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Masatoshi Nakayama: The CEO of Shotokan Karate

Masatoshi Nakayama was a unique personality in many regards. However, no person has done more to expand Shotokan karate around the the World than him. As a long time student and anointed successor of Gichin Funakoshi he carried along the legacy of the grandmaster. As foundeer and chief instructor of the Japan Karate Association (JKA), Masatoshi Nakayama oversaw the expansion of Shotokan Karate. It has been growing from an art practiced only in Japan to an art practiced all over the global by a diverse range of people. By Patrick Donkor and Dr. Christian Tribowski

Masatoshi Nakayama: Early Years

Masatoshi Nakayama was born in 1913 in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, in the southwest of Japan. Until today, Yamaguchi and the Japanese southwest has been bearing powerful figures in Japanese politics and economy. Shinzo Abe, Japans present prime minister, was born into a powerful political family, which originated from Yamaguchi Prefecture. Thus, it is no wonder that Nakayama´s social pedigree was upper-class. He came from a family descended from the Sanada samurai and steeped in the martial tradition. His grandfather and father were accomplished Kendo instructors.

Being from a medical family, Nakayama they expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, he loved Chinese culture and secretly took and passed an entrance exam for Takushoku University, the premier university for those wanting a career in the foreign service. As a result he entered Takushoku University in 1932.

The picture shows Masatoshi Nakayama (Source: JKA).
Masatoshi Nakayama (Source: JKA)

First Encounter With Shotokan Karate

In a twist of fate Nakayama mis-read the timetable for attending a kendo class and instead found himself in a Karate class. Karate was still a fairly new martial art in Japan. However, Masatoshi Nakayama was intrigued and stayed to watch the class. He thought since having a background in kendo and Judo he would find karate easy. So, he decided to come back and try the next lesson. In that lesson he came to realize just how difficult karate really was. He began his training under Master Gichin Funakoshi and his son Yoshitaka. Evetually, it became a lifelong love affair with karate.

Travel to China, Experience with Kung Fu, and the Time After World War II

During his university studies, Masatoshi Nakayama traveled to China as an exchange student. There he advanced his studies in Chinese language and history. While in China he continued his karate practice and even taught a few classes. In addition, he came into contact with Kung Fu training under several masters. His main teacher was Sifu Pai, with whom he studied a Northern Kung Fu style. Northern style Kung Fu is characterised by having long stances, deep punches and high flashy kicks. Under Sifu Pai, Nakayama learnt taisoku uke (pressing block with sole of foot) and reverse roundhouse/hook kick (ura mawashi geri). Both of these techniques were eventually incorporated into the Shotokan syllabus with the permission of Gichin Funakoshi.

Masatoshi Nakayama together with senior students of Gichin Funakoshi demonstrating Shotokan Karate.

During World War II,  Masatoshi Nakayama remained in China working as a translator. In 1946, he returned back to a Japan devastated by the war. He tried to get in contact with some of Funakoshi’s senior students. However, many of them had been killed during the war. Moreover, Master Funakoshi’s son, Yoshitaka, had also died from tuberculosis. However, Nakayama showed first management and leadership skills. In 1947 he managed to gather senior students, who survived the war. They resumed their training under the watchful eye of Master Funakoshi.

Masatoshi Nakayama and US Soldiers

In 1948, Nakayama and other senior students of Funakoshi gave a karate demonstration to personnel stationed at the U.S. Air Force Base at Tachikawa. The participantes received it well. As a result, he traveled around Japan giving demonstrations and teaching karate to the Americans for the next couple of months.

With the permission of Master Funakoshi, Nakayama and some of the other senior students formed the Nihon Karate Kyokai – Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1949. Master Fuankoshi was named as Chief Instructor with Nakayama as Chief Technical Adviser.

Nakayama demonstrating self-defense.

In 1951, the US Air Force sent Air Force personnel from the Strategic Air Command (SAC) to learn various Japanese martial arts. Karate belonged to them. This encounter became an important learning experience for Nakayama. The Americans asked a lot of questions and wanted to know the theoretical background for performing techniques in a particular way.

In an interview given to Black Belt Magazine (November 1982), Nakayama said:

It immediately became apparent to me and to Master Funakoshi that if we were going to teach the Americans, we would have to provide a theoretical basis for our art.”

So under Master Funakoshi’s instruction Nakayama began an intensive study of kinetics, physiology and anatomy. The idea was to provide a scientific grounding to karate and the body dynamics it incorporated.

Masatoshi Nakayama with US officials
Masatoshi Nakayama with US officials

The Formation of the JKA by Masatoshi Nakayama

After the War, Nakayama also began to working on the establishment of a Shotokan associations. Together with the senior students he gathered after the War he formed the Japan Karate Association. The official formation of the organization took place in 1948. Among his peers were Shotokan enthusiast and later high-level instructors like Teruyuki Okazaki and Hidetaka Nishiyama. However, Gichin Funakoshi played no decisive role in the formation of the organization. Instead, he became chief instructor and oversaw the karate education. Nakayama, however, took the responsibility for the management.

Masatoshi Nakayama proved at this time to be a skillful manager and visionary. For him it became clear that only a formalized and structured association had the power to spread Shotokan karate. His education at Takushoku University had a huge influence on this judgement. Trained to become an oversees public servant he understood the necessity of good organization and governance. In 1955, the members of the JKA elected Masatoshi Nakayama head of JKA.

Establishment of the Instructors Program

In 1956, Nakayama formulated the JKA’s Instructor Program with the help of Teruyuki Okazaki. The program followed the design of an intensive one year karate course. Among the first graduates of the course were Takayuki Mikami and Hirokazu Kanazawa. Apart from the intensive karate practice, students received a theoretical grounding in karate. They also learnt kinetics, physiology and anatomy. In addition, the course required them to learn key principles of other fighting systems. Many of the graduates of the program traveled around the globe later. Their aim was to expand the JKA’s brand of Shotokan.

The picture shows Masatoshi Nakayama with Teruyuki Okazaki.
Masatoshi Nakayama with Teruyuki Okazaki

Development of Competitions

Nakayama believed if Karate did not incorporate some form of competitive element, like Judo or Kendo, then people would lose interest in karate. With the permission of Master Funakoshi, Nakayama started looking at ways of adding a competitive element into Karate. He explored many avenues, including having competitors wear a form of light amour, similar to Kendo practitioners. However, this still resulted injuries.

Eventually, after much deliberation Nakayama decided on a set of rules for competing. He believed that competitions should not be about winning, thus keeping the ethos of Master Funakoshi’s principles. Moreover, he believed that competition should be another part of one’s training, helping to build one’s character.

Some months after Master Funakoshi’s death in 1957, the first ever JKA All Japan Karate Championship took place at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Hirokazu Kanazawa won the kumite titlle and in kata Shoji Hiroshi succeeded. The event proved such a success that it takes place annually.

Masatoshi Nakayama Developed the Foundation of Karate Teaching

Today’s karate education has been highly coined by Masatoshi Nakayama. From the 1950´s onward, he developed a the modern method of teaching karate. His deep and wide knowledge of physiology and kinetics as well as didactic and methods of education helped him to set up a general scientific trainings system. As a result, every aspect of Karate like physical and mental development, self-defense sports etc. can be taught within this system.

In 1965 he published “Karatedo Shinkyotei (A New Method For Teaching Karate-do)”. In English it is published as “Dynamic Karate”. This work by Nakayama details much of the knowledge he gained from his studies in kinetics, physiology and anatomy. It is his opus magnum and a must-read book for any serious martial artist. It gives scientific explanations on how certain techniques work and illuminates the physic behind the Shotokan.

Masatoshi Nakayama explaining Hangtsu.

Masatoshi Nakayama and his Students

Nakayama guided the JKA through its difficult early days. Through his hard work the JKA made it into one of the biggest and most respected Shotokan associations in the world. Many of the students trained by Nakayama describe him as a tough but fair teacher. Some of his most able students heave become famous masters in their own right. Some of Nakayama’s most notable students, many who can be seen in his “Best Karate Series”, include:

Masatoshi Nakayama with JKA Instructors
Masatoshi Nakayama with JKA Instructors

He Kept Teaching Despite a Horrible Accident

In 1971, Nakayama an accomplished ski instructor, was caught in an avalanche, which almost cost him his life. At first doctors thought he would die, later changing their prognosis to him never ever being able to walk. However, Nakayama made a full recovery and resumed his active schedule traveling around the world and conducting various courses and seminars in karate.

Masatoshi Nakayama: First 9th Dan

Master Nakayama became the first living master to be awarded 9th Dan. He continued to travel around the world giving courses and seminars to members of the JKA associations he helped create, until his death in 1987 aged 74. After his death JKA awarded him posthumously the rank of 10th Dan.

Following his death, internal politics saw many of the top instructors breaking from the JKA to form their own associations. This shows how well respected Nakayama was, that these conflicts did not happen until his death.

It can be argued that no one has done more to promote the growth of Shotokan karate around the world than Masatoshi Nakayama. As a true institutional entrepreneur he developed the structures of modern Shotokan karate, expended its influence far beyond Japanese boarders, and educated a myriad of excellent and successful instructors. He create a system, which can be learnt by each and everyone. As theorist and intellectual he published several groundbreaking books which led to deeper insights into Shotokan. Like no other he had a vision what Shotokan could be and how it could change the life of people. He kept the organization together although he surrounded by strong hotheads, who all wanted their own stake. Masatoshi Nakayama was the CEO of Shotokan, who steered the art into the water of success. His legacy will always be one of excellence.

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Karate Combat: Why I Compete in it!

Jonas during his debute fight in Karate Combat.

Karate Combat has been criticized by many traditional karateka and even The Shotokan Times. However, I have good reasons to compete in it! By Jonas Correia

Last year we were introduced to a professional Karate league where renowned semi-contact karate athletes fought in full contact rules in a competition quite different from what we are used to see. The peculiarity of the event, known as Karate Combat, began with the format of the competition area which became known as “The Pit” and all the production and climate of the 80’s martial arts movies that still inspire martial artists today.

With all the professionalism of a big event, it did not take long to Karate Combat gain the visibility it deserved. You can find the previous fights an Karate Combat.

The event, divided the opinion of Karate practitioners. Some said that it was no longer Karate. Others said that this would be the watershed to rescue the name of Karate that find itself in the darkness.

Karate Has Lost Its Efficiency

omThat karate has lost much of its efficiency due to the constant rules limiting combativeness is not something new. But we know that competition is part of the development of a fighter, too. Even if it is in points rules. However, what would have been wrong in the creation of a full contact rule which had been carefully planned so that art would not be miss-characterized? If we observe well, the absence of knee techniques, elbows, kicks in the thigh and uppercut shows how much the organizers have tried to maintain fidelity to the competitive characteristics of the art, or at least the common rules which we are accustomed to and not letting the event become another Kickboxing event or mma event.

Watching all this, I was enchanted by the possibility of entering the event. In less than an hour that I had discovered about KC on Facebook, I filled the inbox of Karate Combat with my emails to show my interest.

Jonas first entrance in the Karate Combat arena.

I needed to fight there. But why? Some even asked me why, but I honestly can not quite understand the reason.

Karate Combat Is a New Challenge

If there is something that every martial arts practitioner that competes a lot have in common, is the taste for new challenges. Besides this factor which only a deep Freudian explanation would make the reader understand, I thought to myself, how would I not let myself participate in an event which had already entered into the contemporary history of karate? Why not give myself the chance to be part of this important chapter?

I had done 3 Chinese Kickboxing fights (Sanshou / Sanda) in 2007. One of the Amador mma in 2009, and had competed countless times in karate tournaments. It was time for something else before my routine of father of 4 children at my 33’s made my competitive career even more difficult. I thought that was my last chance to do something really meaningful to myself before ending (or slowing down) my competitive career in karate.

Karate Combat Requires Different Training Than Shobu Ippon

When there was the fourth Combat Karate event in New York (30 minutes away from where I live) I found a way to be around and see how it worked. This also gave me the opportunity to meet several people at the event. It was there that I was able to demonstrate my interest. The following month I was invited to fight. I had 3 months to prepare myself.

Full contact rule training is very different from traditional karate training. Since there will be no stop for point marking and the fight will continue after a well-executed technique, high intensity training based on mma training, and other contact sports became necessary. Three months seemed not to be enough time for this. Besides I have scheduled a trip to train at JKA’s Hombu Dojo for a week.

Jonas did fight in the WUKF World Championships. Thus, he fights in traditional formats and Karate Combat.
Jonas did fight in the WUKF World Championships in Slovakia this year. Thus, he fights in traditional formats and Karate Combat.

My First Fight in the “Pit”

The week of the event had arrived. We had to be in Hollywood a week before to do a series of medical examinations among other things required for the marketing and advertising of the event.

While all the fighters were already in position and keeping the form together with their coaches, I did not have the same luck. My coach could only come one day before the fight.

The day of the event arrived. I was confident. And I won the victory over my opponent Luiz Diogo from Portugal. However, I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my performance for particular reasons.

The feeling of ending a contact fight is very good, especially with a positive result. But the truth is that the adrenaline makes you to miss the fight. If someone asked me if I would fight again at that moment, I would certainly say yes.

Karate Combat Is Worth the Experience

I believe that all karatekas should experience full contact fights regardless of their idea of what karate should be. The truth is that in a full contact match, it is about You against your Lungs! Your opponent is just a detail.

In a real combat, often the breath outweighs the technique and many people overlook this factor of extreme importance. For those who believe in the effectiveness of karate as an art of self-defense, they must experience something of this kind in their life. Even though KC is a competition of limited rules, full contact rules teaches a lot about fighting under pressure.

Makiwara and Ikken Hisatsu as Foundation for Strong Karate

If you believe that Karate is enough, I advise you then, to hit makiwara every single day. I truly believe and practice the idea of Ikken Hisatsu. If you ever need to use your karate in real combat and do not have enough breath, be precise and straightforward. Because if you need to take more than 5 minutes to solve a real combat situation, it will be very difficult to succeed.

Jonas succeded in his debute fight in Karate Combat.

The truth is that a martial artist should not be close minded to just one idea. I believe that the practitioner must faithfully follow one path which he believes. However, he must be ready not to be surprised. Experiencing something different will not cause you to discredit what you have practiced. But it may help you to understand it better.

The Necessity of Karate Combat for Traditional Karate

I hope Karate Combat has come to stay. Not every karateka needs the KC, but Karate needed such an event.

Even though it does not please everyone, Karate Combat came at an opportune moment. Our art falls into oblivion of a world that has only eyes for mma, Muay Thai, Kickboxing and so on.

When was the last time you filled your classes with adult only? Why is karate nowadays limited or attracted only to children?

We can not wait for another Lyoto Machida to soften the wounded ego.

The truth hurts, but Karate has lost a lot of credibility as self-defense.

Save Karate Combat and / or any other attempt to do something bolder.

With your permission, I’m going to hit my makiwara! Oss!

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We Sponsor the Takashina Camp 2019 with Keisuke Nemoto

We are very proud to announce our sponsorship of the Master Shigeru Takashina Camp 2019 with Keisuke Nemoto as head instructor, in Coral Springs, Florida.

The seminar will be hold in memory of Shigeru Takashina, who devoted his life to teach and spread the art of Shotokan karate.

As special guest Sensei Keisuke Nemoto, 5 times JKA All Japan Kumite Champion and JKA instructor, will teach at the seminar.

The Seminar is going to be held from:

Sep 26, 6:30 PM EDT – Sep 29, 12:00 PM

Venue: Delray Beach Community Center, 50 NW 1st Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33444, USA

For registration press the button!

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Women of Shotokan: Kellan Lyman

Kellan Lyman during training in the Philippines.

Wisdom does not emerge with age. It emerges with experience. Although, Kellan Lyman is only 28 years old, she has practiced Shotokan now for more then 20 years. The training has had a huge effect on her as she says: “Shotokan is spirit training that’s enabled me to follow my convictions working in environmental advocacy, facing hardships of life in a rural, developing nation, or any life challenge with excitement and determination.” In this very open interview Kellan describes for us what Do means for her and how it has formed and changed her. We get deep insights about how much more Shotokan is and can be if we focus on the mental and ethical aspects. It is a way of life. Oss, Kellan! By Dr. Christian Tribowski

Portrait: Kellan Lyman

  • Name: Kellan Lyman   
  • Age: 28
  • Karate since: 1999
  • Origin and residence: Origin – Atlanta, Georgia, USA ; Residence – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  • Dan Rank:  4th dan
  • Dojo: Louisiana Karate Association Dojo – Sensei Takayuki Mikami

Additional information:

  • JKA National Team Member (2014, 2019)
  • All South Karate Champion – Kumite (2016, 2019), Kata (2019)
  • Team Kumite JKA National Champion – (2013, 2015, 2017)
  • Collegiate Kumite JKA Collegiate National Champion – (2010)
  • Captain of The University of Georgia Budokai Karate Club (2009 – 2012)
  • Lived & trained in the Philippines (2016 – 2019)

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

At age 8, I was enthralled with Xena, Warrior Princess, so I jumped at the chance when my parents asked if I wanted to enroll in an after-school karate program. The female instructor’s spirit and elegant movement inspired me, and during the summer I moved to training at the main dojo. My dad began as well; coming up through the kyu ranks together made training fun and kept me diligent in practicing at home. I’ve been training and competing since.

What do you like about Shotokan Karate?

One is that Shotokan trains the body, mind and spirit all at once; Shotokan teaches us to be present, an invaluable skill for any endeavor or daily living.

Shotokan’s large, strong movements are beautiful and effective, and the training style fits well with my body and personality. I have so much fun training, and after I feel super relaxed and happy, and have better posture.

I appreciate the Dojo Kun and traditional karate etiquette. Not only is Shotokan a physical practice, but it’s also a moral one that teaches us to be more virtuous, peaceful and courteous. Hard training and striving to live by the Dojo Kun foster strong spirit to navigate life situations calmly and have the will to uphold one’s beliefs.

I enjoy competing in the one-point matches of JKA kumite competition which demands we strive for perfect technique.

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

Politics that cause division in organizations. Our shared goal to uphold the best quality karate comes from working and training together.

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

One recent challenge has been developing my solo karate practice while living for two years in a remote town in the Philippines. With no classes, and training partners scarce, I was determined not to let my skill decline, so I figured out how to most effectively practice alone and developed more discipline, being accountable to only myself.

I made friends while visiting clubs and met one Shotokan karateka at the weight gym I’d joined.  We exchanged ideas and checked each other’s technique. Training with a friend was a new way of exploring karate, unlike a traditional sensei-student class setting.

Eager to catch a class wherever I can, I always pack a gi when traveling. Being welcomed at JKA clubs in the Philippines, Japan and Thailand and training in the same style at a dojo on the other side of the world gave me a greater appreciation for karate as a universal art that connects us.

Once, while visiting a small mountain town’s annual fiesta, I was surprised to find there was a local JKA club. After a vigorous workout, one member invited me to teach at a local college club the following evening. I agreed, expecting the typical number that attended my college club, 10 or so.

After finding my way across campus, to my surprise, I arrive to a gym packed with 80+ collegiate beginners warming up and am invited onto a stage to lead the class. Teaching and sharing the time with a group of enthusiastic students was energizing and fun. The regular instructor and I demonstrated kata and jiyu kumite together. That class renewed my appreciation for karate as an art that brings people from across nations together in a goodwill cultural exchange.

My worst experience would be last fall during a trip to Japan. On the first day, I did makiwara training after class. Unfortunately, I didn’t thoroughly wash my hands and got an infection that caused me to become so fatigued. I could hardly train, and lacked the energy to fully enjoy Japan. Even worse: I had no appetite for sushi.

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

During class, I gain inspiration and motivation from my sensei and fellow karateka’s spirit. When training becomes challenging, I focus on being here and now and think each repetition is a gift because it’s a chance to do my best.

How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Having been a constant in my life for 20 years, it’s difficult to imagine how I’d be without Shotokan. I attribute my work ethic, confidence and ability interacting with people to Shotokan training.

Karate enhances my ability to focus my mind in the moment and to practice deliberately. It’s taught me to be more humble and to more openly receive criticism. Karate teaches me how to learn, which I can apply to other areas of life as well.

I observe parallels between my focus in training and personal development. For instance, when I trained intensively with drills that focus on reaction and commitment to a technique, I become sharper in decision making outside the dojo as well.

Kellan Lyman during Unsu.
Kellan during Unsu.

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

Shotokan is spirit training that’s enabled me to follow my convictions working in environmental advocacy, facing hardships of life in a rural, developing nation, or any life challenge with excitement and determination.

It has forged in me a more courageous spirit; this realization did not appear so clearly until I lived in the Philippines where, in some ways, the lifestyle puts one closer to danger or death. However, because of Shotokan training, I’ve been able to face these challenges calmly and clear-mindedly. Now, I’m starting a coffee import business and applying the discipline, confidence and personal skills I’ve formed through Shotokan training.

Training clears my mind and helps me to be in tune with my body. This trains me to be in the here and now in daily life or to focus on a goal. After training, having been completely present during class, I carry this mindset to daily life. It’s taught me to be relaxed in all I do. Especially during challenging times, I still make training a priority; it helps me navigate those times more clearly.

Pursuit of strong training and a Shotokan community also led me to New Orleans where I now call home and have met many mentors and good friends.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Before, I would try to focus on generating power. Now, I‘m focusing on relaxing as much as possible.

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

In the short-term, my goal is to win the kumite competition at the JKA Pan-American Championship in Columbia this August.

Long-term, I want to improve my technique to be smoother and more powerful. I’ll continue training to strengthen my spirit to have more courage and resolve in continuing my work in environmental advocacy and entrepreneurial pursuits. I hope to increase awareness in New Orleans of the positive aspects of karate, so more people here might begin practicing it.

How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?

With so many Shotokan organizations now, I hope Shotokan karateka of differing affiliations will be able to train and compete together at more events, for the furtherance of the art.

Also, Shotokan clubs could do a better job making their local communities aware of what Shotokan is and its benefits, to encourage more students to begin. Training of mind, body and spirit is what many people need or are seeking. I think karateka should be open about their experience training with friends, so more people might try. It can be difficult to express but necessary for bringing in new training partners and would greatly benefit the new student.

Kellan Lyman with sensei Takayuki Mikami.
Kellan Lyman with sensei Takayuki Mikami.

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

Yes! If they want to strengthen themselves physically and mentally. Fitness, long-term health, mental relaxation, self-control and confidence are important benefits for anyone, especially women. Walking into a training hall of all men can be intimidating, but overcoming our fears to start, too, is part of forging courageous spirit, as in any case embarking on the study of an art. Like anything worthwhile, it takes time and dedication; the benefits can’t be understood until having been experienced. Gaining strength and spirit through training technique is empowering, so I hope more women pursue the Shotokan path.

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Spirit, Style, Community! Our Dojo of the Month: The Rio Grande Valley Shotokan Karate Club

We asked the Rio Grande Valley Shotokan Karate Club (RGV), our Dojo of the Month in March, what spirit, style, and community mean for them. Because that are the principles The Shotokan Times stance for. The RGV puts its heads together and wrote us these fantastic and moving answers. They show deep understanding of Do. See yourself. Oss!

Spirit

Spirit means for us… maximizing each individual’s potential.  Although some may have natural abilities greater than others, everyone must “endeavor” to do as much as they are capable of so that they are “seeking perfection.”

Spirit can be evidenced by the passionate teaching in the dojo.  The instructors impart a passion for their art to their students.  As a teacher, I’ve rarely seen a class where 100% of the student population wants to be present 100% of the time.  Yet, this is the reality at RGV Shotokan 5 days a week…every week that classes are offered.  Students can often be heard discussing how they would like to go more often when they are not able to.  There is a longing to be present!  Passion for the art leads to inspired teaching and the students can’t get enough!

Style

Style means for us… tailoring your style of karate to benefit you the most.  How can you incorporate the style of your techniques to suit your own physicality? Even though we are lead by SKIF guidelines, these are to make sure we stay focused on the way, but it is important to experience variations of techniques from other systems to better understand our style as a whole.

Style-Shotokan is a strong style which features hard strikes and long, deep stances.  Body conditioning is prevalent, preparing the karateka to achieve some pretty amazing goals (higher jumps, faster motions, etc.).  Compared to other dojo’s in the area, RGV Shotokan comes across as super-legit!  Students are required to train hard in order to advance, and Black belts cannot be earned in house.  Shodan, and subsequent ranks, can only be tested for once a year in Houston.  Candidates congregate to be judged by instructors from SKIF headquarters in Japan.  This brings a high level of authenticity to the goal of earning advanced ranks!

Community

Community means for us… leaving a place better than you found it.  Sometimes this takes understanding and adaptation, but sometimes this takes plain hard work mixed with repetition followed by reevaluation. Whether this is our small dojo community, which includes not only dojo member but their families, or the local community people and natural wildlife.

RGV Shotokan is more than just a dojo, it’s a community of instructors, members , and parents, who go out of their way to support other members outside of the dojo. From attending each others’ plays, concerts, musicals, and other sports events to planning parties for the members of the club; RGV Shotokan is a place to truly feel welcomed and encouraged!

 

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Dojo of the Month March: The Rio Grande Valley Shotokan Karate Club

Our Dojo of the Month March is the Rio Grande Valley Shotokan Karate Club (RGV) located in Harlingen, at the lower tip of Texas, USA. Jeremiah Walker, Director of the club, wrote us a convincing application especially focusing on the family and philanthropic activities of the club. Thus, we let you take part in what convinced us the most in the following short portrait.

The RGV was found in 2004 and is a charter club by the SKIF. It regularly vistis seminar with instructors like Manabu Murakami and Fumitoshi Kanazawa on a regular basis. All their Dan ranks are tested by them.
Head of the SKIF-USA Board of Directors, Ruben Fung, travels to Harlingen area twice a year to help us adhere to guidelines of SKIF. This strong connection to the SKIF shall lead to the maintenance of a high level of technical skills.

What us also convinced, that the RGV should become the Dojo of the Month March, was their approach to inclusiveness and social aspects of the club. According to Jeremiah the Dojo has “various levels, ages, and even styles … that train together.” For instance, they offer “an open mat” session “where we have a good relationship with other martial artists in our area and either cross train or work on focus points of our Shotokan curriculum.”

Seminar with Kagawa Shihan of the JKS
Open Mat session

The Dojo also offers additional cross training and outdoor fitness training. They also participate in 5k runs together. Very convincing for us was the “family kickboxing day on Saturdays. Here, Jeremiah explains, “some of our members bring family to sweat and learn some striking skills to help get their family more active.” We appreciate this family kickboxing day because it offers a joint activity for families. This can be an adventure and leads to shared experiences. It also opens a low-threshold gateway to martial arts in general and Shotokan in particular. However, while not all family members may want to take part in Shotokan classes, they still become related to the Dojo and the community.

Family Kickboxing Day

But most importantly for us, the RGV also participates in local philanthropy activities like beach clean-ups, public library summer events, and reforestation projects. For Jeremiah it is important “to help our younger members develop a sense of giving back and community.” Such activities cannot be overrated. They build character, lead to mutual understanding, and bring the Dojo, its members, and Shotokan closer to the community and society. As grand master Funakoshi wrote in his 3. principle:

空手は義の補け (Hitotsu, karate wa, gi no tasuke) = Karate stands on the side of justice.

This does not stop to count behind the exit of the Dojo. It has to be carried into society. Oss!

Karate Philantrophy – Joint Beach Cleaning