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Knife Defence: Is Karate Training Useful?

The picture shows a knife and this article we are going to shows you whether karate works in knife defence.

Knife Defence is a very controversial topic and Karateka seldom train it. However, it is important to know what it means and how Karate can be utilised to defend against a knife, if one has no other chance to remove oneself from a situation. By T.D. McKinnon in his column Karate Essence

This is a topic that is always controversial. Everyone has an opinion on the subject, some through the mirror of their own experiences.  However, many seem to have an inflexible opinion on the subject, with little or no real experience and with a very rudimentary education on the topic.

I think that one point should be made here before we go any further. If you are confronted by anyone with a stabbing or bladed weapon, if at all possible, you should remove yourself from the situation immediately.  Do not make it an ego thing! Even if you master knife defence; having to disarming someone with a blade, regardless of the antagonist’s skill, or lack thereof, is extremely dangerous. However, if you are unable to remove yourself – you may be cornered or protecting someone – you owe it to yourself to be as prepared as you possibly can be.

My own Experience with Knife Defence

Growing up in the coal-mining communities of Scotland and England, in the 1950s and 60s, blades were an ongoing reality.  I escaped most confrontations by running away, very fast. However on one occasion, when I was 14 years old, I was cornered by two 17 year- old youths who wanted my leather jacket. I had been delivering papers, morning and night, for an entire year to pay for it; they would have to take it from my dead body. One of them produced a flick-knife to cut it from my body if necessary. I was terrified. Pure luck got me out of that situation, when the sudden appearance of a bunch of motorcyclists caused my assailants to run away.  

A couple of years later, while serving in the British Parachute Regiment, a soldier in the neighboring bed had a psychotic episode one day. I found myself (whilst lying flat on my back on my bed) with the point of his bayonet pressed firmly against my jugular vein. 

I had trained in close quarter combat but I was not prepared for that. If you have never been in that situation – when you feel you might die at any moment and there’s nothing you can do about it – it is a chilling experience!

I somehow managed to reason with him; remaining calm (at least I made a fair approximation of sounding calm) I talked him out of a bloodletting. As he stood up, the tension left his body, and the hand holding the bayonet went limp. Springing off the bed, I slapped it out of his hand. Adrenaline pumping, I slammed him against a metal locker; one hand around his throat, I was ready to smash my fist into his face. Long story short, I didn’t hit him; the poor guy was mentally very ill.

When I left the Paras I started working the nightclub scene in the Glasgow area (once reputed to be the knife attack capital of the world) where I encountered several situations where a knife or an open-blade razor was presented threateningly. We were of course prepared for these predictable displays. Funny how the site of a baseball bat changes the mind of a knife wielding lunatic. Suffice to say that the sight of someone wielding a knife is not strange to me.

Kase Taiji and Knife Defence

I attended a Kase Taiji Sensei seminar in the 1970s. Sometime during the course, while we were doing a lot of basic blocking techniques, he was trying to stress the importance of good, strong basics. Some of us were obviously not getting it to his satisfaction. 

Kase Sensei began to tell us about a time when he first went to Paris and he was confronted by a knife wielding thug, who demanded that he hand over his wallet.

Kase Sensei did not have good English; he had been living in France for many years and I don’t know how good his French was but he had a strange way of speaking, a heavy mixture of Japanese/French accented Pidgin English. However, with the aid of mimicry and simulation he certainly got the story over.

It happened one evening as he was going for a stroll, taking in the Paris sites. For those who don’t know, I would describe him as a 4X4 (very short, he was as wide as he was tall) and I can imagine that a would-be mugger might not see the potential danger in him. Kase Sensei wasn’t sure what his assailant was saying but he understood the drift of the situation and decided not to hand over his wallet.

When he made no reply and no move to comply with his attacker’s demands; frustrated, the man tried to stab him in his ample belly. With a classic soto uke, Kase Sensei smashed the mugger’s arm at the elbow and then, while delivering a devastating yoko empi to the jaw, he wrenched the smashed arm across his ample chest.

“Cut…” he said, showing us a scar on his forearm, and shaking his head as if it was nothing. “I break ‘is arm…” he continued, indicating with gestures that told us he had snapped the elbow in the opposite direction. “And ‘is…” and grabbing his own jaw, shaking it, he added, “Shatter!”

Knife Defence requires Strong Basics

Twenty years later, while working at a night club in Sydney’s Kings Cross, I stepped between a patron and a woman he was in the process of beating-up. I actually suspected that she was one of his working girls. Without the slightest compunction, he pulled out a knife and stabbed me in the stomach. Well, he tried.

I smashed his elbow the wrong way and shattered his jaw into a dozen pieces. The circumstances were completely different to Kase Sensei’s incident, but the knife attack and the results were exactly the same. And I too sport a scar from the incident on my right wrist.  I agree wholeheartedly with Kase Sensei: strong basics are indeed essential.

As well as being a martial artist for the past 57 years; learning to defend against weapons, knifes in particular, has been a lifelong objective.   However, It wasn’t until I worked in close protection (real bodyguard work, not there just for show), protecting someone who was afraid for their life, that I had real close encounters with knife wielding individuals intent on doing me serious bodily harm. 

I have defended myself against four serious knife attacks, I was cut in three of them, minor injuries, only one of which needed fairly immediate attention. However, after all four attacks, I was back on the job straight away, while all of the attackers spent considerable time (1-6 weeks) in hospital; before doing serious jail time.

Teaching Knife Defence is a Serious Affair

Teaching knife defence to Close Personal Protection (CPP) operatives who just might find themselves up against someone with a knife is a serious affair. It needs to be practical, and they need to believe that it will work; because doubt is the back stabber (pardon the pun).

I think we should differentiate between the categories of knife or bladed threats. There are some dramatic differences in threat levels; consequently, there is a difference in the defence strategies used.  There are three main threat levels but with a myriad of intensities:

1. The knife presented to intimidate or as an overt threatening device.

Generally, in this case, the intention is not to kill or do serious damage. However, there can be many and varied mitigating factors and this kind of threat can still progress to a real and sometimes life threatening danger. If you are presented with a knife threat situation, remember that an action is quicker than a reaction: initiate the action (Deai).  Examples: 

Thomas D. McKinnon teaching knife defence.
Thomas D. McKinnon teaching knife defence.

2. The knife used in an aggravated assault. Perhaps to intimidate during an attempted robbery/mugging/rape et cetera, where injury is not the main intention, but where it all too often escalates to the next level.

I am not talking about the legal definitions here; what I am talking about is the intentions of the knife wielding assailant. This, by degree only, is a more serious situation for the victim of threat level 1. 

Thomas D. McKinnon teaching knife defence.
Thomas D. McKinnon teaching knife defence.

3. The knife deliberately used in an attempt to murder or seriously injure.

Again, I am not talking about the legal definitions; I am talking about the intent of the assailant. There can be a hairs breadth between attempting to seriously injure someone and killing them.

Mushin

In answer to number 1 and 2, your responses need to be instinctive and immediate.  There will be a variance in the degree of danger and the method of intimidation; however, providing you train your responses until they are instinctive (Mushin), you will minimise injury to yourself by remembering these rules:

  • An action is always quicker than a reaction: implement the action.
  • Act without doubt and without hesitation and don’t stop until your assailant is disarmed and nullified.

In answer to number 3, if you get the opportunity to initiate the action the same rules apply.  However, considering the nature of number 3, you may not get the chance to initiate the action.  There are far too many variables to generalise; however, when I was putting together my knife defence seminars, apart from utilising my own personal experience, I studied hours of CCTV footage of brutal knife attacks, from all around the world.  The situations were many and varied but the outcomes were all pretty grim; mostly ending in a fatality. 

How defend against a Knife Attacker intent on Murder?

However, after studying the different ways that people are attacked on that footage, I determined the best ways in which to combat each different kind of attack. There is one defence I teach for a very distinctive type of recurring attack that is used when an assailant is determined to kill his victim. This attack is a rapid stabbing motion; not unlike a rapid, repeating gyaku-zuki type motion, while controlling (pulling/pushing/grabbing) the recipient with the free hand. 

I watched CCTV footage of an attack on a police officer. The recipient of the attack was a big policeman; when he stopped a small, suspicious looking, man to questioning him. Attacking suddenly, viciously, without provocation, a knife appearing in his right hand, the small man used his free hand to clamp the policeman’s gun hand against the gun as he was frantically attempting to draw, while stabbing him repeatedly, to death right there on camera.

Here is a step by step sequence of still photographs, and a slow motion video of the defence for just such an attack.  Perhaps you can recognise the entry from Sochin Kata.

9 Steps

  1. You must meet the attacker head on; do not wait until he has got the first stab in. This is a repeated stabbing action, meant to kill you.
  2. Do not let his free hand control you.
  3. You must strike, simultaneously ramming your forearms, a/into the forearm of his knife hand, and b/ into the attacker’s face: jamming his first stab and smashing his face (Sen no sen).  This action will halt his forward momentum.
  4. You can see the first technique from three different angles.
  5. It is then important to move quickly, smoothly into the next action, taking advantage of the first shock to his system. 
  6. Vigorously, simultaneously, push his head down and lift the knife hand up in the manner shown.
  7. Keeping your back straight for best results and least chance of losing your balance, bend your knees and drop your centre of gravity, to pile-drive the attackers head into the ground.
  8. To finish, using a wrist/arm lock, wrench hard to take control and or break the arm. 
  9. It is doubtful that the knife will still be in his hand, but if it is it will have been nullified all the way through and can be taken easily at this point.

Repetition with Full speed is important

Let me be quite clear about this; I know from practical experience that this technique works, and I taught it to the high risk section of the security industry for 25 years with nothing but positive feedback.   

It is not practical (from the point of view of the damage you can cause) to practice this technique, repetitively, with a partner at full speed with power. However here is a demonstration of a method of practicing a modified version of the technique, along with 3 other possible knife defence techniques with a partner, with a little speed.  Some training tools if you will:

Thomas D. McKinnon teaching knife defence.

Ultima Ratio

At the risk of repeating myself, I must reiterate: If you are confronted by anyone with a stabbing or bladed weapon, if at all possible, you should remove yourself from the situation immediately. Do not let your ego get you seriously injured or killed! Even if you master knife defence, disarming anyone who has a blade is extremely dangerous and should be a last resort.

When there is no other option: ultima ratio; if you have no choice, do it boldly, with Mushin and Zanshin

The Unmentionables of Knife Defence

There are still a couple of areas not yet mentioned.  To talk about knife defence and not mention the most difficult types of bladed weapons to defend against would be grossly duplicitous. I could do what most people do when covering knife defence: put these weapons in the too hard basket and just ignore them!

Obviously, anything involving knives is more than a little dangerous. If you are thinking of employment in the close protection industry you should consider training in one of the knife fighting systems. You might also familiarise yourself with as many others as possible. My initial knife fighting training, in the military, consisted of a mishmash of the most useful, deadly techniques from a variety of origins. My additional knife fighting education comes care of Tantojutsu from Bushido, and the Filipino knife fighting of Kali. I also acquired some of the practicality of stick fighting from Kali; which applies very nicely to an extendable baton; and is extremely useful against a knife.

Slashing

I grew up on stories of the Glasgow razor gangs. There was still the occasional incident, but on the whole the open-blade razor had gone the way of the dinosaur. Quite obviously, they were not used for stabbing but for slashing. They could be used with devastating effect: blinding, opening up or slashing pieces off face and hands et cetera. In an experienced hand they could kill quite easily but, for the most part, they were meant to menace and intimidate. Designed to cause extensive damage without the risk of accidentally killing someone; they were quite a terrifying weapon!

The box-knife is fairly commonplace in Glasgow nowadays: with a capacity to do massif amounts of damage, but without the depth of blade to accidentally kill someone in the process. Another terrifying weapon!

Defence against the two aforementioned weapons, mostly because exponents of said weapons usually train in their use, I would put firmly in the realm of ‘the knife fighting cultures. I would therefor advise that defence against them should follow the same lines as any of the knife fighting martial arts.    

Knife Fighting Martial Arts

Lastly, I’ll touch briefly on knife fighting martial arts, which are numerous.  Here are just a few of the most prominent:

Pencak Silat (Indonesian)

Silat practitioners use a curved blade called a Karambit. In trained hands, this is a deadly weapon.

Kali Escrima (Filipino)

Kali practitioners use a relatively short, single bladed, stabbing and slashing knife. This is another devastatingly dangerous weapon.

Paranza Corta (Italy)

Practitioners of this deadly art use a stiletto bladed knife; primarily, a deadly stabbing weapon.

Tantojutsu (Japan)

Using a Tanto; this is a devastating, stabbing and slashing knife fighting art.

Military Special Forces (various countries)

This is usually an amalgamation of the deadliest techniques from various classical knife fighting arts. The weapons vary, my experience was with a bayonet; however, it is adaptable to most knives.

Distance and Weapons

If you are cornered and you have no weapons, distance is your only ally; long range striking is most advisable. Utilise, as a weapon, anything that you can get your hands on. If you are protecting someone, professionally, then you should be carrying some kind of weapon, an extendable baton at the very least.

Will Karate help you in knife defence?

So, will Karate help you in knife defence?  Certainly there are tools within your Karate training that will assist you. However, you really need to train, specifically, for knife defence to stand a decent chance against someone with a knife. And the more skilled your adversary, the more skilled you need to be.

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What is Okuri-tsuki? And How To Do it Correctly?

Okuri-tsuki is the most prominent unknown technique of Shotokan karate. Many karateka have seen or applied it. But they do not know its name or to describe it in technical terms. That is why we going to describe what it is and how to do it in this article. By Derick Kirkham

What is Okuri-tsuki? Hopefully this article will unravel any misconceptions that surround this neglected and under-used technique. The word Okuri in this application referred to as a meaning for “to slide”. But it is also probably the main reason why it is still occasionally mistaken for a form of Nagashi-tsuki (flowing punch).

Where Does it Come From?

Many of the Japanese instructors in the early days came to Karate after studying other oriental arts such as Judo and Kendo. Here they learnt the foundational concept of Okuri. For instance, Judo has a technique called Okuri-ashi-barai, which is the sliding leg sweep. Also in Kendo a specialized footwork technique named Okuri-ashi (sliding leg)Fig 1 exists and is a key part of Kendo’s tactical armory. This Shizen-tai footwork technique is important in Kendo. Because it permits the Kendo-ka to move extremely quickly forwards and backwards with only the minimum of “dead time”. Therefore,one should bear it in mind as a pertinent concept. To understanding the essence of Okuri-tsuki one needs to understand this concept.

The foundation of Okuri-tsuki is Okuri ashi.
The foundation of Okuri-tsuki is Okuri ashi.

The confusion about this technique has therefore several roots:

  • influences from other Japanese martial arts, which most Westerners did not learn;
  • complexity and too often ambiguity of the Japanese language;
  • the reluctance of some, not all of the Japanese instructors to give detailed explanations to their Gaijin students, of the names, concepts and meaning of every technique.

However, today our sources of information are better. Therefore, we want to explain how Okuri-tsuki works.

How Does Okuri-tsuki Work?

Okuri-tsuki means a punching technique that is delivered and reaches its target between the firm placements of ones launching and landing stances. The fist hits the desired target area whilst one’s body mass is still on the move. Therefore, its transit nature of the technique makes it difficult for some people to identify, classify, and perform. On the other hand it also makes it such a powerful hard hitting technique.

It’s not a variation of Oi-tsuki, Kizami-tsuki, Nagashi-tsuki nor Gyaku-tsuki. But understandably it can and is often mistaken for these techniques. Because it does resemble a poorly coordinated Oi-tsuki, or an over stretched Gyaku-tsuki, where the rear foot isn’t firmly rooted upon impact with the target area. Thus, some observers have difficulties to identify it, as its characteristic delivery speed masks the technique.

In this fantastic video Toshihito Kokubun executes Okuri-tsuki twice.

The Important Aspects of Okuri-tsuki

Its runaway freight train effect depends upon a couple of things:

  • timing of the launch of the punch,
  • forward projection of ones opponent, and
  • proficiency of the performer.

It’s neither a new technique nor a neglected one. By many it simply has been overlooked for many reasons. In my experience many neglect it in Kihon because it doesn’t appear in kata nor as a grading syllabus requirement. Due to its more agricultural and practical functionality it has also been over-looked in the modern sporting arena as it is believed to be too brutal and it lends itself more for use in Jissen and Jiyu-Kumite. Therefore, it poses the question: does it actually exist? Or is it just a quirky variation of another tsuki?

Does it really exist?

While the overall technique is somewhat Kamikaze looking in appearance, the underlying tactics employed are of equal importance to its success as the mechanics of the technique itself. The tactics involved are; selecting the correct mind set prior for delivery, ones timing, line and direction are all key. The technique can be delivered using a permutation of various tactics. However, the most commonly used and most devastating effects result by using a combination mind set of Ikken Hisatsu, Sen no Sen and Irimi. Therefore, the delivery of the technique in the following examples focuses directly in the forward direction.

Among the accomplished exponents of Okuri -tsuki, was the late Steve Cattle. Others worthy of note are the late Taiji Kase and Keinosuke Enoeda. In the new generation of Japanese Instructors people such as Tatsuya Naka and Takahashi Yamaguchi use it. 

In this video Keinosuke Enoeda shows Okuri-tsuki in combination with a Deashibarai.

The execution of the technicques marks the most important aspect in its distinction from other techniques. While it appears somewhat Kamikaze-like, the underlying tactics employed accounts for its success as the mechanics of the technique itself. The tactics involved:

  • selecting the correct mind-set prior for delivery,
  • ones timing,
  • ones line and
  • direction.

Mind-set and Strategy Behind Okuri-tsuki

When it comes to the right mind-set a combination of Ikken Hisatsu, Sen no Sen and Irimi works best. The karateka in the follinwing examples deliver the technique straight forward with 100% commitment to and belief in the success of the technique.

However, the technique can also be delivered using the strategy of Go no Sen: “seizing the initiative later”. This requires blocking and then countering after the attack of the opponent. But commonly Okuri-tsuki becomes utilized in Sen no Se: “seizing the initiative early”. That does not mean that one necessarily makes the first move. More often it involves one intending to counter precisely at the same time that your opponents attacks.

Sliding in

Where does the sliding in take place in Okuri-tsuki? After one observes the technique, one could never describe it as being of a sliding motion. The Okuri name occurs after Kamae-te and refers to the essential preparatory footwork of Okuri-ashi. Fig 1 Its usage lies in the gain of territorial advantage and to ensure the correct launching distance the long range Tsuki technique. Therefore, Okuri -tsuki describes the tactical footwork of using the sliding leg (Okuri-ashi). 

What makes Okuri-tsuki so effective?

Is it the unusual nature of its timing and delivery, which generates high speed with the minimum amount of “dead time”?  Probably! But it comes as a payoff. The increased speed and reduced “dead time” leads to a loss in stability upon impact with the target.Especially during the mid-flight section the karateka stands only on one leg. This loss in stability, however, is due to the body’s full commitment and its follow through motion.

How to Execute Okuri-tsuki?

So, with the tactics firmly in place and the correct distance to launch one Okuri-tsuki gained by using Okuri-ashi, then let’s go through the execution of the technique itself.  As we are using “Ikken-Hsatsu”, “Sen no Sen” and “Irimi” we will be stepping forward to deliver the technique.

1. Assume a right foot forward Kamae-te. Fig 2

The First Steps

The execution of Okuri-tsuki.
The execution of Okuri-tsuki.

2. Use Okuri-ashi to gain advantage to ensure that the correct launching distance is obtained. Fig 1

3. Quickly rotate the hips from Hanmi through to Sokumen and begin to punch Jodan-tsuki with the left hand, slightly before you start to move the left leg (Do-Kyaku) forwards. Fig 2 A 

So far you can see why initially it may look like a static Gyaku-tsuki. However, where in Gyaku-tsuki one is expected to keep the body perpendicular throughout the hip rotation, and any forward projection and extension is achieved by the extent of the hip rotation, the distance the stance travels and the bending of the knee of the front leg. Whereas in Okuri-tsuki, one achieves forward projection by leaning slightly forward into the target. Fig 2 B

Note: unlike Gyaku-tsuki, the coordinated Hikite and the firmly planted back foot is not present throughout.

The Further Steps

4. Fig 2 C Shows a side view just prior to impact. This is the phase where the left leg (Do-Kyaku) starts to catch up by driving towards ones over stretched center of gravity point.

5. The left leg (Do-Kyaku) has now reached the body’s balanced centre of gravity point and the body is perpendicular, it is at this point when the explosive collision impact of the punch occurs. Fig 2 D  Note how the left leg (Do-Kyaku) is still moving and not on the floor.

6. After the impact in the basic form of the technique one should snap back the left hand and firmly place down the left leg (Do-Kyaku). Variants of the snap back are employed if the use of a follow on technique requires it Fig 2 E

7. The snap back of the left hand is in readiness. Assume a left leg forward Kamae-te.

Some Picture Studies

Photo Group A 1-8 demonstrates Okuri-Tsuki with the follow up technique of a highly destructive leg sweep performed with Ikken-Hisatsu in mind, as always by K.Enoeda. Note how much the front left foot moves forward in photos 1-2 gaining distance prior to the launching of the punch. Also consider how at the impact point in photo 3 his right foot lifts off the ground and on the move forward in photo 4. In this case the right foot not lands. But it delivers a leg bar to execute a powerful double leg sweep followed up with Otoshi-Tsuki.

Keinosku Enoeda shows how to execute the Okuri-tsuki.
Photo Group A: Keinosku Enoeda shows how to execute the Okuri-tsuki.

Although the fighting art differs in Photo Group B 1-3 the physics, the theory and the end result remains exactly the same. Photo 1 shows the total commitment of the body to the techniques delivery as it approaches the impact point and notice that the arm is already at full extension, Photo 2 shows the impact point and by the way this particular punch was responsible for breaking the jaw of the durable and very tough competitor Ken Norton, Photo 3 shows that there is very little pull back of the technique after impact and the back leg of Muhammad Ali has still not caught up the forward projection of the attacker’s committed technique.

 Okuri-tsuki by Muhammad Ali.
Photo Group B: Okuri-tsuki by Muhammad Ali.

Conclusion and A Simple Test

Hope this article has introduced Okuri-tski to some and stimulated the interest in trying out Okuri-tsuki in your training regime to all. Although the objective of the article was to clear up the mysteries and misconceptions surrounding Okuri-tsuki, I invite you to conduct this simple experiment. I first saw it demonstrated by Masahiko Tanaka. As I firmly believe that it may help you as it did help me, to fully appreciate the advantages that “a moving mass” impact technique such as Okuri-tsuki can add to the overall effectiveness of your technique.

So then if you are in the game, then try this simple test:

1. Stand in a left leg forward Zenkutsu-Dachi 

2. Position yourself close to a wall and extend the right arm out so that the fist of your right hand is firmly making contact with the wall.

3. Then push with the right arm into the wall constantly and experience what it feels like (in other words do not put on and ease off the pressure you are putting through the arm and fist during the experiment).

4. Next, without moving from the previous position, just lift the foot of the left leg and feel how your mass is being pulled further into the wall, i.e. into the would be target.

This is simply because the bodies mass is now unsupported and is subject to gravitational pull. Thus it simulates being on the move, whilst making contact with the target. This happens just a fraction of a second prior to landing your mass through the foot of the moving leg (Do-Kyaku) and just as you would experience it with a correctly delivered Okuri-Tsuki.  Good Luck and Good Practice.

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Taiji Kase: 9 Fascinating Facts About His Life

The picture shows Taiji Kase.

Taiji Kase is one of the most fascinating Shotokan karate masters ever. In this article we are going to present you the 9 most fascinating facts about him. By Patrick Donkor and Dr. Christian Tribowski

Taiji Kase lived a life of a libertine. Like no other, he chose his way of Karate dependent on his own interests and convictions. Younger generations might know him from videos as a stout elder Karate grand master with incredible fast hands. However, a look back into his biography reveals his fascinating life. We are going to present you the 10 most exciting facts about Taiji Kase.

Taiji Kase Searched for Gichin Funakoshi

Taiji Kase was born in 1929 in Chiba Prefecture. In February of 1944, the young Kase began his journey into the world of Karate. He had come across Gichin Funakoshi’s book, Karate-Do Kyohan, originally published in 1935. The book featured photographs of Funakoshi performing various techniques and kata. This was radically different from anything the young Kase had previously seen. His interest grew so strong in the new art that he contacted the book publishers to find the location of Funakoshi’s dojo.

Yoshitaka “Gigo” Funakoshi Refused to Teach Him, But Also Influenced Him

When he arrived at the “Shoto-kan” he found out that Gichin Funakoshi had retired from day to day teaching. Sensei Funakoshi was already in his 70´s. Therefore, his son Yoshitaka oversaw much of the daily classes, assisted by Shigeru Egami and Genshin Hironishi. But when Kase initially arrived at the dojo, Funakoshi’s son, Yoshitaka, refused to teach him. In the perception of Yoshitaka, he was too young for Karate. Fortunately for Taiji Kase, Yoshitaka realized his abilities after they had talked with each other. So, Kase began his his training at the original Shoto-kan dojo in the Meijiro district of Tokyo.

Kase recalled in later interviews that the younger Funakoshi’s dynamic style of Karate influenced him a lot. Yoshitaka Funakoshi had a very progressive approach to Karate.

Yoshitaka "Gigo" Funakoshi, who developed the style further, had a huge influence on Taiji Kase. He also introduced Mawashi Geri.
Yoshitaka “Gigo” Funakoshi, who developed the style further, had a huge influence on Taiji Kase. He also introduced Mawashi Geri.

Taiji Kase Wanted to Be A Kamikaze Pilot

During the war years, Kase was a cadet in the Japanese Navy. Because of the nationalistic and patriotic nature of the times he had enlisted in the infamous Kamikaze Corp of the navy. However, just before he was due to be deployed the war came to an end.

He Received His 3rd Dan With 20

Kase would train up to eight hours a day. By 1949, Kase had graded to 3rd Dan. At 20 he was the youngest to be awarded the grade. His grading had taken place in front of a panel of senior grades from Keio, Chuo, Takushoku, Waseda, Hosei and Senshu universities. The senior grades were from the Karate clubs and old boy clubs located at the universities.

Taiji Kase Worked as A Bodyguard

After graduating from Senchu University, Kase briefly worked as a bodyguard for a friend of his father whose business had run into some union troubles.

The young Taiji Kase was a tough fighter. It is said that he managed all the challenges the JKA received.
The young Taiji Kase was a tough fighter. It is said that he managed all the challenges the JKA received.

He Taught in the Infamous JKA Instructors Course

Hidetaka Nishiyama, who was the JKA’s Chief of the Instruction Committee, invited Kase to join the JKA. Kase had the the interest to teach. Therefore, joining the JKA provided a suitable opportunity. He was one of the few non-Takushoku graduates teaching at the JKA. He taught alongside Nakayama, Nishiyama and Teruyuki Okazaki, one of the originators of the JKA’s Infamous Instructors Course.

Apart from teaching at the JKA’s dojo, located in  the Yotsuya district of Tokyo, Kase also taught kumite three days a week on the Instructors Course. His students included future All Japan Kumite Champions Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda, Hiroshi Shirai and Hideo Ochi.  Students knew him as a hard but fair instructor.

Kase Fought Many Challengers

Not much information exists, but people thought that he also handled any challenges made to the JKA.

When he arrived in Europe, Kase faced a number of challenges. He faced the challenge of being in a new country with its different language, cuisine and culture. In addition, he also faced the challenge from other martial artists who wanted to test the validity of his Karate. Suffice to say he successfully handled all of these challenges.

Taiji Kase was a Kumite specialist.

Taiji Kase Held a 3rd Dan in Judo

Henri Plee invited Kase to France in 1967. Plee, who had introduced Yoseikan Karate to France and the rest of Europe, would later recall the immense respect he held for Kase. Plee, who was also a Judo black belt, would like to test the skills of an invited instructor by sparring against them. He would occasionally perform a throw to test his opponent. However, against Kase nothing worked. He admitted that Kase was one of the toughest fighters he ever faced. Plee offered him a one year contract to teach at his Paris dojo.

Even in his later years, Taiji Kase was a very agile fighter.
Even in his later years, Taiji Kase was a very agile fighter.

He Founded his Own Association

Following Nakayama’s death in 1987, the JKA faced political in-fighting among some of the factions within the association. Never one for the politics, Kase founded the World Karate-Do Shotokan Academy (WKSA) in 1989, alongside Shirai. The aim of the association was to be free of the politics that plagued Shotokan Karate. It also taught Kase’s style of Karate called Shotokan Ryu Kase Ha. Kase always strived to continue the teachings of Yoshitaka Funakoshi. In his understanding the JKA seemed to had largely forgotten these teachings. In addition, he sought to explore other avenues, such as the principles of Miyamoto Musahi’s School of Two Swords. He spend much time to apply it to Karate. The WKSA broke away from the JKA.


The Shotokan Times has to express its gratitude to Patrick Donkor of Finding Karate – Journey of a Karate-ka, who provided the biggest part of this article.