Hokusai and Claude Debussy ドビュッシーへの北斎の影響とは

Today I am touching an unusual subject. You will be surprised as it is not related to martial arts at all. It is rather to pure art of drawing and music. I am not sure if the readers are interested in this but if you are interested in the classical music and the Japanese art of Ukiyoe, you may find this interesting.


So, the interesting subject is, believe it or not, that the Japanese art of the Edo period had an influence on that of the 19th century Europe. What I want to share today is that there was an interesting relationship between Hokusai (a famous Ukiyoe painter, image below left) and Claude Debussy, a famous composer (photo right).

Believe it or not, one interesting key element in the creation of Debussy’s most concentrated and brilliant orchestral work, La Mer comes in the form of Hokusai’s iconic “Under the Wave off Kanagawa”—also known as “Great Wave”. Its popularity emblematic of the Japonisme movement that overtook France in the mid-nineteenth century. While a student in Rome from 1885–87, Debussy was often rummaging through the city’s antique shops and purchasing Japanese artifacts to take back to Paris. It comes as no surprise, then, that his studio would retain many of these objects, and chief among the Japanese artwork Debussy kept on his walls was a framed print of Hokusai’s “Great Wave.” (photo below right)



I also share an article on this by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that describes the details of the background of the work done by Debussy and the influence he received from the Ukiyoe works, particularly by Hokusai.


Hokusai and Debussy’s Evocations of the Sea by The Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Cultural circles throughout Europe greatly admired Hokusai’s work—a result of the 1853 treaty that opened commercial trade between Japan and the West and therefore created a prolific market for Japanese art, particularly in France. Major artists of the Impressionist movement such as Monet owned copies of Hokusai prints, and leading art critic Philippe Burty, in his 1866 Chefs-d’oeuvre des Arts industriels, even stated that Hokusai’s work maintained the elegance of Watteau, the fantasy of Goya, and the movement of Delacroix. Going one step further in his lauded comparisons, Burty wrote that Hokusai’s dexterity in brush strokes was comparable only to that of Rubens.


The aesthetic parallels between Hokusai and Debussy within their respective disciplines are many, as both artists chose style over realism and placed an intense focus on brilliant color and vibrant energy. Just as Japanese art of the Edo period prized decorative motives independent of system or conventional development, so did Debussy have distaste for formal structure, motivic development, and the use of strict musical forms that composers adhered to during the Classical and Romantic periods.

For both artists, creating dynamic new colors and a sense of motion was of chief importance, and their work moves well beyond that of mere portraiture. The ferocious height and terrifying form of Hokusai’s wave are amplified by his use of the then-rare “Prussian blue” and a jarring sense of perspective that keeps the eye from focusing on the print’s primary subject, Mount Fuji. As such, Debussy’s sea isn’t composed of cymbal crashes and fluttering flutes that allude to a literal oceanic sound, but instead the composer uses a group of sixteen cellos (twice the number found in a standard orchestra) to breathe life into a heaving, slowly blossoming chorale in the first movement, and pentatonic harmonies to create a sense of the ocean’s vast expanse. In fact, one of the only differences between the two artists lies in their portrayal of the sea’s power: Hokusai highlights the cultural fear of the water that ominously surrounded his country, whereas Debussy imbues his work with a sense of wistful nostalgia at the respite the coast provides in his.


Hokusai’s work as a point of inspiration for Debussy was solidified by the composer’s use of a detail crop of “the Great Wave” (image below) on the cover of the 1905 first edition of La Mer p

ublished by A. Durand & Fils. Debussy was notorious for personally curating the cover artwork for his scores (he called it his “cover mania”), and in choosing “the Great Wave”—an image already so recognizable throughout Western Europe—Debussy immediately brought a sense of familiarity and exoticism to his new work. Just as Hokusai’s print was on its way to the immortality it enjoys today as a symbol of the finest of nineteenth-century Japanese art, so was Debussy advertising that his new orchestral score would contain the power, elegance, and color of the work represented on its cover. And, in one last act of homage, Debussy placed his name on the score in the exact position where Hokusai’s is located on his own work—floating in the sky, safely above the wave.

I hope this essay was interesting to you. In fact, this is not the only case of influence by Ukiyoe made upon European art world in the 19th and 20 centuries. I will share the other specific examples in the future.


If you are interested in this subject, here is a short video (7 min 39 sec), “La Mer of Japan” explaining this relationship.

日籍空手道老师与西方空手道老师 A Japanese Karate Sensei vs a non-Japanese karate sensei

比较日籍空手道老师与西方空手道老师对很多人来说可能是一个敏感和有争议的话题。 事实上,我认为这种比较几乎没有什么意义,因为每个老师都不一样,他们的资格差异也很大。 在大多数的情况下,他们来自何处并不重要。


话虽如此,我却也很高兴在这里分享我个人的意见。 我之所以决定写这篇文章,是因为我收到了很多这样的咨询。 “亲爱的老师,我需要你的帮助。 我住在xxx(大部分时间来自欧洲国家)。 我一直在寻找一个空手道道场,但我找不到一个有日籍老师的道场。 我能做些什么呢?”


首先,我们必须问的问题是,当你第一次学习空手道时,日籍老师是否必要。 我可以很肯定地说,没有必要。 我非常清楚一位想要开始空手道训练的人很自然的会想要有一位日籍老师。 你很自然的会相信或者想相信一位日籍老师肯定会比西方老师“优秀”。


事实上,当你开始你的空手道训练时,有一位日籍老师也可能对你会有负面的影响。 很多人都知道日本人不善与用英语来进行指导。 我不能对说西班牙语,德语,法语等其他语言的老师进行评论,所以我这里的说法可能不适用于在日本以外居住的所有日本人。 我只是在讨论我在美国见到的日本教师。 其次,如果在某个高段的日籍教师的道场上课,而且他有很多学生,那么作为初学者,你可能无法直接受教与他。 您可能由助理(西方)老师指导,几个月甚至几年的时间。


如果一个高段的日籍老师在你的城镇或城市附近经营一个道场,你可以考虑加入那里。 如果没有,只要是一个合格的教师任何本地的教练都不是问题。 我不会在这里描述如何找到一个合格的教练。 如今,我们有许多优秀的互联网工具来检查人们的背景和组织,因此您可以轻松地对想要去的教练和他的道场或组织进行彻底的搜索。


在我一生,我遇到过许多非日籍的老师,我必须告诉你,有很多西方的老师都是很有素质的。 事实上,有些甚至比我所知道的一些日籍老师更好。


一旦你成为二段或以上的高段水平,你可能想要寻找一名资深的日本教练,或者在日本进行一些训练,以进一步提高自己的水平。 因为这可能牵扯一些政治因素,所以你的西方教练可能会因此觉得被冒犯,而不祝福你的举动。 你必须就此事作出自己的决定。 当你作出最后的决定时,你必须仔细思考,你必须决定什么对你的空手道及其发展是最好的。 空手道是一个完整系统,不仅包括空手道技术,还包括日本文化和武术教学。 因此,日本的高级指导员往往比非日本人有更好的资质。 这个特殊的资质是很多非西方导师所缺乏的,这不是他们的错,而是因为他从未在日本生活过。


同时,你必须意识到,有个日籍教师也会有一些缺点。 除了语言能力,我发现很多日籍导师往往拥有自己很强烈的观点。 再加上去日本旅行和在那里进行培训可能会非常昂贵。 在那里训练一个星期或只是一个周末研讨会,对大家来说都是很有益及很有乐趣的。 在现阶段,要如何进行及完成个人的空手道旅程完全取决于他们采取什么样的最佳方式。 因为每个人的情况和环境差异很大,我几乎不可能告诉大家什么是最有益的。


最后对于那些对空手道训练非常认真的空手道家,我想说的是最重要的老师是你自己。 你能不能致力的改善或完成超过一半的挑战。 第二个重要的老师是你在日常训练中会遵循的老师。 技术越高(我指的是他的知识而不是他的段位),你发展的潜力也更高。 另外,请记住,空手道是一个完整的配套,不仅包括空手道技能,还包括武术文化和教学。 此外,你绝对不能忘记教练的性格也是非常重要的。 如果你不想成为像他一样的人,那么即使他是空手道的专家,他也不是你因该追随的老师。 你需要考虑你想成为什么样的人,你的老师必须是一个你能为之自豪的模范。


我希望你能很幸运的找到了这样的老师。 他或她不需要是日本人,但必须是你可以信任的人,带领你度过每一天。 如果你还没有找到这样的人,我希望你会决心寻找一个。即使需要几年的时间。 在日本,我们有两个老教诲。


一个教诲是 「三年勤め学ばんよりは、三年師を選ぶべし」“Sannen tsutome manaban yoriha, sannen shi wo erabubeshi”。 这意味着,如果你想在武道中脱颖而出,就算花上三年也要找到一位良师,而不是闭门造车。


另一个教诲是  「師は必要な時に現われる」, “Shi ha hitsuyona tokini arawareru”。这是我最喜欢的教诲,因为这意味着“正真的老师会在时间成熟时出现”。这不是很好吗? 我个人认为这个教学是真的。 我之所以这么说,是因为在过去五十多年的武术之旅中确实发生了几次。 如果你还没有找到一个良师,又或如果你还没找到一个,对自己有信心,不要放弃。 我相信你将来会遇到一个,但记得你必须保持开明放开放的眼界。


再次告诉大家,这篇文章是基于我个人的观点和信仰。 你觉得呢? 告诉我你的想法和你的老师。



Why do all the first steps of Heian kata go to the left side? (Part 2) 何故平安形の第一歩は左側に進むのか

(Part 1 title: The first step of Tekki is to the right and it is to the left side with Heian kata)


In the earlier part of this essay (it is posted under the title of “The first step of Tekki is to the right and it is to the left side with Heian kata”) , I concluded that Itosu decided to make the first steps of Heia/Pinan to the left side because all the first steps of Tekki/Naihanchi kata go to the right side. This is only my assumption and there is no document by Itosu or anyone related to him on this subject so we really do not know.

Regardless of the reason, it is definitely a fact that all the first steps of Heian kata from Shodan to Godan go to the left side or the 9 o’clock direction. I feel we need to look deeper to find out why Itosu chose to move in this direction instead of stepping forward or backward.

It is also interesting to see that zenkutsu dachi is used in the first steps of Heian Shodan only. For all other Heian kata, neko ashi dachi is used for the first step (for Shotokan this stance was changed to kokutsu dachi by Funakoshi after he migrated to Tokyo). Though this is also an interesting subject to research as to why neko ashi dachi was favored in Heian kata by Itosu, we will not discuss this in this essay. For those who are interested, I have written a separate essay on this subject in the past. You can find it in Shotokan Mysteries, Chapter 1: Funakoshi’s New Techniques.

For now, we need to focus on the interesting subject of why all the first steps of Heian are done to the left side. Before we jump into this, I think it is worthwhile for us to see the first step of other Shotokan kata. As we all know that there are 26 standard Shotokan kata (list below) honored by most of the Shotokan organizations.


If we discount the 8 total kata of Heian and Tekki from the total list, we have 18 kata left and they are listed below.  The list also shows which direction the first step takes. Note that some kata have an in position (no feet movement) moves initially; Kanku dai, Chinte and Unsu. We discount those moves and the list shows the very first foot step, therefore it may not be necessarily the first body motion.


Bassai dai                steps forward (12 o’clock)

Bassai sho               steps forward (12 o’clock)

Hangetsu                 steps forward (12 o’clock)

Chinte                      left foot forward (12 o’clock) to make kiba dachi

Sochin                      steps forward (12 o’clock)

Gojushiho dai           steps forward (12 o’clock

Gojushiho sho          steps forward (12 o’clock)

Unsu                       steps forward (12 o’clock)


Jion                          left foot steps back (6 o’clock)

Jutte                         left foot steps back (6 o’clock)

Jiin                           left foot steps back (6 o’clock)

Gankaku                   right foot steps back (6 o’clock)

Nijusshiho                right foot steps back (6 o’clock)


Kanku dai:              stepping left foot to 9 o’clock, facing 9 o’clock

Enpi                         left foot takes half a step to 9 o’clock, facing 12 o’clock

Wankan                   diagonally left forward in 30 to 45 degrees in neko ashi dachi


Meikyo                    right foot moving to 3 o’clock (kiba dachi), facing 12 o’clock

Kanku sho               stepping right foot back to 3 o’clock but facing 9 o’clock


Here are the interesting statistics of the first step:

Forward:  8 cases

Note: See an added comment below about Chinte.

Backward: 5 cases

To the left (including diagonal): 3 cases

To the right: 2 cases


Have you checked this before? What do you think? Is this list surprising to you? These numbers are very interesting but not too surprising, at least not to me. As we expected, 8 out of 16 kata, or 50% of these kata have the first step moving toward 12 o’clock. I must point out that there is one exception in these six kata. Five of them face and execute the technique to 12 o’clock, however, in Chinte you step forward to make kiba dachi but you face and deliver the technique to 3 o’clock. Even its first technique is delivered (from heisoku dachi) to 3 o’clock.


It is also interesting that the first step in 5 of the kata is to step back. I assume that most of the readers were taught that in kata our motions are always forward and stepping backward is a poor move. It is obvious that stepping forward toward the imagined opponent is the best move and stepping away or backward is most disadvantageous. Even during the kata, we do not see any stepping back movement except in Gojushiho dai and sho (steps 55 – 57 in Sho, 52 – 54 in Dai, illustration right) and the other cases of taking one of the legs back from kosa dachi (Kanku dai, Enpi, Jion, etc). Some people may point out the last three steps or hops of Chinte are moving back. However, it is a known fact that those three steps were added in the middle of the 20th century. The reason why they were added was simple, the ending spot would be about 3 steps forward of the starting spot. This was a problem in kata competition as we are supposed to return to the starting point. In order to “fix” this problem, these three strange hopping backwards (steps 33 B, 34 A and 34 B, illustration left) were added. This is not my pure guessing. You can easily see the original kata by Shorin ryu and you will find that it has no hops.


There are only two kata whose first step moves to the right side or 3 o’clock. In Meikyo, though the first step is to 3 o’clock you will face and deliver technique to 12 o’clock which is similar to Tekki Sandan. In Kanku sho, though the first step is to 3 o’clock, you will face and deliver the technique to 9 o’clock. This means there is no kata that faces to 3 o’clock in the first step with the possible exception of Chinte. So out of all those 18 major Shotokan kata, there is no kata that you step to the right (3 o’clock) and deliver the technique to the right side. This is why it is interesting that we find this movement in Tekki Shodan and Nidan in which you step and deliver the technique to the right side (though I am aware that the most popular bunkai for this movement in Tekki Nidan is to break a hold and throw the opponent from behind).

There are three kata that develop to the left side: Kanku dai, Enpi and Wankan.  However, in Enpi, though you move the left foot to 9 o’clock, you face and deliver the technique to 12 o’clock (illustration right). Therefore, obviously the imaginary opponent is positioned in front (12 o’clock) and not to the left side (9 o’clock). If you add Kanku sho from another category (above), there are three kata (Kanku dai, Wankan and Kanku sho) that develop to the left side (to 9 o’clock).


So we found that out of the 18 kata, only three of them develop to the left side. We also found that most of the first steps are either stepping forward or backward. Then, why didn’t Itosu follow suit with this trend? Was that an error or did he miss this? I do not believe so. I believe he intentionally chose to make the first step as well as the direction of the first technique to the left side.


I concluded this hypothesis from studying the physical mechanism. Before I explain what this physical mechanism is that I referred to above, I wish to remind the readers to remember why Heian kata were created a little more than one century ago. Yes, they were created for the middle school (for 12 to 16 years old students) physical education. In other words, Itosu designed a series of “easy” kata for the young students for the physical fitness purpose and those students were totally novice to karate training.


Obviously for the purpose of martial art, it makes more sense to formulate a kata based on an actual fighting situation. Thus, it is natural to make the first step to either step forward or backward as you will fight an opponent who is in front of you. Even if you find an opponent on your left or right side, it is unwise if you do not face the opponent first. Thus, a kata that starts with a step to left or right side and delivering a technique to a side cannot be classified as a martial art minded kata. Itosu knew this but he created Heian in that way on purpose.


What are the reasons? Now this is the core question of this essay. The hypothesis I have is purely my own guesses based on the movements I find in Heian kata. I am happy to share them and I would like to hear from the readers if they think my ideas make any sense.

OK I think there are at least three reasons why Itosu picked the first step and technique delivery to the left side.


  1. Natural left rotation including our solar system

You do not need to be a scientist to know that it is more natural to rotate in a counter clockwise direction. It is known that our Solar System that all of the planets, with the exception of Venus, rotate counter clockwise even the moon rotates counter clockwise (as observed in the northern hemisphere). It is also a known fact that most of the figure skaters choose to spin in that direction. Also, we know that a track not only for tack-and-field events but also for indoor bicycle racing, running the bases in baseball, speed skating, Roller Derby and even NASCAR racing is set in the counter clockwise direction. Also, notice that is the direction for merry-go-rounds and revolving doors. I can name more examples but I believe I have made my point. I am sure there is a scientific reason but I believe it is simply because our planet revolves in that direction we feel more natural to turn that way. Regardless of the reason or reasons, our body seems to feel comfortable in an instinctive way when we turn in that direction.

Both Heian and Tekki are training or kihon kata. The first martial art or budo kata is Bassai dai. The first step of this kata is to move (or almost jump) forward and this makes the most sense from a martial art perspective. This is the correct direction to practice. On the other hand, as I will explain further in the next point, being able to move forward quickly is not an easy technique thus it requires a lot of training.

So here is my hypothesis. Itosu, having known this, intentionally chose turning the body left as the first movement. He knew this body movement was much easier and better for the novice students with their introductory kata.


  1. The foot: a shape for natural shifting

I believe I have written an essay on the definite relationship between the shape of our foot and the body shifting mechanism of Tekki kata in the past. Since it is a simple concept I will repeat it here. As you can see the illustration on the right, our foot is designed to be longer than its width. You may feel it is so natural that you do not think about it twice. The shin bone is positioned not in the center but rather towards the back or the heel.

This design makes the body steadier or better balanced with the body forward. In other words, you can keep your balance pretty well even if someone would push you from behind. However, if someone pushes you from the front, you tend to lose your balance much easier. The same thing can be said when the pressure comes from either the left or right side. Of course, you have two feet so you can keep your balance with both of them firmly planted. Try this when you are standing on only one leg.

You can manage your balance well when you are losing it towards the front as you can bend your knee and tighten your calf muscle. At the same time, there is a lag of time if you wish to move forward. On the other hand, it is much easier to lose balance to the rear and the sides. As we do not consider moving backward as a wise choice so we will skip this direction in this essay. So, the conclusion is it is easier to lose your balance and that translates to that you can move or body shift faster. Just as the creator of Tekki designed to move only sideways, Itosu used the same concept in Heian kata.

Shifting to a side may not be a wise or a desirable move from a martial art perspective, it is, however, a useful training method for a karate novice to learn how to shift smoothly and swiftly. In fact, many of the Judo techniques are to the sides, they teach and practice how to fall sideways correctly or without getting injured (illustration right).

I conclude and praise that Itosu choice of this concept in the first step of Heian kata was very wise and also innovative.


  1. Easier to make a hanmi (半身) position

For the beginners it is typically taught that the first technique in kata (and karate in general) is a block. For instance, it is gedan barai in Heian shodan, chudan uchi uke in Heian Sandan and Godan. Those blocking techniques must have a hanmi or half hip stance. In addition, other than Shodan, the stance in the first move of other Heian kata is neko ashi dachi (or kokutsu dachi) which is a defensive stance and works better with hanmi.

You can try this on your own, to shift to one side is not only faster but is also better suited to form a good hanmi. This is so simple because making hanmi is natural as the sides of your body is already turned either to your left or right side before you start your first step. Itosu could have picked the right side but he chose the left side for the reasons I have explained in Part 1 of this essay.

Try the first step of any one of the Heian kata. You will bring your left hip by stepping forward with your left foot to the 9 o’clock direction in your first step. As you deliver either chudan or jodan uchi uke, you will discover that you are in a distinctive half hip stance and capable of making an excellent hanmi zenkutsu and much easier regardless of the stances of Zenkutsu, Neko ashi and Kokutsu.

After trying it on your own, did you see if what I am proposing above is true or not? I am sure you have felt with your body that it is much easier to make a good hanmi when you shift to your left side compared to step forward that you typically do in your kihon training.

Here is Itosu’s idea (according to my theory). A novice, first, learns how to quickly body shift to the left side in all Heian kata. He will learn next, shifting to the right side with Tekki kata.  Therefore, after these kata, the student can begin to practice body shifting forward as found in Bassai dai.


OK these are my ideas for the reasons why Itosu chose to make all the first steps in five Heian kata a step to the left side or 9 o’clock direction. I want to emphasize that the first steps of these five kata did not come about by an accident or without much thought behind them. I conclude that the creator, Itosu, put a lot of consideration and made them very strategic moves.

Les Sensei Japonais sont-ils des dieux? 日本人の空手の先生は神様か?

( Attention: le sujet est controversé)


 J’écris cet article parce que j’ai trouvé le poste suivant sur Facebook, qui a été écrit par M. Adrian Linton, le 28 juillet. J’ai reçu sa permission de le citer ici.

‘’S’il vous plaît, arrêtez de me demander si je suis bien. Je ne suis qu’un karatéka qui ne peut plus gérer les conneries, en particulier celles de karatéka qui ne peuvent pas appliquer leur karaté dans la rue.

J’aime vraiment les pratiquants martiaux honnêtes qui sont ouverts d’esprit. Cependant, je déteste ceux qui pensent que les karatéka japonais sont des dieux. La plupart d’entre eux ne gagnerait pas un combat dans un air de jeux pour enfants. Jamais ils ne pourraient  penser remporter une victoire sur la rue.L’autre jour, je regardais Okamoto sensei de la JKS. Elle a des techniques fantastiques et un kata remarquable, mais ses capacités au combat de rue ne sont pas existantes. Alors, pourquoi est-ce différent pour le karaté sportif? Je me refuse à en dire plus maintenant par respect pour les autres karatékas. Mes propos ne sont que ma vision personnelle du karaté OSS’’.Adrian 

(Version originale anglaise)


Cette publication a attiré mon attention par hasard l’autre jour et j’ai senti que j’avais besoin d’aborder certains des points qu’il a soulevés. Il est facile de constater qu’il était bouleversé et semblait frustré. Pendant ma lecture, j’ai réalisé rapidement que sa frustration pouvait être une opinion, probablement partagée par beaucoup d’autres karatékas



Il a soulevé plusieurs points importants et j’ai trouvé que deux d’entre eux étaient ,selon moi, très valables. J’ai décidé de rendre mon opinion publique et j’ai pensé que mes lecteurs seraient intéressés d’avoir l’opinion d’un instructeur japonais. Avant de me lancer, je dois préciser que je ne suis  pas en accord avec toutes les déclarations qu’il a faites (Adrian).



Par exemple, je ne suis pas d’accord avec sa déclaration au sujet de la JKS et de Sensei Okamoto (photo à gauche). Je trouve que son commentaire est injuste. Pour autant que je sache, ses capacités au combat de rue n’ont jamais été vérifiées ou testées. M. Linton peut savoir quelque chose que je ne sais pas pour faire une telle déclaration. Quoi qu’il en soit, il aurait été plus juste s’il avait expliqué comment il est arrivé à cette conclusion.


Quoi qu’il en soit, permettez-moi de passer aux deux points qu’il a formulés dans son post.


  1. Le karatéka japonais n’est pas un dieu.


2. Le karatéka qui ne peut pas appliquer le karaté dans la rue est le même que le karatéka sportif.









Voici mes reflexions.

Premier point:

Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec son opinion. Bien que je sois très fier d’être Japonais, je ne pense pas qu’un sensei japonais de karaté devrait être traité comme un dieu. Je suis sûr que mon commentaire va bouleverser certain sensei japonais et leurs adeptes. J’ai entendu des histoires dans lesquelles certains sensei japonais avaient fait des demandes déraisonnables. Je pense que c’est mal et ce n’est pas bon pour le karaté.

Peut-être, par le terme «dieux», M. Linton a voulu dire «maîtres». Même avec cette définition, je suis d’accord que le simple fait d’être un sensei japonais ne devrait pas automatiquement être qualifié de maître. Cette personne peut détenir un haut rang, comme 8e ou 9e dan et plus, il peut même être un champion national ou avoir été champion du monde par le passé. Même avec de telles qualifications, je le crains, ce n’est pas encore pleinement suffisant pour devenir un vrai maître.

Ensuite, vous vous  demandrez: «Quelles qualités faut-il pour être un maître?» Pour mériter un tel titre, je crois qu’il doit y avoir au moins deux exigences supplémentaires :

Exigence 1:

Cette personne doit être en mesure de montrer la maîtrise de ses techniques de karaté aujourd’hui (pas celles qu’il a réalisées il y a dix ans ou même l’année dernière). Un beau discours ou une démonstration médiocre lors d’un tournoi ne suffira pas. Ce doit être des techniques réelles qu’il peut démontrer de façon convaincante et qui sont applicable dans la rue (cela mènera au deuxième point). Pour être en mesure de le faire, unu Japonais (et non Japonais) sensei doit s’entrainer à tous les jours et être en bonne condition physique et mentale.



Exigence 2:

Le sensei doit avoir le caractère qui convient bien au titre. Un maître, du moins pour moi, signifie un maître non seulement en karaté, mais aussi dans la vie. Un vrai maître doit être capable de montrer l’humilité, l’honnêteté, la patience, la diligence et d’autres valeurs personnelles en plus du courage et de l’esprit combatif. Il n’est pas quelqu’un que vous craignez mais celui que vous respectez. Oui, c’est une tâche difficile. Je ne sais pas ce que vous attendez vous d’un maître , mais pour ma part c’est ce que je m’attends de voir d’un vrai maître. Ne pensez-vous pas qu’il y a trop de «maîtres» et de «grands maîtres» non qualifiés ou sous qualifiés en karaté (Japonais et non Japonais)?


J’ai vu une vidéo d’une jeune Japonaise de 9 ans qui a gagné  un championnat junior.


Voici le clip vidéo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQSNLJn_hGA


Son nom est Mahiro Takano, elle a été appelée  maître de karaté junior quand elle n’avait que 7 ans (photo droite). Un enfant de sept ans, peu importe à quel point il ou elle peut performer, ne peut jamais être un maître à un si jeune âge . J’ai écrit un autre essai sur le sujet « Maître de karaté ». Si vous êtes intéressé, vous pouvez le trouver dans mon livre, Shotokan Mysteries (Chapitre 11: Mystère du maître de karaté).


Deuxième point:

Le deuxième point soulevé par M. Linton est l’applications des techniques en combat de  rue. Je suis également d’accord avec son opinion. Si vous prétendez que votre karaté est un budo ou un art martial, il doit être applicable dans une situation de rue. Malheureusement, de nombreux pratiquants de Shotokan (Japonais et non Japonais ) n’ont jamais été testés dans une telle situation. Beaucoup croient ou rêvent faussement qu’ils pourraient se défendre dans une situation réelle . Comment peuvent-ils prouver qu’ils peuvent vraiment le faire? Quoi qu’il en soit, la chose la plus importante dans le karaté budo ou un art martial est que votre karaté puise être applicable en situation de combat réel, corps a corps. Dans un combat de rue ou une situation d’autodéfense, bien paraître en kata  et / ou avoir gagné une médaille d’or dans un tournoi majeur ne vous aidera pas.

Est-ce que cela signifie que nous devrions chercher à combattre dans un combat de rue pour tester nos compétences? Certainement pas. Nous devons honorer la citation “Karate ni sente nashi” (il n’y a pas de première attaque en karaté), mais nous devons avoir l’attitude mentale développée durant la  formation au dojo de manière à ce que nos techniques de karaté fonctionneraient  dans un combat de rue ou d’auto-défense.

  1. Linton disait que si bien paraitre est tout ce qui compte, alors qu’est-ce qui différencie le karaté sportif de tous les autres? Cette question nous amène à nous questionner sur le sens véritable que doit avoir le budo ou le karaté traditionnel. Je n’aborderai pas le sujet ici. Je veux juste dire que le karaté traditionnel ( budo) et le karaté sportif sont totalement différents. Avant qu’un côté accuse l’autre, nous devons connaître les différences entre eux. Je pense qu’il est très important de le faire. Savez-vous vraiment quel type de karaté vous pratiquez? Si vous passez beaucoup de votre précieux temps dans votre formation de karaté, je crois que c’est une question importante à vous poser…


Comme je vous ai prévenu au début de cet essai, ces points sont très controversés. Je ne m’attends pas à ce que tout le monde soit d’accord avec mes opinions. Je serais heureux de recevoir vos  commentaires constructifs sur ce sujet.


(L’essai a été traduit par M. Marc Fournier.)




Um Sensei de karatê Japonês vs um Sensei de karatê não-Japonês 日本人の先生対外国人の先生 

Comparar um Sensei Japonês com um Sensei não-Japonês pode ser um assunto controverso. Na verdade, eu considero essa comparação sem sentido pois cada Sensei é diferente e suas qualificações variam muito. Na maioria dos casos, não importa onde eles nasceram.

Dito isso, tenho uma opinião pessoal para compartilhar com vocês.

Eu decidi escrever esse artigo porque tenho recebido algumas solicitações como essa por exemplo:

“Caro Sensei, preciso de sua ajuda. Eu vivo em xxx (um País Europeu, na maioria das vezes). Tenho procurado por um Dojô de karate mas não consigo encontrar um em que haja um Sensei Japonês. O que eu devo fazer?”

Primeiramente, devemos questionar se um Sensei Japonês é absolutamente necessário quando você inicia seu aprendizado no karatê. Eu posso dizer com segurança que isso não é necessário. Eu sei que há um sentimento natural pela busca de um Sensei Japonês por todos aqueles que querem iniciar seu treinamento de karatê.

Os japoneses são conhecidos por ter pouco domínio da língua inglesa. Não pos


so dizer isso sobre outras línguas como Espanhol, Alemão, Francês, etc. E minha afirmação aqui não se aplica a todo Sensei Japonês que vive fora do Japão. Digo isso apenas com base em minha experiência com Sensei japoneses que vivem nos EUA. Além disso, se um Sensei Japonês é sênior e tem muitos alunos, então você como iniciante provavelmente não receberá treinamento direto do Sensei. É provavél que você receba instrução de um instrutor assistente (não-Japonês) por muitos meses e possivelmente por alguns anos.

Se um Sensei Japonês sênior tem um Dojô na sua cidade,

você pode considerar iniciar lá. Do contrário, iniciar em um Dojô mais próximo não é um problema desde que você procure um instrutor qualificado. Eu não vou abordar aqui como saber se um instrutor é qualificado. Atualmente, nós temos a Internet para

nos auxiliar na busca por informações sobre as qualificações de uma pessoa e a organização à qual pertence.

Depois de ter conhecido muitos Sensei não-Japoneses, devo dizer que há muitos verdadeiramente qualificados. Só para constar, alguns são até melhores de que instrutores Japoneses que eu conheço.



Uma vez que você se torna um estudante de grau Nidan ou acima, deve procurar um instrutor Japonês sênior ou treinar algum tempo no Japão para evoluir ainda mais. Isso pode ser um assunto político e sensível uma vez que seu Sensei não-Japonês pode se sentir ofendido e talvez não concorde com a sua decisão. Você deve tomar essa decisão sozinho. Para a tomada de decisão, reflita sobre o que é melhor para o desenvolvimento do seu karatê.  Karatê é um pacote completo que não engloba apenas as técnicas, mas também acultura Japonesa e o ensino das artes marciais. Assim sendo, um instrutor Japonês sênior tende a ter uma melhor qualificação do que um Sensei não-Japonês. A questão da cultura em particular é, infelizmente, algo que falta no instrutor não-Japonês. E não é culpa dele, uma vez que ele nunca viveu no Japão.

Ao mesmo tempo, seja consciente sobre algumas desvantagens que você pode descobrir em ter um Sensei Japonês. Além da habilidade no idioma, tenho percebido muitos instrutores Japoneses bem políticos. Viajar para o Japão para treinar pode ser muito caro como você pode imaginar. Treinar lá por uma semana ou apenas por um final de semana com um Sensei Japonês Sênior pode ser benéfico e também divertido. Nesse estágio, é o indivíduo que tem a responsabilidade na decisão de qual a melhor direção deve ser tomada sobre sua jornada no karatê. Eu sei que meus conselhos podem não ajudar muito. Peço-lhe desculpas por isso, mas as condições nas quais cada um pratica o karatê varia muito, então é impossível dizer o que é melhor para cada um.

Meu último conselho para os praticantes sérios sobre seu treinamento de karatê. O mais importante Sensei é você mesmo. Se você é comprometido com a sua melhora contínua, mais da metade do seu desafio está sendo cumprido. O segundo Sensei mais importante é quem você vai seguir no seu treinamento diário. Quanto mais avançado for o Sensei (estou falando aqui de conhecimento, não de DANs), melhor a sua possibilidade de desenvolvimento. Lembre-se também de que o karate é um pacote completo que, além das habilidades do karatê, incluia a cultura e o ensino de artes marcias. Além disso você não deve esquecer que o caráter do instrutor é extremamente importante. Se ele não é o tipo de pessoa que você gostaria de imitar, então mesmo que ele seja um especialista em Karatê, ele não é o Sensei que você busca. Pense que o tipo de pessoa que você quer para ser seu Sensei deve ser um modelo que você sente orgulho em seguir.

Eu espero que você seja sortudo em ter encontrado esse Sensei. Ele ou ela não precisa ser japonês, mas deve ser alguém em quem você confia e sabe que pode seguir seus passos em sua vida diária. Se você não encontrou essa pessoa, espero que você seja determinado para procurá-lo (a) mesmo que essa busca dure anos.

No Japão nós temos dois ensinamentos antigos. Um ensinamento é 「三年勤め学ばんよりは、三年師を選ぶべし」, “Sannen tsutome manaban yoriha, sannen shi wo erabubeshi”. Ele diz que quem almeja se tornar um budoka, deve buscar incansavelmente um excelente Sensei mesmo que isso demore três anos. É preferível investir nessa busca do que treinar sozinho durante esse período.

O outro ensinamento é 「師は必要な時に現われる」, “Shi ha hitsuyona tokini arawareru”. Este é o meu ensinamento favorito. Ele diz que “Quando o aluno está pronto, o mestre aparece.” Isso não é maravilhoso? Eu acredito que esse ensinamento é verdadeiro. Posso dizer que ele aconteceu diversas vezes nos mais de cinquenta anos que dura a minha jornada nas artes marciais. Caso você não tenha encontrado um ótimo professor e está tendo dificuldades em achá-lo, tenha fé e não desanime. Tenho certeza que você irá encontrar um no futuro, mas você deve manter seus olhos abertos.

Mais uma vez eu digo que esse artigo é baseado em minhas crenças e opiniões pessoais. O que você acha? Deixe-me saber sua opinião e fale-me sobre seu Sensei.

(A tradução do ensaio original foi feita pelo Sr. Camacho.)

什么是黑带? What is “Black Belt”?

当你听到 KuroObi “黑带”时,我相信对你而言这不仅仅是一个黑色的皮带而已。 对于空手道家而言,这意味着我们傲和多年的艰苦训练。 对于非空手道家来说,这可能意味着空手道有着专业知识或者让我们认为很有趣的是他们甚至会认为我们是危险人物。

由于电影,KuroObi 黑带,这个日本术语已经成为许多空手道家所熟知的词汇。 这部电影虽没有好莱坞的水平,但是一个日本空手协会(JKA)的导师,共同主演。 让我觉得有趣的是看到一个真正的松涛馆(Shotokan)导师在空手道电影中演绎。

以下是观看整部影片的网址:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v = urQQBsoTjfw

无论你的段带是什么色,你每次训练时都会穿戴。 这是我们的空手道训练的一部分,但也有很多关于你可能不知道关于空手道段带的事。 你可能想知道过去与空手道段带有关的东西,甚至你还在寻找着关于他的答案。 这些或多或少只是一些关于空手道的琐事,但我认为它们很有趣。 在某种程度上,这是一些我们所有人都必须认识和欣赏一些事实。 为此,我希望本文将帮助你更好地了解空手道及其文化。

空手道的段(Dan)带和黑带系统本身就是一个有趣而令人困惑的课题。我们必须从历史中来了解这个段带系统来到底自哪里。许多读者可能已经知道,冲绳空手道(Okinawan Karate)并没有段带着一说,而是由船越义珍 (Funakoshi)大师向日本介绍了段带系统。你知道船越义珍大师是柔道中引用了这个系统吗?柔道的创始人嘉纳治五郎(1860-1938年)是一位受过良好教育的人,在商业和学术领域也非常好的才华。例如,他在19世纪末(准确的来说是1882年)创立了柔道,在短短的时间内,他的道场成员增加到数千名成员。他也是日本第一届奥委会代表。我怀疑他在从柔术(jujitsu)中创造柔道的同一时间发明了段带制度。可能你以知道,柔道和嘉纳治五郎对于船越义珍于东京教学空手道的初期有很大的影响。事实上,从名称的风格,松涛馆显示出了它的影响力。柔道总部的名称是讲道馆,当时在东京的武术界是一个非常有名的名字。因此,船越义珍在松涛馆中采用“kan”(馆或大厦)部分,可能希望建立他的道馆与讲道馆一样大。 船越义珍选择松涛馆为他的道场名字的另一个原因是因为他相信只有一个空手道而不想创造他的风格,流派ryu。他就喜欢好像柔道一样只有一个组织,讲道馆。这正是他想看到的空手道也是为什么他用松涛馆做他的道场名,而拒绝使用流派“ryu”。这就是为什么松涛馆没有像糸東流Shito-ryu和刚柔流Goju-ryu的名字那样有流派。最近有些人(我觉得是一些无知的人)把我们的空手道叫做松涛馆流,我觉得船越义珍大师因该不会赞同。如果你有兴趣了解更多关于嘉纳治五郎这个人,请点击维基百科的链接:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jigoro_Kano

好的,现在让我们回到黑带这个课题上,船越义珍大师早在1924年(他迁移到东京两年后)给于他的几个学生的第一个段位。 在松涛馆空手道的初期,最高可以达到的段位是五段,因为他们遵循了柔道的系统。 随着柔道人口的增加,讲道馆把段位提升到了十段。 因此,空手道也跟着改变。现阶段松涛馆的最高段位是十段。 在某些不同流派的空手道中,高段者穿着不同颜色的段带。 六段至八段的空手道家将穿着一条红白相间的段带(上图)。 对于九段和十段,可能穿着一条全红的段带。 这些段带也是效仿柔道的政策。 显然船越义珍大师并不喜欢这个想法,所以他并没有采用它。 所以松涛馆家到了黑带以上只使用黑带。

在其他流派中,段带上会绣上等级(左图)。实际上我们的确没办法从一条空白的黑带上说出一个人的段位。 我个人不喜欢这个能让所有人看见自己段位的想法。 我不想批评其他流派,但我不喜欢。 事实上,我更喜欢黑带在穿过多年后几乎变成白色的想法。 我很自豪地穿着一条旧段带(照片如下),因为它与我一起度过了多年的训练。 我有时会遇到一些穿着带段位松涛馆家。 我相信他们对我们的传统是无知的。 我希望他们知道,只有空白的黑带才是松涛馆的传统。

剑道是另一个有段位的系统,他们曾经的最高段位是十段。 有趣的是,在2000年全日本剑道联盟决定放弃九段和十段的段位,因此,现今剑道的最高段位是八段。

接下来我将介绍的一个关于空手道段位系统的一个主题,我认为我们应该更频繁地讨论这个课题。 这是你们都知道但没有公开讨论的课题。


我们继续谈谈另一个有趣的话题。 你有没有想过为什么kyu等级是从8级开始(在一些道场是由10级开始),随着学生进步,排名下降到1。一旦达到初段,段位就会升高。 五十多年前,当我第一次加入日本空手协会时,我想知道为什么我没有从1 级开始。 我想知道为什么级的系统不会像段位的系统那样采取越来越多的制度,当然我也不能向我们的老师问这样的事情。 多年以后,我发现级的系统是特意采取这样地结构。 让我和你分享这个系统的概念,希望你会看到这个逻辑。

武术的基本概念是,学生在到达黑带以前都不算正式开始训练。 有些人可能会知道一个习惯,就是让一个刚获得初段的学生在短时间内(一个月左右)穿上白带。 这是让一个新的初段知道他现在正在开始一个真正的空手道训练,或者他终于空手道的学习起点。 在到那个水平以前,学生的目地或目标就是建立起良好的基础,同时减少不良习惯或身体的一些“自然”运动方式。

这可能是一个不容易理解的概念,但是一个很重要的概念。 换句话说,学生将学习基本的空手道方式或建立起学习空手道技术所必需的条件。 例如,如果你要求一个街头的人做一个拳头,他可能会做一些类似于空手道中的正拳。但是,如果你要求他向你展示一个开手的技巧,他会向你展示像Photo A(自然开放的手,左下)。 你要求他把手指放在一起,他会给你一些类似像照片B(中下)的手,但是从来没有像手刀(shuto,右下面的照片C)。 这需要一点一点的学习需要大量的重复,以“忘记”你的自然手形,并使这个手刀(三张照片对)变得“自然”。







这只是一个小例子,而准备的范围(忘记自然的方式)将延伸到所有的姿势,身体转移,呼吸方法,腿部力量,ki-ai 以及道场礼节等等。 这些所有的知识和技术,在空手道家可以真正“开始”空手道训练之前实际上都是有必要的。 注意:在一个完美的世界中,所有这些“先决条件”都应该提前学习,但在实际情况下,他们从事空手道训练的同时在学习。 这就是为什么你从8级开始往1级前进直到你准备好开始真正的空手道训练。

另一主题;我们都知道一个初学者从白带开始。在他到达黑带之前,有经历许多不同颜色的段带,如黄色,蓝色,绿色等。我在60年代初开始我的空手道训练时,黑色之前只有两种颜色。白带和棕带。如果我没记错的话,我从无级(no kyu)开始,第一次考试后成为六级。我们都是白带,直到我们达到3级(棕带)。现在大多数的道馆都从8级或10级开始。一些dojo有条纹显示半级。在一个道场,主教练告诉我,他永远不会用让学生直接进阶1级。在第一次考中,学生将成10级半。因为从这个系统,这个学生在到达1 级去黑带之前,必须参加20次级的考试。我没有对这位教练发表任何意见(幸运的是,我们不在同一个组织),因为他认为空手道纯粹是一个的商业。我在这里不是要审判那些觉得空手道是一个纯粹的生意,但我个人不会把我的儿子送到他的道场。每个学生的发展和学习速度都不同。虽然这对生意来说可能不是一件好事,但我不喜欢为了钱而让学生进行这么多的考试。


还有一个受欢迎的问题。 长时间的缺席或疾病长达一年或更长时间后,您可能会怀疑是否应该佩戴旧的黑带。 当你回到你的道场时,你可能不确定你穿什么颜色的段带。 对这个问题我们没有普遍的规定,这取决于个人道场的政策。 许多道场和组织不介意长期缺席的会员穿着黑带。 一些道场有一个政策,让一个返回的空手道家必须穿白带一段时间。 这个穿戴时间长短会有所不同,取决于组织的规则和政策。


那么,你现在觉得你的黑带是什么?有一件我可以告诉你的是,即使你的段带是黑色的,它也不会帮助到你的空手道或让你看起来更好。 另一方面,如果你穿着黑带,那么你的段带有着一定的义务和责任。 例如,您每周不是需要训练一次或两次,而是每天。 你必须有着强健的体魄和健康的生活。 同时记得黑带是不能容忍肥胖的。 你也需要以道场训和二十训为标榜。

Part 2 Nisshinkan Doji Kun 17 principles 日新館童子17訓

When sons reach 10 years of age they enter Nisshinkan, Clan’s school. During the first year they learned Nisshinkan Kokoroe (日新館心得 Rules and etiquette taught at Nisshinkan) that consisted of 17 principles that are more expanded and thorough than those of the Ju no okite.


Here are 17 principles these children had to learn. I will be the translator and I will take full responsibility for the accuracy of the translation.



  1. 1. Every morning, you must get up early, wash your face and hands, brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on your clothes properly, and give morning greetings to your parents. Clean the house to the degree according to age, so that you can receive a visitor at any time.



  1. Be sure to assist in the meal preparation with your parents and the elders. Also, prepare tea and tobacco. When you sit at the same table with your parents, do not start eating before them. In the rare case when you must eat first, you must explain the reasons to your parents and get their permission before hand.



  1. When your parents leave or return home, or when you have a visitor, you must both greet them and see them off at the entrance door.



  1. You must tell your parents your destination when you leave the house. You also must inform them of your return by telling them, “I am home”. You must get permission from your parents on everything and you must not do anything at your own convenience.



  1. When talking to your parents and the elders, do not communicate with them standing up. In addition, do not put your hands in your pockets even when it is very cold. Do not use a fan, take off the jacket or raise the bottom of your kimono when it’s hot. You must not display or leave anything that is dirty in front of your parents.



  1. When you receive errands from your parents or from the elders, accept them courteously and be sure to complete the tasks. When they call you, reply promptly and pay full attention to them. No matter what happens you must not fail to complete the tasks and never answer them back rudely.



  1. If your parents recommend that you should wear more clothes because they think it is cold, accept their recommendation even if you do not feel cold. Furthermore, if they prepare new clothes for you, wear them even if you do not like them.



  1. You must not step on the tatami mat where your parents are normally. Also, you must reserve the center part of the road to an adult samurai thus children must walk on the edges of the road. You must not step on the base plank of a gate and you must walk through by the edges. This must be enforced especially with the gates where the senior rank samurai walk through.

Translator’s note:

To step on the base plank of the gate is considered to be bad luck in Japan. This is because we believe there is a certain guarding god in the gate who is protecting the people from the bad luck of the outside world, thus you are not allowed to step on it. See the photo on the right, a gate of a typical samurai house.



  1. When you meet a teacher or someone who is a friend of your parents, be sure to greet them from the edge of the road. Never ask them where they are going. If you have to walk along, be sure to walk behind them.



  1. Do not speak ill of others, or laugh at them without justifiable reasons. Do not play in dangerous places, climb to high places, or play near deep rivers and ponds.



  1. You must start by learning things first. And when you learn, correct your posture, with sincere desire to learn. You must learn from others with respect from the bottom of your heart.


  1. How you wear your clothes shows the class of person you are. You must wear your clothes correctly so that you will look properly as a samurai. Never engage an action that would receive criticism from others. You must certainly speak properly and formally to another person regardless of how closely you know that person. Also, do not speak a vulgar language that is not understood by the people from another clan.



  1. Even if you are presenting a gift to a person, you must always add a comment that your father gave him his best regards. When you receive a gift, you must always not only give your thanks but also comment that your parents will also be pleased. We must always bring our parents up front, and show to the others that a samurai child does not handle things all by himself.


  1. When you help your parents, do not try to save your effort even a little. Work hard with your full attention and earnest.



  1. When a high-ranking samurai or a senior person visits you, you must stand up to greet him. You must also stand up to see him off when he leaves. In addition, in front of a guest, you should never yell at a servant, or even a dog or a cat. Also, you must not engage in a manner that could be considered as rude, in front of a senior person. Rude manners also include spitting, burping, sneezing, yawning, looking without attention, stretching, and leaning against something.



  1. If a senior person asks a question, first you must look around to see if someone else, who you think is better qualified, wants to answer. If so, let that person answer first. Do not show off your knowledge by answering first.






  1. Avoid joining a party where they drink alcohol. Do not look for visiting places where young women serve alcohol without doing your work.

It is true that young men want to spend time with young women. If such an action becomes a habit, it may lead you into a big mistake in your later life. If such a thing happens then it will be a very disgraceful and shameful matter. Therefore, it is very important to keep a distance between a boy and a girl. It is also important not to talk about your dating with a girl.


In addition, you must not use a vulgar language to make your friends laugh and to engage in a careless action.  In addition, remember that when you lose your cool head, it leads you to a fight. So, you must always pay full attention in controlling your feelings in order to avoid a fight.


This concludes the 17 kun list. What did you think of the rules? Are they too strict or too controlling? Do not be surprised, there is even a longer list of 31 kun for the older samurai children! In Part 3, you will find out what are those rules that were taught several hundred years ago.

Newly Published! “Karatedo Paradigm Shift”, My 4th book at Amazon Books

I am happy to announce that my fourth book was published from Amazon Books on May 1, 2017.

The title is “Karatedo Paradigm Shift“.

It comes in Paper back and Kindle versions.

Get your copy from Amazon Books and here are the links:
Paper back:





A Japanese karate sensei vs a non-Japanese karate sensei 日本人の先生対外国人の先生 

Now, comparing a Japanese sensei and a non-Japanese sensei can be a sensitive and controversial subject. In fact, I consider this comparison almost meaningless as each sensei is different and their qualifications vary vastly. In most cases, it does not matter where they come from.


Having said that I have my personal opinion which I am happy to share here. I decided to write this essay because I have received a few inquiries that were something like this. “Dear sensei, I need your help. I live in xxx (most of the time, from a European country). I have been looking for a karate dojo but I cannot find one with a Japanese sensei. What can I do?”


First of all, we must ask if a Japanese sensei is absolutely necessary when you first learn karate. I can firmly say it is not necessary. I am very much aware there is a sentiment and natural want for a Japanese sensei by a person who wants to start karate training. You automatically believe or want to believe that a Japanese sensei must be an “excellent” instructor and better than a non-Japanese one.


As a matter of fact, there are a few negative sides of having a Japanese sensei when you start your karate training. The Japanese people are known to have poor command of the English language. I cannot say this about other languages such as Spanish, German, French, etc. so my statement here may not apply to all the Japanese sensei who reside outside of Japan. I say this only from my experience with the Japanese sensei in the USA. Secondly, if a certain Japanese sensei is very senior and has many students, then you, as a beginner, may not be able to be directly taught by the Japanese sensei. You may get your training under the assistant (of course, non-Japanese) instructors for many months and possibly a few years.


If a senior Japanese sensei operates a dojo in or near your town or city, you can consider joining there. If not, finding a local instructor is not a problem as long as you choose a qualified one. I am not going to describe how to find a qualified instructor here. Nowadays, we have many excellent internet tools to examine the people’s background and their organizations, thus you can easily do a thorough search on a targeted instructor and/or his dojo/organization.


After meeting many non-Japanese sensei in my lifetime, I must tell you that there are many who are truly well qualified. As a matter of fact, a few are even better than some of the Japanese instructors I know.


Once you become an advanced level of Nidan or above, you may want to search for a senior Japanese instructor or to have some training in Japan to advance yourself even further. This can be a political and a sensitive move as your non-Japanese sensei may be offended and not bless your move. You must make your own decision on this matter. You must think carefully when you make your final decision, you must decide on what is the best for your karate and its development. Karate is a total package that includes not only the karate techniques but also the Japanese culture and its martial arts teaching. Therefore, a senior Japanese instructor tends to have better qualification than a non-Japanese sensei. This particular qualification is something, unfortunately, a non-Japanese instructor would lack, not due to his fault, but since he has never lived in Japan.

At the same time, you must realize that there are possibly a few downsides you may discover with a Japanese sensei. Besides the language ability, I find many Japanese instructors tend to be very political. Making a trip to Japan and training there can be very expensive as you can easily expect. Training there for one week or just a weekend seminar by a senior Japanese sensei, can be beneficial and possibly also fun. At this stage, it is totally up to the individual to decide on what is the best direction they need to take, as they continue their karate journey. I am aware that my advice here may not be too helpful. I apologize for this, but the situation and an environment of an individual practitioner differs so much, it is almost impossible to tell what is best for him.

My final advice for the practitioners who are very serious with their karate training. The most important sensei is yourself. If you are committed and determined to improve, more than half of your challenge is being met. The second important sensei is who you will follow in your daily training. The higher that sensei is (I am referring to his knowledge and not his dan rank), it is very possible that you can also develop higher. Also, remember that karate is a whole package which include not only the karate skills but also the martial arts culture and teaching. In addition, you must never forget that the character of the instructor is extremely important. If he is not the kind of person you wish to imitate, then even if he is a karate expert, he may not be your kind of sensei. You need to think what kind of person you wish to be and your sensei must be a model that you are proud to follow.


I hope you are lucky and have found such a sensei. He or she does not need to be Japanese, but must be someone you can trust and believe you can follow in their steps in your daily life. If you have not found such a person, I hope you will be determined to look for one even if it would take you several years. In Japan we have two old teachings.

One teaching is「三年勤め学ばんよりは、三年師を選ぶべし」, “Sannen tsutome manaban yoriha, sannen shi wo erabubeshi”. This means if you want to excel in budo one needs to focus one’s time on looking for an excellent sensei even if it takes three years, rather than training by yourself during that period.


The other teaching is 「師は必要な時に現われる」, “Shi ha hitsuyona tokini arawareru”. This is my favorite teaching as it means “a proper teacher will appear when the time is matured”. Isn’t this wonderful? I personally believe this teaching is true. I can say this as it has indeed happened several times in my martial arts journey during the past more than fifty years. If you have not already found a wonderful teacher and if you are having a difficulty in finding one, have faith and do not give up. I am sure you will come across with one in the future but you must keep your eyes open.


Once again I must tell you that this essay is based on my personal opinions and beliefs.  What do you think?  Let me hear from you and tell me about your sensei.

What is Dojo? 道場とは何ぞや?

“What is dojo?”  This may be a silly and too obvious question to most of the readers. Some of them may say, “Are you kidding us?” Some others may even believe that I am ridiculing them. I wish to assure them that I am quite serious about this subject. I believe it is more than what you are thinking, so I hope you will continue reading this essay.


When you hear the word of “dojo” most of you will think of a special place such as a gym in a school or a health spa. Some lucky people have a building where the practitioners gather to train and that is definitely a dojo. I am not disputing this. In fact, that definition is correct. However, I want to explain that a dojo can be more than this.


According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, dojo is defined as a school for training in various arts of self-defense (i.e. judo, kendo, karate, etc.); It further explains the origin and etymology of dojo as follow: it is from do (道) way or arts plus jo (場) groud.

I am afraid this explanation is not sufficient or even understandable. What do you think? Let me explain better. The first kanji, 道 means path, road or way. The second kanji, 場 means place or area. So those two kanji together it means a place where you seek a way. It sounds simple enough but it is not so easy if we ask the next question, “What is a way?” It is certainly not a direction to a certain place such as a Post office or a cafe. When we talk about a way in the world of karate-do or any other martial arts, the definition becomes pretty deep. Most of us have heard of karate-do but how many of them know the difference between simple karate and karate-do. You can know the difference only if you have learned the meaning of this “do” or what it stands for. This is the very key point. I will further explain as I feel all the karateka should know this.


First, I must say that it can mean various different ways depending on the persons if they are in martial arts, other arts or religion. However, if we say “karate-do”, the word of do must bring some new meaning.  It typically add the element of budo to karate.

To find it one must excel in karate not only in the physical aspect but also in the mental and spiritual ways which may be as important if not more.


One good idea was shown by one of the principles of Funakoshi Niju kun.

  1. 道場のみの空手と思ふな
    Dojo nomino karate to omouna

“Karate goes beyond the dojo”

The translation here can be expanded a little though most of the readers understand what this kun means. Some may misunderstand that the meaning of this kun is limited only to the self-defense and danger outside of the dojo. Of course, it is included but his kun covers much more. He wanted to tell us that we have to apply all the virtues (that I mentioned above) and the self-discipline must be applied to our daily life.


Many people have asked me where I have my own dojo.  Today I am answering the question.


My quick answer is that I do not have a karate studio or school in the city I reside which is an outskirt of Sacramento, the capital of California. I used to have such a facility when I lived in San Jose till 2014 before I moved. It was located in Japan-town and I was teaching there for nearly fifteen years. I had to move to the suburb of Sacramento in 2015. Since then I have not started a karate club.


Though I do not have a karate stuido or school, I still say I have my own dojo. This dojo follows me where-ever I am or go. In other words, I can practice karate both physically and mentally no matter where I may be. I spend 4 to 6 hours daily for the physical self-training. It happens in the morning starting around 7am and lasts till noon or 1pm depending on my condition. And my dojo in this situation is in the living room. When I walk at home or outside the house such as shops, side-roads, stairs, hallway, etc. I pay much attention to how I walk (balance, posture, safety in all aspects). Therefore, all the places where I walk are my dojo. When I drive (though not too often) I pay attention to beyond the cars around me. I am not just talking about the police cars behind me or hiding behind a tree, but more importantly (at least to me) I pay attention to my breathing and mind calmness. If I am not driving then I still pay attention to the surroundings as well as the breathing and my posturing. Thus, the car I drive or ride becomes my dojo. I wrote an essay about this and it is included in one of my books, Shotokan Transcendence. The title is Jidosha Dojo (Automobile Dojo). I also read the books, articles, etc. for my research in the area of budo almost daily. Therefore, my study room is indeed my dojo.


Now that you have found what I think of a dojo, I would like to to ask what does a dojo mean to you?




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