Interview with Shihan Kanazawa

Master Kanazawa speaks for his Art (Excerpted from 4 different interviews)

Hirokazu Kanazawa is a world-renowned Japanese master of Shotokan karate. He is the Chief instructor and President of the Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation, an organisation he founded after he left the Japan Karate Association. Wikipedia

Kancho (Hirokazu Kanazawa)“The most important points of my teaching are breathing, movement and timing. But breathing is first…. the first thing we do in this world is to breathe and, you know, even today, 90% of people do not know how to breathe correctly. If the breathing is wrong, your body will go wring – your mind will be wrong also – there is a very strong connection. You control your spirit with your breathing and we should always be thinking and trying to learn more about this most vital aspect – it is the very core of life.

With time and thought, I have come to an appreciation that winning can be done with using only 60% of your power – 100% is not necessary if you have good waza (technique) – just enough is sufficient! Whereas before I would try to use all of my power to accomplish something, now I try to use only 60% and rest the other 40%. To simplify, if I use 60% correctly and I also use 40% of my opponent’s power against him, the total is still 100% and the combination will result in more damage to him. I must say that my Tai-chi training and studies have greatly influenced my personal style of karate.

I have been accused of changing the Kata but there have always been differences in the performance of Kata. Not only the obvious style differences in the various ryu(schools), like when the same Kata is performed by the Shotokan, the Shitoryu and the Wadoryu, but also minor differences from how you interpret the move and also from your age and physical capabilities. In the Kata, Nijushiho,two side thrust kicks are performed … a twenty year old may have no difficulty performing them but forty years later . . . how will it be then? The same technique cannot be expected of a sixty year old -rather he should just lift the leg, as the kick was originally done. Likewise, I have sometimes taught a roundhouse kick in the Kata ‘Enpi’.I did this because no other Kata contains a standing roundhouse kick. I felt that the addition of this kick was beneficial – yet it did not change the basic concept of the kata.

I have developed several new techniques. One example is my tsuki – this, I believe, has developed considerably since my younger days, but it happed sub-consciously – I mean. I was not thinking about it, it just automatically developed. I now have a double focus (kime) . . . physical focus first, then a speed focus, which gives a lot more shock. I did not realize what l was doing until it was pointed out to me by a very famous teacher in Japan, Mr. Matsuda Ryuchi, an authority on Chinese martial arts. He visited many karate H.Q’s. in Japan and he wrote, in his observations that only two people had impressed him on his trouble- a Mr. lwai, lwai, a Goju-ryu and Wado-ryu sensei and myself. He told me that my punch was from Chinese Kempo, but I was unaware of that fact.

The standard of karate is universally high and the level is now equal worldwide. Unfortunately, there is one important aspect that has not developed along with the physical abilities and that is the philosophy of karate – this is a very neglected part of karate and this neglect is true not only in the West but also in Japan.

I dislike and disagree with the trend that karate is viewed as (and indeed has virtually become) merely a sport in many people’s eyes. The karate of the J K.A. (Kanazawa was formerly Chief Instructor of’ the International Section of the J.K.A. Editor) has become a very hard karate – based essentially on competitive fighting. In such an environment, there is a tendency to practice only that which works in competitions and forget the rest. So it is a karate of force and therefore it becomes more and more elitist, suitable only for a particular group of karate-ka – the young, strong men. That is a contradiction of my basic idea, which is karate for all and for all your life.

My philosophy is that I try always to be true to myself and to others … I can say that I fear nothing – not even death, and this I do not say in a big-headed or conceited way. My meaning is that I always try my best in everything I do, so I will be satisfied when I do die – I think the reason that people fear death is because they want to do and accomplish so many other things that are still undone . . . they always want to do more.
Also, I truly believe that life continues after physical death – all life continues … life is a circle.

In the art of Karate, the basic forms and movements are practiced without any opponent. By just imagining the opponent a Karateist can fulfil every form practiced. It is very important therefore that while practicing, the Karateist put his whole heart, soul and mind into the form. Then the purpose of defeating an opponent becomes complete, for all of these cannot be done at random. A person may study Karate for years, but if he is only moving his hands and feet he will not be able to understand the true meaning of Karate.

In sparring, a Karateist should concentrate his heart, mind and soul into the art. Concentration plays an extremely important part in sparring. It is so important that the slightest distortion in thinking can cause serious injury to the opponent or yourself . Therefore sparring should be done with the utmost seriousness.

Karate is a good teacher and builder of character. For a Karateist who goes through the ups and downs of training, it will help him to control himself in whatever else he does, and through patience he will be able to build up his personality and create a harmonious character. But he can only realize this within himself and gradually discover the real spirit of Karate.
Karate, through its physical and spiritual training and rigid principles, has taught me to control myself. I am confident that in no matter what kind of situation I am in, I would not carelessly use Karate to defend myself. One must always be in a defensive attitude and avoid entanglements for Karate seeks no advantage. In Karate you start with defense and end with defense.”