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When I posted a photo of Master Asai (right) on Facebook, someone commented that Master Asai’s butt sticks out. The same person commented that Master Kase (France JKA) also had the same posture. I cannot write about Master Kase as I know almost nothing about him and his karate. But I believe I can present my theory on Master Asai. I will, hopefully, be able to shed some light on why he stands that way. I believe there is a good explanation for his posture. I have studied Asai karate for over 10 years and had a very close training relationship with him for the last few years of his life, between 2003 and 2006, the year he passed.
Before I go into my theory, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Tetsuhiko Asai. Of course, most of the readers already know who Master Asai was. He was a world renowned Shotokan master who traveled around the world and awed everyone with his almost magical techniques. I am well aware of his abilities but I want to speak about Master Asai because I have a compelling reason. This will also explain as to why I started my organization, ASAI. Some people have blamed me for taking advantage of his fame by naming the organization using his name. On the surface indeed it does appear so. Hopefully by reading my explanation the readers will understand that I have a much deeper motivation to keep his name and his karate alive. Let me explain…without any exaggeration he saved my karate and in essence my karate life (I will explain the details later). I owe him so much and now it is my turn to pay it back to the karate world since I cannot do so to him. It became my conviction to spread and share the karate I learned from Master Asai. As long as I live I do not want anyone to forget about Master Asai. I want the name of Asai to be remembered. This is the exact reason why I created the organization, ASAI (Asai Shotokan Association Interantional). We are not an organization that just happened to pick up a famous name or to be part of a fad, we are an organization that intends to do the following:
Give everyone access to the Asai Karate System
Provide a home for karate ronins
Make the dan grade examination available to all organizations and styles
Unite all karate practitioners regardless of the organizational differences
Improve the karate skills of all members
Preserve the discipline of Dojo Kun
Pass the legacy of Master Asai on to the next generation
Let’s look at the history of Master Asai from his birth to his last day. I could write something from my memory but I think it is more accurate and complete to quote from the page of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetsuhiko_Asai
Here is the direct quote from the Asai page (I took out the reference numbers, under bar and different font colors):
Asai was born on June 7, 1935, in Ehime Prefecture (on the island of Shikoku), Japan. He was the eldest of seven children. As a boy, he trained in sumo. In addition, his father (a policeman) taught him judo, kendo and sojutsu. When he was 12 years old, he witnessed a fight between a boxer and a karateka (practitioner of karate); the karate combatant was able to disable his opponent with a kick, and Asai was impressed.
In 1958, Asai graduated from Takushoku University, where he had trained in karate under Gichin Funakoshi, Masatoshi Nakayama, and Teruyuki Okazaki. He trained hard and was allowed to sleep in the karate dormitory. At Nakayama’s recommendation, he entered the JKA instructor training program and graduated from the course three years later.Asai won the JKA championship in kumite (sparring) in 1961, and in kata (patterns) in 1963. He was overall JKA champion in 1961, having come in first in kumite and second in kata that year. Asai became the first instructor to introduce karate to Taiwan. Through the second half of the 1960s, he taught karate in Hawaii for five years, among his students included Kenneth Funakoshi.
Over the years, Asai advanced within the JKA, and was appointed as Technical Director. Following Nakayama’s death, the JKA experienced political troubles and divided; Asai and colleagues (including Keigo Abe and Mikio Yahara) formed one group, while Nakahara Nobuyuki and colleagues formed another group—which in 1999 was officially recognized as the JKA. In 2000, he founded the International Japan Martial Arts Karate Asai-ryu and the Japan Karate Shoto-Renmei. Apart from the ranking of 10th dan in Shotokan karate, he also held the ranks of 3rd dan in jodo, 2nd dan in judo, 2nd dan in jukendo, and 2nd dan in kendo.
Reflecting on relations between JKA instructors who had graduated from Takushoku University, Asai said, “We all pretty much get on nowadays, contrary to our official stances and federations. In saying that, some of us don’t, but isn’t that life? … I am happy to say that most of the deep rooted rivalry has gone amongst my peers. I think that the passing of Mr. Enoeda, Mr. Kase, Mr. Tabata and Mr. Shoji and so forth has brought many of us back to reality. Obviously this is not limited to Takushoku University, it is all about us international karate pioneers getting very old.”
Asai’s health deteriorated with age, and he underwent liver surgery on February 10, 2006.He died at 2:50 PM on August 15, 2006, leaving behind his wife, Keiko Asai, and their daughter, Hoshimi Asai. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral, which was held on September 1, 2006, at Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo. Asai received the rank of 10th dan posthumously from the JKS, and was succeeded as President of the IJKA by his widow. Since that time, IJKA in Europe has apparently separated from K. Asai’s IJKA. In 2013, Asai Shotokan Association International (ASAI) was formed by a former student of Asai, Kousaku Yokota, to teach Asai’s style of Shotokan. http://asaikarate.com/
In the past I have already written about how Master Asai saved my karate life. I suspect that many readers may have not read it yet so I would like to share my short explanation here.
I had been a lifetime member of the JKA and I was a godan in the mid 90′s after having practiced shotokan karate for more than 30 years and my age was approaching 50. At that moment I keenly felt that I had reached my plateau with my karate training and I could not find any challenge or pleasure in any further training. I visited different senseis and went to seminars given by the masters such as Kanazawa and Tanaka but none of them could inspire me. As a result I decided to retire from karate in 1997. This was a big move as I had always believed karate was part of my life. But I decided to do so because I could not find a way to improve myself any more. So, I decided to study Ki and hoped I could find a solution in this art.
I found a job in Tokyo where I lived for 2 and a half years and during this period I did not wear my gi, not even once. I entered a famous Ki school called Nishino ryu Ki dojo in Shibuya. To make a long story short I could not find my answer in Ki training. I came back to California in 2000 and decided to teach karate in San Jose. At that time I had already given up on improving my own karate. In 2001 Asai sensei was giving a seminar in the area and I participated. Of course, I knew Asai sensei from my JKA time and had met him several times in the past. I also had witnessed, with my own eyes, the impressive demonstration he performed in the JKA’s All Japan Championship (1981 and 1982). But until I participated in this seminar in 2001 I only considered him as one of the shotokan famous instructors and nothing more. This seminar event happened 5 years before his passing so he was in his mid 60′s. By observing his techniques and moves very closely I was simply dumbfounded by his agility, flexibility and speed. I knew immediately that he was the answer to my question of “how can I improve my karate when I am in my 60′s?” It took me a year before I finally left the JKA and became a follower of Master Asai. My close association with Master Asai was only five years before he left us all too young. He knew so much and I just did not have enough time or occasions to ask all the questions I had. I can never claim that I learned all of his techniques. He knew more than 100 katas and I have only learned 25 Asai katas. Despite this I feel I learned enough that I can share this knowledge and the techniques with all shotokan practitioners especially the advanced (technically and age wise) karateka. His karate was different and my karate became different from the standard shotokan karate. It is different because I feel my moves are more natural and smoother. I guess I have to ask the readers to watch me either in person or in the video performance to see if they think that this is true. I am convinced that the benefits to the karateka of all styles and all ages are great. I can never replace or duplicate all of Asai sensei’s techniques but it is my lifetime mission to share what I know and what I can do. This year I am 66 years old and I plan to do this for at least the next 34 years (God willing) so I will be around and so will ASAI. OK that is enough about my karate life.
If you know Master Asai’s karate you agree that his karate was not only great but it was different. You can see him in action and right away you will see the definite differences. His moves and techniques are more circular and smoother compared to the linear and somewhat ridged techniques that many Shotokan practitioners exhibit. You may ask “why his karate was so different?” this is quite difficult to explain. How did he develop his karate? The answer to this question will give you a hint to the original question regarding his butt position.
He became the Technical Director of the JKA in the 80′s but before that time, there was a very important stage of his karate life, specifically between 1965 and 1975. The JKA had dispatched him overseas to teach karate starting in Hawaii. After completing his assignment in Hawaii he went to Taiwan in late 60′s. I heard that Master Asai had some exposure to other styles of karate and even to some kung fu styles while he was in Hawaii. He was always looking for something new to try and to learn so it is easy to guess that the diversified martial arts found in the islands of Hawaii would have given him many opportunities. However, when he was sent to Taiwan he got into an intensive training with a kung fu (White Crane) style. He became a close friend with a kung fu expert, Master Chen whose sister would eventually become his wife. Master Asai was already a karate expert so Master Chen did not treat him like a student but a martial arts partner. I heard from his widow that they exchanged their techniques all the time whenever they met. Master Chen would show a new or an interesting technique one day then Master Asai would master that technique almost instantaneously which impressed Master Chen greatly. Obviously he received a lot of influence from White Crane kung fu.
OK so you may ask “what has this got to do with the butt of Asai sensei?” I believe there is a strong relationship and let me share this new idea with you.
There is an interesting finding I made as I did research into the martial arts of Japan and China. What I found is that there is a difference in the pelvis positioning between the two categories. In other words, among the Japanese martial arts the correct pelvis position is to tucked up or the tail bone to point downward. On the other hand, in the Chinese martial arts the pelvis is positioned upward or pushed out. The visible difference is minor but if you examine closely you can see the difference.
Let’s look at the photos of Judo, Kendo and Iaido.
What do you see? Can you detect the pelvis positioning? Especially in the Judo photo (far left), we can see the tucked under pelvis position. By the way, this photo is one of the rare historical ones of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo (on the right, taken early in the 20th century).
Not convinced? Look at the two photos of Sumo. Even though those sumo wrestlers are big and “fat” their pelvis position is down and tucked under. I put fat om quotation marks because the fat contents of many of the sumo wrestlers is much lower than we think and they are medically not fat. Regardless of this point, I hope you can see the pelvis position better as they are without any clothes except for their mawashi.
Next, let’s look at the photos from the Chinese martial arts and see if we can detect any differences. Here are three typical kung fu photos that are in horse stance or a similar stance.
By checking the pelvis positioning of these female performers do you agree that all three are sticking their pelvis backward and not tucked in? Of course, I showed you only a few photos so you may not see the clear differences between the Japanese and the Chinese. However, the difference is a common knowledge among the senior martial artists in Japan. I am afraid not enough research has been done yet to investigate why there is a difference in the basic concept of the pelvis positioning between the two groups.
Now what I dare to present here is my hypothesis for the difference. The base of the Japanese martial arts is kenjutsu, the sword fencing. Unlike some of the light weight kung fu swords a Japanese katana is quite heavy. If you happen to practice Iaido you know what I am talking about. Obviously, it will be very difficult to swing it around quickly let alone jump with it. Therefore, the fighting style of the samurai was almost with no moving around. The posture was very straight with their legs almost fully extended and the backbone straight to support the weight of the sword. You may have seen this in a Japanese samurai movie in which two samurai face each other in a duel with almost no moving until the decisive attack at the end. In this situation, it makes sense to keep the pelvis tucked under to support the body weight and to assist the forward movement (remember the first move in Bassai dai?). Judo and Sumo are also the same. In those arts kicking is prohibited and there are almost no jumping techniques in these arts. They need to stand firmly on the floor rather than jumping around thus the tucked under pelvis gives more balance and stability in their stance. On the other hand, in kung fu, especially the Northern styles there are a lot of kicks and jumps. To jump and to rotate the body quickly from the low kiba dachi stance I find it easier to do so with the pelvis pushed back. Please try it and see if what I am saying makes sense.
Another thing I need to bring to your attention is the difference we see in zenkutsu dachi between karate and kung fu. The first two photos are from kung fu and the last one on the right is by Yoshiharu Osaka, JKA instructor. You can clearly see the pelvis is pushed backward in kung fu front stance while Osaka sensei had definitely tucked in his pelvis.
This again comes from the difference in the concept or the use of the stance. In other words, in kung fu the moves are not always to the forward but can be to the side, back or in rotation. As you can see with the very Shotokan technique of Osaka it is a strong oi zuki going straight forward. For this move tucking the pelvis in and aligning the fist with the rear foot with the straight backbone bring the most powerful technique. Karate punch is “ikken hissatsu” or one punch one kill while kung fu attacks are multiple and each punch or an attack may not be a “sure kill” technique.
As a bonus, I will share with you another interesting point. Take a look at the photos below.
The first two photos are from Okinawan Shorin ryu. Master Chibana, the first photo, doing Bassai is somewhat keeping his pelvis tucked, but the second one shows that the pelvis is positioned more toward the back. Regardless of the pelvis position, you notice that both of them are leaning forward similar to the kung fu practitioners shown earlier. The next two photos, third and the fourth, are showing a technique from Bassai dai. They are by Shito ryu and by Shotokan respectively.
You can assume that the original Okinawan karate kept some of the Chinese influence but when karate was introduced to Japan it changed with the influence of the Japanese martial arts. In the Japanese martial arts such as kendo and even in karate we are taught to have our upper body always straight and never to crouch forward or lean to the sides. I suspect the influence to our karate in our posture came mainly from Jujitsu and Kendo. The posture of Judo practitioners has changed drastically after it was inducted in Olympics in 1964 but that is a different subject that is not related here directly so I will not discuss it here though it is a very interesting subject to think about.
So, you can probably easily guess what my theory for Master Asai’s posture is. You probably want to conclude that the kung fu influence he received in Taiwan changed his posture. However, maybe to your surprise my theory is slightly different. Master Asai was known for his Tenshin (body rotation) techniques but at the same time he was known for high and low techniques. Low means a technique he ducked for example under a kick. High means he jumps around the opponent and hit him while he is still in the air (see the photo below).
I do not believe he learned those techniques from White Crane kung fu or any other styles. The characteristics of White Crane kung fu is the open hand techniques and whipping techniques (coming from the fast wing flapping). I can easily suspect that he took those techniques in and made them into his signature techniques. However, jumping and ducking under, I believe, were his own creation.
Look at the famous photo (right) of him fighting Mikami sensei (JKA Louisiana) in the JKA’s All Japan Championship in 1961. Mikami (left) is delivering a beautiful long distance Oi zuki, very much a Shotokan technique. To this attack you can see Asai on the right jumped to dodge it (I wish I could have been there to watch it). This shows he was already jumping in his early karate career (he was 26 years old in 1961). He was a very creative martial artist and I understand that he has always tried different things and ideas that would work for him. He was a small man, even for a Japanese, (a little over 160cm and less than 50kg) so he needed the techniques that would overcome his “handicap”. He found the jumping and Tenshin techniques. To jump and to rotate his body quickly having his pelvis not tucked in worked better for him. He probably developed his unique posture early in his karate career but his peculiar pelvis position was not that noticeable then. With many years of training including the kung fu techniques his posture became more prominent and noticeable.
Finally, here are two more photos (below) of Master Asai at two different stages of his karate life. One on the left is a young Asai in his 20′s and the right one is a legend in his 60′s.
What do you think? It is true that he went to Taiwan and he had a close encounter with White Crane kung fu, but there were, I assume, many other Shotokan practitioners who went to China and Taiwan. In fact Master Nakayama was stationed in China for several years during WWII. Only Asai picked up many ideas and techniques from the Chinese styles. This proves my point that his body was far more adaptable to the Chinese method because of his own unique training and his own style.
I am not sure if my theory about his pelvis position has successfully convinced you but one thing I can tell you confidently is this. Master Asai needed his pelvis position in that specific way to deliver his unique and fast techniques. He was the one and only true master of Asai-ryu karate and his posture is a signature of his style.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas especially if you are a sports scientist or your expertise is in kinesiology.
When you hear the term “black belt” I am sure it means more than just a black colored belt to you. For the karate practitioners it means our pride and many years of hard training. For the non-practitioners it may mean an expertise in karate or a dangerous person which we think funny.
Because of the movie, Kuro Obi, this Japanese term has become well known to many of the karate practitioners. The movie was not at a Hollywood level but a JKA instructor, Sensei Naka, co-starred. I would say it is interesting to see a real Shotokan instructor playing in a karate movie. Here is the URL to watch the entire movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urQQBsoTjfw
Whatever the color your belt may be, you certainly wear it every time you train. It is so much a part of our karate training, yet there are many facts about karate belts that you may not know. You might have wondered about something related to a karate belt in the past and maybe you are still looking for the answers. The subjects here are, more or less, only the trivia of karate but I think they are interesting. To some extent, it is important for all of us to know and appreciate some facts. For that reason, I hope this article will help you with your better understanding of karate and its culture.
The dan rank and the black belt system in karate is itself an interesting and a puzzling subject. We must look at the history to understand where this belt system came from. Many of the readers may already know that there was no belt system in the Okinawa karate that was introduced to Japan by Master Funakoshi. Did you know that Funakoshi adopted this system from judo? The founder of judo, Jigoro Kano (1860 – 1938) was a very educated man who was also very talented and successful in business and academic arena. For instance, he founded judo in late 19th century (1882 to be exact) and within a short period of time the membership of his dojo increased to several thousand members. He was also one the first representatives of the Olympic Committee from Japan. I suspect he invented the dan system about the same time he created judo from jujitsu. As you may know that judo and Kano had a huge influence on Shotokan karate at the early stage of Funakoshi teaching in Tokyo. In fact, the name of the style, Shotokan, believe it or not, shows its influence. The name of judo headquarters was Kodokan and it was a very reputable name in the martial arts society in Tokyo at that time. Thus, Funakoshi adopted the “kan” (館Hall or Building) part in Shotokan, probably, hoping to build his dojo as big as Kodokan. There was another reason why Funakoshi chose Shotokan for his dojo name. He believed in having one karate and did not want to create his style, ryu. There was only one organization, Kodokan, in judo and he liked it. This is exactly what he wanted to see with karate and he used Shotokan for his dojo and refused to use “ryu”. This is why Shotokan has no ryu at the end of its name like Shito-ryu and Goju-ryu. Some people recently (ignorant, I am afraid) are referring our karate as Shotokan-ryu which I do not think Master Funakoshi would appreciate or approve. Here is a link to Wikipedia on Jigoro Kano if you are interested in learning more about this interesting man: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jigoro_Kano
OK let’s go back to kuro obi, Funakoshi granted the first dan diploma to a few of his students as early as in 1924, two years after he migrated to Tokyo. In the early period of Shotokan karate the highest rank one could attain was Godan (5th degree) as they followed suit to the system in judo. As the population of judo increased Kodokan expanded its highest dan rank to 10th dan. Thus karate followed the rule change and the highest rank in Shotokan is 10th dan now. In some styles of karate a higher degree wears a different color belt. A practitioner of 6th, 7th or 8th dan would wear a red and white belt. For 9th and 10th dan a full red belt may be worn. These belts are also the imitation from the judo policy. Obviously Funakoshi did not like this idea so he did not adopt it. The Shotokan practitioners only use a black belt for all dan ranks.
In other styles, the stripes are embroidered on the belt to show one’s rank. It is true that you cannot tell one’s rank if his belt is plain. I personally do not like this idea to make the ranks visible. I do not wish to criticize the other styles but I do not like it. In fact, I like the idea of a black belt turning into almost white after many years of wearing. I am proud to wear an old belt as it shared my daily training for many years. I sometimes come across with a few Shotokan practitioners who wear a belt with the stripes. I am sure they are ignorant about our tradition. I want them to know that it is Shotokan tradition to use only a plain black belt.
Kendo is another budo that has a dan system and their highest rank used to be 10th dan rank. It is interesting that in the year of 2000 the All Japan Kendo Federation decided to drop the 9th and the 10th dan ranks thus 8th dan is the highest rank one can attain now in kendo.
What I will bring up next is one particular subject about the karate dan rank system that, I consider, should be discussed more frequently. This is something that you all know well but it has not been discussed openly.
In many of the sports or athletic events they have their own ranking systems. For instance, in boxing it is divided into many weight divisions or classes and in each division they have the world ranks. I am also aware that there are different groups such as WBC, WBA, WBO, etc. and each one has its own ranks but I will not go into this part for our discussion today. The point I wish to bring up is the fact that the ranking systems in boxing are fluid and not permanent. In other words, your rank whether it is first (champion) or 100 will not stay permanently (though such a record may be kept as the historical ranking). It goes down when you lose in a fight and your rank disappears when you retire from the fighting. This is not the case in karate as well as in all budo. Once a dan rank is granted a practitioner will have that rank permanently. He can get promoted but the rank will never come down. I am aware that ranking system of the sports (boxing, tennis, etc.) are different in its objective from the budo’s dan ranks. In fact, judo now has the competitors ranking system called World Ranking (by IJF) that is unrelated to the dan rank system. I believe a dan rank is given on the belief that this particular practitioner will continue his training so that his ability will not deteriorate, in fact, it is expected only to improve. But the sad fact is that many people do not continue their training and quit. Only a handful will remain and train throughout their life. In addition, at a certain age one reaches the maximum of his physical ability and the skill level may even come down despite the continuing of the practice. It is an honorable thing to receive a dan rank and we should be proud of it. At the same time, I feel that the integrity and the substance of the dan ranks must be there to mean anything to us. It is a big shame but there are too many bogus and self-promoted ranks. I can truly understand why Funakoshi sensei refused to receive any dan ranks.
Let’s move on to another interesting subject. Have you ever wondered why kyu rank starts from 8th (at some dojo from 10th) and the rank decreases down to one kyu as a student progresses? Once you reach Shodan or the first degree black belt, the rank increases as you get promoted. When I first joined JKA 50 years ago I wondered why I did not start from 1 kyu. I wondered why the kyu system would not take an increasing system like the dan system and of course I could not ask such a thing to our teacher. Many years later I found that the kyu system had been intentionally structured this way. Let me share the concept behind this system and hopefully you will see the logic.
The fundamental concept of martial arts is that a student is not expected to start a real karate training until you become Shodan (first degree black belt). Some of you may know or practice a custom of making a new Shodan to wear a white belt for a short period of time (a month or so). This custom is to let a new Shodan know that he is now starting a real karate training or he is finally at the starting point of real learning of karatedo. Until that level a student’s objective or a goal is to build the foundation and at the same time, reduce the bad habits or the “natural” ways of body movements.
This may be a difficult concept but is an important one. In other words a student will learn the basic karate ways or the conditions that are necessary to learn the real karate techniques. For an example, if you ask a street person to make a fist he can probably make something that is similar to a karate fist, seiken 正拳.However, if you ask him to show you an open hand he will show you something like Photo A (natural open hand, left above). You ask him next to put the fingers together, he will show you a hand like Photo B (right above) but never shuto 手刀(knife hand, Photo C below). It will require a little learning to make a shuto hand. It will require numerous repetition to “forget” your natural hand forms (A and B) and make this shuto hand (C) “natural” to you.
This is just a small example and the scope of the preparation (forgetting the natural ways) will extend to all those stances, body shifting, postures, breathing method, leg strength, ki-ai as well as the dojo etiquettes just to name a few. All the knowledge and the techniques, indeed, are necessary before a practitioner can “start” the karate training. Note: In a perfect world, all those “pre-requisites” should be learned in advance, but in a real situation the learning of these matters are done in parallel as he engages in karate training. This is why you start from 8th kyu and move up to one kyu as you get yourself prepared for the real karate training.
Another subject; we all know that a beginner starts with a white belt. Before he reaches a black belt there are many different colors such as yellow, blue, green, etc. When I started my karate training in early 60’s there were only two colors before black. They were white and brown. If I remember correctly I started from Mu-kyu (no kyu) and with the first exam I became 6th kyu. We were all white until we reached 3 kyu (brown belt). Now most of the dojos start from either 8th kyu or 10th kyu. Some dojo even give a stripe to show a half kyu advancement. In one dojo the chief instructor told me he would never advance a student by one full kyu. With the first exam a student will become 10 and a half kyu. With this system this student has to take 20 kyu examinations before he reaches 1 kyu to go for a black belt. I did not make any comment to this instructor (luckily he was and is not in the same organization) as he considered karate as a pure business. I am not here to make a judgment on making karate a pure business but I personally would not send my sons to his dojo. Each student is different in his development and speed of learning. Though it may not be good for a business but I do not like having so many examinations in order to receive more money from of the students (or their parents).
A popular question I receive is if the colors to the kyu ranks are fixed or if there is a universal order. The quick answer is no. The basic idea is to start from white (no color) and the belt gets darker towards black. At many dojo the next color to white is either yellow or light blue and I think it makes sense. However, some dojo start with a red belt for 10th and 9th kyu. It is indeed a very dark color but it is intentional. As we all know that the drop-out rate is the highest with the white belt. The instructors believe the red color belt will give more motivation than a yellow or a blue to the beginners and they will stay with the training longer. This may be true and that would be another business decision a dojo instructor needs to make. Incidentally I find it interesting because in judo and a few karate organizations, a red belt is allowed to 9th and 10 dan. In our organization, we have a guideline of the colors that are associated with the kyu ranks but it is not mandatory. We let the member dojo decide on the colors for the kyu ranks.
Here is another popular question. After having a lengthy absence or illness, say more than a year or longer, you may wonder if you deserve to wear your old black belt. You may not be sure what color of a belt you should wear when you return to your dojo. There is no universal rule on this subject and it is up to the policy of an individual dojo. Many dojos or organizations do not mind a member wearing his black belt even if had a long absence. Some dojos have a policy that a returned practitioner has to wear a white belt for a certain period of time. That length varies and again, it will depend on an organization’s rule or policy.
If you are a black belt but you had a long absence and today is your first day back. What belt should you wear? Ask yourself if you can perform just as good as you did right before your lengthy absence. If you are exceptionally talented and if you are confident in your performance, then you can wear your old kuro-obi. However, if you are an average person then you feel less coordinated and out of shape. You may even forget some of the kata. If this is the case, why not wear a white belt? Or does your self-pride or ego bother you? I would rather look as a great white belt than a very poor black belt. Believe me the color of a belt does not help you with your karate. It will not make you look any better or worse so why not wear a white belt for a few months until you gain back your coordination, your stamina, etc? Length of being a white belt depends on the length of one’s absence as well as that person’s ability to gain back to the black belt level. It can be only a couple of months to a half year. It will all depend on an individual and your sensei should be able to tell you when you are ready.
So, what do you think of your kuro obi now? One thing I can tell you is that even if your belt is black, it will not help you with your karate or make you look any better. On the other hand, if you wear a kuro obi there will be a certain amount of obligation and responsibility associated with your belt. For instance, you need to train not once or twice a week but every day. You must be in shape and lead a healthy life. Obesity must not be tolerated for a black belt. You also need to live by Dojo Kun and follow Niju Kun.
When we do kata is it really mandatory that we come back to the exact spot where we started? I can almost hear your reply; “Yes. Nakayama sensei said so in Best Karate.“ You are absolutely correct. He listed 6 important points for kata in that famous book:
1. Correct Order
2. Beginning and End
3. Meaning of each movement
4. Awareness of target
5. Rhythm and timing
6. Proper breathing
For item 2 above, he clearly stated that “Kata must begin and end at the same spot on the embusen. This requires practice.”
If you are in a tournament this is absolutely a requirement, isn‘t it? If you are off by, say, one meter, I am sure those careful judges will take some points off of your performance.
Have you ever wondered why there is such a requirement? Nakayama sensei did not explain why in his book. Maybe it is such a natural thing and you may think I am wasting my time asking this. But, I have wondered about this and foolishly investigated why for many years. I was curious to know if the creators of kata (Itosu for Heian kata for an example) really designed all kata in such a way a performer will always return to the starting point. After much investigation and direct questioning I concluded that this was not the case. Someone changed the rule and created this new requirement of coming back to the exact starting point. I wanted to find who was behind this and for what reasons. This is a mystery and I wish to share my findings and my theory on this mystery with you today.
If you are a Nidan and above, you must have learned Chinte and this kata could be your tournament kata, especially if you are a female practitioner. We know this is a very unique kata (Chinte literally means “unique or strange hand”,) but do you realize it also has a very unique (strange) ending (three hops backward)? I have researched for many years and asked many sensei about these ending steps. For the longest time, no one could give me a believable bunkai for these “unique” moves with the feet in heisoku dachi and hands clasped together. It had been a big mystery to me, as I could not figure out the meaning of these strange hops.
The following is what I have found in the process of investigation. One Japanese sensei, whose name I cannot reveal, told me it was for balance training. Yes, it is indeed difficult to keep the balance with your feet and hands put together. But if you think it through, it just does not make any sense as you wonder why they were put at the end of the kata. After the final delivery of a kime technique (right gyaku zuki to chudan with ki-ai), we can expect a zanshin move as seen with the last step in Enpi. However, why would anyone put three backward hopping steps that are not stable as a zanshin move? Even if you buy this idea of having this balancing move there, why hop with two feet together? Hopping with only one foot is more of a martial art move (like a tsuru ashi dachi in gankaku.) No matter how much I considered the possibility, I cannot buy into this theory. (read more...)
Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:
Many people ask me about these titles and today I want to give you not only the meaning of these Japanese words and the history behind them.
First, I use Shihan in front of my name. It is not because I need or want to tell the world that I am a big sensei or a big shot. I retired from a high-tech company three years ago but I was in the industry for 30 years. During those years I kept my karate background secret or confidential from my bosses and even colleagues. I was not ashamed of my karate background but karate was (and still is) a very personal thing to me and I wanted to separate my business life away from my karate life. I used LinkedIn for my high-tech network and you can check it there but I used only my name. When I joined FaceBook 5 or 6 years ago I was still working for a high-tech company so I decided to use shihan as my first name and posted myself as Shihan Yokota. Now that I do not need to keep my karate background secret anymore I changed the name on FB as Shihan Kousaku Yokota by adding my real first name. I could have dropped shihan but it became almost like my nickname so I kept it. That is all and I will not be offended at all if anyone calls me without this title.
OK that is enough of an introduction. Let me explain about those confusing Japanese titles. In my explanation I will add Soke and Kancho as a bonus.
Let's start with shihan. First of all, shihan is not exactly a title. In other words, this is not something an organization would bestow or permit. Shihan (師範) means literally "to be a model" but it is only a formal word for sensei or instructor or teacher. So if you are teaching karate; for that matter any martial arts and non martial arts field, you can be addressed as shihan. However, it is customarily reserved for the senior instructors or teachers. For instance, if a Nidan or Sandan person at the age of 20's will not normally be addressed as shihan even if he or she may be the chief instructor of a dojo or a club. Since it is not a bestowed title it does not have the age or rank requirement. We would consider Godan and above as the senior ranks those sensei can be addressed as Shihan. On the same token, it will not be considered as impolite or rude if you address a senior instructor as sensei even if he is 8th or 9th dan. In other words, you can address me as sensei instead of shihan.
There is one exception to the above rule. There is a bestowed title of Shuseki Shihan. Shuseki means "Top position" so it means the Chief Instructor of an organization. This is used only in a large organization like JKA, JKS, ISKF, etc as they have multiple number of senior instructors. If you are the only instructor in your dojo or an organization then you should not use Shuseki Shihan even if you are asenior rank instructor.
On the other hand, Kyoshi, Renshi and Hanshi are bestowed titles. However, in general in karate (with JKA, ISKF, JKS, IJKA and WJKA) we do not use those titles. The only exception is Zen Nihon Karatedo Renmei (Japan Karate Federation or JKF). This organization is a non style specific organization and its members are Shotokan, Shito ryu, Goju ryu and Wado ryu. It is a member of WKF and I assume it also grants these titles. I do not know why they grants these titles but I suspect there is an influence from Kendo. The history goes back to 1895 when the martial arts organization called Dai Nihon Butokukai was established. They promoted various martial arts including kendo, judo, jujitsu, kyudo, and a few others. However, this organization was dismantled by the occupation force (GQ) in 1945. Even though the same name organization was established in 1957 it is not related to the original Dai Nihon Butokukai though they probably wish to claim as such as the prewar organization received a lot of respect and honor as it was sponsored by the Japanese government. The current organization is no longer well known or large in membership as it is only a private organization without any sponsorship from the government.
Anyway, I find it interesting to meet so many Kyoshi in the Americas but yet not too many Renshi or Hanshi. According to Dai Nihon Butokukai or JKF, the ranks starts with Renshi and ends with Hanshi being the highest. So, Kyoshi is the middle rank and I do not know why I meet only Kyoshi among the instructors.
For your information, let me list the requirements to qualify those ranks (by JKF):
Hanshi （範士）: 8th dan for more than 2 years, older than 60
Kyoshi (教士）: 6th dan and above for minimum 2 years, older than 50
Renshi （錬士）: 5th dan and above for minimum 1 year, older than 40
What is Kancho (館長）? You are familiar with Shotokan and the part of "kan" is the same here. Kan means building so the connotation is the dojo. Cho means the head or top (i.e. shacho: president). Kanazawa sensei uses Kancho as his title. I wonder if he wants to claim that he is the top of Shotokan which I do not know. This is a little mystery as his organization (Kokusai Shotokan Karatedo Renmei) does not end with "kan".
The last one is Soke（宗家）and I find and hear about so many soke in the US. I laugh about this as I know they cannot be legitimate. Soke means a central family who carries a certain art as their family tradition. Though you can find such a family in some Japanese martial arts such as kenjutsu this tradition is more popularly with the non martial arts such as tea ceremony (sado), flower arrangement (kado), Japanese dancing (kabuki, noh, etc), Japanese music and instruments (shakuhachi, koto, etc). It is customarily carried by the same family of the founder but of course there are some exceptions. This is why I laugh when I see an American guy who claims a "soke" title for his karate. This means he had to create his own style which is possible but I am not sure how legitimate his style can be. Or there is another possibility which is more unlikely that is his Japanese master decided to hand over the title as this American guy was good enough to carry the style. Anyway, if you meet any one in the western world with Soke in front of his name do not trust him too much.
As many of the readers can guess that Funakoshi sensei did not care for the titles. He never accepted any rank for himself even though he granted those ranks to his students. Thus, I am confident to conclude he did not accept any worldly titles such as Soke, Hanshi, Kyoshi, Renshi or even Kancho which he could have and deserved. The only exception is Shuseki Shihan. When Japan Karate Association (JKA) was founded in 1948 he accepted to become the first Chief Instructor. Even with this title he resigned in 1956, a year before his passing. I understand that he wanted to remain neutral as JKA was having some friction with Shotokai in 50s when both groups claimed the ownership of Funakoshi lineage.
Nakayama sensei and Asai sensei both held Shuseki Shihan positions. As far as I know they did not claim any other titles. Personally, I have no desire to claim any titles including Shuseki Shihan or even the dan rank from any organization. Dan ranks are mass produced these days and they no longer prove any real skill level or proficiency but this another subject so I will not go into this now.
I hope my short explanation of various titles was helpful and you have better idea about them. If you should have any questions about this matter feel free to send me any questions. I look forward to hearing from many of you.
In the #47 issue (May ’96) of Shotokan Karate Magazine, late Steve Cattle wrote an article on this kata, Hangetsu. It was a needed and educational article. The title was “Hangetsu the neglected kata” where he pointed out that this kata was most unpopular. He claimed, “I feel it is a very neglected kata, generally because of the difficulty in performing the turns, the stance and its lack of beauty”. He concluded that the biggest reason why this kata is unpopular to the difficulty of turns and its stance, Hangetsu dachi. “The difficulty is in the turn, which is why I think it is neglected in competition as well as the actual stance difficulty”. I agree with most of his claims but I am afraid he has missed some key points. If you investigate the origin of this kata, you will discover the hidden history and the deep mysteries behind this unique kata.
Even though Shuri-te and Naha-te do not share the same kata, Hangetsu (Seisan/Seishan) is one exception. This kata is found in almost all styles including Wado, Shito, Goju, Uechi, Shorin, Ryuei, etc. I will attempt to put the facts together and make necessary comparisons to come up with the answers to many questions. By sharing those findings, I hope the readers will come to a new appreciation and understanding when he/she performs this unique and valuable kata.
There is another article that is definitely worth reading is found in the issue #49 (Nov ‘96). The title is “Inside Tension Stances” and the sub title, “Sanchin-dachi, Neko-ashi-dachi, Hangetsu-dachi” by John Cheetham, the chief editor of this magazine. It is a 3 page article explaining whata those inside tension stances are and how they are constructed. It touches the subject that is not frequently touched and I recommend all Shotokan practitioners to read it if they have not. Unfortunately, the detailed information of Hangetsu dachi and it s very uniqueness were not mentioned or described in this article. However, I can not blame the author at all. He probably has a set of all karate textbooks such as Dynamic Karate, Karate-do Kyohan and Best Karate, but he can find only the steps of Hangetsu kata and not much else. In fact, we can find very little information on how to do this kata properly or on the details of Hangetsu dachi. The author wrote, “ – hangetsu dachi is described in most books and by most instructors as a longer version of sanchin dachi with all the same points as sanchin.” That is how it skips the detailed description of Hangetsu dachi. I will attempt to bring out the hidden facts from the history and the comparison of this kata with the other Ryuha (styles) to fill the gap in this article. (read more...)
Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:
Here is Kanji for senpai; 先輩. Sen, same in Sensei, means before or earlier. Pai or Hai means fellow, buddy, comrade, associate, etc. The literal meaning of senpai is a person or a fellow who joined before or earlier. Kanji for kohai is 後輩, a person who joined later or more recently. We use these terms not only in a dojo situation but also in any affiliation such as other clubs or associations and even in the work situation. Maybe, many of the readers have already known this much. Let's go into the fine points of these terms that may be confusing to non Japanese.
The vertical structure of human relationship is very rigid and strictly enforced in Japan. This senpai status stays for the rest of one's life. What becomes confusing or hard for a westerner to understand is it goes beyond the dan ranks. In other words, even if a kohai attains a higher rank he cannot be a senpai. This kohai may sit higher position in a line up but he cannot change the status of kohai to his senpai. In Japan the following is commonly observed. A kohai will not be allowed to take his dan exam before all his senpai take theirs. Of course, if a senpai quits a dojo or his training a kohai can take a dan exam and he could exceed his dan rank over his senpai. But still his senpai is called as "senpai" when they happen to run into each other, say, in a street. This part is probably the biggest difference in the definition of senpai/kohai between Japan and Western world. Here, any student can take a dan exam without restriction or consideration to his senpai. A kohai can easily become higher rank and he will be called "senpai" because this word is considered as higher rank or senior rank or senior position.
In Japan, you must be at least Nidan to be an assistant instructor who must go through minimum two years of instructor's training. These people are not called "sensei" but "kenshusei" or trainee. When he successfully completes his training and becomes Sandan then he will become "shidoin" or a certified instructor. Some of course becomes Sandan without going through the instructor's training and starts teaching. He may be called sensei but technically not shidoin as he is not certified by the organization such as JKA, JKS, etc. As these terms are many and confusing to the non Japanese people only the term of sensei is used in the western world. Often times the terms of senpai, kohai and sensei are used incorrectly (from the Japanese culture perspective) I feel strange but I go along with it. I feel the concept I just explained is too Japanese and it cannot be applied to the western culture. I would like to hear what the readers think about this. Also, if you have a question on any specific case feel free to send me your question.
I will put up another blog later this week on the meaning of "Shihan", "Kyoshi", "Renshi" and "Hanshi".
Shihan Koss Yokota is a 8th Dan Shotokan master who started his martial arts journey in the Hyogo Prefecture, more than 49 years ago. In 1981 and 1982, he was crowned champion of the Hyogo prefecture which he represented at the JKA All National Championship in Tokyo.
He currently serves as the technical director of the World JKA Karate Alliance (WJKA) and has recently published a book named "Shotokan Myths", in which he exposes myth and misconceptions many western Karate practitioners have.
What motivated you to write a book about Shotokan myths?
I have been practicing Shotokan karate for 49 years. Along the way I have come across with the questions and doubts in the way we practice but I was a blind follower until very recent. I always kept myself under radar so to speak and did not express my opinions. When two of my teachers passed away (Master Sugano and Master Asai, 2002 and 2006 respectively), I decided to come out. I am aware that it is a taboo for a Japanese instructor to speak up and criticize his own organization or his teachers. When I hit the age of 60 I figured someone has to do this dirty work for the sake of Shotokan karate. There are many incorrect and wrong teachings and training methods. Some are kept behind the curtain of mystery. Some are simply believed so blindly they became the "fact" or "truth". I wanted to tear down this curtain and show what real Shotokan karate is. We must not follow teachers blindly. We must think and continuously ask questions.
|Master Jun Sugano (1928-2002)9th dan JKA,
Vice Chairman of JKA
|Master Tetsuhiko Asai (1935-2006)10th dan JKS,
Founder of JKS and Asai style karate
Where do these Shotokan myth come from? Who first propagated them?
The word "Myths" came to me because I have trained in many dojos in Japan, US and some other countries and found that some wrong ideas were believed by almost all the practitioners. It bothered me as no one seemed to doubt or question them, let alone challenge them. I also realized there is a cloud of mysticism around the Asian culture particularly of the martial arts. Some Asian instructors hide behind that mysticism curtain as it makes them look good or give them more value.
I felt it was about time that some one to step out and blow away the cloud so we can really understand what Shotokan karate is. Without this process we cannot expect Shotokan to truly improve or advance. With the current trend, it will end up in a museum not too far in the future as the people begin to realize the mysticism does not work in a real fighting.
What is your definition or idea of what "real Shotokan" is (or should be)?
An excellent question! Some people define it to the original JKA lead by Master Nakakama. I go even further back to Funakoshi and his roots. I want to find how the original karate was when he brought it to Japan. During the years of propagation of karate in Japan, Funakoshi had to compromise many things. For instance he had to de-emphasize the throwing and join locking techniques from bunkai as he did not want to compete against Judo and Jujitsu. He also emphasized "gentleman's way" by tagging the art to "self defense". I do not mind he changed the names of kata and adopted judo uniform, etc. But I want to search for the original techniques that are more martial art and not the techniques that are modified for sports karate.
Why didn't you simply debunk the myths and create a new style with it?
Some people may do that but that is exactly what I want to avoid. Putting a different wrapping on the box will not make the thing inside the box different. My last teacher was Asai sensei. He introduced a lot of techniques from White Crane kung fu into his karate but he did not call it Asai karate. He continuously called Shotokan karate. He is my model and I teach his style of Shotokan karate.
By introducing white crane techniques, doesn't Asai sensei make his Shotokan teaching less authentic?
You are correct that Asai sensei introduced some kung fu techniques. I call it "extended" shotokan karate because it is still based on Shotokan karate. Indeed it has some techniques and kata that are not found among the regular shotokan organizations like JKA. So, we keep authentic shotokan as a core and we have some extended or additional techniques to supplement the areas where we think Shotokan lacks, namely close distance fighting.
Unless you are the creator of the kata, how can you be certain that the bunkai or meaning of the kata is the correct one, or the one that the creator meant to propagate?
That is very true. Most of the explanation to bunkai before 20th century was handed down from a master to the students verbally. This is why there are many different interpretations and many were lost. We assume Funakoshi sensei learned all the bunkai to the kata from the two sensei he had; Itosu and Azato. In order for us to believe Funakoshi sensei's bunkai was correct, we have to assume the bunkai Itosu and Azato were correct. There is no way we can prove those assumptions are correct.
I know many parts of bunkai were lost through the handing down process over many generations. Even though we will never know the true intentions of the creators, it is still our responsibility to research and investigate to find the "true" bunkai. Doing a kata without knowing bunkai I call it karate dance. Some of the instructors chose to drop off all kata practice from this fact. However, I believe there is enough value left in practicing kata. It would be a totally different topic to discuss on the value of kata.
Have you trained in Japanese Dojo? What were the differences in the understanding and beliefs about karate.
I was a member of JKA dojo in Kobe between 1963 and 66, then 1970 and 1971, and 1981 till 1983. The Japanese students are very serious and well disciplined. They are also very diligent and never give up. They do not cut corners and follow to a letter of what the instructors ask them to do. On the other hand, I must say that I found most of them lack the sense of curiosity or mind of investigation. They follow the orders but never dare to ask "why?" or "is this true?" I do not think it is because they are incapable of doing so but they are discouraged to think that way. I hate to say but it is mostly to protect the sensei so they will not be challenged. One other thing I noticed recently in Japan (I travel to Japan very frequently) is that sports karate is becoming more popular and the martial arts karate is more difficult to find.
Being a Japanese instructor, are there concepts that you understand differently from your Western counter parts?
Many Japanese truly believe that they have a unique culture that no westerners would understand completely. When they speak among Japanese instructors in Japanese, I sometimes hear comments like: "They (the westerners) cannot know (comprehend) this kind of thing because they are not Japanese". I think the gap of communication definitely is one of the causes of the myths and mysteries.
What benefits does Japanese speaking instructors have over non Japanese speakers?
The advantage I have over the western instructors is that I can get the comments that are not made up or modified from my sensei as I am a Japanese student of his.
Another advantage I have is the ability to read the martial arts books that are written in Japanese. I have more than couple of hundred books that are not only on traditional karate but on wide range of other martial arts and most importantly on ki. . I have not seen any good books on Ki that were either written in English or were translated from the Japanese originals.
Unfortunately to the western practitioners, the level of martial arts (of all traditional karate styles) books in English is very low. There are only a few books that are worthwhile as they were translated from the original Japanese books such as Hidden Karate. I wished more good books were translated and that would narrow the gap of understanding martial arts and what are commonly believed by many of the western practitioners.
What are the difference in the conception of Ki between a Japanese teacher and a westerner one?
This is a thousand dollars (pounds) question. I can write a book on this. I believe the difference is not in the conception between the westerners and the Japanese or Asian teachers. It is the degree of understanding or the lack of by the western teachers. I am not saying this to belittle the western teachers. I know the western teachers are very intelligent and diligent in studying the subject. But I think the subject of Ki goes beyond the power or martial arts. It in fact enters into the realms of religion and spiritual concepts which I believe the westerners have problems accepting.
Ki (or Qi/Chi for Chinese martial arts practitioners)
Your book, "Shotokan Myths" mentions that pre-JKA Shotokan karate katas most likely had no Ki ai or at least, involved no yelling. Could a Ki ai be done without the yelling?
Yes this is exactly the point of the chapter in my book and the title of the chapter is "Silent Ki ai". The higher level of Ki ai in martial arts is one without any sound. As you know, Ki ai is made when a Kime (tension or focusing of muscles) is made such as at a delivery point of a punch. This is done by tensing your diaphragm and usually the diaphragm is pushed upward resulting in squeezing the lungs thus the gush of air goes up the throat and you will have a yelling.
By controlling the vocal code you can let the air out without making a sound but creating a Kime. In martial arts we must be able to make a Kime not only when we exhale but also when we inhale which is a difficult tast but can be and must be done. Try to make a Ki ai as you tense your diaphragm as you quickly inhale. It is diffcult to make a sound even if you tried. What you did is a Kime without a Ki ai. You can do the same thing as you quickly exhale. Ki ai is not a wrong thing but it is unnecessary to make a kime.
Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:
Helga's mom brought her to her first Karate competition. Noting that the organizers seemed a little shorthanded she approached the table. "Good morning," she said to the Director, "you look a little shorthanded. Anything I can do to help?" "Well it just so happens we're short a fighter for the under 90 kg division," the director replied. "Sorry," Helga's mom said, "I don't know a thing about Karate." "That's OK" said the director. "We need referees, too."
The following table lists graduates from the legendary JKA Instructor program.
|Name||Year of Graduation||Rank||Position|
|Mikami Takayuki||1957||9th dan||USA JKA/AF Southern|
|Kanazawa Hirokazu||1957||10th dan||Founder SKIF|
|Yaguchi Yutaka||1958||9th dan||USA ISKF Mountain States|
|Ueki Masaaki||1961||9th dan(2011)||HQ Shihan Chief Instructor Worldwide|
|Keinosuke Enoeda||1961||9th dan||"Deceased 29th March 2003".|
|*Miyazaki Satoshi||1961||8th dan||"Deceased 31st May 1993".|
|Sakai Ryusuke||1962||7th dan|
|Ochi Hideo||1963||8th dan||"JKA Germany".|
|Abe Keigo||1965||9th dan||Japan JSKA |
|Takashina Shigeru||1966||8th dan||USA JKA/WFA South Atlantic|
|Kawazoe Masao||1967||8th Dan (Also Chief Instructor ITKF)|
|Okamoto Hideki||1967||8th dan||Egypt|
|Takahashi Shunsuke||1967||8th dan||Chief Instructor TSKF Australia |
|Okuda Taketo||1967||8th dan||"Butoku-kan (Brazil)".|
|Osaka Yoshiharu||1972||8th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Imura Takenori||1977||7th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Kurasako Kenro||1977||7th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Kawawada Minoru||1978||7th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Omura Fujikiyo||1978||7th dan||"JKA Thailand".|
|Ohta Yoshinobu||Attendee||7th Dan||"Head JKA England".|
|Ogura Yasunori||1982||7th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Imamura Tomio||1983||7th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Izumiya Seizo||1986||6th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Shiina Katsutoshi||1986||6th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Hanzaki Yasuo||1987||6th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Naka Tatsuya||1989||7th dan (2012)||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Taniyama Takuya||1990||6th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Takahashi Satoshi||1992||5th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Kobayashi Kunio||1993||5th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Ogata Koji||1994||5th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Walter Crockford||1996||5th dan||"JKA Canada".|
|Hirayama Yuko||1998||6th dan (as of 2012)||HQ Secretariat|
|Okuma Koichiro||1998||4th dan||HQ Full-Time Instructor|
|Iwasawa Mayumi||1998||3rd dan||HQ Secretariat|
|Aragaki Misako||2003||3rd dan||HQ Secretariat|
Abe Keigo, 9th dan (former JKA HQ instructor) JSKA Chief Instructor
Aramoto Nobuyuki, 8th dan (former JKA instructor)
Asai Tetsuhiko, 10th dan (former HQ JKA instructor) JKS/IJKA Chief instructor (passed)
Inaba Tsuneyuki, 7th dan (former JKA instructor
Isaka Akito, 7th dan (former JKA instructor) KWF
Ishimine Minoru, 7th dan (former JKA instructor)
Kagawa Masao, 8th dan (former JKA instructor) JKS Chief Instructor
Kagawa Masayoshi, 7th dan (former JKA member, not JKA instructor graduate)
Kanayama Kyosho, 7th dan (former JKA instructor)
Mizuno Yoshihisa, 8th dan (former JKA instructor)
Naito Takashi, 7th dan (Has left E.T.K.F & returned to JKA)
Shin Naomitsu, 7th dan (former JKA member, not JKA instructor graduate)
Tamang Pemba, 8th dan (former JKA HQ instructor) NSKF Chief Instructor
Tanaka Chougo, 7th dan (former JKA member, not JKA instructor graduate)
Yahara Mikio, 8th dan (former JKA HQ instructor) KWF Chief Instructor
Yamaguchi Takashi, 8th dan (former JKA instructor)
Kanazawa Hirokazu, 10th dan (former JKA HQ instructor) Chief instructor SKIF
Kase Yasuharu, 10th dan (former JKA HQ instructor) Chief Instructor SRKH (passed)
Kasuya Hitoshi, 8th dan (former JKA instructor) Chief Instructor WSKF
Katsumata (Suzuki) Yutaka, 7th dan (former JKA instructor)
Shirai Hiroshi, 10th dan (former JKA instructor) WSKA
Kyle Kamal Helou, 4th dan (JKS instructor) JKS
Tatetsu Meicho, 7th dan (former JKA instructor)
Asano Shiro, 9th dan (former JKA member, not JKA instructor graduate) SKIF
Kato Sadashige, 9th dan (former JKA member, not JKA instructor graduate) Chief Instructor IJKA (not recognized or sanctioned by Asai IJKA)
The list might not be complete.