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Karate Competition Manual to Success

Karate Competition Manual to Success for Athletes 2015 We are proud to announce that KarateCoaching has just uploaded in our Karate Instructor Corner a manual to competition success. This is the only manual of its kind and will help athletes and coaches to accomplish their goals. The manual breaks down in over 65 pages what it takes to be successful as a competitor and how to approach a competition career over a period of 10 years. All necessary skills needed are explained and the athlete can monitor his/her progress through charting. This manual can even be used for any other sport with only small modifications. Anybody who wants to become an elite athlete or just become better in his/her sport should use this manual.   You can see a 4 page preview below. The full manual is available for quarterly and yearly members only. You can download it in the instructor corner.  

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Interview with Shihan Yokota

Can we please start by asking you how you first started you karate training and why? (Kousaku Yokota)     My father was a Kodokan judo blackbelt, so he encouraged me to take up judo when I was in junior high school.  There was no judo club in my school so I went to the ward police station headquarters where the policemen were teaching martial arts (only judo and kendo).  I took up judo when I was 13 and practiced for 3 years.  I earned a junior black belt and won a high school championship. One day a short boy joined the judo club.  I clearly remember him to be quite strange because every time I threw him down on the mat he would spring up and gets in a strange stance (I think it was a cat stance now that I think of it).  Normally a new student would not jump up from the mat after being thrown down like he did.  I had never seen this unusual move.  After a few weeks I got to know him better so I asked him why he did this.  He said he practiced karate and he was taking up judo to learn how it was to be thrown so he could fight a judo man.  Up to that time I really believed that judo was invincible and greatest martial art so I said to him “So, you learned karate cannot beat judo, right?’  To my surprise he said, “Judo is great when some body grabs you but a judo guy cannot beat a karate guy if he is more than 3 feet away.”  I did not understand what he meant as I did not know the techniques of karate.  He explained and demonstrated what karate could do and I was very fascinated.  When I went into senior high school, although the Judo club tried very hard to recruit me, my mind was set.  I wanted to start karate.  Again, there was no karate club in my school so I joined a karate club at the main YMCA in my hometown, Kobe.  That dojo happened to be the headquarters of JKA (Japan Karate Association) of Hyogo prefecture taught by late Master Sugano (9th dan).   (SB)     Can you please tell us a little about Sugano Sensei, and your early experiences with him and karate? (KY)     Sugano Sensei was a big guy especially a man of his generation.  He must have been 180cm tall and weighed about 90 – 100kg.  When I first joined the club in 60’s, I was one of the lowly students so I did not have any interactions with him.  One thing I can say is that he flunked me when I took my first kyu test.  It is unbelievable that I could not even pass my first kyu test.  It is a long story so I will not explain how it happened. Sugano Sensei was independently wealthy.  He owned a bar and a tobacco shop that were very profitable.  After the evening trainings, he used to take us to his bar.  We did not drink any alcohol but we enjoyed the informal gathering with the other instructors.  At those get together, we could ask him some personal and karate related questions which we could not do at our dojo (it’s a Japanese tradition that the students never ask questions).  He told us that we should never pick up karate as a profession to earn living.  This is because by doing so, your students become the “customers”.  You would be afraid to lose the customers and your training methods would change thus the quality of your instructions would be compromised.  He had a big impact as I was thinking of becoming a full time instructor and living on this profession.  Actually, none of the instructors under Sugano Sensei’s command were full time instructors.  They all had some kind of jobs to support their families. As far as the karate is concerned I remember he had a very “heavy” punch.  His fist was like a hammer and when he hits you (in a demonstration) I did feel like a sledgehammer had hit me.  The impact went through my whole body.  He had a very scary face as well.  I don’t know the translation but his face looked like a Japanese “oni”, like a goblin or a devil.  He told me that the local yakuza (Japanese mafia) were afraid of him and I believe it.  Here is a not so scary looking picture of Sugano sensei. Unfortunately, he liked to smoke and drink.  After having some drinks he told us some interesting stories and some crazy things he did when he was young.  I would not go into this but I really enjoyed listening to his stories.  He had heart attack when he was in his 60’s so the doctor told him that he should not drink or smoke.  I remember him saying; “I would not like to live long if I cannot enjoy my life with my favourite vices”.  He passed away in 2002 at the age of 74.  Like Asai sensei he was not scared of dying.  He went like a samurai but in a different way. I want to add something here.  As I lost my original sensei in 2002, I was free to resign from JKA.  This is why I could transfer to JKS in 2002.   (SB)     You enjoyed a very successful competitive career am I right? Could you please tell us about some of the most vivid memories you have from your competitive years. (KY)     Though I did enjoyed the competitions when I was active in that aspect of karate, to be honest, I was not very active in the tournaments when I was training in Philadelphia during the 70’s.  I have treated karate as a martial art since then so my motivation was always beyond tournaments.  I competed in the US only a couple of years and got some good experiences. There were many good competitors in East Coast region so I enjoyed competing against them. As I was not getting enough training at Philadelphia dojo, I decided to go back to Japan to complete my Kenshusei training there.  I went back in ’81 and stayed in Hyogo prefecture for two years. Upon returning to Hyogo, I went back to Sugano sensei’s dojo and continued my serious training.  Even though my purpose of the training was not tournaments, I will mention about them as you are asking about my competition experiences. I entered the prefecture championship, which was elimination round for the national championship, a few months after my return.  Luckily I placed first so got a ticket to JKA All Japan Championship in Tokyo.  That is probably the most memorable experience out of my competition days.  I competed with the best competitors of the world in that era such as Osaka sensei and Yahara sensei.  They are my age group and they were in their prime time.  Also, this is the first time I witnessed, with my own eyes, Master Asai’s techniques in his demo.  I was truly impressed by his techniques as they were very unique and unlike JKA karate.  His arms are like whips and flew around so fast.  It was unbelievable and he left a tremendous impression on me. In 1981 I also represented my prefecture in Kokutai (All Japan Athletic Fair), which was held in Shiga prefecture.  It is like a miniature Olympics and karate was one of the new events.  Also, it should be noted that JKA joined WUKO hosted tournament for the first time.  It was memorable as I saw and competed against, for the first time, the top-notch karate practitioners of other styles such as Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu and Wado Ryu.  I was also exposed to the protective gears like Menho (face protector) and large fist pad.  I believe in not using any protective gears including groin cups so I did not like them.   These equipments allowed the techniques that were way short in distance (as you are not supposed to touch the face mask to win a point).  That was also the first time I saw a fighting style with a lot of hopping.  This kind of kumite may be popular in Shotokan now a days.  In 70’s and early 80’s our stance was low and pretty much stationary.  We moved our steps carefully and never hopped.  We believed in Ippon shobu and our moves are very similar to two samurai in a sword fight. I represented Hyogo prefecture in All Japan Championship in ’82 and that was my last event in my competition life.  I was 35 years old and many coaches were younger than me.  I returned to the US (California) in ’83 and never competed again.   (SB)     You mentioned you competed with the likes of Osaka and Yahara. Did you ever get the chance to fight either of these? (KY)     At the national championship, (read more...)   Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books: +Marcus Hinschberger

Shotokan Myth #6 Makiwara Training

Makiwara is a true tradition of karate and its training is a must for all karate-ka. The makiwara has been a fixture in karate dojos since its introduction to mainland Japan in the early 20th century. We have seen pictures of Funakoshi sensei punching one with his geta (wooden clogs) on. I have even heard that some of the modern day sensei would carry portable makiwara in their suitcases with them when they travel. The makiwara had been an important training tool in my karate life as well. Let me explain how I got introduced to this traditional equipment in my first days of karate training. At the first dojo I joined in the early 60’s (Kobe Shotokan Karate Club), I remember there were several makiwara posts, some were wrapped with straw ropes and some with softer pads. I also remember that those pads were no longer white or have their original colors, whatever they were. The pads I saw were reddish black, covered in dried blood. It was obvious that my senpai punched these posts over and over again even when their fists were bleeding. My senpai, Kato-san once said, “Now look. My fist is so strong I can punch like this.” He punched straight into a wooden 4 x 4 beam of the dojo. Bang! Bang! The beam shook but he felt no pain. (At least he did not show it.) Wow! I was very impressed. If he could punch that beam like that, he could easily kill me. Honestly, it really made me scared of this senpai and he won unconditional respect from me. So as soon as I was allowed to punch a makiwara I started the tradition with full might. My dohai (student who started at the same time) Nakai and I punched the makiwara hundreds of times every day. In a year Nakai had developed some very respectable calluses but I couldn’t. I was frustrated and thought I was not punching hard enough. No matter how hard I punched the makiwara, the calluses on my fists did not get larger. ( Later, I realized that this was due to my skin’s very rubbery and soft characteristics. Actually, these characteristics are very good for they also allow me to be flexible as well. ) Despite not developing any respectable calluses, I kept the makiwara habit for more than 15 years. I must admit that the resonating sound made by hitting a makiwara in a dojo was euphoric, especially when the rhythm is so close to that of my own heartbeat. I wondered if makiwara training is a true tradition and whether it was handed down for many centuries.We knew that the makiwara came from Okinawa but we have little documentation to support its history. I discovered, to my surprise, that this tradition is only 100 years old since its invention. It is believed that Matsumura Sokon (1809 – 1899) initially invented the makiwara and Itosu Anko (Master Funakoshi’s sensei, 1830 -1915) popularized it in the early 1900’s. Matusmura sensei took kenjutsu called Jigenryu of Satsuma. Jigenryu is a very unique style and their main practice is (read more...) Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:

Shotokan Myth # 5 Kime

Kime – Trademark of Shotokan karate

  The readers will agree that perfect kime is what we dream of when we do the oi zuki or gyaku zuki. Bang boom! Look at Enoeda sensei’s tsuki (photo on below)  Yes, this is Shotokan. Indeed, the powerful punches and kicks are trademarks of Shotokan karate.   When you look at Shitoryu kata, their performances look smooth and fluid but their techniques look “weak.”  The Gojuryu kata have a lot of neko ashi dachi and sanchin dachi, and although their arm movements are circular, these movements, just like their stances, look short and do not have enough kime. (Note: I want to emphasize that I am in no way trying to bash any styles at all.  I am simply comparing the general impressions of shotokan and other styles.)  If the impressions above coincide with yours, then you want to ask, “OK, so what?”  Hold your breath, here is a shocking statement: Kime (more precisely, encouraging it) is probably the most harmful action for most Shotokan practitioners while training, particularly for beginners. I am aware of the graveness and controversial nature of my statement.  However, I am convinced that all instructors and serious practitioners must be aware of and understand well this prevalent problem in Shotokan training.  Despite the risk of being misunderstood, I dare to write this article as I believe this knowledge must be expressed publicly.  So, please read on to catch the true essence of my statement. I want to emphatically state that I am NOT identifying kime itself or having a correct kime in your techniques as a problem.  If you are capable of producing a good and correct kime and you feel your overall movements are fluid, then this may not be an issue.  What I wish to convey is that the overly tensed body that kime creates is the problem. (read more...) Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:

Shotokan Myth #3 Silent Kiai

Kiai

When we think of Ki-ai what do you think?   If you are an old guy or a gal like me you remember that funny sound Bruce Lee made.  An amusing story from the past involves the men’s after shave called Hai Karate.  If you remember this then you must be at least 50 years old.  This product was advertised on TV in the 60’s and possibly in the 70’s.  Here is what the announcer said: ANNOUNCER: “Hai Karate aftershave is so powerful; it drives women right out of their minds. That’s why we have to put instructions on self-defense in every package. Hai Karate, the brisk splash-on aftershave that smoothes, sooths, and cools. Hai Karate, aftershave, cologne, and gift sets. Hai Karate, be careful how you use it.” Then there is a skit with a guy who has to fight off the girls who would try to grab him after using this aftershave.  Some of my friends must have believed that I needed this because for several years, each Christmas I would receive numerous bottles.  I really appreciated their genuine interest to help me out but I had to toss most of them because I could not use them up if I had lived to 100 years old.  Besides I did not like the smell.  I knew the aftershave would surely drive the girls wild or rather; it would have surely driven them away. I also have a very memorable incident with ki-ai which I would like to share.  I started karate 46 years ago (1963) in Kobe Japan.  Thanks to the following experience in my very first class I still clearly remember that wonderful day.  I can vividly picture this senpai, Tanaka (not the famous JKA sensei) in front of me.  He stood a little over 5 foot but he was a towering figure to us.  He slowly stepped up to the new students (me included of course).  We were brand new, excited and were dying to learn those deadly techniques.  He said very nicely, “You boys (no girls dared to join as it was thought to be too rough, but that was exactly the reason why I joined) have to learn how to say Osu.”  As the readers know, Osu is a very convenient word in Japanese that can be used for meaning “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “I will try”, “right”, “sure‘ or whatever.  It could mean almost anything and, we were always happy to use it as we could sound like a tough karate guy.  So, we all said “OSU”!  The senpai then said “What?  I can’t hear you!”  So we repeated with a louder voice but that still did not please him.  He then said “you guys just don’t have spirit”.  “You are going to learn how to Ki-ai today and you will learn to show your spirit.”  Then, he gave a real LOUD Ki-ai which pierced through our bodies and sent shivers down our spines.  Then he smiled and said “OK boys you will Ki-ai without stopping until I return.”  We thought he would return in a few minutes but he did not come back until the end of the class, 2 hours later.  We were yelling “Ya” or “Tou” or whatever the Ki-ai we thought cool (we didn’t know Bruce Lee yet).  The senpai’s word was the command (plus he was looking at us from the other side of the dojo) so none of us would stop.  After 30 minutes or so we started to cough and lose our voice.  At the end we could hardly make any sound at all.  We left the dojo very quietly that day.  Incidentally, all the brand new students except one did not come back after the first day.  That was his way to separate the normal people from the crazy one (me).  My voice was gone for several days but I showed up at training the very next day.  I could only whisper on the following day and my mother did not seem to mind as the house was quiet for a change.  Thankfully the senpai did not ask me to Ki-ai on the second day but my training did not get any easier either.  He now told me to stay in Kiba dachi for 2 hours.  He kept on saying, “Lower! “.  When my legs gave out and I fell down, I guess I was too “low” so he said “Get up”.  It went on like that (very simple exercise but very looooong) and I am sure you can guess how the rest of the Japanese way of training or breaking in the new student went on.  I am still not sure if that senpai really knew what he was doing or if he was simply too lazy to figure out a more sophisticated training. OK, you’ve heard enough funny stories about Ki-ai.  Now more serious stuff… There are many articles on Ki-ai and most of the authors stressed the importance of doing Ki-ai and how to do it.  Some explained the meaning of Ki-ai and the others showed the relationship to breathing.  If that is the case, then you will ask why I am writing this used up and uncontroversial subject.  Well I am one of those people who do not like to take things for granted.  So today I want to take up the challenge and ask “Is ki-ai really important?” and “Is ki-ai necessary in karate training?”  You might say, “You must be crazy to challenge these things.”  Maybe the readers are correct and I may fumble nicely with this subject.  But I think it is a good exercise to investigate instead of just believing something because many instructors and the “experts” say it is so. (read more...)     Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:

Nunchaku, an unique weapon & its benefits to Karate

The nunchaku (ヌンチャクin Japanese and 雙節棍in Chinese) is a traditional weapon of the Kobudo and consists of two sticks connected with a short chain or rope.  I do not believe further introduction of Nunchaku is necessary as it became very popular among us by the Kung Fu movies in 70’s stared by Bruce Lee. Out of a dozen or so different kinds of Okinawan Kobudo weapons such as Nunchaku, Sai and Tonfa, Nunchaku is most popular or known by the public.  Less known factor is that Nunchaku can produce the most dynamic and versatile techniques among the Kobudo weapons due to its construction of having two sticks joined by a chain or a rope. The quick swings and striking motions are very sexy and many people remember the fight scenes of Bruce Lee.  One can spin Tonfa pretty fast but it cannot beat the speed of Nunchaku.  Sai can be a deadly weapon with its sharp end as it can spear through just about any protectors, but the destructive power of Nunchaku at a full impact of said to be over 500kg is far greater than Sai or Tonfa could produce.  Not only it is fast and destructive but also it has another very exciting characteristic; flexibility of two sections. I am not saying Nunchaku is a better weapon than Sai, Tonfa or other Kobudo weapons. Just as one cannot say a certain style of karate is better than another, different weapons have their own particular uses and advantages thus cannot be compared by a simple set of observations.   It is very unfortunate that modern day Shotokan (at least from what I know of) has dropped Kobudo from its regular training.  I do not know the situation regarding this subject in other karate styles such as Shito-ryu, Goju-ryu and Wado-ryu, so I will discuss this subject only referring to Shotokan style organizations.  There was a justifiable reason (at least then) why Kobudo was dropped but I will not go into this historic aspect of karate even though it is a very interesting subject.  What I want to mention here today is that karate definitely lost a very effective and useful training tools when the masters decided to drop Kobudo from its regular syllabus.  I do not think they were aware at that time of the seriousness and the amount of handicap and disadvantage this omission would bring.  Shotokan style now is said to be very linear and lacks circular movements. However, this claim is not true as one can observe the kata like (read more...)     Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:

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  For the month of February we welcome our new members from: Canada (2 new members) Australia (1 new member) England (2 new member) Germany (5 new members) USA (8 new members) New videos will be uploaded soon for the categories:
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