it was modeled after the JKA course. Of course, I cannot speak for SKIF HQ, but my thinking is that they will try to make a different system or way to get this accreditation more in harmony with the reality of today’s world. I don’t know about specific details at this moment.
Media visibility and presence
I agree with the
analysis made in this article. But we must not forget that the instructors have
to be first of all: “karate professionals”.
Meaning that their core activity is teaching karate. Like a skilled craftsman, who is also able to teach his craft. On top of this they need to do administration and sometimes even do politics. That is already 3 skills for one and the same person. To ask them to also be an internet influencer or a Youtuber is maybe asking a little too much.
Let’s not forget that the Kuroobi World Media is Mr. Nishi’s fulltime job. He’s not a karate instructor. Of course, JKA has the beneficial effects of being in the public spotlight via Naka Shihan and Kuroobi World. But Kuroobi World is not an official communication channel of the JKA.
It is a fact that SKIF has to make a bigger effort when it comes to internet visibility and social media.
What distinguishes SKIF?
I think this
question would best be answered in a completely different article. If I find
the time in the future I will try to give an answer.
Just two important
As far as technical matters are concerned it is characterized by Kanazawa Soke’s “unique” development and ideas of the Shotokan style. But this does not mean that everything is rigid. Future generation of SKIF instructors and various members will naturally influence the art.
Organizationally, I think the name sums it all up: “JAPAN” karate association vs. Shotokan Karate-Do “INTERNATIONAL” Federation.
These are my personal comments on the article “Quo Vadis SKIF?” It is important that readers understand that my comment on the article should not in any way be interpreted as the “official SKIF HQ” reaction.
Chief-Instructor of SKIF-Belgium
How will the Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation (SKIF) evolve after the sad passing of Hirokazu Kanazawa in December 2019? Will SKIF maintain its position as the second biggest Shotokan association in the world? In which direction will and should Kancho Nobuaki Kanazawa and Shuseki Shihan Manabu Murakami lead the organization? An analysis by Dr. Christian Tribowski
While the Shotokan world mourns, SKIF has been hit by the passing of Hirokazu Kanazawa. It lost its founder and figurehead. His loss has torn a huge whole into the aura of the organization. Since its establishment in 1978, SKIF has become one of the largest Shotokan organizations in the world. According to SKIF, 130 country organizations are affiliated combining several million members. But its leadership centered on Hirokazu Kanazawa.
Such a system also dominated the JKA under Masatoshi Nakayama. However, JKA learned its lesson in the aftermath of the passing of the supreme leader. Several groups of high-level instructors claimed the leadership over the organization. They all saw themselves as the rightful heirs of Nakayama, and they were ready to fight for it.
The turmoil erupted because Masatoshi Nakayama did not declare an official successor. Thus, a legal dispute broke lose that took almost ten years until it finally got settled. Several renegade associations emerged and the JKA lost a huge portion of their best instructors and branches.
Today, the JKA has a much flatter hierarchy, integrates many more characters, and does not focus solely on one supreme leader. Masaaki Ueki is surrounded by a huge group of capable instructors that all play a valid role in the success of the association.
SKIF: Succession Secured
Hirokazu Kanazawa, on the other hand, observed the self-destruction of the JKA in the 1990’s. He established his own organization ten years earlier. But he learned from the JKA experience.
On April 5, 2014, SKIF held a special ceremony in Tokyo where Hirokazu Kanazawa officially passed the leadership of the association to his son Nobuaki and Manabu Murakami, his longest disciple. Both belong to the most talented and successful karateka of their generations. Since then, Nobuaki Kanazawa holds the title of Kancho (director). Manabu Murakami has become Shuseki Shihan (chief instructor). Together they manage the organization. Both have known each other for several decades, and have even fought against each other during world championships.
A legal dispute about the succession of Hirokazu Kanazawa, which could damage and lead to a collapse of the association, seems more than unlikely.
The Field of Shotokan and why we need a strong SKIF
Yet, the future of SKIF and its position as the second biggest Shotokan association worldwide is not secured. The loss of the figurehead has damaged the aura of SKIF. Many members came for Hirokazu Kanazawa. But will they stay for Nobuaki Kanazawa and Manabu Murakami?
This question is open. But both must find some valid answers. Because currently SKIF builds together with the JKA the center of the traditional/budo karate field. This center helps to stabilize Shotokan especially against the powerful and growing faction of sports karate represented by the WKF. But it also keeps Shotokan dynamic. Because both associations wrestle and distinguish from each other like in a market oligopoly.
The competition increases due to the abundance of smaller associations, which surround and challenge them in the periphery. Some of them offer slightly different approaches to Shotokan, other organizational structures, or charismatic and highly skillful chief instructors. This leads to a healthy competition within the field of Shotkan karate and members can choose which association suits them best.
However, SKIF has now considerably been weakened. And in the upcoming years it will face some serious external and internal challenges. If the leadership of the association will not manage to deal with these challenges, SKIF might migrate from the center to the periphery. The consequence for the Shotokan community would be not desirable. Because the JKA would then become – like the WKF – a monopolist. Its position would be weaker than its sports karate counterpart, but it would still could highly influence and dominate the field of traditional/budo karate. Therefore, a strong SKIF works as a corrective and is hence highly desirable. But the future of the association is open and it will depend on the management how they cope with the future challenges.
The Five Challenges for SKIF
What are these challenges? SKIF has to face five internal and external trends and drivers in the upcoming years:
Changing Global Karate Environment and Need of Strategy
Founding Instructors of SKIF About to Retire
The Need for an Instructors Program
Media Visibility and Presence
USP: What Distinguishes SKIF?
1. Changing Global Karate Environment and Need for a Strategy
The global karate environment has changed considerably since the 1980s. Sports karate dominates the public perception and attention. It is going to debut at the Olympics – at least for one event. However, due to the attention and money the WKF will generate through this event, it will put the traditional/budo field of Shotokan under pressure. The WKF will define the future of karate, mainly driven by fun, entertainment, competitions, media needs, and customers/viewer interest. Budo and values play a minor role in the WKF system. Thus, it will also attract plenty of young karateka and offer them something traditional/budo associations have not managed to deliver: public recognition and fame as well as income and a career.
JKA already positions itself as keeper of the traditions
The popularity of SKIF in the past stemmed from the popularity of its figurehead, Hirokazu Kanazawa. Many karateka entered the association to learn from him, because of his charisma, wisdom, and personality. But now after his death the question arises: What will they stay for?
Attentive observers have already noticed that some national SKIF teams already compete at WKF events. So, for some young SKIF karateka the WKF does not seem to be off-limits. As mentioned: It offers them many attractive and lucrative opportunities. Hence, the erosion of the member base has already started within the younger generations.
SKIF strategy desperately needed
Thus, SKIF needs a strategy to cope with the changing global karate environment and how to react to the popularity of sports karate. However, the leadership of SKIF has not presented such a strategy since it entered office in 2014.
That is the reason why we want to know from SKIF directly what their strategy will be. In October 2019, The Shotokan Times inquired at SKIF. We wrote an email to Nobuaki Kanazawa and Manabu Murakami about the official strategy of the organization. We posed several thoughts. However, we never received an answer neither from the management nor from the SKIF HQ. We can only speculate what that means.
However, high-level SKIF instructors and Manabu Murakami have organized the Takudai seminar series in Germany in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Here they brought together Takushoku University Karate Club alumni from different associations to teach an open seminar. That initiative might indicate that SKIF is about to join forces and to collaborate with other associations stronger in the future in order to strengthen the traditional/budo Shotokan community. The Takudai Club seems to be a good vehicle for such exchange because it links instructors from the whole spectrum of Shotokan. But the problem: Nobuaki Kanazawa did not attend Takushoku University. That raises the question which role he will play within this collaboration? In addition, SKIF is not going to organize a fourth Takudai seminar in 2020. Has this initiative stopped?
The silence of SKIF and the lack of a visible new orientation of the association forces us to make the conclusion that a strategy is needed. Without a strategy SKIF might migrate to the periphery, which weaken the traditional/budo Shotokan community as a whole.
2. Founding Instructors of SKIF About to Retire
The need for a strategy becomes even more relevant because of the upcoming generational change in the leadership of national SKIF branches. Important, charismatic, powerful, and well-connected instructors in Europe, the stronghold of SKIF, like Shiro Asano (England), Akio Nagai (Germany), Masaru Miura (Italy), and Rikuta Koga (Switzerland) are about to retire. All of them are in their 70s and 80s.
As “founding fathers” they built and established the association alongside Soke Kanazawa. Thus, SKIF will lose these important pillars when they retire. Together with them, many resources, knowledge, and connections will leave.
Therefore, the question arises: Who will follow them? Fortunately, SKIF has very talented and engaged national chief instructors and presidents like Stephane Castriques from Belgium and Tony Racca from Switzerland. However, the karate background and connections of an instructor, who has been educated at a Japanese University karate club and later attended an instructors program, is hard to match.
At the same time, JKA and JKS flood the globe with weekend seminars by Japanese instructors. Associations like KWF, WSKF, FSKA, JSKA etc. also compete with their Japanese instructors for the attention of the Shotokan karate public. The loss of the “founding fathers” of SKIF will considerably weaken the association oversees.
3. The Need of an Instructors Program
The void, which will emerge in the upcoming years in Europe, could be filled with young instructors from Japan. But that requires a prerequisite: young instructors. Unlike the JKA or JKS, SKIF has not set up an instructors program. Currently, only six instructors including Nobuaki Kanazawa, Manabu Murakami, Ryusho Suzuki, Shinji Tanaka, Fumitoshi Kanazawa, and Daizo Kanazawa are listed on the website. Occasionally, Hiyori Kanazawa teaches Shotokan karate oversees.
The JKA, on the other hand, employs 25 instructors in the honbu dojo in Tokyo. Through their instructors program the organization has a constant influx of highly qualified karateka that it can send abroad.
Why SKIF has never established a similar program is beyond my knowledge. An organization with “several million members” could (and should) create such an educative infrastructure.
The negligence of the past might block future developments. According to insights from SKIF officials, the travel volume of Manabu Murakami exceeded 300 days per year. As chief instructor he must maintain a high technical standard among the members within the global federation. Therefore, his position requires traveling and constant education of its members.
However, such a high amount of travel-time comes with costs. His absence makes it impossible to set up an instructors program and to educate young instructors in the honbu dojo. As a consequence this leads to a dilemma that a German proverb captures nicely: “I have no time to build a fence, because I have to catch chickens.”
To strengthen the association in the upcoming years an advancement of the instructors group and the implementation of an instructors program is recommended.
4. Media Visibility and Presence
Another way to resolve this dilemma would be a higher media visibility and presence. Hirokazu Kanazawa understood the power and necessity of media like books and films to spread karate and to convey his style of Shotokan. He wrote at least eight books, which all became breakthroughs in the teaching of karate. In addition, he produced several educational video series about Shotokan. His sense of the visual dimension and presentation of Shotokan was splendid. In this regard he followed Masatoshi Nakayama, who also understood the importance and opportunities of media for the spread of Shotokan karate.
Today, Tatsuya Naka follows the in footsteps of Masatoshi Nakayama and Hirokazu Kanazawa. He gained a huge audience through his performances in several popular karate movies like Kuro Obi (2007) and High-Kick Girl (2011). Together with Fuyuhiko Nishi, the owner of Kuroobi World Media, he has produced a myriad of educational and entertaining Shotokan videos. Therefore, Tatsuya Naka has become the public face of Shotokan karate.
Unfortunately, neither Nobuaki Kanazawa nor Manabu Murakami show significant engagement with media. Neither of them has a considerable social media channel. The official SKIF facebook channel seems to be abandoned. Most media promotion of SKIF comes from the national branches. They are active in social media and beyond.
Luckily, SKIF has Hiyori Kanazawa. She has shown considerable activity and interest in media visibility. She runs a solid Instagram channel and seems to have a sense for the necessity of promotion. For instance, she produced a video, which shows from a female perspective her understanding of Shotokan Karate. She also gave The Shotokan Times a comprehensive interview about her life and vision of Shotokan.
Today, however, social media and an excellent internet presence must become a high priority for every organization – it is mandatory. Both determine the visibility and hence the success of an association in the competition of attention and public perception.
5. USP: What Distinguishes SKIF?
The final challenge SKIF has to face, is its “Unique Selling Point” (USP). What distinguishes SKIF from other associations? Why should somebody join or stay in SKIF?
Every company, every club, every party, every association, and every rock star must find an answer to this question. Some members might stay because of pure loyalty. But others need legitimate reasons and arguments in order not to leave. The passing of Hirokazu Kanazawa could have created a reason to reconsider the membership in SKIF. Other reasons like the lack of strategy, the upcoming retirements of other founding fathers, the low visibility and engagement in media by the leadership could cause some to reconsider, too.
Therefore, SKIF has to position itself and distinguish its portfolio from the other associations. One proven way to do that would be a joint book publication by Nobuaki Kanazawa and Manabu Murakami about their understanding and vision of SKIF Shotokan. A video serious could support such activities.
In comparison to the JKA, for example, SKIF offers a different concept of Shotokan that can be observed in their approach to kihon. While the JKA has deliberately streamlined its technical repertoire and focuses on combinations with maximum 3 to 4 techniques. SKIF still offers the whole versatility of Shotokan. That means long combinations with several changes of direction and the whole set of techniques Shotokan. The same can be observed during a comparison of SKIF and JKA kihon and jiyu ippon kumite.
For both approaches one can find valid arguments. And the practitioners should decide which path they want to follow. But before they can decide, the associations have to make clear what kind of path they offer.
A Strong SKIF Needed
This analysis has shown that the unfortunate passing of Hirokazu Kanazawa has created several challenges for SKIF in order to hold its position in the center of the field of Shotokan. From a systemic perspective and for the individual Shotokan practitioner it would be beneficial if SKIF recognizes this challenges and starts to find appropriate strategical solutions. A strong SKIF offers more advantages for the global Shotokan karate community than a weak one.
Mikio Yahara is one of the most dynamic practitioners of Shotokan Karate to come out of the Japan Karate Association. Early on, Masatoshi Nakayama described him as the best fighter of his generation. To this day, traditional Karate is his passion, a former JKA Grand Champion. As a result, he is first and foremost a martial artist, a practitioner of traditional karate obsessed with returning Karate back to its budo roots. Yahara has a no-nonsense approach to his Karate.
Early Life of Mikio Yahara
Yahara was born on 4 April 1947 in the fishing village Namikata-Machi, Ehime Prefecture. He was the fourth son of a prominent family with samurai roots on his father’s side. His mother’s family were descended from pirates.
Growing up, he was a boisterous child who loved to fight. Therefore, at an early age, he became interested in Karate as his older brother practiced it. In an effort to calm him down, his brother taught him Karate, from the age of seven.
A few years later in 1954 Yahara went to junior school. However, he had a heart attack and was diagnosed with a heart condition. As a result, doctors thought he would not live past the age of twenty.
Almost ten years later, while a high school student, Yahara joined the school’s Judo club in 1963, refusing to be limited by his condition. Even in his youth he displayed what would come to be known as his characteristic strong will. He wanted to get stronger, which he did. Eventually, he reached the rank of second Dan in Judo.
How Mikio Yahara Discovered Karate
While excelling in Judo, Yahara joined a local Karate club affiliated with the Japan Karate Association. His teacher was Yagi Sensei, an instructor who came from the JKA Honbu in Tokyo. As with his earlier life in Judo, Yahara advanced quickly in karate. By 1964 he had been promoted to first dan. It was not long before he soon dreamed of becoming an instructor.
At that time, JKA instructors were normally selected from the best university graduates. Knowing this and wanting to be near the JKA Honbu, Yahara enrolled at Kokushikan University, Tokyo, in 1966. He soon joined the university’s Karate club.
By this time, his childhood condition was no longer an issue, and he had grown into a strong young man. Yahara’s instructor at the club was Kenji Yano. Training sessions were hard, and in some cases frightening. Many students left the club. Yahara was one of the few students to remain.
Through his dedication, Yahara became one of the best Karateka at the club. For example, he practised at the JKA Hombu, which helped develop his approach to traditional Karate. He sometimes practised at the Karate clubs at Komazawa, Nodai, and Nihon Taiku Daigaku universities. But, his seniors at the Kokushikan University Club soon avoided him due to his toughness.
From Student to Instructor
By 1971 Yahara had graduated from Kokushikan University and joined the JKA Instructors Course. Masatoshi Nakayama, Hirokazu Kanazawa, and Hideo Ochi were his main instructors on the course, while Kenji Yano was his Sempai (Senior).
As previously stated, Yano had been Yahara’s instructor at University. Nicknamed the “Destroyer,” Yano took sadistic pleasure in intimidating and beating up students. Moreover, he looked for ways to hurt his opponent during sparring sessions, especially grades below him.
As his kohai (junior), Yahara usually faced the worst of Yano’s aggressiveness. But he frequently had to go to hospital because of injuries he sustained. However, his pride would not let him quit. He would attend the next training session even though he was injured. In time he earned Yano’s respect for never backing down. By his own admission, he hated Yano. However, he respected is aggressiveness and strength.
During this time, another instructor who had a profound influence on Yahara was Keigo Abe. Abe was known for his exceptional technical ability.
Yahara tried to model himself on Abe’s technique and Yano’s spirit. Even from these early days of his training, Budo was at the forefront of his training, even in kata. For him, kata based in traditional karate was not for competition or grading but for making his kumite stronger.
Life of Competition
In 1972 Yahara’s international competitive career began in
Paris, France. Two years later he graduated from the Instructors Course and
started actively competing and teaching.
Subsequently, Yahara taught at the JKA Honbu. He had achieved his goal of becoming a JKA Instructor. But, he also taught at several dojo is on the outskirts of Tokyo. Teaching at these dojos sometimes meant he was involved in “dojo-yaburi,” dojo challenges between different Karate styles.
At the JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Yahara was a phenomenal competitor in both kata and kumite. He always featured in the top three positions in each event. During these years from 1975 to 1984, he faced some of the top competitors of the time, that included Masahiko Tanaka, Yoshiharu Osaka, and Toshihiro Mori.
In 1984 Yahara became JKA Grand Champion. He won the kata event defeating Masao Kagawa in the final. He came third in the kumite event won by Hideo Yamamoto.
Yahara also competed in three IAKF World Championships. At
the 1977 Championships held in Tokyo, Japan, he finished second behind
Yoshiharu Osaka in the kata event. At the 1980 Championships held in Bremen,
Germany, he lost to Osaka in the final. He faced Osaka again in the final of
the 4th IAKF Championships, losing to him.
Mikio Yahara: From Competitor to Teacher
In 1984 Yahara retired from competing. As a kumite
competitor he was known for his dynamic and innovative techniques. He was a fan
favourite and had many memorable matches. As a kata competitor his main kata
was Unsu. He always performed the kata as if he was in a life or death
situation. His major tournament successes include:
IAKF World Championships, Individual Kata – 2nd place (1977,
JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Grand Champion (1984)
JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Individual Kata – 1st place
JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Individual Kata – 2nd place
(1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)
JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Individual Kumite – 2nd
place (1975, 1998)
JKA All Japan Karate Championships, Individual Kumite – 3rd
place (1976, 1979, 1982, 1984)
Yahara featured in Masatoshi Nakayama’s Best Karate series published in 1979. He appeared in the following books:
In 1987 the Chief Instructor of the JKA, Masatoshi Nakayama, died. His death led to rival factions vying for control over the JKA. The Nakahara Faction was led by businessman Nobuyuki Nakahara. This faction included Masaaki Ueki, Yoshiharu Osaka, and Masahiko Tanaka. The rival Matsuno faction was led by Tetsuhiko Asai, and included Keigo Abe, Akihito Isaka, Yahara, and Masao Kagawa. What followed was a 10-year legal battle between the two factions.
Mikio Yahara’s Personal Life
By the 1990’s Yahara had established a personal security company. As a part of his business he had many run-ins with the Yakuza. He had to regularly move house to avoid being killed. These encounters made in value the importance of the Budo approach to traditional Karate. The core principle of Ikken Hisatsu, “one killing blow” became a fundamental part of his training.
Over time the Yakuza came to have a healthy respect for
Yahara. There is a famous story in Japan of Yahara fighting 34 Yakuza members,
who had targeted him and his company. He survived the encounter.
From JKA to KWF
In 1999 the Nakahara Faction of the JKA won the legal
battle between them and the Matsuno Faction. A Japanese High Court ruling
awarded them the sole rights to the JKA name.
Following the court ruling, the Asai Faction left the JKA.
The Faction split to form the following groups:
Japan Karate Shotokai (JKS) led by Tatsuhiko Asai
Japan Shotokan Karate Association (JSKA) led by Keigo Abe
Karatenomichi World Federation (KWF) led by Yahara
In 2006 Yahara was promoted to 8th Dan, aged 59. During his
grading he broke three ribs of an opponent with a single punch.
The last several years has seen Yahara build the KWF into one of the biggest Shotokan associations in the world. Apart from running his business, he travels the world giving training courses and seminars in traditional karate. Away from Karate he practices Iaido. He is a fan of classical music, especially that of Russian composer, Tchaikovsky. Mikio Yahara is one of the most dynamic fighters to come out of the JKA. His unique fighting style made him a fan favourite. However, it is his exploration of Budo Karate that has made him one of the most important Karate Masters today.
Today, the message reached us that another pioneer and ambassador of Shotokan karate has passed away. According to the source Shihan Abe died at 6.45am this morning peacefully in his sleep.
Unfortunately, we do not have further information about the exact circumstances. We inquired at the JSKA HQ in Tokyo via email. However, the email was blocked. Therefore, we do not have an official confirmation. The source, who confirmed his passing, referred to family members with whom they were in contact. If you can provide further details please get in touch with us through email: email@example.com
With Keigo Abe passed another pioneer and ambassador of Shotokan. Born in October 1938 Shihan Abe started karate by age 15. He trained directly under Masatoshi Nakayama and received an excellent education in the JKA instructors program. After graduating the program in 1965 he became an important figure in the JKA Headquarters’ instructors group. He was appointed Director of Qualifications and became later Technical Director of the JKA.
In the turmoil of the 1990´s, in which internal conflicts dominated the JKA, he retired from his position and formed the Japan Shotokan Karate Association in 1999. Keigo Abe hold the rank of the 9 Dan. He passed with age 81.
The karate world mourns about the loss of Keigo Abe. Our deepest sympathies are now with his family and the bereaved. Our condolences also go to the JSKA community worldwide.
His successor will be Mitsuru Nagaki. The JSKA announced it on January 20, 2020.
“In accordance with the wishes of Abe Sensei, Mr. Mitsuru Nagaki will take over as the chief instructor of the JSKA. It will be officially approved by the JSKA Shihankai Board during the 10th Karate World Championship in October 2020 In Lubeck, Germany.”
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 age24 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Yuki Nocilla belongs to the highly talented karatekas of her generation. Just last weekend, she proved again her class and won the German Championships. We take this as an occasion to portray Yuki Nocilla and to explain to you why we will see more of her in the future. By Dr. Christian Tribowski
Yuki Nocilla does not create a lot of sensation when she enters the pool. Humbleness, coolness, and calmness seem to be her nature. However, right after hajime she “floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee” (Muhammad Ali). “Her fighting style is very efficient and merciless”, says Keigo Shimizu, member of the advisory board of The Shotokan Times and former sensei of Yuki Nocilla.
Yuki Nocilla: Strong Kihon in Malta as Foundation
How efficient she fights became obvious last weekend during the German JKA Cup. It took her in sum about 4 minutes to eliminate five opponents and to take the trophy back to Malta. “In the last three years, since she lives and trains in Malta, she has improved a lot. The strict focus on excellent kihon in JKA Malta SKA Dojo has been having a huge positive effect on her movement and fighting intelligence” said her former sensei at the Yamato Dojo Düsseldorf, the city, where she lived from 2012 until 2016.
From Japan to Germany to Malta
Yuki started her training at her high school in Japan by the age of 16. A year later, she could already win the North Japanese Championships and also became champion of the Miyagi prefecture. Both became the first milestones in an excellent competitive career. During that time she trained 7 days per week at her high school.
However, Yuki also wanted to broaden her horizon and to live abroad. She made this decision after Northern Japan was hit by an earthquake and right after that by an tsunami in 2011. With 18 she moved the Düsseldorf, the Japanese capital of Germany. While she was working in a Sushi restaurant during the day, she started training karate again at night with Keigo Shimizu. He saw her unprecedented talent immediately and fostered her development for the next three years.
Yuki Nocilla Defeats European Champion
During that time, Yuki achieved one of her biggest successes: The victory at the German JKA Championships 2015. In the finals, she defeated Michaela Rein from Munich, who became European Champion two years earlier. In the same year, the mayor invited her together with other top-athletes from Düsseldorf, who became World-, European or German champions the same year, to the city hall for a joint celebration.
Strong Footwork and Consequent Execution
Yukis fighting style combines an excellent footwork with a strong focus on Ikken Hissatsu. With a height of around 1,65 meters Yuki measures often smaller than her European opponents. A high agility through a dynamic footwork is, therefore, the key to her success. In addition, her disadvantage in height makes it necessary to fight forcefully. She must push for the target merciless, especially when her opponents are taller. Because counter attacks and retaliation punches become even more difficult to handle for smaller fighters.
Malta as Yuki Nocilla´s Homebase
Today, Yuki lives and trains in Malta. She moved to the peninsula three years ago in order to study English and because the climate is better in the Mediterranean than in Germany. But she found more on Malta than good weather and the language of the Queen. She trains in the JKA Malta SKA as many times as possible. The Dojo maintains a very high skill level due to Edward Aquilina Sensei, who is chief instructor of SKA.
Together with Yuki three other competitors from Malta started in Germany last weekend. All of them made it to the podium and finished among the top three in their group. Therefore, Keigo Shimizu is sure: “We will see and hear more about Yuki Nocilla in the future.”
This prediction maybe will become a reality. Because the chances are high that Yuki will enjoy Malta and training with JKA Malta SKA a little bit longer. Then beside the Dojo she also found the most important thing on the island: a loving husband.
This weekend, our board member, Keigo Shimizu, and our managing director and chief editor, Dr. Christian Tribowski, took part in a seminar with Tatsuya Naka sensei in Munich, Germany. After the last class on Saturday, both overhanded Naka sensei a gift of gratitude: Our famous black The Shotokan Times hoodie.
Naka sensei was very surprise and expressed how much he likes the hoodie. He is also fond of The Shotokan Times. He said that The Shotokan Times should keep going with good work.
The Shotokan Times overhanded him another special gift. We will reveal what it is beginning of November 2019.
Everybody, who wants our black The Shotokan Times hoodie, can order it here in our shop or press on the picture below.
Masatoshi Nakayama was a unique personality in many regards. However, no person has done more to expand Shotokan karate around the the World than him. As a long time student and anointed successor of Gichin Funakoshi he carried along the legacy of the grandmaster. As foundeer and chief instructor of the Japan Karate Association (JKA), Masatoshi Nakayama oversaw the expansion of Shotokan Karate. It has been growing from an art practiced only in Japan to an art practiced all over the global by a diverse range of people. By Patrick Donkor and Dr. Christian Tribowski
Masatoshi Nakayama: Early Years
Masatoshi Nakayama was born in 1913 in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, in the southwest of Japan. Until today, Yamaguchi and the Japanese southwest has been bearing powerful figures in Japanese politics and economy. Shinzo Abe, Japans present prime minister, was born into a powerful political family, which originated from Yamaguchi Prefecture. Thus, it is no wonder that Nakayama´s social pedigree was upper-class. He came from a family descended from the Sanada samurai and steeped in the martial tradition. His grandfather and father were accomplished Kendo instructors.
Being from a medical family, Nakayama they expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, he loved Chinese culture and secretly took and passed an entrance exam for Takushoku University, the premier university for those wanting a career in the foreign service. As a result he entered Takushoku University in 1932.
First Encounter With Shotokan Karate
In a twist of fate Nakayama mis-read the timetable for attending a kendo class and instead found himself in a Karate class. Karate was still a fairly new martial art in Japan. However, Masatoshi Nakayama was intrigued and stayed to watch the class. He thought since having a background in kendo and Judo he would find karate easy. So, he decided to come back and try the next lesson. In that lesson he came to realize just how difficult karate really was. He began his training under Master Gichin Funakoshi and his son Yoshitaka. Evetually, it became a lifelong love affair with karate.
Travel to China, Experience with Kung Fu, and the Time After World War II
During his university studies, Masatoshi Nakayama traveled to China as an exchange student. There he advanced his studies in Chinese language and history. While in China he continued his karate practice and even taught a few classes. In addition, he came into contact with Kung Fu training under several masters. His main teacher was Sifu Pai, with whom he studied a Northern Kung Fu style. Northern style Kung Fu is characterised by having long stances, deep punches and high flashy kicks. Under Sifu Pai, Nakayama learnt taisoku uke (pressing block with sole of foot) and reverse roundhouse/hook kick (ura mawashi geri). Both of these techniques were eventually incorporated into the Shotokan syllabus with the permission of Gichin Funakoshi.
During World War II, Masatoshi Nakayama remained in China working as a translator. In 1946, he returned back to a Japan devastated by the war. He tried to get in contact with some of Funakoshi’s senior students. However, many of them had been killed during the war. Moreover, Master Funakoshi’s son, Yoshitaka, had also died from tuberculosis. However, Nakayama showed first management and leadership skills. In 1947 he managed to gather senior students, who survived the war. They resumed their training under the watchful eye of Master Funakoshi.
Masatoshi Nakayama and US Soldiers
In 1948, Nakayama and other senior students of Funakoshi gave a karate demonstration to personnel stationed at the U.S. Air Force Base at Tachikawa. The participantes received it well. As a result, he traveled around Japan giving demonstrations and teaching karate to the Americans for the next couple of months.
With the permission of Master Funakoshi, Nakayama and some of the other senior students formed the Nihon Karate Kyokai – Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1949. Master Fuankoshi was named as Chief Instructor with Nakayama as Chief Technical Adviser.
In 1951, the US Air Force sent Air Force personnel from the Strategic Air Command (SAC) to learn various Japanese martial arts. Karate belonged to them. This encounter became an important learning experience for Nakayama. The Americans asked a lot of questions and wanted to know the theoretical background for performing techniques in a particular way.
In an interview given to Black Belt Magazine (November
1982), Nakayama said:
“It immediately became apparent to me and to Master Funakoshi that if we were going to teach the Americans, we would have to provide a theoretical basis for our art.”
So under Master Funakoshi’s instruction Nakayama began an intensive study of kinetics, physiology and anatomy. The idea was to provide a scientific grounding to karate and the body dynamics it incorporated.
The Formation of the JKA by Masatoshi Nakayama
After the War, Nakayama also began to working on the establishment of a Shotokan associations. Together with the senior students he gathered after the War he formed the Japan Karate Association. The official formation of the organization took place in 1948. Among his peers were Shotokan enthusiast and later high-level instructors like Teruyuki Okazaki and Hidetaka Nishiyama. However, Gichin Funakoshi played no decisive role in the formation of the organization. Instead, he became chief instructor and oversaw the karate education. Nakayama, however, took the responsibility for the management.
Masatoshi Nakayama proved at this time to be a skillful manager and visionary. For him it became clear that only a formalized and structured association had the power to spread Shotokan karate. His education at Takushoku University had a huge influence on this judgement. Trained to become an oversees public servant he understood the necessity of good organization and governance. In 1955, the members of the JKA elected Masatoshi Nakayama head of JKA.
Establishment of the Instructors Program
In 1956, Nakayama formulated the JKA’s Instructor Program with the help of Teruyuki Okazaki. The program followed the design of an intensive one year karate course. Among the first graduates of the course were Takayuki Mikami and Hirokazu Kanazawa. Apart from the intensive karate practice, students received a theoretical grounding in karate. They also learnt kinetics, physiology and anatomy. In addition, the course required them to learn key principles of other fighting systems. Many of the graduates of the program traveled around the globe later. Their aim was to expand the JKA’s brand of Shotokan.
Development of Competitions
Nakayama believed if Karate did not incorporate some form of competitive element, like Judo or Kendo, then people would lose interest in karate. With the permission of Master Funakoshi, Nakayama started looking at ways of adding a competitive element into Karate. He explored many avenues, including having competitors wear a form of light amour, similar to Kendo practitioners. However, this still resulted injuries.
Eventually, after much deliberation Nakayama decided on a set of rules for competing. He believed that competitions should not be about winning, thus keeping the ethos of Master Funakoshi’s principles. Moreover, he believed that competition should be another part of one’s training, helping to build one’s character.
Some months after Master Funakoshi’s death in 1957, the first ever JKA All Japan Karate Championship took place at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Hirokazu Kanazawa won the kumite titlle and in kata Shoji Hiroshi succeeded. The event proved such a success that it takes place annually.
Masatoshi Nakayama Developed the Foundation of Karate Teaching
Today’s karate education has been highly coined by Masatoshi Nakayama. From the 1950´s onward, he developed a the modern method of teaching karate. His deep and wide knowledge of physiology and kinetics as well as didactic and methods of education helped him to set up a general scientific trainings system. As a result, every aspect of Karate like physical and mental development, self-defense sports etc. can be taught within this system.
In 1965 he published “Karatedo Shinkyotei (A New Method For Teaching Karate-do)”. In English it is published as “Dynamic Karate”. This work by Nakayama details much of the knowledge he gained from his studies in kinetics, physiology and anatomy. It is his opus magnum and a must-read book for any serious martial artist. It gives scientific explanations on how certain techniques work and illuminates the physic behind the Shotokan.
Masatoshi Nakayama and his Students
Nakayama guided the JKA through its difficult early days. Through his hard work the JKA made it into one of the biggest and most respected Shotokan associations in the world. Many of the students trained by Nakayama describe him as a tough but fair teacher. Some of his most able students heave become famous masters in their own right. Some of Nakayama’s most notable students, many who can be seen in his “Best Karate Series”, include:
In 1971, Nakayama an accomplished ski instructor, was caught in an avalanche, which almost cost him his life. At first doctors thought he would die, later changing their prognosis to him never ever being able to walk. However, Nakayama made a full recovery and resumed his active schedule traveling around the world and conducting various courses and seminars in karate.
Masatoshi Nakayama: First 9th Dan
Master Nakayama became the first living master to be awarded 9th Dan. He continued to travel around the world giving courses and seminars to members of the JKA associations he helped create, until his death in 1987 aged 74. After his death JKA awarded him posthumously the rank of 10th Dan.
his death, internal politics saw many of the top instructors breaking from the
JKA to form their own associations. This shows how well respected Nakayama was,
that these conflicts did not happen until his death.
It can be argued that no one has done more to promote the growth of Shotokan karate around the world than Masatoshi Nakayama. As a true institutional entrepreneur he developed the structures of modern Shotokan karate, expended its influence far beyond Japanese boarders, and educated a myriad of excellent and successful instructors. He create a system, which can be learnt by each and everyone. As theorist and intellectual he published several groundbreaking books which led to deeper insights into Shotokan. Like no other he had a vision what Shotokan could be and how it could change the life of people. He kept the organization together although he surrounded by strong hotheads, who all wanted their own stake. Masatoshi Nakayama was the CEO of Shotokan, who steered the art into the water of success. His legacy will always be one of excellence.
With all the professionalism of a big event, it did not take long to Karate Combat gain the visibility it deserved. You can find the previous fights an Karate Combat.
The event, divided the opinion of Karate practitioners. Some said that it was no longer Karate. Others said that this would be the watershed to rescue the name of Karate that find itself in the darkness.
Karate Has Lost Its Efficiency
omThat karate has lost much of its efficiency due to the constant rules limiting combativeness is not something new. But we know that competition is part of the development of a fighter, too. Even if it is in points rules. However, what would have been wrong in the creation of a full contact rule which had been carefully planned so that art would not be miss-characterized? If we observe well, the absence of knee techniques, elbows, kicks in the thigh and uppercut shows how much the organizers have tried to maintain fidelity to the competitive characteristics of the art, or at least the common rules which we are accustomed to and not letting the event become another Kickboxing event or mma event.
I needed to fight there. But why? Some even asked me why, but I honestly can not quite understand the reason.
Karate Combat Is a New Challenge
If there is something that every martial arts practitioner that competes a lot have in common, is the taste for new challenges. Besides this factor which only a deep Freudian explanation would make the reader understand, I thought to myself, how would I not let myself participate in an event which had already entered into the contemporary history of karate? Why not give myself the chance to be part of this important chapter?
I had done 3 Chinese Kickboxing fights (Sanshou / Sanda) in 2007. One of the Amador mma in 2009, and had competed countless times in karate tournaments. It was time for something else before my routine of father of 4 children at my 33’s made my competitive career even more difficult. I thought that was my last chance to do something really meaningful to myself before ending (or slowing down) my competitive career in karate.
Karate Combat Requires Different Training Than Shobu Ippon
When there was the fourth Combat Karate event in New York (30 minutes away from where I live) I found a way to be around and see how it worked. This also gave me the opportunity to meet several people at the event. It was there that I was able to demonstrate my interest. The following month I was invited to fight. I had 3 months to prepare myself.
Full contact rule training is very different from traditional karate training. Since there will be no stop for point marking and the fight will continue after a well-executed technique, high intensity training based on mma training, and other contact sports became necessary. Three months seemed not to be enough time for this. Besides I have scheduled a trip to train at JKA’s Hombu Dojo for a week.
My First Fight in the “Pit”
The week of the event had arrived. We had to be in Hollywood a week before to do a series of medical examinations among other things required for the marketing and advertising of the event.
While all the fighters were already in position and keeping the form together with their coaches, I did not have the same luck. My coach could only come one day before the fight.
The day of the event arrived. I was confident. And I won the victory over my opponent Luiz Diogo from Portugal. However, I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my performance for particular reasons.
The feeling of ending a contact fight is very good, especially with a positive result. But the truth is that the adrenaline makes you to miss the fight. If someone asked me if I would fight again at that moment, I would certainly say yes.
Karate Combat Is Worth the Experience
I believe that all karatekas should experience full contact fights regardless of their idea of what karate should be. The truth is that in a full contact match, it is about You against your Lungs! Your opponent is just a detail.
In a real combat, often the breath outweighs the technique and many people overlook this factor of extreme importance. For those who believe in the effectiveness of karate as an art of self-defense, they must experience something of this kind in their life. Even though KC is a competition of limited rules, full contact rules teaches a lot about fighting under pressure.
Makiwara and Ikken Hisatsu as Foundation for Strong Karate
If you believe that Karate is enough, I advise you then, to hit makiwara every single day. I truly believe and practice the idea of Ikken Hisatsu. If you ever need to use your karate in real combat and do not have enough breath, be precise and straightforward. Because if you need to take more than 5 minutes to solve a real combat situation, it will be very difficult to succeed.
The truth is that a martial artist should not be close minded to just one idea. I believe that the practitioner must faithfully follow one path which he believes. However, he must be ready not to be surprised. Experiencing something different will not cause you to discredit what you have practiced. But it may help you to understand it better.
The Necessity of Karate Combat for Traditional Karate
I hope Karate Combat has come to stay. Not every karateka needs the KC, but Karate needed such an event.
Even though it does not please everyone, Karate Combat came at an opportune moment. Our art falls into oblivion of a world that has only eyes for mma, Muay Thai, Kickboxing and so on.
When was the last time you filled your classes with adult only? Why is karate nowadays limited or attracted only to children?
We can not wait for another Lyoto Machida to soften the wounded ego.
The truth hurts, but Karate has lost a lot of credibility as self-defense.
Save Karate Combat and / or any other attempt to do something bolder.
With your permission, I’m going to hit my makiwara! Oss!