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Violence Prevention: More Fight in the Dojo, less Fight in the Street

The picture shows Thomas Prediger who says that Sport Karate is a "perverted system". He also sees a great potential for kumite in violence prevention.

Violence prevention is a major part of Karate. The one who trains in Karate becomes less prone to be violent. The reason for this is that Karate comprises of two aspects other sports usually do not offer: The experience of controlled violence as an attacker and defender as well as the regulated setting for learning how to deal with violence. A good Karate education with regular Kumite makes children, adolescents, and adults less violent. Therefore, more fights in the Dojo means less fight in the streets. By Thomas Prediger

The Violence Prevention Paradox of Kumite

From a violence prevention standpoint this may sound odd: more fights in the Dojo leads to less fights in the street. But every experienced Karate teacher will make the same observation. Let’s say, for example, that an aggressive and violent adolescent joins a dojo. The young person has difficulties controlling his anger and gets into fights on a regular basis. But after some months or years the adolescent calms down, gets more control over himself, and starts reacting less emotionally and more rationally in stressful situations.

One school teacher reported to me recently: “We can clearly see which students attend the Karate group in our school, and which do not. The ones who train Karate twice a week have become calmer, even when they are provoked or bullied. Even when another student hits them they maintain their cool and do not let the situation slip out of their hands. One year ago, they would go ballistic.”

No child, teenager, or adult from an unstable and challenging background with many years of experiencing violence will become Gandhi over night. But Kumite helps them to understand themselves and violence in all its facets. Eventually, they learn life-skills “that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life” (WHO 2012: 29) and which aggressive and violent people lack most of the time.

Kumite: Violence in a Structured Environment

What is the concept of violence in Karate and Kumite? At first, one experiences violence through physical pressure and contact. When two Karateka face each other even in the simplest form of Kumite like Gohan Kumite, the Uke (defender) has to defend his or her position. Tori, the attacker, has to put pressure on Uke by attacking with speed and power. The more advanced the Karateka become, the higher the likelihood that an unblocked attack will cause pain and injuries.

However, Kumite takes place in a very structured environment, unlike a street fight. Adherence to rules prevent the Kumite from becoming a brawl. They are structured in a way to evoke certain actions.

Kumite as Role Play

Gohon, Sanbon, Kihon Ippon, and Jiyu Ippon Kumite are all settings for role play. One plays the role of Uke, while another plays the role of Tori. Both roles are equally important. One has to execute violence in order to understand what happens when one does it. Especially in Kihon and Jiyu Ippon Kumite one also has the role to take and to cope with violence inflicted on oneself. In such a situation one cannot act based on raw instincts. First, Uke has to analyze and understand the situation. Second, Uke has to react within a prescribed set of techniques.

This role play offers an interesting insight: The Karateka cannot avoid the situation. Thus, he or she has to deal with it. Through this pattern, Karateka learn to deal and experience both roles: Being an attacker and being a defender.

The outcome is twofold: They see what happens when they apply violence, and they experience what happens inside them when they become a recipient of violence.

Introspection and Self-reflection

To master this inner state of uncertainty, any Karateka will need Kihon training. During Kihon, which requires introspection and self-reflection, they become aware of their own physical and mental processes.

But the prerequisite for the deeper understanding of violence is physical contact. Tori must step into the physical comfort zone of Uke. One must learn to deal with the intruder, and not become stressed by the opponents behavior. Especially at the beginning, Gohon Kumite requires courage. One must stand and wait until Tori attacks. Uke is not allowed to retreat or flee. So, Tori sets the pace. Thus, Uke must control his or her impulses and reactions. Maybe the intuitive reaction would be to run away or to attack. Both are prohibited.

The highest form of the role play is Randori like Jiyu Kumite. It increases the complexity and degrees of freedom for both Karateka. It is a double-role setting where both Karateka are Uke and Tori at the same time. Depending on the rules, dangerous punches and kicks are allowed. Hence, Randori requires experience and skill to manage one’s emotions and impulses to be successful. It is not a brawl. The winner will be the Karateka who manages the unpredictability of the fight, not the most aggressive one. Literally translated, Randori means “chaos taking.”

During training the Karateka will become acquainted with different violence situations. The exposure to violence in a controlled setting trains their understanding of violence.

The Role of the Instructor in Kumite Training for Violence Prevention

What is the role of the insctructor during the process? Karate is rule-based, but not self-structured. Thus, the instructor has at least two functions:

  • First, the instructor must be trustworthy and a role model. Students will follow when they believe that the instructor has experienced what he or she teaches.
  • Second, the instructor must recognize when situations become too intense. Then, the instructor has to intervene immediately. That does not mean that the instructor stops the exercise. Rather, it means to redirect the rising tension. The instructor has to create situations that push the students out of their comfort zone so that they experience some stress. That requires some experience and education on the part of the instructor.

A good Karate instructor is, therefore, somebody who knows situations of high emotional and cognitive uncertainty for Karate students. That counts even more for students with a history of violence as an aggressor and/or victim.

Kumite teaches Life-Skills, which lead to Violence Prevention

What actually happens to a Karateka during Karate and Kumite training that leads to violence prevention? They learn, improve, and strengthen their life skills. In its briefing about Violence Prevention from 2012 the World Health Organization ranks life skills as one of seven major factors for the reduction of violence. But what does the phrase “life skills” mean? According to the WHO they mean:

“abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.” (p. 29)

The list of life skills that prevent violence:

  • Self-Awareness: self-esteem and confidence building, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, goal setting, etc;
  • Self-Management: anger and stress management, time management, coping skills, controlling impulses, relaxation, etc;
  • Social Awareness: empathy, active listening, recognizing and appreciating individual and group differences, etc;
  • Relationships: negotiation, conflict management, resisting peer pressure, networking, motivation, etc; and
  • Responsible Decision-Making: Information gathering, critical thinking, and evaluating consequences of actions

Karate is one piece of a larger puzzle. All these life skills become habits during Karate and especially Kumite training. But it further depends on the social environment where a student is embedded, relationships to parents and caregivers, etc. But through Karate’s focus on etiquette and ethics, as stipulated in the Dojo kun and Niju kun, regular training can have a specific effect on violence prevention. Karate has the potential to create a value system for students in how to behave and abstain in violent situations.

Children and Adults Learn to Cope with Violence

Karate training has a high education value for children. They are a tabula rasa and must learn to judge their own feelings. The concept of violence is abstract for them. They know that violence in any form is uncomfortable.

But it also holds a high value for adults and violence. For Adults, who have had already experienced violence as a victor or aggressor, can also gain a more productive relationship to it. Most of the time they are blocked to talk and reflect about it because societal rules declare violence to be a taboo. This attitude leads to a counterproductive effect: It creates enormous inner tension that can lead to more physical violence. However, this tension has to leave the body and mind. Karate offers a relief and teaches the life skills to cope with it. Hence it has a huge effect on violence prevention.

Conclusion: Kumite and Violence Prevention

Violence stems from, among other factors, a lack of life skills. Karate teaches these life skills, and does so in a structured and controlled violent setting. Karateka learn through their education to deal with violence, to feel empathy, to understand the consequences, to control their fears and aggression, and to resist pressure.

In Kumite they develop these skills in actual violent situations in order to control and tame the violence. They training of Kumite mitigates violence instead of increasing it. Therefore, Karate has a huge potential for violence prevention and is a active means to help individuals to “deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.” Hence, the paradox of more fights in the Dojo leads to less fights in the street dissolves. Violence prevention does not mean eradicating it, but rather, civilizing and developing an educated relationship to it.

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How to fight? The “Sen”-Concept in Karate

“Sen” is a fundamental and crucial concept for combat. However, Karateka either do not know about the variations of the concept or ignore its practical relevance. In his new colum “Karate Essence” Thomas McKinnon provides a detailed account of the concept, its variations, and how to apply it in practice.

Sen (jap. 先) means future, prior, to precede, or ahead, depending on the dictionary. In Budo terminology it is variously described as initiative. To Initiate: to cause or facilitate the beginning of something. For the advanced karateka, it is imperative to understand the concept of Sen in combat.

What is the Concept of Sen about?

Like most of the esoteric Japanese terms, I have studied and explored, there is a lot more to the various “Sen” terms than a direct translation to English can explain. We can distinguish at least four concepts:

  • Go no sen (jap. 後の先): After the attack, block/evade and counterattack.
  • Sen no sen (jap. 先の先): Intercepting the attack with simultaneous block/evade and counterattack.
  • Sen sen no sen (jap. 先先の先): Attack immediately when you become aware that your assailant is going to launch an attack.
  • Deai (jap. 出会い): Don’t wait until your assailant plans to launch an attack: attack immediately you are aware of the intention.

Taking Control Over the Fight

The above guidelines are fairly accurate, as far as they go, and they give you an idea about timing. However, there is something that should be clearly understood about the concept of Sen in combat: Go no sen, Sen no sen, Sen sen no sen or Deai are all forms of taking the initiative (taking control).

Go no Sen: This video shows Sakata vs. Yamamoto during the 1982 JKA All Japan Championships.

I am actually talking about Budo: responses in real world conflict. Remember, the original purpose of karate was not for karateka to fight each-other in sport. It was for self-defense. To clarify: we could go way back to Bodhidharma’s (possibly the first) codified practice for self-defense (5th century AD). However, perhaps Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s origins (19th century AD) with Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū, which addressed defense against the 36 habitual acts of civil violence, might be far enough back?

Sen is Present in Any Combat System

The Sen Principle, however, also relates to Ippon or Sanbon kumite, or sport karate in any of its forms, or indeed any sports combat in all of its various guises. To most spectators of the numerous sporting combat activities, the utilization of Sen might not be immediately apparent. If you were to talk to serious competitors in the said activities, though, most of them would completely understand the concept. They may not recognize the Japanese terms, but the concept of taking the initiative as it relates to the Sen Principal would be perfectly clear to them.

The Four Concepts of Sen in Detail

Go no Sen

The ‘Go’ (jap. 後) in ‘Go no sen’ means ‘after’. Quite literally, immediately after you’ve been attacked, let’s say with a punch, or indeed a flurry of punches – which you have effectively blocked/evaded – you counterattack. That’s not to say that if you fight with a Go no sen methodology you simply wait for the attack to take place. The purpose of Initiative (Sen) is to gain advantage over your opponent.

You may, for instance, control your adversary’s timing by your own presence and tactics, actually dictating your assailant’s attack options (taking the initiative). Some karateka are naturally good counter fighters, Go no sen specialists, who excel in this area. With fast reflexes and a strong, dynamic spirit, or Kihaku, they control their adversary and the fight.

Example: Seeing an imminent attack, you might fake an attack: balking to trick your adversary into striking through an apparent hole in defenses, only to be blocked/evaded and counterattacked.

Sen no Sen

Having control of the when, how and where, you can effectively block/evade while simultaneously delivering an effective counterattack; potentially finishing the encounter.

Example: Leaving your face apparently unguarded, offering your chin, you capitalist on your adversary’s attempt to punch you. Knowing the when and where, you will also limit his options in regard to how. Slipping the punch, using tai sabaki, perhaps covering with a heel palm block, while simultaneously delivering a body blow to the sternum. A version of this method, with tai sabaki as the major contributor of both defense and counterattack might also be called Tai no sen.

Sen Sen no Sen

When confronted by an adversary/opponent – your awareness in the appropriate state of Zanshin – reading your adversary’s intention to attack, you take the initiative, immediately launching a pre-emptive strike. Be aware: defending your-self using Sen sen no sen, it could appear that you arbitrarily attacked your adversary. Nevertheless, in a self-defense scenario, particularly if your adversary is in possession of a bladed or blunt force weapon, Sen sen no sen might be a highly advisable mode of action.

Deai

When facing an adversary in a real-life, combative confrontation, after behaving in accord with proper etiquette:

  1. Giving your adversary no reason to attack you.
  2. Attempting to resolve the impending confrontation non-violently.
  3. Attempting to remove your-self from the situation.

You, unavoidably, find yourself facing a person intent on assaulting you. Deai may be a highly desirable option. Deai: attack as soon as you are aware of your assailant’s intention.

Sen and the Bully: A Personal Account of Sen in Action

Sen no Sen

“Wait!… Can’t we talk about this?” I said, stepping between the assailant and my client. His immediate response was to throw a right hook. Executing a left age-uke – while using tai sabaki to close distance and slip inside his hook – intercepting the punch and, continuing the momentum, snaking around his neck, I locked-on a vice-like headlock. Sen no sen: taking the initiative, intercepting an attack while simultaneously counter attacking.

Thomas McKinnon received it practical combat training from the British Parachute Regiment. Later he studied several martial arts and became a high-risk Close Personal Protection Operative. He applied the concept of Sen regularly.
Thomas McKinnon received it practical combat training from the British Parachute Regiment. Later he studied several martial arts and became a high-risk Close Personal Protection Operative. He applied the concept of Sen regularly.

Go no Sen

Struggling briefly, he attempted to grab my privates. I was wearing a groin guard. I inserted my right thumb into his eye socket and he began to scream. Go no sen: block/evade and counterattack.

After soliciting an apology and a promise to behave civilly, I released him. However, as he became aware of the growing crowd of observers, he changed from terrified, to embarrassed, and finally, almost snarling with indignant anger.

Sen Sen no Sen

Plainly he was about to attack. Pre-empting… ‘Smack!!!’ I whipped out a back-fist that snapped his head back. He never even saw it coming. Sen sen no sen: taking the initiative before the attack is launched.

Putting his hand to his mouth, looking at the blood, he said, “What was that for?!”

“You know very well” I said simply.

Deai

Even angrier now, he was formulating another attack plan. I hit him again, harder this time: he staggered, knees wobbling. Deai!

“Stop hitting me!” he cried, frustrated and embarrassed.

He Did not Gave up

“Give it up and go home then!” Suddenly, braking away, he ran to his vehicle, returning a moment later brandishing a large pair of shearing scissors.

Earlier, my client had said, “I wouldn’t put it past him to be carrying a knife or something.”

“Most people who carry knives in these situations”, I replied, “are inclined to, initially, show them off for effect. If he shows me a knife, I’ll take it from him and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine!”

I was calm, relaxed in my Zanshin, trusting that my Fudoshin would produce the appropriate Sen response when my client spoke up from behind me. “Take them off him, Thomas, and stick them where the sun doesn’t shine!”

Suddenly unsure, he looked me in the eye and I smiled. He ran to his car and drove quickly away.

Sen is Crucial

To understand the principals of Sen that best suit you, you must first understand your own nature. However, lest you become predictable in combat, you should train in all aspects of Sen; your Fudoshin will thank you by reacting accordingly.

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Masao Kagawa: The Competitor and Teacher

The picture shows Masao Kagawa. In the 1990´s he bet students during training with a Kendo Shinai.

Masao Kagawa belongs to the most prominent Shotokan karate instructors of today. Two things made this prominence possible: Firstly, his media presents. A myriad of explanatory videos on YouTube and Facebook have introduced him to a global audience. Secondly, he is without exaggeration one of the best technicians and competitors of his generation, who came out of the Japan Karate Association (JKA). As winner of numerous titles and graduate of the JKA instructors course he has developed into one of the best instructors in the world. By Patrick Donkor, Dr. Christian Tribowski, and Dr. Jeff Christian

In addition, he is also one of the most influential personalities in the karate world. Executing influence in the realm of traditional karate and sports karate. He bridges this gap by being head of the Japan Karate Shoto-Renmai and as Chair of the technical committee of the WKF.

Early Life of Masao Kagawa

Masao Kagawa was born June 8, 1955 in Osaka, Japan. His older brother, Masayoshi, was eleven years older and would eventually become like a father to him. In 1965 at only 10 years old, Kagawa’s father died. Five years later, his mother passed away as well. It was then that his brother Masayoshi who became his guardian and his role model for starting karate.

Masayoshi Kagawa teaching kihon in Osaka.

Years later in 1972, Masao Kagawa traveled to Tokyo to watch his brother compete at the Budokan, the home of Japanese martial arts. This was the first time he had left Osaka. While his brother practiced karate and took part in competitions, he preferred to play baseball instead. This preference changed, however, when he saw his brother became victorious in the Budokan.

The tournament held in the Budokan was nothing but the 15th All Japan JKA Championships. In the final kumite bout his brother fought against nobody less than Yoshiharu Osaka, one of the best technician Shotokan karate has ever produced. The victory of his brother made him want to train karate. So, he gave up his pursuit of a baseball career and started to learn Shotokan.

Beginnings in Karate Training

His brother became the first teacher of Masao Kagawa. Masayoshi taught in the JKA branch in Osaka and his training could become very tough. This hardness took a toll on Masao Kagawa. During the years, his brother trained him he suffered several injuries, including a broken nose and broken teeth.

But he was dedicated to become an excellent karateka. Therefore, he enrolled at Teikyo University in 1976 to study Law. In the first place, however, he enrolled at Teikyo University because it Karate Club had a reputation for its traditional Karate program. It also had a long history producing champions, especially for the national team. The Chief Instructor was Keigo Abe, who had been a senior to Kagawa’s older brother. Abe had gained fame as an exceptional karate technique.

Joining the JKA Instructors Program and Becoming Champion

After graduating with a degree in Law, Kagawa stayed at Teikyo University in 1980 to pursuit a postgraduate degree. Three years later in 1983, he, however, decided to become a professional karate teacher and enrolled on the JKA Instructors Course. As a result he received training from Masatoshi Nakayama,  Tetsuhiko AsaiMasahiko Tanaka, Masaaki Ueki, and Keigo Abe.

Masao Kagawa in the JKA instructors program

Kagawa had started competing around 1974. At university he competed at the Kanto University Championships for Teikyo University and won several medals. But his excellence came to light in his professional career because of the influenced of Tetsuhiko Asai and Mikio Yahara. He always watched them during training sessions, learning from their relaxed, dynamic techniques. Between 1983 to 1991 he always featured in the top three positions of all competitions he entered. In 1985 Kagawa emulated his older brother, Masayoshi, by winning the individual kumite title at the 28th JKA All Japan Championships. He also won the kata event, becoming Grand Champion. He retired from active competition around 1991 eventually.

Major Tournament Successes of Masao Kagawa

His major tournament successes include:

  • IAKF World Championships, Team Kata – 1st place (1983)
  • Shoto Cup, Individual Kumite – 1st place (1990)
  • World Games, Individual Kata – 1st place 1990)
  • World Games, Individual Kumite – 1st place (1990)
  • JKA All Japan Championships, Individual Kata – 1st place (1985, 1990, 1991)
  • JKA All Japan Championships, Individual Kumite – 1st place (1985, 1989, 1990, 1991)
  • Grand Champion of the JKA All Japan Championships – (1985)
Masao Kagawa during the JKA All Japan Championships 1985 against Ogura Sensei

Masao Kagawa´s Separation From the JKA

After Masatoshi Nakayama´s Death in 1987 the Tokyo businessmen, Nobuyuki Nakahara became Chairman of the JKA. As a result some instructors, led by Tetsuhiko Asai, disagreed with the appointment. The JKA split into two opposing fractions. One was the Matsuno and the other the Nakahara fraction. The Matsuno supported Asai and included Keigo Abe, Akihito Isaka, Mikio Yahara, and Kagawa. Nakahara fraction included Masaaki Ueki, Yoshiharu Osaka, and Masahiko Tanaka. Both fractions referred to themselves as the JKA.

The picture shows Masao Kagawa.
Masao Kagawa

This dispute about the true heirs of the Nakayama JKA caused a ten-year legal battle. The Nakahara fraction received the right of the sole use of the JKA name in 1999, following a Japanese High Court ruling. As a result, the Matsuno fraction left the JKA and soon split into three groups:

  • The Japan Karate Shoto-Renmai (JKS) led by Tetsuhiko Asai
  • Japan Shotokan Karate Association (JSKA) led by Keigo Abe
  • The Karatenomichi World Federation (KWF) led by Mikio Yahara

Kagawa joined the group led by Asai.

In 2006 former JKA Chief Instructor, Tetsuhiko Asai, died. Kagawa was eventually asked lead Asai’s JKS. Under his guidance the organization has grown into one of the biggest and most influential.

Successes as Coach

Beside his engagement with the JKA Kagawa also became the Chief Instructor of the Teikyo University Karate Club. Using the knowledge, he gained from being a top competitor, he began producing the next group of Japanese world beaters. The crop of new talent included Koji Arimoto, Takato Souma, and Takumi Sugino.

With a wealth of experience, he became a coach in the Japanese National Team. At the 2004 World Championships, held in Monterrey, Mexico, he coached Shinji Nagaki kumite gold, in the 70 kg event.

Kagawa’s coaching success continued at the 2012 World Championships held in Paris, France. He coached the Japanese Men’s kata team to gold medals consisting of his proteges Koji Arimoto, Takato Souma, and Takumi Sugino. In the final they performed the kata Unsu.

Watch the full performance of the Japanese Team.

Masao Kagawa´s Relationship to the JKF and WKF

Masao Kagawa continued his close association with the Japanese National Team as a coach. Consequently he became the Chairman of the National Coach Committee of the Japan Karate Federation. In this capacity he also developed a close association with the World Karate Federation (WKF). In 2014 he became Chairman of the Technical Committee of the WKF. He took over from Tsuguo Sakumoto.

Kagawa’s aim as Chairman of the WKF Technical Committee was to see Karate become an Olympic sport. Consequently he has been at the forefront of pushing this to happen. On August 3, 2016 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Karate would be one of the new sports making their Olympic debut at the 2020 Games to be held in Tokyo, Japan. This has divided opinion in the karate world.

As a result, some see this as a slippery slope, a sign that karate is losing its budo soul. However, proponents of karate’s inclusion feel that it may lead to an increase interest in karate. To clarify, Kagawa firmly believes that Olympic recognition should not have an impact on traditional Karate.

Masao Kagawa: A Competitor and Teacher

In general, he sees Karate as a mentoring tool for young people. His educational engagement was awarded with an Mizuno Sports Mentor Award in 2013. Apart from being the Chief Instructor at Teikyo University, he is also a board member of the Kanto Area University Student Karate-Do Federation.

Their cannot be any doubt that Masao Kagawa is one of the best technicians to come out of the JKA. Although people recognize him more as a phenomenal competitor, he is a traditionalist at heart. This can be seen by the bunkai he demonstrates at the numerous seminars and courses he conducts around the world.

Above all he is an example to all karateka that karate is a lifelong pursuit and not just a competitive sport for the young. Now in his 60´s he is still a formidable opponent. Due to his highly influential position we can be sure that he will guide and govern the development of karate in general and Shotokan in particular for at least another decade. This will give him a place between grand master of Shotokan.


Further Reading: Masao Kagawa autobiography can be found here.

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The Kumite Queen From Malta: Yuki Nocilla and Her Best Fights

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.

Yuki Nocilla training together with Keigo Shimizu.
Yuki Nocilla training together with Keigo Shimizu in the Yamato Dojo Düsseldorf.

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.

Yuki Nocilla after winning the German Championship
Yuki Nocilla after winning the German Championship

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.

Yuki Nocilla

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.

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Shigeru Takashina: His Shotokan Life and Legacy

Shigeru Takashina belongs to the Shotokan karate pioneers in the USA. He has coined the American Shotokan community for decades. In this portrait we commemorate his life and legacy. By Patrick Donkor

“If I make will, I can kill you, but it is not my character…. My main goal now is to educate people in more than just show karate but in the cultural karate, the real cultural benefits [of karate].”

Shigeru Takashina, 9th Dan, JKA (1943 – 2013)

Shigeru Takashina was a true stalwart of the Japan Karate Association (JKA). A graduate of the famed JKA Instructors Course, he was one of the first crop of instructors to teach Shotokan Karate outside of Japan for the JKA. He helped established Shotokan Karate on the East Coast of the United States, particularly in the South Florida area.

Early Life of Shigeru Takashima

Takashina was born on 28 September 1943 in Hiroshima, Japan. He and his family survived the atomic bomb dropped on the city, by America on 6 August 1945. His family lived on the outskirts of Hiroshima, so escaped most of the deadly damage caused by the bomb. It should be noted that another JKA legend, Hiroshi Shirai, survived the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, three days later.

In 1959, Takashina came into contact with Karate, while at high school in Fukuyama. He trained at a dojo in the city as Karate was not yet offered at his school.

Takashina enrolled at Ryukoku University in 1962. Ryukoku was a private institution that had originally been founded as a school for Buddhist monks in the city of Kyoto. Once at the University, Takashina promptly joined the university’s Karate club where his instructor was a Sensei Kawakami.

Shigeru Takashina
Shigeru Takashina

Kumite was in Takashina’s blood from the beginning. As a member of the Ryukoku Karate team, Takashina participated in several All Japan Collegiate Karate Championships. The championships were open to all styles of Karate and mainly involved kumite.

Takashina graduated from Ryukoku University in 1966, with a Diploma in Business Administration. Above all, this would serve him well in the future as he established Karate in the South East of the United States and the Caribbean.

How he Became an JKA Instructor

Just as Takashina graduated, Masatoshi Nakayama, the Chief Instructor of the JKA, was looking for talented karateka to become members of the JKA. Therefore, on a visit to Kyoto, he sought out the best karateka in the area to enroll on the grueling Instructors Course at the JKA Headquarters in Tokyo.

Takashina knew where his destiny lay. Thus, he moved to Tokyo, enrolling on the JKA Instructors Course, in 1966. Two years later he graduated from the course, being the only student to graduate from the course that year. As a result, he became an instructor at the JKA Hombu dojo.

Shigeru Takashina the Competitor

The fire for competitive kumite still burned within Takashina’s blood. He entered the 13th JKA All Japan Karate Championships in 1970, finishing third in the kata event behind Toru Yamaguchi and the winner Yoshimasa Takahashi (3-time winner and 3-time runner-up of the event).

Later that year, the 1st Karate World Championships took place in Tokyo, Japan. The event ran from 10 October to 13 October and was the first truly international tournament. As a result, there were participants from over 20 countries competing. In the team kumite event Japan was allowed to enter several teams. Takashina captained the Japanese “E” team. In a successful tournament for Japan, they made a clean sweep of the team event. Japan’s “E” team won the title, with the “C” team second and the “B” team third.

Shigeru Takashina and Masatoshi Nakayama
Shigeru Takashina and Masatoshi Nakayama

Being Deployed Abroad

Like previous graduates of the Instructors Course, Takashina was sent abroad to teach when a position became available. In 1972, at the suggestion of Nakayama, he moved to the United States. Therefore, he settled in the South Florida area, becoming the youngest JKA instructor in the US. Other notable US-based instructors for the JKA at the time were Hidetaka Nishiyama, Teruyuki Okazaki, Masataka Mori, Takayuki Mikami and Yutaka Yaguchi. They all held Takashina’s competitive prowess and business acumen in high regard.

Takashina, then a 5th Dan, established his main dojo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Knowing that universities were a hotbed for up and coming karateka, he consequently convinced the University of Miami to start a Karate club on campus. This eventually led to him becoming an instructor at the University in Karate.

Budo Karate Meant Kumite for Shigeru Takashina

Takashina’s passion for competitive kumite became a benchmark of his dojo, and his students.

Most sensei believe and tell students that winning or losing is not important…. Sensei Takashina’s philosophy was winning was everything

Jose Ferrand, 7th Dan JKA

Most sensei believe and tell students that winning or losing is not important…. Sensei Takashina’s philosophy was winning was everything”, remembers Jose Ferrand, 7th Dan JKA, and Chief Instructor of the Miami Shotokan Karate Club, as well as one of Takashina’s top competitors.

After a gentle scolding for competing in a WKF event without his permission, Ferrand came to learn that Takashina’s heart was in the JKA and traditional shobu ippon kumite. “He used to say that we need to make sure Budo karate stays untouched and not to confuse karate as a sport”.

Shigeru Takashina doing Kizami-Tsuki
Shigeru Takashina doing Kizami-Tsuki

Growth in Students and in Business

By 1974 the University of Miami Karate Club had established itself on campus as one of the most popular clubs. Therefore, that year Takashina and the club gave a riveting Shotokan demonstration witnessed by two hundred spectators, at the university’s student union. The demonstration consisted of performing basic techniques, free sparring, board breaking, and defending against a knife-wielding attacker. The event was so successful that it drew the attention of reporters form the Miami Hurricane, the University of Miami’s student newspaper. As a result, it led to more students wanting to join the club.

By 1975 Takashina was seeing the fruits of his business plan begin to take root. He established the South Atlantic Karate Association (SAKA), as a Florida corporation. SAKA would later serve as the South Eastern Region of the ISKF, and then under the JKA/WF America, both of which he was an original Founding Member.

As news of Takashina’s success grew, Masatoshi Nakayama and members of the Japanese National Karate Team consequently arrived in South Florida in November 1976, from the JKA Headquarters to give several lectures and demonstrations. The cost of the visit was sponsored by the University of Miami and the lectures and demonstrations were co-hosted by the University and Takashina’s SAKA. The Japanese National Team included Masaaki Ueki (the current JKA Chief Instructor), who had become the JKA Grand Champion in 1967 and 1970, and Masahiko Tanaka, the then current ISKA World Champion. The demonstrations comprised of kata, defensive and offense techniques, and kumite. Also present were Teruyuki Okazaki, Chief Instructor of the East Coast, Yutaka Yaguchi, Chief Instructor of the Western US.

When Karate Politics Came In

Politics began to fragment JKA Karate in America, as it would eventually do  in Japan. Hidetaka Nishiyama had been the head of the JKA in the United States. However, there was some disgruntlement in his All-American Karate Federation (AAKF), the Federation of which he was Chief Instructor. Wanting more of a “federation” structure, rather than the traditional “top down” approach, the former which was more “American“, a group of instructors lead by Teruyuki Okazaki split from the AAKF. They formed the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) in September of 1977. The other instructors who left with Okazaki were Yutaka Yaguchi, Takayuki Mikami, Shojiro Koyama, and Takashina.

Shigeru Takashina doing Kata
Shigeru Takashina doing Kata

The University of Miami as Foundation of Shigeru Takashina´s Success in the US

The university’s wildly successful Karate Club led to a growing interest by students to have some form of accredited course in Karate. Therefore, the Physical Education department of the University started researching the possibility of introducing two accredited courses, one in Karate and the other in Women’s Self-Defense. By 1978 the University introduced two Karate courses, both course of which were taught by Takashina. So, students taking the courses had the option of joining the University of Miami’s Karate Club.

Takashina, with his very sizeable University student contingent, became the regular US National Team Coach for International Competition. At the 1979 Championships his team won second place in the team kumite event. The club also had successes at individual level. Moreover, in 1983 L. Muso-Ris won first place in the woman’s kata event. And in addition, in 1989 Samer Atassi won first place in the men’s kumite event.

Shigeru Takashina´s Own Dojo

By 1996 Takashina had been promoted to 7th Dan and began making plans to purchase his own dojo in Coral Springs (north of Fort Lauderdale). It was from this location that he taught students who sought him out. In addition it also served as the permanent headquarters for SAKA. Certainly his success was also possible due because he wa a master at marketing and branding. When asked what sign he wanted on his building, he said simply “Shotokan Karate Center“, rather than “South Atlantic Karate Center” or some other name.

Sigeru Takashina with his Students
Sigeru Takashina with his Students

“He knew exactly what he was doing, and that was to become a visual magnet for people seeking Shotokan instruction. Every other school with a sign that said ‘Karate’ was likely Tae Kwon Do”

Takashina senior student, Tom Leeman, 5th Dan JKA.

Teaching Globally and Spreading Shotokan Karate

By this point in his career, Takashina was highly sought after nationally and internationally to conduct seminars. As a result,he was invited by Hideo Ochi to teach in Germany at a gasshuku, in the South Western town of Frankenthal in 2002. Ochi reciprocated by being a frequent guest at training camps organized by Takashina in Florida.

From his Coral Springs dojo, Takashina went about expanding his already robust region, including clubs throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, as well as the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Therefore, he is universally credited with establishing JKA Shotokan Karate throughout Central America, such as in Costa Rica and Panama, as well as his support of the development of clubs in Mexico.

When Karate Politics Came In Again

By April 2007, tensions between fractions within the JKA Headquaters in Japan, caused the many Japanese US-based instructors led by Teruyuki Okazaki to decide that the ISKF should leave the JKA, to follow its own path. Although Takashina had always tried to stay out of JKA politics, he felt that the infighting portrayed the JKA in a bad light and did not follow the teachings of the Dojo Kun. However, after further contemplation, Takayuki Mikami, Shojiro Koyama and Takashina, three of the five founding members of the ISKF, decided it was in Karate’s best interests both in the United States and as an international example to others, to remain with the JKA. They issued a joint declaration to members of their respective associations advising of the separation from the ISKF and reaffirmed their strong ties with the JKA.

In a personal letter sent by Takashina to Okazaki, he stated that even though the JKA were not perfect. However, the organization that molded his generation of karateka, continued to offer the best vehicle for promoting Karate around the world and to remain as the “keeper of Japan’s highest tradition”. By June 2007, the ISKF officially split from the JKA.

Shigeru Takashina with students, Masatoshi Nakayama, and Teruyuki Okazaki

Later Years and Legacy of Shigeru Takashina

From 2007 to 2013, Takashina maintained his very busy travel schedule, teaching at camps across his region and around the world. He also continued his very strong alliance with his peers back in Japan, including notable instructors such as Kenji Yano.

Takashina’s health began to deteriorate and he ultimately died from cancer on 3 September 2013, just shy of his 70th birthday. Thus, he was survived by his wife, Masako, and daughter, Fumi, both of whom live on Florida. Following his death, he was posthumously promoted to 9th Dan by the JKA.

Shigeru Takashina: A Life Devoted to Teach Shotokan Karate

Shigeru Takashina devoted his life to the teaching and promoting of JKA-Style Shotokan Karate. The youngest member of the first wave of JKA instructors to reside in the United States, as a result, it is testament to his character and teaching that his students continue to revere him. His students, under the leadership of his hand-picked successor, Carol See Tai, 6th Dan, JKA, have taken over his Coral Springs dojo. The dojo has been reincorporated as a non-profit institution, and re-branded as “Coral Springs JKA” in honour of Takashina’s city of choice where he placed his dojo, as well as his continued dedication to the JKA. Today, his picture remains conspicuously hanging at shomen.

In his students’ minds, his ultimate legacy remains to be written. “To me, he was the essence of Karate. It left a large void in my life with his passing”, recounts Takashina senior student Dr. Seif Elbualy, 5th Dan, JKA. “While the instructors that we have access to today from JKA Honbu dojo are phenomenal, there was only one Shigeru Takashina, and his loss can be felt“.

Teaching Shotokan Karate to the World

Later in life, Takashina devoted himself to spreading his philosophy of JKA Karate to the world. According to Takashina:

“The future of karate belongs to the beginner; an expert’s mind is full of limitations. But a beginner’s mind is open to all possibilities. In all things have a beginner’s mind. To build a future for Karate you need new young enthusiastic people to carry on where we will leave off.

In his honor and in commemoration of his passing, Coral Springs JKA host an annual Takashina Memorial Camp. The 2nd Annual Takashina Memorial Camp will be held on September 26-29, 2019 in Coral Springs and the neighboring beach-side community of Delray Beach, Florida with guest instructor, 5-time All Japan Kumite Champion, Keisuke Nemoto, 6th Dan, JKA Honbu Instructor.

Budo Spirit and Legacy of Shigeru Takashina

Sensei Takashina was the embodiment of modern Bushido throughout his entire life, both on the dojo floor, in the competition ring, and even towards the end of his life”, said Carol See Tai, his successor and Chief Instructor of Coral Springs JKA. “We honor him by bringing in one of today’s most revered Japanese kumite champions, whose family has also come to Takashina’s dojo after his death to pay their respects when visiting South Florida”.

She continues, “Besides his toughness as a great instructor, Master Shigeru Takashina had this other intuitive side where could tell what was going on in your head. He just knew what you were thinking or how you were feeling with that he spoke so much in so few words, words of wisdom with a lot of support and inspiration. Thus, he was like a father figure to me and many of his students. He was beloved.

Today, the Coral Springs JKA dojo remains somewhat of a shrine to Takashina, as a living legacy of his efforts to develop JKA Shotokan Karate in the US. Aside from the many students who continue to train at his former dojo, other karateka who visit South Florida throughout the United States and the world make it a point to also train at the dojo during their short visit, in a gesture of honor and respect to one of the last great Japanese Karate Masters.

Thanks to University of Miami and the Coral Springs JKA for providing much of the background information on Sensei Takashina.

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Women of Shotokan: Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes

“There is something magical about Shotokan Karate!” says Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes, SKIF Kumite World Champion Masters 50+ of 2019. We could not agree more. However, Sandra lost this magic once. After being a very successful competitor in very young years, she felt a lack of sense in her karate. To many competitions gave her the feeling of “being driven by results, rather than my heart.” Thus, she stop training. 28 years later, she found her way back into the dojo. Today, she is more committed than ever. And her commitment pays of and gained her the title of a world champion. Read this inspiring and insightful portrait about a woman, who fought her way back on the tatami: Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes. By Dr. Christian Tribowski

Portrait: Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes
Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes
  • Age: 50
  • Karate since: 1977 until 1989 stopped for 28 years and started again in September 2016
  • Origin and residence: Dutch since 1996 living in Schilde Belgium
  • (Kyu/Dan) Rank: 2nd Dan KBN (WKF/EKF), 3rd Dan SKIF
  • Dojo: Honbu Dojo Mortsel Belgium

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

  • From 1985 until 1988 member of Dutch National Team WKF
  • 1986 Silver Dutch Championship -53kg  KBN/WKF
  • 1987 Bronze European Championship Santander -53 WKF
  • 1988 Bronze European Championship Sopron Dutch Women Team
  • 1989 Gold Open Dutch League WKF
  • 1989 Silver  Dutch Championship Women All categories WKF
  • 1989 Bronze Open English Championship Birmingham Dutch Women Team WKF
  • 2019 Gold SKIF Kumite Masters 50+
Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes during the SKIF World Championships 2019

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: As a young girl, I was quiet, shy, and I cried easily. That is why, even before I turned six years old, my parents advised me to take up judo to increase my confidence. Two years later, I joined a new karate school.

Because I suffered from chronic asthmatic bronchitis, I found it challenging to train in small spaces. My Sensei, Jim Hubner, from “Seibukan Dojo” taught me how to breathe the right way during training, and as a result, my self-confidence grew quickly. Suddenly I could enjoy the fun and educational karate lessons, just like all the other children.

Almost every night – after my father and I came back from work and school – we went to the dojo where he worked as a sports instructor, and I could take karate classes every evening. And so the dojo became my second home. 

What do you like about Shotokan Karate?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: There is something magical about Shotokan Karate! It is a perfect art of self-defense and an excellent way to achieve overall fitness and unparalleled control over body and mind.

Kumite is and remains my favorite part of karate, but the basic kihon and kata are also fascinating and very interesting.

During the training, I am always looking for “perfection” because something always remains to be improved. Even simple kihon exercises are never truly perfect. I am always looking for the right positions, timing, kime, balance, and breathing.

I think that it is essential to keep control of all these aspects. And for kumite, I think the more versatile you are, the better you can determine your strategies.

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

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: No, I like every aspect of karate. Except maybe the blisters I have all the time, haha.

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

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: My most significant experience was returning to karate after 28 years.

Three years ago, I took a karate trial lesson with my friends in the Honbu Dojo in Mortsel, Belgium. My friends didn’t know anything about my experience with karate because I had closed that chapter a long time ago. During the first training session, as soon as I took my first kick, my Sensei Stephane Castrique realized that I had done this before. I was surprised about how quickly my desire grew to do this more and more often. Very soon, I was allowed to participate in the black belt lessons, and I came to the dojo almost every day.

There was something magical about the dojo, and I was inspired by the great passion and knowledge with which Sensei Stephane Castrique taught his classes. I realized more and more that karate was still flowing through my veins!

After a year of hard training, I got my 2nd dan confirmed by SKIF, and a year later I got my 3rd dan.

In these 2.5 years, I reconnected with old karate friends. I increasingly felt that all the pieces of the puzzles were coming together. It gave me a sense of complete satisfaction and purpose. The last piece of the puzzle and the most beautiful highlight was winning the gold at the World Cup in the Czech Republic.

In terms of the worst experience, there is nothing that comes to mind.

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes during training

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

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: I like challenges. I see them as new opportunities and take them with both hands.

On the one hand, I get my motivation from the fact that challenges make a person better and stronger. And on the other hand, they force me to think about things differently. And when you deliver excellent performance, you get more appreciation. That is also a major motivator.

How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: Karate has shaped me as a person. I was in the Seibukan dojo almost every day from the age of nine to the age of nineteen. At that time, I was surrounded by loving people who all shared my passion for karate. I had weekly training sessions with the best Senseis of that time, including Ludwig Kotzebue (kumite) and Jaap Smaal (kata). They taught me not only to work hard but also to stay sharp and focused on achieving my goals. In the national team led by national coach Otti Roethof and Raymond Snel, I trained with the greatest champions of that time!

My friends sometimes ask me whether I truly enjoyed my childhood. They wonder if I ever missed going out with friends. I can only answer that loving, caring people surrounded me, and so I never experienced it negatively. They were my karate family, and I am grateful that they shared not only the passion for karate with me but also some valuable life lessons.

How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: Karate has had a significant influence on me in every aspect.

I quit karate when I was twenty years old because I lost my passion for it. I felt like I was being driven by results, rather than my heart. Around that time, I also met my husband, with whom I traveled around the world, got married, and have two beautiful children. My husband had his own company, and he worked around the clock. I wanted to stay at home with our son and daughter. I made that choice wholeheartedly without any doubts or regrets. Because of it, I now have a great connection with my children, and I love being a mother.

When my daughter left home at the age of nineteen to study at the UVA in Amsterdam, I felt lost. I had everything my heart desired, and yet I was miserable and anxious. I felt like crying a lot of the time, and I was driving myself crazy.

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes during training

So I focused all my attention on our son. When he came home from school, I bombarded him with questions. According to the doctor, I was suffering from empty nest syndrome. He even prescribed light antidepressants for me, but I refused to take them. I had to do something for myself. So as I mentioned before, karate came back into my life at the perfect time. I rediscovered my old passion in which I could always set new goals, and as a result, I flourished. Also for my family it is nice that I have my own goals and they know that I am always there for them when they need me.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: When I was younger and a member of the Dutch national team Kumite, I trained every day. At that time, especially in the later years, karate was more of a sport to me, and so I only trained to achieve good results. That was also what people expected from me.

Now, 28 years later, I train with much more passion and depth. I am also fortunate that, in the SKIF family, I get to train with the best and most inspiring senseis and karatekas. They ensure that I stay sharp and focused.

My goal is to become an even better karateka. But I also want to enjoy every minute on the tatami with people who share the same passion!

How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: I hope that Shotokan karate remains the way it is. I hope that the traditional style of karate continues to be practiced with all its strict etiquette, depth, and respect for each other.

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

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: Yes, it is through my female friends that I have found my way back to the dojo. We have a nice club of ladies who train together every Monday morning. We want to get the most out of each other, both as a karateka and in our friendship. In recent years, I have not only seen them evolve from a white belt to a purple one, but I have also seen them grow as a person. They have more self-confidence and they have become stronger, both physically and mentally. And while doing karate, you make friends for life!

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“A sign of character.” Thomas Prediger about Competitions and Sport Karate

Sports karate exaggerates with its focus on tournaments. However, competitions can have an educative effect. But only when they are conducted in the right way. We talked with Thomas Prediger, chair of our advisory board, about the value of competitions for karateka and how karate tournaments will evolve after the dismissal of the WKF from the Olympics 2024. By Dr. Christian Tribowski

The Competitions Against Oneself

Christian: I would like to go a little bit deeper into the educative role of competition. Do I understand your argument right: While in Sport Karate the competition is the end, in Karate Do it is just a means to an end?

Thomas: In Karate Do, tournaments are a forum or they should be a one. It is a space for experience. And it is a space where you have to be honest to yourself. Without the opportunity to compare myself I will never truly practice. Everything I have learnt in training might stay theory until I face pressure and an opponent. That not only counts for Kumite but also for Kata. Without this exposure one will lack necessary learning experiences that are highly important to develop one´s own Do.

In my opinion, even an examination is a competition: A competition against yourself. During a tournament, we add another factor of uncertainty: the opponent. That is a challenge and it creates pressure. There you have to show how strong your Do is. Are you capable to fight honestly and loss with a smile? That is a sign of character.

Without this test, Karate Do will be cheap talk. Only a test can show whether I have incorporated the Do during training.

Competitions and the Experience of Limits

Christian: So, are tournaments a compromise between “absence of violence” (Dojo kun) and the martial arts dimension of karate do?

Thomas: Yes, you need a media and forum to experience yourself. Competitions offer this option in a peaceful and regulated way. This regulated and supervised way of conflict is necessary for socialization of human beings and for the society in general. I must experience my limits and boundaries. Maybe a little bit like stones in a river. They grind each other and become round after a while. At the end, they fit perfectly together.

Thus, competition can be an integrative means. This goes also for children. They must learn to asses their own strength. If we do not open them a regulated and supervised forum, they become a factor of uncertainty in the future. Because they will not know how to handle and apply their strength in a positive and fruitful way.

Christian: How old should children be when they take part in a competition for the first time?

Thomas: I think it is not a matter of age or grade. The rules are important. Like in the JKA where Katas are executed parallel. The children have then a direct comparison. Kumite must be very formalized like Gohon, Kihon, and Jiyu Ippon Kumite. A sufficient level of certainty is necessary for children. Unexpected situations should be avoided. That is very important for them to grow and to get used to the situation.

Sports can be Karate. But Karate Do cannot be Sports!

Christian: Let us talk about the future. What do you think how will the field of competition in Karate Do evolve? This is especially interesting because Karate will become Olympic next year but was excluded from the Olympics 2024. e

Thomas: This is what I expected. The WKF did not represent the whole Karate community and it did not spend much effort to integrate the other associations. It seems as if the committee in France recognized this. In my opinion Olympic competitions would have become to elitist anyway. Only professional fighters were capable to start at the events and they would have not much in common with regular Karatekas.

I would suggest something different: We need an open tournament for all Shotokan Karate Do associations. Currently, every association – if big or small – is a silo. They all should agree upon a certain set of Shobu Ippon rules and have joint tournaments.

But we should go back to the roots. That would lead to less big competitions like Olympics. It would be better to hold a bigger number of smaller tournaments where more people could attend. The Olympics are good for the media. But for the vast majority of people it is too far away from their reality. Smaller tournaments would benefit more people. They all could make the educative experience of competitions. Big tournaments do not achieve this goal. They just monopolize the attention of the audience and the smaller structures will dry out.

In the end, Sports can be Karate. But Karate Do cannot be Sports!

Christian: Thomas Prediger, thank you very much for this interview!

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Kumite Classics: Masao Kagawa vs. Georg Best

Usually, Masao Kagawa´s style is nothing but splendid. But the following match was not the most beautiful fight. On the other hand, it still belongs to the most exciting matches in the history of Shotokan. In 1988, Masao Kagawa meet Georg Best at the JKA World Shotokan Cup in Brisbane, Australia. The incredible bout took therefore place between two most unequal fighters one could imagine.

A Bout Between Unequal Fighters

Masao Kagawa was already 33 years old and an accomplished fighter back then. Georg Best, on the other hand, had the role of the contender. However, he arrived in Brisbane with a tremendous winning streak. He who won the European Championships in the individual kumite category in 1986 and 1987. Georg Best had therefore no reason to worry. His self-esteem and his fighting spirit must have been on a high during this years.

Masao Kagawa vs. Georg Best – The Duel of the Unequal Opponents

Besides this fact, Georg best had another advantage: his size. As you can see in the video, he towered above Masao Kawaga. Georg Best was at least one head taller than his Japanese incumbent.

Masao Kagawa: No Means Against the Reach of Georg Best

The contenders had to meet in the individual and team kumite competition of the event. Both times, Georg Best could win the bouts. But Masao Kagawa showed an incredible amount of fighting spirit against the much taller British fighter. In the end, he did not find a means to deal with the difference in size. Georg Best utilized his advantage in a perfect way and kept Masao Kagawa on distance. Even with his splendid kicking techniques he did not manage to reach his opponent or to put him in real trouble. Georg Best understood in an smart way to dominate the fight through his reach.

For smaller karateka this fight teaches an excellent lesson to learn how to fight against taller opponents. Standard shobu ippon strategies might not work under such circumstances.

However, this duel is without a doubt a classic.

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The Relation Between Kihon, Kata, and Kumite

The picture shows karateka during a seminar in malta. They did kihon, kata, and kumite.

Last week, our reader Giuseppe from Italy raised some questions about the relationship of Kihon, Kata, and Kumite. For him it seemed as if their is no direct connection between the three. Due to that he asked several questions and our author, Florian Wiessmann, answers him in this article.

Florian´s Answers

Giuseppe raised some wide spread points. Many Karate practitioners (and practitioners of other martial arts as well) ask them. So, I think it is important to answer his questions.

Kihon Stances

Karate is not a static affair. Stances are mostly just a momentarily expressions while moving (if you could just halt a movement at one point and your feet touch the ground, you have a stance). Don’t think to much about all the formal stances but more about, where your weight is distributed or how feet, knees, hips, pelvis and spine are aligned. Where the center of gravity is and how to shift your center of gravity.

And then you have the characteristics of many stances in all kind of movements, be it in your daily life or in kumite. Karate stances give us an opportunity to experience and learn correct alignment and body shifting in a structured way. In addition, take a look at classical European swordsmen – they probably have never heard of all the Karate stances and do them all the time while moving freely. Because movement and weight distribution inevitably leads to a certain structure.

Classical European fencing: The commonalities with Kendo are obvious. But when it comes to stances they intuitively apply stance like in Shotokan.

Uke Waza

As with stances, just think more about general movements and how to use both hands in a concerted way and not just about the standard blocking (and besides, uke translates to ‘receiving’ – this can be offensive as well). I recommend to experience a bit more the movements of certain uke waza in kihon. Use both hands, do not stop at the end of a technique (try a flow drill by connecting movements instead of just block & punch). Think a bit about characteristics and directions of uke waza movements. I can show you an uppercut punch I do 100% exactly as a basic soto uke. Age uke is also quite common as a kind of flinching reaction e.g. A look at self defense expert, Lee Morrison, and what he teaches as ‘flanking’. He does a quite basic gedan barai (and probably doesn’t even know the term).

Lee Morrison uses gedan barai for “flanking”.

Hikite

I’m not fond of explaining hikite for adding power to your punches but there are certainly reasons for hikite to be found in Karate practice.

An obvious explanation for hikite is already given by Funakoshi Gichin. He describes hikite as grabbing the opponents arm, pulling and twisting it, to unbalance the opponent. Of course this is not limited to grab the arm – hikite is basically bringing the grappling range into Karate practice.

Tatsuya Naka explains the importance of Hikite during Kihon clases at a seminar in Munich.
Tatsuya Naka explains the importance of Hikite during a seminar in Munich.

Hikite and Weapons

Hikite is also very present in weapon based training. Look at a bo swing, a spear thrust or a sword draw (saya biki) and what function hikite has there. Please don’t believe ‘Karate is empty handed’ or ‘I don’t carry a bo along when getting into a street fight’. Martial arts usually include weapons training, Funakoshi also included weapon training into Shotokan and being ’empty handed’ also means you have the opportunity to just grab a weapon. You might not carrying around weapons but it’s not so uncommon to be confronted with blunt- or bladed weapons or have them readily available in your environment. So, it doesn’t hurt to make yourself familiar with some basics. Moreover, beside many movement principles of weapon training translate very well into weaponless applications (and vice versa). Weapons are a great training tool for your body as well.

Hikite and Other Body Parts

Hikite furthermore helps connecting body parts. While the shoulder of the punching arm moves forward it helps that the other shoulder opens up a bit, e.g. with hikite. But, of course, this doesn’t have to be at the hip, you could also pull back your hand to a guard position. Just try it in kihon and extend one arm into a tsuki and do a tsuki with the other arm without pulling back the arm already extended. This will feel somewhat awkward, right? Or just do a hikite with one arm while the other arm just loosely hangs down. Hikite will initiate a pendulum movement in your hanging arm, if you are really loose).

A nice explanation is also seen in the following video. Hikite as shown there is about creating the necessary space to punch in an infight situation.

Kihon and Kumite

I agree somewhat that sanbon– and gohon kumite are a sub-optimal affair. You certainly need some kind of pre-arranged sparring to build up experience and confidence for free sparring. But sanbon- and gohon kumite also teaches much wrong stuff, in my opinion. Therefore, we don’t do it in my school (wrong stuff is moving back all the time, moving only back with too much a distance and not teaching how to close distances, enter the opponent or how to angle the attack and so on, only focusing on somewhat unrealistic counter gyaku zuki, nothing else, only blocking with one arm, nothing else…).

So, do pre-arranged sparring. But beside absolute beginners people probably can do better as with sanbon-/gohon kumite. This is also true for a standard block-counter uke waza approach, where people certainly could to better.

Gohon and Sanbon Kumite are just one step on the ladder to Jiyu Kumite - but necessary.
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Ueda Daisuke, Sen no sen, and Ikken Hissatsu

Ueda Daisuke applies Sen no sen and intercepts the Kizami-Zuki of his opponent.

Ueda Daisuke is an extraordinary Karateka and easy to underestimate. The reason for this assessment is his physic. He is a little heavy for a fighter with his speed. For his opponents his quickness must come as a surprise. And he knows how to take advantages of that. In 2018, he displayed one of the best Sen no sen applications of the last decade. By Dr. Christian Tribowski

Ueda Daisuke: Ashi-Barai at All Japan Championship 2018

At the All Japan Championship 2018, Nishimura Nobuaki had to fight against Ueda Daisuke. Both fighters faced each other in a bout, which ended with a spectacular defeat. After about a minute, Ueda Daisuke stunned his opponent with a well-timed Ashi Barai. Although, Nishimuar himself initiated the action through an Kizami-Zuki. He was not capable to protect himself against the wipe. As a reult, Hishimura landed on the ground and Ueda Daisuke finished the match with a Zuki to the head.

Ueda Daisuke vs. Nishimur Nobuaki at the All Japan Championship 2018

Honorable Mention for Sen No Sen

We are not the only once, who were impressed by the skills of Ueda Daisuke. Although he did not win the competition the tournament committee awarded him a honorable mention.

The skill, he displayed during the fight, goes beyond pure speed. He applied the strategy of Sen no sen (jap. 戦の戦). This strategy aims on the interception of the opponent. That means, in the very moment, an opponent attacks, the other opponent steps into the attack in order to intercept it. In addition, the counter-attack is usually not supported by a block. The counter-puncher tries to avoid the at all. This can either happen by being faster or bob and weave techniques.

In any case, Sen no sen requires a lot of training, and a calm mind with a clear focus towards the target. However, within the Shobu Ippon fighting system it is often use. Above all, the Shobu Ippon Kumite focuses on the one finishing blow. This principle is called Ikken Hissatsu (jap. 拳必殺): To kill with one punch.

Sen no sen and Ikken Hissatsu

During an attack, two factors come together that make Sen no sen attractive. Firstly, the attacker is already in motion and has difficulties to react. Secondly, the forward energy of both attackers add up. If the Sen no sen attacker hits his target, he utilizes his and the force of his opponent. In conclusion, a Sen no sen attack is even more devastating than a regular punch. That is the reason why it becomes a means of choice in a Shobu Ippon fight.

Ueda Daisuke became 2nd in Kata

While he did not reach a medal in Kumite, Ueda Daisuke became 2nd in Kata. In his Kata performance one can see the source of his speed. Although he carries a few pounds to much he is lissome like a tiger. In conclusion, Kata training makes also good fighters.

Ueda Daisuke performing Sochin at the All Japan Championship 2018