Master Takashi Kyooka was born in 1951 and is 41 years old (note: the article
is some years old). His Karate training started when he was 18 upon his entry
to Chuo University, Tokyo. He immediately became a devoted follower of the Shotokai
School, dedicating himself completely, obtaining the fifth dan degree very fast,
the highest grade obtained in Shotokai. He was secretary of the Nihon Karate-do
Shotokai in Japan and worked constantly under close collaboration with Egami
Sensei, founder of the Shotokai style and a longtime student of Master
Gichin Funakoshi. He presents his view of Karate in this article:
Karate, as many other Martial Arts, has become a fashion in Europe, but I must
ascertain, with some sadness on the other hand, that for the great majority, the
Martial Arts are not understood or they are knowingly modified. In fact, many
people have a tendency to believe that Karate is a sport as boxing, tenis, etc.
Tournaments have contributed to this state of events, but I will return to this
subject later on. I would like to explain to you the idea of Karate, which is
also Egami Sensei's.
Karate-do, as all Martial Arts, is a way to learn about life. Karate is life itself,
I would like to explain myself:
Why do the training sessions need to be very tough?
To "break" our body, to fatigue all that is muscular in it. Once you have gotten
to this point, you must continue, and it is then that Karate truly begins, because
only your spirit (in other words, your will) can get to the moment where you must
continue. Your will, alone, can do hundred times more than simply considering
the fatigue of your muscles.
Miyamoto sensei (left) and Kyooka
A clarifying example
could be the following: How long do you think you could hang from your hands on
a fixed bar with your feet twenty centimeters from the ground? Fifteen minutes?,
half an hour?, maybe. But, if instead of twenty centimeters, there are five hundred
meters of free fall under your feet and your life is at stake. Much longer of
course, because it is not any longer the same arm, nor the same muscle.
KEIKO (training), must thus be the school
of the will. It is also the school of harmony and the understanding of
others. How can you obtain this objective? Through concentration and the work
in direction of anticipation, thus the importance of "unlimited" movements. This
movement is trained by two: an attacker and an attacked. The attacked party concentrates
strongly on the adversary and anticipates the attack, in other words, when the
attacked party feels the attack, he evades it and counterattacks. To obtain this
a very strong concentration is necessary; all the brains activities must be concentrated
on the adversary, the body must be completely relaxed, without any type of contraction.
Only the spirit is in this "unlimited hyperalert" state, this is combat, because
in the course of a real combat, a factor that must not be forgotten, to be able
to win, is to be in harmony with your adversary. I think that during Keiko, you
learn human relationship, you learn to live among others, to be in harmony with
nature. To get "there" work always lower (lower stances) and always try to jump
I will write here what I would say about competition. Personally I am against
it. The reasons are very simple: the first one is an almost philosophical reason.
You must not practice Martial Arts to be the best one but to be a better person.
What benefit would I obtain knowing I am the best karateka in Japan? None whatsoever.
But on the contrary, to know I can stay more time in Kiba-dachi than yesterday,
I show myself that I have won a bit compared to my "I" of yesterday.
The second reason is the following: In Europe, and maybe even more so, in the
U.S.A., all the work is oriented towards the efficiency in combat. The Budo philosophy
has been completely abandoned. Karate thus becomes purely a sport. I would have
preferred that it should be given some other name, because even the basic techniques
have been modified (in many USA clubs, the Kata are no more than symbols).
Convince yourselves then, that Karate-do is a state of the spirit, a way of life,
a philosophy. To discover this idea, the narrow tunnel is opened by the years
of practice. Here in Japan, we go even further. Once you attain a fifth dan, which
you obtain faster than in Europe, we practice normally three hours a day here
at the Chuo University. Master Egami was our true judge; he taught us "spiritual"
Keiko. This may be difficult for you to understand.
In the beginning, we worked on concentration. During three months, regularly,
every day, we would stay one hour with a bokto (heavy wooden sword), in
guard, without moving and without closing our eyes, later, after an hour, we'd
do a single movement, in which we would liberate all the energy we had stored
up during the preceding hour. In a second phase, always with the same regularity,
we'd run four kilometers as an average, in twenty minutes and this without transpiring
(I told you I would it would be difficult to understand!). To do two kilometers
in usakotobi-geri (rabbit hop) is also a part of the "spiritual" Keiko.
Why this? Well, once more, to strengthen ourselves, to break our bodies, to develop
the will, to be in harmony with the universe and to learn more about breathing
too. Do not forget that all Martial Arts have the same goal: to learn how to breath,
it is our breathing that permits us to live and this is attained through the practice
Interview of Master Kyooka.
By Henry Kan in Tokyo,
From the "Karate" Magazine, 1992.
Translated to english by