DT: Okazaki Sensei,
when did you begin your training?
I started at the age of 16 years, just as I entered the Takushoku University.
DT: At 16? That's
very young for college.
you see, that was just after the Second World War. Japan had an old system
for universities; at that time I entered under the old system and graduated
under the new system, so that's how I was able to get in at 16.
DT: Your first
instructors were who?
Okazaki: I am
really glad that Master Funakoshi has always been my instructor.
DT: So, mainly
you were taught by Funakoshi Sensei? Can you give us some impressions or memories
of Funakoshi Sensei?
I practiced for ten years under him-of course, Master Nakayama was Master
Funakoshi's assistant-then, he was for us just like a god for Karate. He was
a wonderful human being, but still. I had that experience for ten years. He
was just like. if anybody saw him on the street no one could predict that
he was a Grand Karate Master. That is to say, he was like a normal happy human
being. During the training or when he was teaching us or outside of the Dojo,
he never changed-he was always the same calm, kind person. Of course, in the
Dojo when he taught us, he gave us a lot of pressure to make us better, but
otherwise. we call that heijo shin, that's the essence of Martial Arts.
DT: Your memories
of Nakayama Sensei?
he was the second successor for Chief Instructor of the Japan Karate Association
and until he passed away he taught us. Of course being Chief Instructor meant
that he embraced all of Master Funakoshi's techniques and philosophies, but
he was very aggressive. That's why he took his Karate to introduce it throughout
the world, and that was a really big task. He was a pioneer. He was exactly
the same as Master Funakoshi, just like a copy. I never saw him angry, he
was always calm. The difference was that he had a more international outlook.
You know that Master Funakoshi brought Karate from Okinawa to Japan. Master
Nakayama introduced it from Japan through out the world. Of course, he was
in China during the war, so that's why he had some international knowledge.
DT: You were
among the first at the JKA Instructor's School?
Master Nakayama had plans to have official instructors, and I was like a test
case or guinea pig. He gave me many projects to study, practice and report
on. He analyzed everything and then started the official instructor trainees.
He contracted me to be like coach, to assist him and to coach the instructor
trainees. The first graduate was Mr. Mikami, and then Mr. Kanazawa, and Mr.
Takakura. Those were the first three graduates.
DT: So basically,
you helped to formulate the instructors curriculum?
I assisted Master Nakayama.
DT: What was
the curriculum like, both physically and mentally?
when you wanted to become an instructor it was like studying the curriculum
in an university to become a teacher. There were special courses to teach
in grammar school or high school, so that's how we started Those were based
on how to be a teacher/instructor. Then we had 43 written reports and 34 practical
training courses in how to practice by yourself, and how to teach techniques.
The 43 reports were on subjects concerning Martial Arts, like physics; the
DT: Like Bio-mechanics?
Every week they had to report on that, and it took two years. One of the pre-requisites
was a degree from a 4 year college. So, the instructor course was like graduate
study, like a Master's degree.
DT: After you
formed the curriculum, you got it initiated with Mikami Sensei, Kanazawa Sensei,
and Takakura Sensei - were you asked to go overseas or did you ask to go overseas?
see, everything was under Master Naka-yama's control-if he said you go to
such and such a place, there was no question that you were going to go. So
first Mr. Nakayama appointed Mr. Kanazawa to go to Hawaii, and second he appointed
me to go to the U.S.A. I went to the East coast, and after me, Mr. Nishiyama
was appointed to the West coast. So that was the first step. Then afterwards,
Mr. Mikami, Mr. Yaguchi, Mr. Koyama, and Mr. Takashina were sent here.
DT: Can you tell
us a little about your first experiences in the U.S.?
Okazaki: I would
say that unfortunately we didn't study English too much! Communications was
a big problem. But we bought a lot of books on oriental culture-especially
on zen. You know that's very close to budo. Then I got hundreds of questions,
and that was a problem. My friend said "Zen, how can you explain about zen?"
So, I'm very pleased about coming to this country to study. I made a lot friends.
Still I'm studying, as a human being, the difference between East and West.
DT: Can you compare
the training method you came up under, with the way you teach now and the
some of my experience that I brought from Japan wouldn't work because of the
difference in cultures and thinking. So we changed it. We have technical committees,
the majority of which is made up of senior Japanese instructors, that meet
a minimum of twice a year to discuss how to teach and communicate in the different
cultures. We discuss many things, exchange ideas and then make changes. We
never change the principles of Martial Arts, only the technical instruction.
We also have medical science committees that review subjects for us and make
recommendations. The Oriental body is different from the Western body, especially
in the structure of the knee joint. So, if you push and teach the way we do
in Japan, the Western knee can't take it. So that needs a balance, the movement
is the same, but it requires a different strengthening.
in Japan they are still doing the strengthening of legs and hips with the
"rabbit hop." We cannot do that with Westerners. We have to do a different
type of instruction. Many of them use machines to strengthen the legs and
knees. I've never been against that. Those are things that we have to take
into consideration for changes in instruction. We never change the philosophical
aspects, good discipline, how and why to bow. We have the dojo kun, the five
guidelines-our final goal. Other sports don't have that, they emphasize how
to win a gold medal or be champions. We never do that, we are practicing Martial
Arts or Karate-Do to develop ourselves to be better human beings. So that
once we are better human beings we can contribute to society. So that we can
make a better society. So we can extend that and make better countries, and
a better world. Always we teach that. At first they don't understand. How
can you do that practicing in a Karate Gi? We have to explain that. We have
a newsletter where we can discuss things like Master Funakoshi's Twenty Precepts
on how to develop yourself.
DT: Can you tell
us a little about the new organization we are hearing about?
Japan Karate Assoc-iation now has over 70 member countries, because Master
Nakayama developed instructors to send throughout the world. In the past there
has been an International Department in the Japan Karate Association Headquarters
located in Japan, and they communicated throughout the world. It was very
difficult for just one department to carry out this communication. All of
the senior instructors got together, especially those located outside of Japan,
and decided that now was the time to form the World Federation to communicate
with each other. Shotokan or JKA Karate has been out of the country for over
thirty years; that means that outside of Japan there are high ranking foreigners-
6th Dan or 7th Dan. They became high ranking because they understand about
Taking my experiences
with communicating in different countries as a small example of the larger
problem, once the World Federation is in place, all of those native instructors
will be able to communicate more easily than the Japanese instructors in their
own respective countries. So one of the reasons to form the JKA World Federation
was communications. That's why we hosted in Philadelphia the World Shoto-Cup
You know that
the Shoto-Cup is held every two years, this one was the 5th World Shoto-Cup.
At that time, the JKA president Mr. Nakahara announced the establishment of
the Japan Karate Association World Federation with its general headquarters
in Japan. Since the majority of the members are English speaking countries,
the IKA asked the International Shotokan Karate Federation- United States
to be the administration office. So technical matters will be handled in Japan,
and the administrative matters will be handled in the United States, specifically
Philadelphia. Now the two wheels will move together to make closer communications
throughout the world.
DT: And the name
is Japan Karate Association World Federation?
DT: And for
administrative matters they can contact ISKF in Philadelphia?
DT: As Funakoshi
Sensei did, and as Nakayama Sensei did, when you came to this country you
wanted to introduce Karate to colleges. Why did you want to do that, and do
you teach them differently than you would your club members?
the college students are very young - between 18 and 21 years of age, a time
when you can push as hard as you can. The regular club members are all ages.
I have a student who is 80 years old. You can't teach them the same way. Technically
you can teach the same thing, you just have to use different methods. We have
now a lot of colleges where Karate is a physical education course, and that's
what we've been trying for. We have the National Collegiate Karate Association
and Mr. Koyama is the chairman.
We have over
200 colleges as members. There are fourteen regions in the United States.
Hawaii and Alaska are in the same region. Some of the other regions are made
up of two states also. Each region has a Collegiate Karate Union. That's one
of the reasons we're having the tournament today Each region selected the
best College to represent them today at UCLA. Colleges are very important
for the future of Karate. That's why we've put some much work into developing
Collegiate Karate. I've had a lot of meetings with the heads of athletic departments.
They don't actually have any sort of knowledge about Martial Arts. I think
many of them are only interested in how to win-to beat the other colleges.
that, and there's nothing wrong with it. I try to explain what the Martial
Arts are really about. They say that they understand, but they are only interested
in how to win. It's OK for a first step, and we'll accept that. We're trying
to get into the NCAA now, but we are told that there is no budget for a Karate
department. We'll keep trying, because I think that will make it more popular
and help motivate the public to understand.
DT: In that same
vein Sensei, what are your views on the potentials of Olympic Karate?
never been against it. Once Karate is accepted as an Olympic sport more of
the public can see it. One of the things that the senior instructors are worried
about is that we don't want the same thing to happen to Karate that happened
to Judo. I don't have anything against Olympic Judo-a 100% sport. But as a
Martial Art, Judo didn't used to have a weight system for World Champion-ships.
A small person might have to go against a bigger person; that's a real Martial
Art. They changed it.
Judo' s popularity,
although at first it went up because of the Olympic games, ultimately diminished.
Outside of Japan, people were studying "Do": Kendo, Judo, Karate-do. They
liked to study oriental or especially Japanese culture to understand. Once
it became a sport I heard people saying, "Why do I want to study Judo, it's
the same as wrestling. I'd rather go learn wrestling." I've been teaching
at Temple University for almost twenty years. Judo used to be a popular physical
education course. They've abandoned it because people would rather take wrestling.
People say that there's not much difference. So, that's why the senior instructors
are saying, "We don't want to go that way." We don't have anything against
Olympic Judo, but there is still that same danger.
We are teaching
now the same way as Master Funakoshi taught and that's how we would like to
see Olympic Karate. We would be glad to see Karate as an Olympic event, and
we would support it I00% if there are no changes.
DT: On a personal
note, do you have a preference for Ippon shobu or Sanbon shobu with weight
Okazaki: We would
like to see Olympic Karate to introduce the public to Karate and increase
its popularity. Budo and Sports, for instance a tournament itself is already
a sport. In real Budo, shobu, they say, means to kill each other. They'll
never fight that way; nobody wants to die. So tournaments are really sports,
we don't have any contact. We've had to compromise; but the traditions never
change. So there's nothing really wrong with Ippon or Sanbon. We are basically
doing Ippon shobu, you have one chance to protect yourself. For final matches,
Sanbon shobu is more popular so we do that. So its a compromise between sports
and Martial Arts, but the principle is budo.
DT: As an instructor
who owns a business obviously, how do you explain to a parent who comes into
you and expresses a concern over their son or daughter learning Karate-"Oh,
it's too violent," or, "I don't know about this."?
Okazaki: We always
get questions. We explain that we are teaching the five principles outlined
in the dojo kun, that this is our final goal. At first the parents don't understand,
but after watching how we train they get the idea.
way to explain it is that any Karate movement begins with a block, it never
begins with an attack. That's the best principle-we never fight, we stop the
fight. If you analyze the characters in budo, it's stop the fight, the aim
is peace, that's what we teach. We give them very strict discipline. The kids
change their attitudes, they have respect for their parents and their seniors.
The parents love it. Sometimes the kids get tired and their parents have to
tell them to "go to the Dojo, go to the Dojo." That's my greatest pleasure.
I can say that
American kids are sometimes spoiled; but once they've come to the Dojo for
at least three months and practiced there is a big change. The parents are
really surprised. We have a large number of kids. It's not like daycare center,
we try really hard not physically so much, but in things like manners and
DT: Have you
found that teaching has become more difficult over the last thirty years?
I know that when my brother and I began our training we didn't think twice
about an instructor walking by with a Shinai and giving quick taps on the.
We didn't view it as abuse. Sometimes in California we have liability issues.
Is that a concern for the ISKF?
tell you this much, it's not a joke. When I first came to this country the
Japan Karate Association president was Mr. Kosaka. At that time he was the
Foreign Minister. One night before I came to this country, he hosted a farewell
party for all the senior instructors. He just told me: "Okazaki, if you go
to the United States the first thing you'll have to do is have some friends
who are doctors and lawyers." That's what he told me, right? At first I didn't
understand. That was like 30 or 35 years ago, I thought, "What is he talking
about?" I just said, "Yes sir, yes sir." Then I thought about what he had
said after I came to this country, and he was right.
During our training
we try our best to make people understand what is real Karate-do, we have
to be strict-but you have to have control. You cannot physically abuse. Of
course injuries are possible if you do that. I have a Shinai, it depends on
how it is used. If you hit hard it's no good, but if you make a good sound
they wake up. Think about it as an instructional method; 30 or 40 years ago
in society, both in this country and Japan, things were different. The young
people were educated differently.
Thirty or 40
years ago they didn't have computers or calculators like today. Now even in
grammar school the kids can get a push-button answer, and that's where they
are mentally. A long time ago you had to use a paper and pencil to think your
way to the answer. It's the same way with human beings. Now, the basics are
the same: they are human beings, but the mental attitude is different. For
instance, they feel that if you pay this much, you get something. That's what
they believe. We can't blame them. They are like part of a machine. There's
so much crime-why? Because they spend so much time thinking about crime.
They don't practice
how to think. So they need physical exercise, like Karate-do or other sports
to remind them that if you don't sweat and work hard you can't accomplish
anything. That's why it is very important to practice, but the teaching methods
have to change; if you tried to do it like 40 years ago you wouldn't have
any members. That's why when our instructors get together we emphasize patience.
To understand. From a ranking perspective, when they reach brown belt they
are about 60% there as far as understanding about Martial Art-now you can
push a little harder to make them better. Once they reach Black Belt usually
they don't quit, unless something happens in their lives. That's the future.
To make a better society.