Why does Asai sensei’s butt stick out? 浅井先生、骨盤の位置の謎

 

Asai kiba dachi 1When I posted a photo of Master Asai (right) on Facebook, someone commented that Master Asai’s butt sticks out. The same person commented that Master Kase (France JKA) also had the same posture. I cannot write about Master Kase as I know almost nothing about him and his karate. But I believe I can present my theory on Master Asai. I will, hopefully, be able to shed some light on why he stands that way. I believe there is a good explanation for his posture. I have studied Asai karate for over 10 years and had a very close training relationship with him for the last few years of his life, between 2003 and 2006, the year he passed.

 

Before I go into my theory, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Tetsuhiko Asai. Of course, most of the readers already know who Master Asai was. He was a world renowned Shotokan master who traveled around the world and awed everyone with his almost magical techniques. I am well aware of his abilities but I want to speak about Master Asai because I have a compelling reason. This will also explain as to why I started my organization, ASAI. Some people have blamed me for taking advantage of his fame by naming the organization using his name. On the surface indeed it does appear so. Hopefully by reading my explanation the readers will understand that I have a much deeper motivation to keep his name and his karate alive. Let me explain…without any exaggeration he saved my karate and in essence my karate life (I will explain the details later). I owe him so much and now it is my turn to pay it back to the karate world since I cannot do so to him. It became my conviction to spread and share the karate I learned from Masai_logoaster Asai. As long as I live I do not want anyone to forget about Master Asai. I want the name of Asai to be remembered. This is the exact reason why I created the organization, ASAI (Asai Shotokan Association Interantional). We are not an organization that just happened to pick up a famous name or to be part of a fad, we are an organization that intends to do the following:

 

  • Give everyone access to the Asai Karate System

  • Provide a home for karate ronins

  • Make the dan grade examination available to all organizations and styles

  • Unite all karate practitioners regardless of the organizational differences

  • Improve the karate skills of all members

  • Preserve the discipline of Dojo Kun

  • Pass the legacy of Master Asai on to the next generation

 

Let’s look at the history of Master Asai from his birth to his last day. I could write something from my memory but I think it is more accurate and complete to quote from the page of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetsuhiko_Asai

Here is the direct quote from the Asai page (I took out the reference numbers, under bar and different font colors):

 

Asai was born on June 7, 1935, in Ehime Prefecture (on the island of Shikoku), Japan. He was the eldest of seven children. As a boy, he trained in sumo. In addition, his father (a policeman) taught him judo, kendo and sojutsu. When he was 12 years old, he witnessed a fight between a boxer and a karateka (practitioner of karate); the karate combatant was able to disable his opponent with a kick, and Asai was impressed.

 

Karate career

Kanazwa & Asai Sensei In 1958, Asai graduated from Takushoku University, where he had trained in karate under Gichin Funakoshi, Masatoshi Nakayama, and Teruyuki Okazaki. He trained hard and was allowed to sleep in the karate dormitory. At Nakayama’s recommendation, he entered the JKA instructor training program and graduated from the course three years later.Asai won the JKA championship in kumite (sparring) in 1961, and in kata (patterns) in 1963. He was overall JKA champion in 1961, having come in first in kumite and second in kata that year. Asai became the first instructor to introduce karate to Taiwan. Through the second half of the 1960s, he taught karate in Hawaii for five years, among his students included Kenneth Funakoshi.

Over the years, Asai advanced within the JKA, and was appointed as Technical Director. Asai demo jumpFollowing Nakayama’s death, the JKA experienced political troubles and divided; Asai and colleagues (including Keigo Abe and Mikio Yahara) formed one group, while Nakahara Nobuyuki and colleagues formed another group—which in 1999 was officially recognized as the JKA. In 2000, he founded the International Japan Martial Arts Karate Asai-ryu and the Japan Karate Shoto-Renmei. Apart from the ranking of 10th dan in Shotokan karate, he also held the ranks of 3rd dan in jodo, 2nd dan in judo, 2nd dan in jukendo, and 2nd dan in kendo.

 

Later life

Reflecting on relations between JKA instructors who had graduated from Takushoku University, Asai said, “We all pretty much get on nowadays, contrary to our official stances and federations. In saying that, some of us don’t, but isn’t that life? … I am happy to say that most of the deep rooted rivalry has gone amongst my peers. I think that the passing of Mr. Enoeda, Mr. Kase, Mr. Tabata and Mr. Shoji and so forth has brought many of us back to reality. Obviously this is not limited to Takushoku University, it is all about us international karate pioneers getting very old.”

Asai’s health deteriorated with age, and he underwent liver surgery on February 10, 2006.He died at 2:50 PM on August 15, 2006, leaving behind his wife, Keiko Asai, and their daughter, Hoshimi Asai. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral, which was held on September 1, 2006, at Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo. Asai received the rank of 10th dan posthumously from the JKS, and was succeeded as President of the IJKA by his widow. Since that time, IJKA in Europe has apparently separated from K. Asai’s IJKA. In 2013, Asai Shotokan Association International (ASAI) was formed by a former student of Asai, Kousaku Yokota, to teach Asai’s style of Shotokan. http://asaikarate.com/

 

In the past I have already written about how Master Asai saved my karate life. I suspect that many readers may have not read it yet so I would like to share my short explanation here.

I had been a lifetime member of the JKA and I was a godan in the mid 90’s after having practiced shotokan karate for more than 30 years and my age was approaching 50. At that moment I keenly felt that I had reached my plateau with my karate training and I could not find any challenge or pleasure in any further training. I visited different senseis and went to seminars given by the masters such as Kanazawa and Tanaka but none of them could inspire me. As a result I decided to retire from karate in 1997. This was a big move as I had always believed karate was part of my life. But I decided to do so because I could not find a way to improve myself any more. So, I decided to study Ki and hoped I could find a solution in this art.                                                                                                                             

Nishino Ki

 I found a job in Tokyo where I lived for 2 and a half years and during this period I did not wear my gi, not even once. I entered a famous Ki school called Nishino ryu Ki dojo in Shibuya. To make a long story short I could not find my answer in Ki training. I came back to California in 2000 and decided to teach karate in San Jose. At that time I had already given up on improving my own karate. In 2001 Asai sensei was giving a seminar in the area and I participated. Of course, I knew Asai sensei from my JKA time and had met him several times in the past. I also had witnessed, with my own eyes, the impressive demonstration he performed in the JKA’s All Japan Championship (1981 and 1982). But until I participated in this seminar in 2001 I only considered him as one of the shotokan famous instructors and nothing more. This seminar event happened 5 years before his passing so he was in his mid 60’s. By observing his techniques and moves very closely I was simply dumbfounded by his agility, flexibility and speed. I knew immediately that he was the answer to my question of “how can I improve my karate when I am in my 60’s?” It took me a year before I finally left the JKA and became a follower of Master Asai. My close association with Master Asai was only five years before he left us all too young. He knew so much and I just did not have enough time or occasions to ask all the questions I had. I can never claim that I learned all of his techniques. He knew more than 100 katas and I have only learned 25 Asai katas. Despite this I feel I learned enough that I can share this knowledge and the techniques with all shotokan practitioners especially the advanced (technically and age wise) karateka. His karate was different and my karate became different from the standard shotokan karate. It is different because I feel my moves are more natural and smoother. I guess I have to ask the readers to watch me either in person or in the video performance to see if they think that this is true. I am convinced that the benefits to the karateka of all styles and all ages are great. I can never replace or duplicate all of Asai sensei’s techniques but it is my lifetime mission to share what I know and what I can do. This year I am 66 years old and I plan to do this for at least the next 34 years (God willing) so I will be around and so will ASAI. OK that is enough about my karate life.

 

If you know Master Asai’s karate you agree that his karate was not only great but it was different. You can see him in action and right away you will see the definite differences. His moves and techniques are more circular and smoother compared to the linear and somewhat ridged techniques that many Shotokan practitioners exhibit. You may ask “why his karate was so different?” this is quite difficult to explain. How did he develop his karate? The answer to this question will give you a hint to the original question regarding his butt position.

Demo shuto uchiHe became the Technical Director of the JKA in the 80’s but before that time, there was a very important stage of his karate life, specifically between 1965 and 1975. The JKA had dispatched him overseas to teach karate starting in Hawaii. After completing his assignment in Hawaii he went to Taiwan in late 60’s. I heard that Master Asai had some exposure to other styles of karate and even to some kung fu styles while he was in Hawaii. He was always looking for something new to try and to learn so it is easy to guess that the diversified martial arts found in the islands of Hawaii would have given him many opportunities. However, when he was sent to Taiwan he got into an intensive training with a kung fu (White Crane) style. He became a close friend with a kung fu expert, Master Chen whose sister would eventually become his wife. Master Asai was already a karate expert so Master Chen did not treat him like a student but a martial arts partner. I heard from his widow that they exchanged their techniques all the time whenever they met. Master Chen would show a new or an interesting technique one day then Master Asai would master that technique almost instantaneously which impressed Master Chen greatly. Obviously he received a lot of influence from White Crane kung fu.                                                                                                                                 

OK so you may ask “what has this got to do with the butt of Asai sensei?” I believe there is a strong relationship and let me share this new idea with you.

There is an interesting finding I made as I did research into the martial arts of Japan and China. What I found is that there is a difference in the pelvis positioning between the two categories. In other words, among the Japanese martial arts the correct pelvis position is to tucked up or the tail bone to point downward. On the other hand, in the Chinese martial arts the pelvis is positioned upward or pushed out. The visible difference is minor but if you examine closely you can see the difference.

Let’s look at the photos of Judo, Kendo and Iaido.

Judo Kendo sonkyoIaido

 

 

 

 

 

 What do you see? Can you detect the pelvis positioning? Especially in the Judo photo (far left), we can see the tucked under pelvis position. By the way, this photo is one of the rare historical ones of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo (on the right, taken early in the 20th century).

Sumo 2Not convinced? Look at the two photos of Sumo. Sumo 1Even though those sumo wrestlers are big and “fat” their pelvis position is down and tucked under. I put fat om quotation marks because the fat contents of many of the sumo wrestlers is much lower than we think and they are medically not fat. Regardless of this point, I hope you can see the pelvis position better as they are without any clothes except for their mawashi.

 

Next, let’s look at the photos from the Chinese martial arts and see if we can detect any differences. Here are three typical kung fu photos that are in horse stance or a similar stance.

Kung fu stance 2

Kung fu stanceKung fu hips

 

 

 

 

By checking the pelvis positioning of these female performers do you agree that all three are sticking their pelvis backward and not tucked in? Of course, I showed you only a few photos so you may not see the clear differences between the Japanese and the Chinese. However, the difference is a common knowledge among the senior martial artists in Japan. I am afraid not enough research has been done yet to investigate why there is a difference in the basic concept of the pelvis positioning between the two groups.

 

Now what I dare to present here is my hypothesis for the difference. The base of the Japanese martial arts is kenjutsu, the sword fencing. Unlike some of the light weight kung fu swords a Japanese katana is quite heavy. If you happen to practice Iaido you know what I am talking about. Obviously, it will be very difficult to swing it around quickly let alone jump with it. Therefore, the fighting style of the samurai was almost with no moving around. The posture was very straight with their legs almost fully extended and the backbone straight to support the weight of the sword. You may have seen this in a Japanese samurai movie in which two samurai face each other in a duel with almost no moving until the decisive attack at the end. In this situation, it makes sense to keep the pelvis tucked under to support the body weight and to assist the forward movement (remember the first move in Bassai dai?). Judo and Sumo are also the same. In those arts kicking is prohibited and there are almost no jumping techniques in these arts. They need to stand firmly on the floor rather than jumping around thus the tucked under pelvis gives more balance and stability in their stance. On the other hand, in kung fu, especially the Northern styles there are a lot of kicks and jumps. To jump and to rotate the body quickly from the low kiba dachi stance I find it easier to do so with the pelvis pushed back. Please try it and see if what I am saying makes sense.

Another thing I need to bring to your attention is the difference we see in zenkutsu dachi between karate and kung fu. The first two photos are from kung fu and the last one on the right is by Yoshiharu Osaka, JKA instructor. You can clearly see the pelvis is pushed backward in kung fu front stance while Osaka sensei had definitely tucked in his pelvis.

Kung fu zenkutsuShaolin kung fu 2  JKA前屈立ち

 

 

 

This again comes from the difference in the concept or the use of the stance. In other words, in kung fu the moves are not always to the forward but can be to the side, back or in rotation. As you can see with the very Shotokan technique of Osaka it is a strong oi zuki going straight forward. For this move tucking the pelvis in and aligning the fist with the rear foot with the straight backbone bring the most powerful technique. Karate punch is “ikken hissatsu” or one punch one kill while kung fu attacks are multiple and each punch or an attack may not be a “sure kill” technique.

As a bonus, I will share with you another interesting point. Take a look at the photos below.

 Shorin ryu inclineShorinryu bassai

 

 

 

 

 

The first two photos are from Okinawan Shorin ryu. Master Chibana, the first photo, doing Bassai is somewhat keeping his pelvis tucked, but the second one shows that the pelvis is positioned more toward the back. Regardless of the pelvis position, you notice that both of them are leaning forward similar to the kung fu practitioners shown earlier. The next two photos, third and the fourth, are showing a technique from Bassai dai. They are by Shito ryu and by Shotokan respectively.

バッサイ大糸東流バッサイ大

You can assume that the original Okinawan karate kept some of the Chinese influence but when karate was introduced to Japan it changed with the influence of the Japanese martial arts. In the Japanese martial arts such as kendo and even in karate we are taught to have our upper body always straight and never to crouch forward or lean to the sides. I suspect the influence to our karate in our posture came mainly from Jujitsu and Kendo. The posture of Judo practitioners has changed drastically after it was inducted in Olympics in 1964 but that is a different subject that is not related here directly so I will not discuss it here though it is a very interesting subject to think about.

So, you can probably easily guess what my theory for Master Asai’s posture is. You probably want to conclude that the kung fu influence he received in Taiwan changed his posture. However, maybe to your surprise my theory is slightly different. Master Asai was known for his Tenshin (body rotation) techniques but at the same time he was known for high and low techniques. Low means a technique he ducked for example under a kick. High means he jumps around the opponent and hit him while he is still in the air (see the photo below).

 Asai Tobi

 

I do not believe he learned those techniques from White Crane kung fu or any other styles. The characteristics of White Crane kung fu is the open hand techniques and whipping techniques (coming from the fast wing flapping). I can easily suspect that he took those techniques in and made them into his signature techniques. However, jumping and ducking under, I believe, were his own creation. Asai-sensei-vs-Mikami-sensei-2

Look at the famous photo (right) of him fighting Mikami sensei (JKA Louisiana) in the JKA’s All Japan Championship in 1961. Mikami (left) is delivering a beautiful long distance Oi zuki, very much a Shotokan technique. To this attack you can see Asai on the right jumped to dodge it (I wish I could have been there to watch it). This shows he was already jumping in his early karate career (he was 26 years old in 1961). He was a very creative martial artist and I understand that he has always tried different things and ideas that would work for him. He was a small man, even for a Japanese, (a little over 160cm and less than 50kg) so he needed the techniques that would overcome his “handicap”. He found the jumping and Tenshin techniques. To jump and to rotate his body quickly having his pelvis not tucked in worked better for him. He probably developed his unique posture early in his karate career but his peculiar pelvis position was not that noticeable then. With many years of training including the kung fu techniques his posture became more prominent and noticeable.

 

Finally, here are two more photos (below) of Master Asai at two different stages of his karate life. One on the left is a young Asai in his 20’s and the right one is a legend in his 60’s.

asai (2) Nijushiho young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? It is true that he went to Taiwan and he had a close encounter with White Crane kung fu, but there were, I assume, many other Shotokan practitioners who went to China and Taiwan. In fact Master Nakayama was stationed in China for several years during WWII. Only Asai picked up many ideas and techniques from the Chinese styles. This proves my point that his body was far more adaptable to the Chinese method because of his own unique training and his own style.

I am not sure if my theory about his pelvis position has successfully convinced you but one thing I can tell you confidently is this. Master Asai needed his pelvis position in that specific way to deliver his unique and fast techniques. He was the one and only true master of Asai-ryu karate and his posture is a signature of his style.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas especially if you are a sports scientist or your expertise is in kinesiology.

 

 

14 Responses to Why does Asai sensei’s butt stick out? 浅井先生、骨盤の位置の謎

  • Aloha Yokota Sensei,

    I came across your website and wanted to thank you for your decision to share some of your insight and thoughts about karate-do, as well as your stories about the late Master Asai. Years ago, my own instructors (K. Funakoshi and E. Fujiwara) were greatly influenced by his teachings and I always enjoyed his seminars during his visits to the islands in the 1980’s-1990’s. Your two books are concise, well-written, and refreshing – please keep up your fine work, and I wish great success for your ASAI organization. Blessings, Wes.

    • Sensei Nakamoto,

      I am very happy to hear from someone who knew Master Asai. He saved my karate life as you read in my article and I am dedicating my karate life to spreading his knowledge and techniques. Sensei Ken Funakoshi was at Asai funeral in 2006 in Tokyo. I respect him for paying the due respect as many other senseis (including JKA ones) did not. In fact, Yahara sensei was the only famous instructor from JKA time. My email address is . It would be nice if you would write to me and let me know how shotokan krate is in Hawaii. I visited there in 2008 (JKS Charles Lee dojo) and enjoyed my visit very much.

      In karate-do,
      K. Yokota

  • A body in balance implies all forces acting on a body net result is zero. The ability to move a body in any direction requires it to be unbalance. For a body to move (unbalance) its center of gravity is beyond its support in that direction. I believe Asai sensei’s concept of karate was to be slightly unbalanced so he could be fluid – evade an attack and counter at the same time.
    Every karate technique, offence or defense, has a strong and weak aspect to it. I believe Asai sensei utilities making himself slightly unbalanced (center of gravity slightly beyond his base of support – pending motion) to block (evade) and counter his opponent at the sometime or almost at the sometime from the opponent’s weak side.

    • Sensei Johnson,
      Thank you very much for your input. I agree with you completely. Asai sensei’s quick mobility does come from the slight unbalance which I call “balancing in unbalance”.

  • Happy Holidays Yokota Sensei!

    I pray that this holiday season finds you in good health and enjoying time spent with friends and family. I apologize for replying via the website as I couldn’t find your email address ;) I haven’t seen Charlie in about 5 years – I understand that he continues to teach in a small dojo located under the freeway overpass in Waimalu. These days, the major Shotokan presence in Hawaii are the dojos affiliated with the SKIF. We recently attended a seminar led by the new Kancho, Kanazawa Nobuaki, thanks to an invite from my friend, Takemori Sensei, one of Kanazawa Hirokazu’s early students here. There are a few other dojos under the FSKA, JKS, and even a JKA dojo in Waikiki. There’s also the JIKC organization (started by the late Hirano Sensei), which was originally Wado-Ryu, but converted to Shotokan back in the 1980’s. There may be others like me, who just like to share karate-do in small, unaffiliated dojos. So Shotokan is still taught throughout the islands, though there may be as many or more Kempo, Kajukenbo, Shorin-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Taekwondo, Ju-jutsu and MMA clubs in Hawaii these days.

    I am glad that your karate life was re-energized and I’m sure that Master Asai would be pleased that you continue to honor him through your continuing efforts.

    Blessings and have a great year in 2014 (Haouli Makahiki Hou!)….Wes.

    • Belated Happy New Year to Sensei Nakamoto. I am very sorry that my response is so delayed but I moved my residence in middle of January and I was extremely busy in the late December and early January. Today was the first time I had a chance to go over my blog page. It is terrible but my moving was definitely the priority one. It was an experience and I will not bore you with the gory details. I am glad that I will not have to move again for the foreseeable future (I really hope).

      Thank you very much for the update on the karate scene in Hawaii. I am glad to hear that Charles is doing ok. I remember that dojo under the freeway overpass as he took me there once.

      I am starting 2014 in a new town and it really is a fresh start. When I settle down I will do more to promote Asai sensei and his teaching. Not enough people do this despite so many practitioners were influenced by him. I cannot let his name die out or even dimmed. Some people are not happy with what I am doing. They claim that I am misusing his name and commercializing for my own benefit. It hurts me to see this but I keep going as I believe Master Asai in heaven knows what I am doing. If he does not like what I am doing he can kick my ass when I join him. But I am pretty sure he permits me because I am passing the knowledge to the other practitioners for the karate sake and not for the monetary gain.

      I hope I will have another chance to visit Hawaii some day not too far in the distant future. Oss

  • Shihan Yokota,

    I believe I was the one who made the comment on the facebook page.
    As you yourself mentioned, this posture is similar to the pelvic posture of kung fu, unlike ichigeki karate.
    To do thus in accordance with Asai pelvis position, are we not undoing the developments in Shotokan? Untucking the pelvis would thus tend to eliminate ichigeki ability? Asai sensei was known for his speed and agility, but I also heard that his strikes were not much known for inchigeki power (unless I guess when applied to vital points, but any sort of power in such case would be good enough). His power has been described to be as that of the “lightness of a bird” by somewho trained with him. Overall I still tend to think Asai karate is way overrrated, apologies I do not mean to offend while stating this, just keeping it real. Ossu.

    • Sensei Ramon,
      Thank you very much for your candid comment. I assume the meaning of the word you used, ichigeki, as one punch one kill.
      Let me address to several interesting points you brought up for which I thank you.

      1) We are undoing the development in Shotokan by having the Asai pelvis position.
      I strongly disagree with this idea. Asai karate is based on Nakayama JKA shotokan. Asai sensei was Nakayama sensei’s right hand man and he was the Technical Director of JKA for many years. We believe Asai karate has extended the relm of Shotokan karate or it supplemented some missing parts of Shotokan.

      2) Did Asai techniques lack the ikken hissatsu power.
      No, they did not. His techniques may look “light” but very deceiving to your eyes. Think of a whip which is light and soft but we know a well used whip can crack a brick and cut a piece of wood easily. His techniques were like that. They can knock you down. He also studied both Hakkei (発勁) and Dim mak (点穴) so he hit the pressure points with a vibration power. This is impossible to describe with the words. You need to experience this to believe.

      3) Asai karate is way overrated.
      I cannot convince anyone until you train under Asai style training. All I can tell you is that I had trained JKA karate over 40 years and I almost gave up on karate as I though I had learned every thing. In fact, I quit karate between 1996 and 2000. When I attended at an Asai seminar in 2001 (almost by accident), he showed me how much I did not know and how much more we can do. It gave me a renewed motivation and hope that karate can be this fun and exciting. I am 68 years old now and it is my life time mission to share this excitement. I hope I can visit your dojo so that I can share what I know. Maybe one day I will be able to. Oss

  • Mr. Shihan Kousaku Yokota,

    First of all let me thank you. Your article is imortant not only from the practitional and karateka point of view, but also from an anatomical/biomechanical one. I found your post while searching for different perspectives in zenkutsu dachi stance. My present project is an biomechanical approach for the hip movement in reverse punch techinque. Indeed you confirmed what i was expected, that the vertebral column should be vertical in order to preserve the valuable rotational momentum for an “ikken hissatsu”. More than that, I salute your point of view that a difference in pelvis orientation, between different martial art practices, could lead to a difference in techinques for balance control.

    Thanking you again, I wish you all the best, Dan Moga

    • Dear Sensei Moga,
      If you are in the medical or bio-mechanical profession, I appreciate your comments very much. My articles are based on my personal experience and my own research into this subject to try to understand our body’s mechanism. I find our body is more than what we think or expect. It is a wondrous piece of fine art or a master piece. I believe training karate can bring its maximum achievement what the body can do. I would like to hear your opinion from your anatomical/biomechanical research and what you have discovered.
      Oss

  • I trained with Asai Sensei and was his interpreter while I was teaching at Hawaii Loa College. Asai Sensei and Funakoshi Sensei were and are my personal heroes because of their incredible competence in Karate and their excellent teaching methods. Both were always friendly, and never arrogant–respected greatly by all students.
    Those who take it upon themselves to criticize Asai Sensei obviously did not spend any time with him, did not train with him, and did not know him.
    Nitpicking over his posture in individual pictures is completely out of place–who has never seen a picture of themselves they disliked? Cameras often present illusions.
    Thank you for going to the trouble of defending him with your website! (Though I wish you would change the title–I find it lacking in respect for this great man..after all, this the only part that is visible when you search on google.)

    • Sensei Preston,
      I am happy to find another follower of Asai karate. Regarding your opinion about our organization, I respect your opinion. However, I find it this is the best way to remember his name. I am sure this is how you found us. We want the name of Asai to continue as long as possible. If it is disrespectful to him then I will apologize to him when I see him in the next world.

  • Yokota Shihan,

    First of all, I would like to say that I’ve enjoyed Shotokan Myths and Mysteries. When Shotokan Transcendence came out, I immediately purchased it. I was very curious to hear your comments about my Sensei Tetsuhiko Asai and the topic of his butt sticking out.

    I am writing to one, protect my sensei’s name and secondly to set the record straight. In order to understand what Asai Shihan is doing, one must be well versed in multiple Martial Arts diciplines.

    I have been a Shotokan practitioner and teacher for 47 years. Besides Shotokan karate, I have two black belts in Okinawa Shorin Ryu Matsubayashi Ryu. I am owner of Shotokan Karate Center Inc., and Sifu for Tai Chi Pearl City. I also teach Escrima, Jujitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing, Okinawa Weaponry, and practice Iron Palm.

    My title is Kancho, given to me by one of my students who was part of the original forefathers who branched out throughout the world. He was the JKA Hombu dogo instructor. I have also established my own style of Martial Arts called Tsumuji Ryu.

    I asked Asak Shihan once if Shotokan was the best style. He said, Shotokan is based on solid basic fundamentals and that is good. He also said that one thing bad about Shotokan karate is that its too hard style. Too much tension, which will eventually cause Shotokan practitioners to become stiff and lack flexibility. That is why he spent the better part of his famous daily 2 1/2 hour practice stretching. He wanted Shotokan to be fluid and relaxed. That was one of his main goals.

    In your book your assessment was that Asai’s butt sticking out is the result of Chinese Martial Arts. That is absolutely not true. The very photos you use in your Shotokan Transcendence book shows the truth. Your examples of hips tucked in is exampled by martial artist in normal stances. In a normal Shotokan stance, Asai Shihan has a straight back and tucked hip. The examples of butt sticking out is demonstrated with martial artist in very low stances. When dropping down extremely low, the natural tendency of your skeletal frame is to relax the hip to allow for the extremely low and long stance.

    Asai always emphasized in all the joints of the body being subtle and flexible; ready to react at a moments notice. How? With breath and the whip-like domino effect from hara to external part. The faster you can twitch the hara, the faster the technique will come out and with greater force. This is very different from the rigidness of Shotokan’s basic practice. Shotokan practitioners tend to over emphasize the hara and also hold the kime too long. So techniques are all hands. Kime is held at the very moment of impact by the exhaling breath which was driven by the hara. Then the body suddenly goes into relax mode to enable it to react to additional movements of the opponent.

    Many Shotokan practitioners are awe struck by Asai’s dazzling moves. His moves are the natural progression of Martial Arts as you go from rigidness to fluidity. Understand Asai’s moves is to understand Martial Arts. But, Shotokan practitioners tend to have tunnel vision. They think that Shotokan is the best and everything else is a waste of time. Their cup is too full. You can’t progress with that attitude. To understand Asai is to understand the body’s internal movements. To understand Asai is to take Martial Arts from its rigidness to its fluidity. To understand Asai is to understand how the body whips its techniques. Without the whip, you have a ridid body with limited potential.

    • Dear Sensei Imada,

      First I apologize that I did not see your comment for so long. I am terrible at checking on the comments section.
      Even though you disagree on the reason or cause of the hip positioning of Asai sensei, almost everything you wrote about his teaching, the short coming of the Shotokan practitioners, etc. We also have a common ground that we practiced Asai ryu karate and we embrace it. I hope to continue my work to promote Asai ryu karate and be able to benefit all the karate practitioners. Good luck with your karate training. Best regards,

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