Tag Archives for " Shotokan "
Wir wissen alle, dass Sensei als „Ausbilder“, oder „Lehrer“ übersetzt wird. Diese Übersetzung ist korrekt, also besteht darin kein Problem.
Ich bekomme einige Fragen bezüglich der Qualifikationen, welche einen Sensei ausmachen. Hier scheint es einen unerwähnten, oder unerklärten Bereich zu geben, welcher für Rätsel im Karatetraining sorgt. Ich mag Rätsel nicht, deshalb werde ich mein Verständnis für den Begriff „Sensei“ mit Ihnen teilen. Ich hoffe, dass es Ihnen bei der Beurteilung, oder auf der Suche nach einem Lehrer helfen wird.
Lassen Sie uns zuerst die Schriftzeichen für „Sensei“ betrachten (先生), welche uns zu einem besseren Verständnis dieses Begriffes verhelfen könnten. Vielleicht erinnern Sie sich an unsere Betrachtung des Zeichens „先“ in dem Wort „Senpai“: Es bedeutet „fortgeschritten“, „voraus“, „älter“, „zuerst“ usw. Aber was ist mit „生“? Dieses bedeutet „Geburt“, oder „Leben“. Insofern bedeutet es wörtlich, dass jemand früher geboren wurde. In anderen Worten heißt es, dass dies eine ältere Person ist, als Sie selbst. Es verrät jedoch nichts über das Alter, oder die Fähigkeiten dieser Person. Interessant, nicht wahr? Die japanische Auffassung besteht also darin, dass man von denjenigen lernt, die älter sind als man selbst, da sie angeblich mehr Erfahrung haben und daher sind sie weiser. Diese Auffassung dürfte nicht allzu sehr überraschend sein, wenn Sie sich an die japanische Vorstellung des zeitlichen Vorranges erinnern, unabhängig davon, ob Sie damit einverstanden sind, oder nicht.
Nun sagen Sie: „OK, ich bin 50 Jahre alt und mein Ausbilder erst 25, also genau halb so alt wie ich. Kann er mein Lehrer sein?“
Um diese Frage zu beantworten, müssen wir die Auffassung von Zeit auf Karate-Verhältnisse umstellen. Nehmen wir an er hatte vor zehn Jahren mit Karate begonnen und Sie erst vor fünf Jahren. Er ist Ihr Senpai im Karate. Wenn er regelmäßig in Ihrem Dojo unterrichtet, dann ist er Ihr Sensei. In einem Dojo zählt der Altersunterschied nicht und der zeitliche Vorrang hängt davon ab, wann man mit Karate angefangen hat. Ob dieser Sensei reif genug ist, um geachtet zu werden und in der Lage ist, Sie auf einem Weg im Leben zu führen, ist eine andere Geschichte.
Eine weitere Person fragte mich: „Mein Lehrer ist erst Nidan. Ich dachte, dass ein echter Lehrer Yondan, oder höher sein sollte. Als was sollte ich ihn nun ansehen?“
Meine Antwort ist: „Er ist Ihr Sensei.“
Jeder, der im Unterricht vorne steht und diesen leitet, gilt als Lehrer, unabhängig von seinem Grad. Ob dieser qualifiziert ist, zu unterrichten (durch ein Zertifikat berechtigt), oder nicht, ist eine andere Frage. Außerdem macht eine Lizenz zum Unterrichten nicht sofort einen guten Sensei aus. Ich kenne einen Nidan, der diesen Grad seit 30 Jahren trägt. Sein Training und seine Unterrichtserfahrung übersteigen womöglich die eines jungen Yondan. Ich habe auch schlecht geplante Anweisungen von älteren Leitern (7. und 8. Dan) gesehen. Der entscheidende Punkt besteht darin, dass der Lehrer begeistert genug ist, um das Wissen und die Kenntnisse, die er besitzt, zu teilen. Wenn Sie etwas von ihm lernen können, dann ist er Ihr Sensei. Wenn Sie kein Bisschen von ihm lernen, dann können Sie jederzeit das Dojo verlassen und sich ein anderes Dojo, oder einen anderen Sensei suchen.
Wir erwarten von unserem Sensei mehr zu sein, als jemand, der uns nur beibringt wie man schlägt und tritt. Das ist wahr, denn der Karate-Do ist mehr als nur Schlagen und Treten. Sie haben Glück, wenn Ihr Sensei Ihnen mehr als das beibringen kann. Können wir das von einem Sensei erwarten, der 25, oder 30 Jahre alt ist? Manche könnten sehr reif sein und viele Jahre des Trainings hinter sich haben, doch die Meisten davon sind zu jung und ihnen mangelt es an diesen Eigenschaften. Haben Sie also keine falschen Erwartungen von einem jungen Sensei. Seine minimalen Verpflichtungen als Übungsleiter bestehen darin in der Lage zu sein Karate-Techniken beibringen zu können. Das bedeutet, dass er diese Techniken zeigen und erklären kann. Auf der anderen Seite besitzen nicht alle fortgeschrittenen und älteren Lehrer diese Eigenschaften und Qualifikationen. Reife und Weisheit kommen nicht unbedingt mit dem Alter. Viele von ihnen verlieren ihre Form. Wenn ein Übungsleiter übergewichtig und nicht in Form ist, um eine Technik vorzuführen, dann betrachte ich diesen nicht als verantwortungsvoll.
Mir gefällt das, was Musashi vor einigen Jahrhunderten sagte. Er sagte, dass jeder, außer ihm selbst, ein Lehrer für ihn ist. Ich folge dieser Idee. Meine eigentlichen Lehrer (Sugano und Asai) sind tot und beerdigt. Ich glaube aber, dass mein jetziger Lehrer jeder ist, der in meinem Leben auftaucht, egal ob er eine Kampfkunst ausübt, oder nicht. Ich möchte etwas von jeder Person und allen Erfahrungen in meinem Leben lernen (sei es gut, oder schlecht). Das ist meine Philosophie und ich erwarte von den Lesern nicht, dass sie mit dieser einverstanden sind, oder sie akzeptieren.
Wie Sie sich Ihren Sensei aussuchen ist Ihnen überlassen. Jeder von uns hat unterschiedliche Erwartungen und Zielsetzungen im Training. Ich hoffe, dass Sie einen Sensei haben, mit dem Sie zufrieden sind. Wenn nicht, dann hoffe ich, dass Sie einen finden, mit dem Sie zufrieden sein werden und von dem Sie eine Menge lernen können.
Wenn Sie ein Sensei in einem Dojo sind, dann ist die minimale Anforderung an Sie die korrekte Lehre der Karate-Techniken. Das bedeutet, dass Sie in Form sein sollten, um die Techniken, die Sie unterrichten, nicht nur erklären, sondern auch vorführen zu können. Ergänzend dazu hoffe ich, dass Sie mehr als nur die Karate-Techniken aufbieten. Viele Ihrer Schüler erwarten dies von Ihnen.
Optional disclaimer about the genders:
Yokota-Sensei verwendete in dem englischen Original die geschlechtsunterscheidenden Begriffe „he/she“ im Bezug auf den Lehrer. Im Englischen ist das machbar, doch im Deutschen wird es durch die zahlreichen Artikel und Wortendungen zusätzlich erschwert und führt zu einem schwer lesbaren Text mit vielen Schrägstrichen und Klammern. Ich habe mich in der Übersetzung dazu entschlossen, den Begriff „Lehrer“ auf das männliche Geschlecht zu reduzieren, was keineswegs zu einer Dezimierung des weiblichen Geschlechtes führen, sondern lediglich dem Zweck der Textkürzung und Lesbarkeit dienen sollte.
So, let us start with a few popular categorization methods. The most common one is probably the differentiation by the long distance 遠距離 and short distance 近距離 fighting styles. Shotokan is a good example of the long distance fighting system and Goju-ryu, on the other side, is of the short distance system. Asai ryu karate is based on the standard Shotokan, a long distance fighting method, with an addition of the techniques from a short distance fighting system; White Crane kung fu was incorporated by Master Tetsuhiko Asai. This categorization method is rather obvious and comparatively easy to grasp. I do not believe it needs further explanation on this categorization method.
Another popular categorization in karate is Shorin 松林system and Shorei 昭靈system. Shorin represents the system with the light and fast techniques and this is exemplified by kata such as Enpi, Kanku, Gankaku and Unsu. Shorei is, on the other hand, the system supposedly designed for the larger built karate-ka for the powerful movements and the slower techniques. Jion, Jutte and Sochin are the typical kata of Shorei style. This categorization has been explained by many other writers in the past. I have my doubts on the legitimacy of this categorization method but I will not touch on it in this article.
One other popular categorization in karate is Naha-te 那覇手 and Shuri-te 首里手. Naha and Shuri both indicate the particular regions of Okinawa where the different styles of karate were developed and practiced. Shotokan belongs to Shuri-te as our style came from the most popular Shuri-te style of Shorin-ryu 松林流. The most popular Naha-te styles are Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu.
The categorization I wish to focus on in this article is called Internal System and External System. As far as I know this categorization method has not been explained too well to the Shotokan practitioners in the past. Among the Chinese martial arts this categorization method is as popular as the Northern Style and the Southern Style. The Internal System and the External System are written in kanji as 内家拳 and 外家拳 which literally means “inside house (or family) fist” and “outside house (family) fist”. Most of the practitioners now explain the meaning of “inside (family) house” as the internal workings of our body such as breathing and the mental aspect of a martial art. However, it originally meant “not staying with the family” or “not living in one’s house” but living in a Buddhist temple. Therefore, a famous Shaolin Temple kung fu (Photo below) and its derivative styles (literally hundreds of them) are called 外家拳, “outside house fist”.
Shaolin kung fu 少林拳法 refers to a collection of Chinese martial arts that claim affiliation with the Shaolin Monastery and the style generally emphasize long range techniques, quick advances and retreats, wide stances, kicking and leaping techniques, whirling circular blocks, quickness, agility, and aggressive attacks. Due to numerous Hong Kong movies, Shaolin Kung Fu is well known in the western world. However, there seems to be a lot of misconceptions and false beliefs about this fighting style. I suggest that the readers will learn more about it by reading the Wikipedia page:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaolin_Kung_Fu
The other group, “inside (family) house” or staying with the family means that a practitioner is not a professional monk. This is a group of the fighting methods that are not linked to the Shaolin Monastery. The famous three styles of the Internal System are Tai chi Chuan 太極拳, Xing Yi Quan 形意拳 and Ba Gua Zhang 八卦掌. They are classified as “inside house” fist.
Tai Chi Chuan (photo left) is a slow-motion and meditative exercise for relaxation, health and to a lesser degree self-defense. Tai Chi has gained enormous popularity throughout the world for its health benefits. In Chinese philosophy Tai Chi means the ultimate source and limit of reality, from which spring yin and yang and all of creation.
There are many different styles of Tai Chi from a popular slow motion style mainly for a relaxation and health purpose to a style that has some explosive moves that is better fit for self-defense training. To learn more about Tai Chi Chuan check the Wikipedia page here:
Xing Yi Quan or Hsing I Chuan (photo below) may be a lesser known Internal System or 内家拳 to the karate world but it is one of the best known internal martial arts and is recognized as the most effective fighting style. Xing Yi means “Shape Mind”, and Quan means “Fist”. The name derives from the style’s imitation of the movements and inner characteristics of twelve animals (dragon, tiger, eagle, bear, chicken, hawk, horse, monkey, snake, phoenix, swallow and alligator). The style was created by Marshal Yeuh Fei, a famous general of the Chinese Song Dynasty. One of the purposes of Xingyiquan training, like Taijiquan is aimed to improve Qi or Ki circulation in the body and to maintain health. The training is supposed to build up a level of internal Qi and this leads to the strengthening of both the physical body and the mental body.
For more information on Xing Yi Quan read the chapter in Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xing_Yi_Quan
Ba Gua Zhang is one of the three orthodox “internal” styles and the name literally translates to Eight Trigrams Palm. These trigrams are symbols which are used to represent all of the natural phenomena as described in the ancient Chinese text of divination, the Book of Changes (Yi Jing). Zhang means palm as Ba Gua Zhang emphasizes the use of the open hand in preference to the closed fist. Ba Gua Zhang is based on the theory of continuously changing in response to the situation at hand in order to overcome an opponent with the circular and smooth skill rather than brute force. Its embusen is very unique as it is built on complex circular lines and the techniques are delivered not to the direction of the moves but mainly to the center of a circle or a side of a performer (photo right). I personally like this style as its foot work is based on normal walking steps which I really think makes sense. The performer walks with fast steps in circular lines and deliver the techniques while he is “walking”.
To learn more about Ba Gua or Pa-kua, read the chapter in Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baguazhang
Also, there are many good video clips of Ba Gua kata performance by some elder masters. Here is a link to my favorite Ba Gua kata called “The old 8 mother palm” performed by Master Sun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8agvbyMDkU
OK these are all Chinese style martial arts so you may ask “What is the relationship to our karate? “ We need to look at the other interpretation of Internal System and External System. You will see the relationship as we go over the key points of the Internal and External systems according to the second interpretation. I am aware each martial art and karate style has a characteristic of all the categories and the categorization including Internal and External System method any categorization does not clearly divide the styles. By learning the categories and the characteristics I wish to present the general nature of Shotokan and to show the whole perspective so that the readers can understand where our style sits. With this exercise I hope we can identify the strength of Shotokan as well as the possible areas where it is lacking. The ultimate goal of this article is the knowledge and the better understanding of Shotokan karate and the possible improvement in training as the knowledge would, hopefully, reflect in the training menu.
Let us start with Internal System or styles. This system’s focus is on the practice of such elements as awareness of the spirit, mind, qi (breath, or energy flow) and the use of relaxed leverage rather than brutal muscular tension. While the principles that distinguish internal styles from the external were described at least as early as the 18th century.
Components of internal training includes stance training, stretching and strengthening of muscles, as well as on empty hand and weapon forms. In addition to the solo practice of the forms, many internal styles have basic two-person training, such as pushing hands. A notable characteristic of internal styles is that the forms are generally performed at a slow or normal pace. This is thought to improve coordination and balance by increasing the work load by moving slowly in low stances, and to require the practitioners to pay close attention to their whole body and its weight as they perform a technique. In some styles, for example Chen style of Tai Chi and Ba Gua, there are forms that include sudden outbursts of explosive movements. At an advanced level, the techniques are performed quickly. The ultimate goal is to learn to manage and control the entire body in every movement keeping relaxed with deep, controlled breathing, and to coordinate the body movements and the breathing accurately while maintaining perfect balance.
Let’s look at External styles or System next. External System is characterized by fast and explosive movements. Its focus is on physical strength and agility. External System includes both the traditional styles focusing on application and actual fighting, as well as the modern styles adapted for competition. Shaolin quan have many Wushu (martial arts) forms both with and without weapons that include the aerial techniques and explosive attacks. External styles begin with a focus on muscular power, speed and application. They generally integrate their qigong (Ki training) aspects in advanced training, after the excellent physical level has been reached.
From these definitions to which group do you think that Shotokan belongs? I guess the answer is easy. Shotokan definitely has many characteristics of the External System. By learning more about the characteristics of the other system, we can identify the area where Shotokan may be lacking. I hope you can make your karate training more comprehensive by adding some exercises to supplement the missing area. So, where are the areas in Shotokan that are possibly missing? They are probably Ki or Qi training, the breathing exercises and the softer movements. Can you identify if any of these may be missing from your training syllabus?
For the breathing training Hangetsu is an excellent kata through which you can learn to coordinate the kata techniques with breathing. However, you may complain that this is the only kata that was designed for such training in Shotokan. You are correct about this, but once you learn the breathing training idea of this kata, you can apply it to any kata you may know. The best kata to practice the breathing method from the JKA kata line up may be Jion, Jutte, Nijushiho, Meikyo, Sochin to name a few. Regarding the breathing exercise and method, I have written an article on this subject so you are welcome to refer to that article which can be found earlier in this same blog.
One other training that I consider missing in the standard Shotokan syllabus is Ki or Chi training. This is an important subject that needs to be understood by all the senior karate practitioners. It is also a deep subject that requires a lot of explanation. I also have written about this subject previously (What is “Ki”? and Ki exchange with a tree). If you are interested in the subject I suggest that you will read those articles that can be found in this blog. One more thing I wish to call your attention here, is that deep breathing is closely linked and is critically necessary to Ki training and exercise. Even if you do not understand anything about Ki, when you do your deep breathing exercise, believe it or not, you would be strengthening your Ki at the same time.
As Asai sensei introduced a short distance fighting method to the standard Shotokan karate to make it more effective, you can add the exercises of the Internal System to your Shotokan training syllabus. By doing so, you will be expanding your karate system beyond the standard Shotokan into something more comprehensive that you can call an Internal and External System. I hope this article has raised enough interest in the readers and that you will go out of the box and consider to invest some time and energy to make your karate “better”.
by Shihan Yokota
More information about Karate (Shotokan, Shito Ryu, Wado Ryu and Goju Ryu) - visit the most comprehensive Karate website in the world and join the movement: KarateCoaching.com
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:
Sports competition, although spectacular and with great appeal for spectators, represents only a small aspect of Karate, because it is not the competition with its victories and defeats that is at the forefront of our efforts, but the intense and consistent training, the analysis of the intricate and complex movements in Karate with the goal not only to command mind and body, but also to bring them in harmony. Time and again, the great old karate masters, and not only the Japanese, focus on the educational value of our martial art when insisting on having Karate taught as “Do” (path).
The term “Do” means something like “path through life” or “path to shaping one’s life” and includes the path to self-perfection.
Thus, Karate is closely associated with the spirit of Zen and influenced by the Bushido - the code of honor of the Samurai warrior.
The goal of all martial arts of the Samurai is to incapacitate the enemy with lightning speed and preferably in one move (Ikken Hissatsu). Even today, this objective is still at the basis of Karate.
First of all, this is an inhumane and destructive objective which demands without fail a commitment to the moral value system of a mature personality.
Thus, Karate instruction has the great task and challenge to teach the student to recognize and understand his responsibility and to teach him to always keep one’s emotions under control.
Strength and superiority should manifest themselves in assertiveness and confidence. To avoid hubris and arrogance, the karate student must learn respect, courteousness, modesty, yes, even humility: as a sign of absolute respect towards others and as proof of his self-control.
The tiger crest – the Shotokan Karate emblem we all know – illustrates very well the goals and intentions of Karate-do. We see a tiger depicted within a circle. (Design by the Japanese artist Hoan Kosugi, a friend and student of Funakoshi Gichin).
Both elements of the image – the tiger and the circle – are of particular importance.
For that matter, the tiger represents the animalism, ferocity, courage, unrestrained combativeness, primal power and absolute determination.
To fight successfully requires learning to fight like the tiger.
However, the tiger is not depicted unrestricted, but shown in a circle and thus constrained. In turn, the circle represents reason and the human spirit.
To fight victoriously and honorably requires control of one’s emotions and calmness.
The circle (i. e. the mind) encloses the tiger thereby taming it.
Reason and the human spirit prevail over the animalistic powers, rule and control them, in order to harness them if needed.
In my opinion, the nature and the objectives of Karate-do can hardly be more clearly illustrated than with the example of this small emblem.
However, it also becomes transparent, how closely very genuine karate instruction remains tied to the spirit and the atmosphere at the dojo. These, in turn, are determined and decisively shaped by the paragon and the example of the karate instructor teaching there.
translated from German into English by Sabine Becker
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Der Shotokan Tiger
Der sportliche Wettkampf, obgleich spektakulär und publikumswirksam, stellt nur eine kleine Facette des Karate dar, denn nicht der Wettkampf mit Erfolg und Niederlage steht im Vordergrund unserer Bemühungen, sondern das harte und beständige Training, die Auseinandersetzung mit den komplizierten und komplexen Bewegungsabläufen des Karate mit dem Ziel, Körper und Geist zu beherrschen und in Einklang miteinander zu bringen.
Immer wieder stellen die großen, alten Karatelehrer, und nicht nur die japanischen, den hohen erzieherischen Wert unserer Kampfkunst in den Mittelpunkt, wenn sie Karate unbedingt als „Do“ unterrichtet wissen wollen.
Der Begriff des „Do“ bedeutet soviel wie „Lebensweg“ oder
„Weg zur Lebensgestaltung“ und beinhaltet den Weg hin zur Selbstperfektion.
Dabei steht Karate in enger Beziehung zum Geist des Zen und ist beeinflusst vom Bushido, dem ritterlichen Ehrenkodex der Samurai.
Ziel aller Kampfkünste der Samurai war es, den jeweiligen Gegner blitzschnell und möglichst in einer Aktion kampfunfähig zu machen (Ikken Hissatsu). Diese Absicht liegt auch heute noch dem Karate zugrunde.
Zunächst einmal ist dies eine inhumane und destruktive Zielsetzung, welche unbedingt der Bindung an die sittliche Wertordnung einer reifen Persönlichkeit bedarf.
Somit hat der Karateunterricht auch die große Aufgabe und Herausforderung, den Schüler zur Erkenntnis und Einsicht seiner Verantwortung zu erziehen und ihn zu lehren, die eigenen Emotionen stets unter Kontrolle zu halten.
Stärke und Überlegenheit sollen sich in Selbstbewusstsein und Selbstvertrauen äußern. Um aber Überheblichkeit und Hochmut zu vermeiden, muss der Karateschüler Respekt, Höflichkeit, Bescheidenheit, ja Demut lernen: Als Zeichen seiner unbedingten Achtung gegenüber den Mitmenschen und als Beweis seiner Selbstbeherrschung.
Das Tiger-Wappen, das uns allen bekannte Emblem des Shotokan-Karate, verdeutlicht sehr gut die Ziele und Absichten des Karate-Do. Dargestellt sehen wir einen Tiger, der sich in einem Kreis befindet. (Entwurf des japanischen Künstlers Hoan Kosugi, eines Freundes und Schülers von Funakoshi Gishin)
Den beiden Bildelementen, dem Tiger und dem Kreis, kommt eine besondere Bedeutung zu.
Der Tiger verkörpert dabei das Animalische, Wildheit, Mut, unbändige Kampfeslust, urwüchsige Kraft und absolute Entschlossenheit.
Wer siegreich kämpfen will, muss lernen, wie ein Tiger zu kämpfen.
Der Tiger aber ist nicht frei dargestellt, sondern in einem Kreis abgebildet und gebunden. Der Kreis wiederum steht stellvertretend als Zeichen der Vernunft und des menschlichen Geistes.
Wer siegreich und ehrenvoll kämpfen will, der muss seine Emotionen kontrollieren und bedarf der Besonnenheit.
Der Kreis (Geist) umschließt und bändigt so den Tiger.
Die Vernunft und der menschliche Geist herrschen über die animalischen Kräfte, beherrschen und kontrollieren sie, um sie sich notfalls nutzbar machen zu können.
Deutlicher als am Beispiel jenes kleinen Emblems lassen sich Wesen und Ziele des Karate-Do m.E. kaum veranschaulichen.
Erkennbar wird allerdings auch, wie sehr wahrer Karateunterricht gebunden bleibt an Geist und Atmosphäre des Dojo. Diese wiederum werden bestimmt und entscheidend geprägt vom Vorbild und Beispiel des unterrichtenden Karatelehrers.