Psyche of a Warrior: John Johnston by Jamie Clubb

My attention was recently drawn to a post on Sensei John Johnston’s Adaptive Karate Blog.  This post has been written by Jamie Clubb and was about John Johnston himself.  It also quotes Geoff Thompson a number of times talking about his training and experiences with John Johnston.   Having interviewed Sensei Johnston myself some time ago and also had the privilege to train with him, I was of course interested as this is a man that I hold in very high regard.

Also, during an age where traditional martial arts come are criticised so much, it is good to see a classical traditional martial artist getting so much respect from some of the leaders in the world of Reality Based Martial Arts.

Anyway, I don’t often do this, but I thought I’d reproduce the post share it with you here.  The original posting can be found at:  http://adaptivekarateblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/psyche-of-a-warrior-john-johnston-by-jamie-clubb/

So, over to Jamie:-

 

“John was and still remains probably the greatest influence to my development in martial arts, taking me through all those vital fundamental lessons, offering me (free) private lessons when he saw my potential; he even bought a suit and belt for me when I didn’t have enough money. He is a great influence and a great friend and a powerful presence in British martial arts. Without John I would not in any way be doing what I am doing today” – Geoff Thompson (BAFTA award winner, best-selling author and world authority on martial arts and self defence)

It is too easy for my generation to be dismissive of traditional martial arts. Most of us began our training when the most popular systems had become commercialized and branded. We witnessed the dawn of the McDojo. The mystique of the 1970s’ Kung Fu Boom and the 1980s’ Ninja-mania was over when we began. The 1990s spawned some huge changes in the martial arts world; a fair amount was instigated by criticism of the old guard. This led the birth of the mainstream “Reality-Based Self Defence” movement and the emergence of “Mixed Martial Arts” as a limited rules combat sport. The McDojos didn’t decrease; in fact, they continued to grow along with the mystical schools. More martial arts were discovered and created. Along the way revisionists took the traditional martial arts back to their functional roots and created another subculture. However, there is still yet another area of training from the pre-cynicism and scepticism of the early ‘90s that is still healthy today and is also being “re-discovered”. These were tough instructors who believed in teaching the hard basics of their art, who were more concerned with developing the original intentions of the “do” way of early 20th century Japan than anything else. They came from an era when karate was still a minority quantity in the west, when the training was tough and when the rank of black belt was rarely seen in the UK. John Johnston comes from that era and today he embodies the strength of his times.

John ran a Shotokan karate dojo in Coventry. Among his students would be the man who would spearhead much of the martial arts controversy in the 1990s, Geoff Thompson. This article varies from many others I have written on individual martial artists in that I have stepped aside from giving my personal reflections and sought those of Geoff’s. Geoff had a profound influence over my development in the martial arts during the early ‘90s and he continues to do so today. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting and perhaps more revealing to co-interview Geoff about his experiences with John rather to give any surface impressions the man made on me. To begin with I asked Geoff to sum John up to me:

“I first started training with John in the early ‘80s, before my door period, way before leaving my real job to train full time; in fact I got my black belt with Enoida sensei in karate under John’s tuition. He had a big class and he had a strong reputation as a former fighter and city doorman, and as a class karateka. His karate was and still is very dynamic, he is a big man and when he moves the whole room crackles. For a big man he is very fast.  He was also as a man that spoke his mind and not everyone liked that (I did), so he did not suffer fools. It is what really drew me to him”.

To John mindset, attitude and the psyche of the individual is the foundation of the good karateka. He had a tough upbringing, which inspired him first to fight and later to seek discipline through fighting:

“I was a mixed race kid growing up in Coventry just after the war had finished. I mentioned the war because if people understand their history, they will understand that colour prejudice was a propaganda tool that the American administration used to keep their coloured GIs segregated from the British public, mainly the women.  Therefore it was very strong in the minds of a lot of adults and was consequently passed onto their children. I was brought up by my English Grandparents who were very loving, but lacked the understanding to be able to equip me to deal with the overt prejudice that I found, other than to tell me that if I was picked on I was to fight back. Consequently I was in a lot of fights at school and at play. I had to fight from infant school through to my second year at comprehensive school. I was not bullied after that because I had dealt with most of it by then. At that time, there were only five coloured kids at my senior school, which made me a target.”

Being naturally athletic, John was not your obvious victim of bullying. This only goes to show how bad racial tensions were at the time and how deep the propaganda was in the collective psychology of those growing up during the era of John’s childhood. Born in 1951, he would have experienced the nationalist racism of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that was inspired over fears regarding mass-immigration. John did not seek martial arts to solve his bullying problem – he would be 20 years old before he took up karate. He learnt how to fight well through hard experience and understanding how to utilize his natural attributes. He was an able rugby player at school, becoming a member of the Warwickshire Colts and then later the Coventry Welsh. He boxed for a little while and dabbled a bit in judo, but it was karate that eventually captured his heart.

“I was influenced by such films as ‘Our Man Flint’, starring James Coburn, ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, starring Frank Sinatra, and later the Bruce Lee films. Having looked at several kung fu and karate clubs in the area I was fortunate to watch a class taken by Rick Jackson shortly after he had returned from training in Japan. I instinctively knew that Shotokan suited my physiology.”

Rick Jackson had recently been training in Japan. A much revered instructor, Rick taught John for two years. John’s dedication to the art was evident and it wasn’t long before he was entrusted with his own class to teach at Henley College. The scarcity of British born karate black belts in the early ‘70s was probably comparable to the number of British Brazilian jiu jitsu black belts in the 2000s. John was just a green belt when he first taught. Always the avid sportsman he took to karate kumite with predictable enthusiasm and vigour. In fact, it would seem he was a little too enthusiastic in his first competition when, as a purple belt, he was disqualified for excessive contact at the Larcano Ballroom in 1973.

However, he would soon become a regular on the competition circuit, fighting successfully at regional and national level competitions. This helped prove himself to the higher echelons of the British karate scene. He and his fellow club members began training with the British squad at the notorious Longford Dojo. Here he would trade blows with some of the best in the sport, and as time went on he became far more than a plucky sparring partner. John rose through the Shotokan ranks, taking instruction from some of the luminaries of his day such as Enoeda Sensei, Kawazoe Sensei and Andy Sherry. Despite learning some control from his early days on the tournament circuit, John was still feared for his devastating sweeps. By the time he was running his own clubs as a professional instructor he had caught the attention of the best in the sport and was selected for the Central Region Squad coached the British and European Champion, Frank Brennan.

The esteem that John was to be held in by his peers was explained to me by Geoff Thompson, who is one of today’s most respected martial arts instructors:

“He was a senior with the KUGB (Karate Union of Great Britain) and everyone knew at the time that they were the elite, it was an amazing association manned by some very serious players, Terry O’Neil, Frank Brennan, Andy Sherry, Bob Poynton, Ronnie Christopher to mention just a few. Just getting a brown belt with these folk was seen as top end, so getting my black belt with them was a life time ambition”.

And yet despite this awe he was held in and his reputation for not “suffering fools”, John, according to Geoff, was a man that was generous with his time and cared about people. Long time readers of Geoff Thompson’s work will be only too aware of the author’s dark days of regularly jumping from job to job. During some of these transient periods of Geoff’s life in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, John ran a building company and gave Geoff work:

“I even worked for him for a time, again there was always the sense with John that even if he didn’t have any work for me, he’d find work for me, he was that kind of person”.

However, John was always a realist when it came to self defence side of martial arts training. His initial karate training can be seen as a type of buffer period that helped turn the street fighter who was born in order to cope with childhood violence into a warrior that could turn his skills to a profession. Three years after his first lesson he began work as a doorman. He worked in Coventry during a time when the city had a fearsome reputation for violence. This was just prior to the era that Geoff made famous in his autobiography “Watch my Back”. John ended up becoming head doorman of a top Coventry nightclub and explained to me what a career in door security was like in those days:

“Initially the majority [of doormen] were boxers and a couple were rugby players. A lot of the guys that I worked with had criminal records for violence and it was after a particularly bad incident at a club that the police made it a condition that no one with a criminal record could work on the doors. It was at this point that I was promoted to head doorman and had to find replacement staff which I recruited from the karate club I was training at and a kung fu club”.

His work in door security was very successful. Geoff Thompson told me that John was once probably “the top doorman in the city”. This reputation led John onto other security work including “overt and covert operations protecting high profile business men, TV personalities and recording artists”. The “Adaptive” karate he teaches today doesn’t fall into the category of either literal interpretation, as portrayed by the pre-arranged sparring drills promoted in the 20th century, or the bunkai promoted today by the likes of Iain Abernethy and Gavin Mulholland. It is a more principle-based approach than a dissection or testing of bunkai. John told me,

“I feel that my karate is more instinctual than conceptual, so it isn’t easy to translate it to the written page. I try to encourage students to develop a very positive attitude when training, as well as being honest and realistic about real combat. I try to get them to understand that it’s not just physical; there is a psychological aspect which is also affected by the chemical reactions within the body. I believe that if you have these precepts in mind when you engage in training, and the training is hard and focused, you can help prepare them for the eventuality of conflict, and also give them the tools to be able to deal with conflict with the possibility of resolving it without resorting to violence, but worse case scenario, to be able to manage the situation with a favourable outcome”

“I stayed with Karate because its philosophy and its rigorous training methods have helped me to shape my life and has steered me in a direction which has been good for my wellbeing.

“I still teach and train in traditional Shotokan karate but I believe that to make it viable, the mind set in conjunction with the techniques require adaptation to be able to apply them in a way which would be effective. You can take competition techniques, Kata sequences and adapt them for street level protection. It’s not only the physical delivery of techniques that require adaptation but also you have to adapt your psyche”.

The mindset, attitude and psyche seem to mean everything to John and his approach to martial arts. It is something that I have noticed most experienced martial artists with a strong background in handling violence outside of their training came back to when they teach. When I pushed John on this subject he explained,

“I would say that attitude is not only a key part for the foundation of martial arts and self defence training, but is paramount and fundamental to a successful outcome, more so than the physical. If you train for competition you are preparing to attempt to win competition, however, if you prepare for war, you are attempting to avoid war. The attitude and mindset for these two concepts, albeit related are completely different”.

Today the martial arts world is very open to cross-training and hosting other martial arts and it is hard to remember a time when the norm was for most clubs to forbid training at another school. Knowing that much of the controversy surrounding Geoff’s early work came from his experiences in traditional martial arts, I wondered how he correlated this with his time training under John:

“It is hard to find other good teachers after working for so long with John because he was so charismatic; many of the people I went to afterwards, in my search for more martial arts information, were diluted by comparison. But he did also encourage me to explore, he was not one of these ‘jealous husband’ teachers that were afraid of you training with anyone else. Through John’s inspiration I later took my skills to the nightclubs and pubs of the Coventry to further forge and develop myself, and later when I wrote my first book, ‘Watch my Back’, he was very encouraging”.

Geoff Thompson often talks about stepping outside of comfort zones. Indeed, much of his philosophy is steep in metaphors about putting yourself into the forge as often as possible and moving toward discomfort in order to achieve the targets you desire. I can’t help but wonder whether John Johnston’s hard earned lessons didn’t have some degree of influence over him. John stepped from an outside world that had shown him cruel violent and irrational persecution and into another focused and disciplined type of discomfort. I asked John what the karate was like when he began and the changes he has seen during his lifetime.

“The Karate that was being taught at that time was very basic and very strong physically and mentally and often brutal, with a lot of misguided honesty to it”.

I queried what he meant by “misguided honesty”

“Misguided honesty or naivety: Various training methods which our instructors honestly thought were good for us. Sports science has recently shown us that many of these concepts were not only bad for us but also dangerous. I would say, however, that that kind of regime built a strong mental attitude. Unfortunately it also wheedled out the weaker students very quickly. They wouldn’t come back, which made it elitist. The students that really needed it should have been coaxed and encouraged instead of being put off. Here are a few examples.

“We used to block against an unpadded length of 3 by 2 hardwood that was being rammed at our abdomens with considerable force. This was supposed to toughen our arms up, which it did. However, if you didn’t block it you would have a rib taken out.

On one course held just before Christmas, a senior British instructor told us after three hours that he was now about to give us our Christmas present. We were told to kneel down, arranging ourselves round the Dojo, which was a converted Ice Skating rink. The last man in line was told to start bunny hopping around the room and over the students that were kneeling down. All the rest of the students followed round in succession. We all did three laps, no body was allowed to give up or be excused before we were allowed to finish. I and my fellow students spent three days virtually unable to walk. Thanks for my Christmas present!

“One last but not least of the so called body-conditioning exercises: We were regularly encouraged, advised to go on barefoot runs at least three miles long, around streets and parks. So when I say misguided honesty, I refer to instructors that genuinely thought that this type of body conditioning would have immediate and long term positive effects”.

It is not surprising that among the good things that John believes has happened in martial arts is the adoption of modern sports science. This has helped influence many schools to drop outmoded, counter-productive and potentially damaging training practices. However, he concurs with Geoff’s sentiments regarding the dilution that has happened within many traditional martial arts. This is not just in terms of the pragmatism, but also the morality. John told me “There are a lot of people that have no concept of the real values, ethics and aims of true martial arts” This side of John was echoed with some of Geoff’s points about the man I mentioned earlier such as providing Geoff with a suit and belt so he could train or giving him some paid work. Geoff sees John as one of his inspirations to compete in martial arts tournaments and then to work the doors. The era that Geoff trained in was a time when the unheated dojos and hard training that had made karate and other martial arts minority activities were beginning to give way to the commercialism that would jade my generation’s early experiences. On that note I would like to leave you with Geoff’s memories on the balance of values and pragmatism that John taught him during his karate days:

“I can remember being a purple belt (and feeling as though I was almost at the top of the world) and telling John my belief that karate was all about self defence, that was its real essence, and even then, way, way back then he pulled me to one side and explained that

self defence was only really a by-product of karate, and that good karate was about self development, about development of the virtues, ultimately it was about taking your skills to the level where you become of service to your community, to the world at large. I had no idea what he was talking about, and yet, here I am nearly 40 years on teaching just that.

“He was always like that though, John, so far ahead of the curve. He once told me that when you were good at your art, even painting a fence became an extension of your karate. Painting a fence, who ever heard of such a thing? The man was clearly mad (I thought). And yet…and yet here I am (again) painting fences and writing books/plays/film/articles all as an extension of my karate. As you can see I owe him a lot.

“I also remember a time when he gave me a real bollocking. We had a couple of black belts in the class that I didn’t think represented Shotokan, certainly not Shotokan as I saw it. They were haughty and arrogant. Good technicians I thought but not good men. I told John this; I said, accusingly, that he had let them slip through the net. He told me (with raised voice) that his job was not just to teach the people that were palatable, but also to teach those that had lost their way, teaching pleasant people he said was easy, any instructor could do it, but his job as he saw it was to help everyone, especially those that had drifted from the path. That has always stuck with me. It was a very profound thing to say, and I have quoted it many times since. In the Toa it says that a good man is a bad man’s teacher, a bad man is a good man’s job. He knew that all those years ago when I was still arrogant enough to think I had any idea what I was doing.

“John’s emphasis in training was always on good basics. He drilled them again and again. Obsessive basics made me so strong that it literally saved my life. One time in a club in Coventry I was attacked by a gang en masse. They were literally trying to kill me, but my basics were so strong that they could not keep me down, and everyone I hit fell over. Afterwards I said to a friend proudly (I was battered and bruised, but still standing), ‘that was Shotokan!’ I knew why the basics were so important. John taught me that”.

 

I have to say that I enjoyed Jamie’s account and found it very interesting.  For anybody interested in training with John Johnston, he is teaching a course with Iain Abernethy on the 4th May which I highly recommend.  The details are on the poster below.

Alternatively, you can find out more, contact or book your own seminar with Sensei Johnston from his main website at: http://www.adaptivekarate.com.

John Johnston Is Awarded His 7th Dan

Pictured here is John Johnston being awarded his 7th Dan Shotokan Karate by Geoff Thompson and Dev Barrett at Dev Barrett’s Dojo in Coventry which is the hometown and birthplace of these 3 great men.

Dev Barrett is a former world champion kickboxer from the old school era when there was only was one world championship, unlike today were we numerous champions.

Geoff Thompson 7th Dan is the co-founder of the British Combat Association, author of 40 books (published in 20 languages), five multi-award-winning films, three stage plays, hundreds of articles (many published in national magazines and broadsheets) and a BAFTA award winner.

Dev Barrett 7th Dan said “Congratulations to John, a great Karate-ka who’s time has been more than served for this award.  John is genuine, experienced and knowledgeable and it was an honour to be involved in his presentation”.

Geoff and Dev are lifelong Friends of John’s.  Geoff Thompson said, “John Johnston is one of the few remaining giants of Traditional Karate.  He is a power house.  All of my formative training was under the auspice of this great teacher.  I owe him the world.  If you can get to train with him, you won’t regret it. I highly recommend him”.

If you are interested in taking up Geoff’s recommendation, then Sensei John Johnston is putting on a course at Dev Barrett’s Dojo on 1st December 2012.  Part of Sensei Johnston’s teaching style is to encourage people to find what suits them best rather than being prescriptive.  As such, this course is open to all grades of any style (not just Karateka).   The only restriction is that it is for adults only due to the content.  For full details see the poster below.

See you there!

Adaptive Karate Blog: With John & Elaine Johnston

John and Elaine Johnston have started up their own blog which will be well worth checking out.  Sensei John Johnston is a 6th Dan Shotokan Karate and the people who he has trained with reads like a “who’s who” of early UK Shotokan Karate.  He has competed at high level when it was much rougher than today’s competitions and has also done a lot of door work.

His wife, Elaine is a 2nd Dan and has an interest in psychology and Yoga, so she also bring her own unique insights into the mix as well.  This will make it a very well rounded martial arts blog.

Sensei Johnston was also Geoff Thompsons first martial arts instructor and was one of the main influence of Geoff, teaching him that Karate needs to be adapted to make it work on the streets.  Geoff Thompson said of Sensei Johnston:

“John was and still remains probably the greatest influence to my development in martial arts, taking me through all those vital fundamental lessons, offering me (free) private lessons when he saw my potential; he even brought my suit and belt for me when I didn’t have enough money. He is a great influence and great friend and a powerful presence in British martial arts. Without John I would not in any way be doing what I am doing today and I am very grateful to him for that, and I highly recommend him and his instruction to anyone looking to fast track their martial arts”.

The blog is called Adaptive Karate Blog and already has a few postings on it.  Please take the time to check it out from time to time.

Interview With John Kelly 4th Dan Shotokan Karate

I have been very fortunate and honoured to have been asked to publish the following interview with John Kelly.  Both interviewer and interviewee are high grade and distinguished Shotokan Karateka.

The interviewer is John Johnston, 6th Dan, who has previously given a fascinating interview with myself on this website.  This time though, he has interviewed his friend, Sensei John Kelly, who is a truly amazing man.  Having survived a near death crash that would have killed most men, or at least made them lose the will to live; John Kelly has come back fighting.  He is now a 4th Dan, runs his own association (the Munster Shotokan Karate Association) and even does door work.  Some people just can’t be kept down!

So I’ll pass you over to John Johnston and John Kelly for an insight into a truly inspirational Karateka:

 

JJ:    I know you started Karate when you were quite young, when and where was that?

JK:       I went to a Karate demonstration in my home village (Kilmacthomas, County Waterford, Ireland) in 1982; I was blown away with the movements, power, speed and power breaking.

John Kelly in Moksu

The Instructor was Dermot Carew, Chief Instructor to the R.I.K.A. (Republic of Ireland Karate Association). I joined immediately with my twin sister.

There were 95 members originally, so classes had to be separated by age and so on. Training was tough but I loved every minute.

Out of the 95 members only 5 stayed to Shodan and only 2 for Nidan myself and my twin sister. I am the only one from the original bunch still training.

Although now I have 4 clubs of my own (Munster Shotokan Karate Association).

JJ:    At what age did you start to compete and how successful was you?

JK:     I competed almost straight away and was very successful both home and abroad, being selected for the squad early in my kumite years. For a small guy I was well known for my flexibility and fast kicks.

JJ:    We all know that Shotokan is your chosen style, what made you choose it and stay with it?

JK:     I guess it was from the first demonstration when I saw the power, speed and destruction with one’s bare hands and feet.

After many years competing I have always felt shotokan to be the stronger art with much more power in its kumite and kata.

It is like a book with no final page, you never stop learning. Shotokan is the ultimate and covers all areas.

 JJ:     We also know that you have experienced other Martial Arts. Tell us a little bit about which ones and your impressions?

JK:      I tried kick boxing in the early years and Taekwondo. Mainly for more competition. I enjoyed the physical fighting in the kick boxing but in the early days of kumite it was very physical also. I remember my dad and mam saying to me after several competitions “why would you stay doing a sport that leaves you with a black eye, split lip. Or broken nose” THE GOOD OLD KUMITE DAYS.

Kumite these days is a lot tamer than then, with more and more kids joining and competing I suppose it’s for the best. 

JJ:     John, you are known as a man who will not compromise.  How does that work out for you in today’s financial climate and people looking for instant results?

JK:    Well I suppose in Karate, I will not allow students to grade unless they are competent with their relative grading syllabus, to many allow students to grade once they have paid their fee. This is all too common. But sadly the only one that suffers is the students who will find out very quickly that they cannot compete comfortably at their grade level.

As a coach it is my job to ensure a high standard and that all members when they compete have an equal opportunity and not compete above their grade level.

There is no set time for Shodan as far as I am concerned. It is better for a student to earn their grade than to buy it.

I am fair in competition if I am reffing, the student that deserves the win will get the win whether they are mine or from a different club.

I suppose in business things have changed a lot and as a Professional Painting and Decorating contractor you have to be firm, it is a cut throat business.

All in all if a student is dedicated they would rather wait a bit longer to earn their grades but if they want to progress quicker and become a black belt at 6 or 7 they may go elsewhere.

JJ:      We know that you had a few personal setbacks over the years. If you don’t mind I’m sure people would love to hear about them and how you coped.

JK:     Yes I had my fair share of knock backs; in the summer of 1997 I was very busy at my Painting and Decorating work. With that summer being very good, I worked long hours 7 days a week .

It caught up on me on 18th August 97 when I feel asleep while driving and hit a wall with concrete post with steel cables running through them.

There was nothing left of the car and my head.

I sustained 9 multiple skull fractures, broken neck in 2 places, right eye socket crushed, left shoulder crushed, all facial bones fractured and my right eye was hanging out.

I had to have many reconstructive operations and had a front lobe elevation as the top part of my head ended up down by my chin.

Even though it took many years to recover fully, I honestly believe Karate had a lot to do with my mental strength in my recovery as well as help from the man upstairs.

I was very lucky to survive such a horrific road accident and look at Karate a lot different now.

I try to give back to it and the members what it gave me.

One thing I will always remember was the pains in my head for so many years; sometimes I would physically cry it was so unbearable.

But life is for living, there was a poor guy in Cork hospital around that time that was in a less serious car crash but the difference was when his brain swelled it had no room as his head was not fracture, poor man ended up brain dead for life, my skull had several open fractures , the brain was visible (yuk) but when the brain swelled it had room.

I feel very lucky today, 15 years later I have a beautiful wife and son.

Still have a few more operations to go but will deal with them when they come up. 

If I could give advice to anyone, no matter how bad their situation is whether it be financial, medical or personnel, there is always someone worse off and never to give up, where there is a will there is a way.

JJ:     You were very lucky.

JK:   Yes I was very lucky, I still have some major operations to go, you don’t come out of a smash and sustain those types of injuries without some problems down the line.

I remember not being able to do even one press up after the smash but when I went back training my Instructor had to pull me to one side, he said “slow down you are not the same man, you body needs to slowly strengthen , slow and steady and you will get there”.  He was right, I guess in my head I thought I was the same and did not want to come to terms with my competition years being gone so early.

Now I try to give the members my experience and opportunities I never had.

But yes Karate gave me strength both physically and mentally and also the drive to now pass on and teach rather than compete. 

I would have to say my wife has been very supportive both in Karate and during my recovery.  In my competition years she was always there to cheer me on, I was not the easiest person to be around or live with at that time of the crash and recovery period.

I have a young son now and hopefully some day he will take it up. But that choice will be his when he is old enough.

JJ:     You’ve stuck to Shotokan where as many people who have door experience have turned to Reality–Based Martial Arts or MMA. What are your reasons for that?

JK:    Many train for door work in these martial arts as if preparing for aggro to use at the slightest hint of trouble, this is the wrong mentality, and is the cause of many conflicts.

I happen to fall into this line of work as a second income only and treat it as any other job.

Obviously you are dealing with alcohol and drug induced members of the public and have to be firm but fair.

You can deal with most situations by talking and having a good partner or team to cover you, aggression attracts aggression. If you portray a hard man image as a bouncer you will attract trouble where as if you treat people like human beings while still being firm but fair, you will gain respect and fewer enemies.

I think Shotokan has it all, how to deal with any situation.

JJ:     As I look at Karate in Ireland as compared to the UK, I get the impression that it is a lot more unified. Do you share that feeling?

JK:    Well as you know there is too much ego, politics and B–l S–t in Karate worldwide. In Ireland there is a high standard in the different groups and organisations.

They all seem to support each other at events/ seminars and competitions. So yes I would agree.

Sadly there is little or no funding for Karate in Ireland, I’m not sure about the UK.

JJ:      Your Clubs are having allot of competition success. Tell us about that and how you see their future?

JK:     Yes the members are very competitive and can’t seem to get enough.  They have made it to medal position Regionally, Nationally and Internationally in most competitions over the last few years.

We are also members of ONAKAI (Official National Amateur Karate Association of Ireland) www.onakai.org.  I am appointed by ONAKAI as Munster Junior Kumite Coach and take this role very serious and working with clubs and instructors develop students to represent their country at International events.  European/world and hopefully the Olympics in 2020.  I am also ONAKAI Munster regional secretary. 

We make the training fun but at the same time disciplined, win lose or draw they are all winners once they set foot on the tatami.

I try to explain to them in order to be a good winner you first have to be a good loser, always to bow and shake hands with your opponent.  There is a lot to be learnt from a lose. 

I hope to have students compete and represent their country in either EKF/WKF European or world championships some day.  That would be any clubs dream.

JJ:     Unlike a lot of senior Instructors you like to expose your students to a variety of Instructors. I myself think that is a very healthy approach. Is that why you do it?

JK:    I like to expose the students to many Instructors; some might think it is not wise as they may make you look less skilled as some are exceptional.

My job is to teach and to develop the students and myself the best way I can and not to just stand at the top of the class promoting myself. To many I think discourage there students from training or competing with other clubs or organisations, I try to give the members more opportunities than I had over the years

They can learn so much from a variety of seminars/course with guest instructors. We also open our courses/seminars and competition s to everyone regardless of affiliation or association. Strictly no politics/ego’s, our doors are open to all.

We have a good relationship with the many groups/organizations and associations in Ireland and further afield.

We are there to develop the members both physically, mentally and to teach them to have an open mind to make their own way on their journey in Karate-do and life

JJ:     Are there any incidents whilst bouncing that you would like to tell us about, without incriminating yourself?

JK:     There are a few serious and humorous  ones but I will tell you in person as that job is separate to Karate and I would prefer to keep it that way.

JJ:      Over the years you’ve done quite allot of Door Work. What transferable skills would you say come from Karate training?

JK:     I would probably say confidence and control as you know yourself you get quite a lot of verbal abuse and I believe most situations can be handled if you are calm and able to diffuse a situation by talking rather that getting physical

JJ:      What are your likes and dislikes about Karate today?

JK:     I like most everything about Karate today, some are not happy if Karate makes it to the Olympics as they feel if kumite gets in Kata is left out and there goes traditional Karate.

Hmmmm. I don’t know. WKF is very fast and with 8 points it makes a fight out of it, giving the competitors a fighting chance.

In my opinion Kata should also be added to the Olympic’s as it is fabulous to watch and is one of the core values of a Karate, the 3 K’s Kihon, Kata and Kumite.

Karate is less funded than other martial arts for example kickboxing go figure. I think it would be good and give it the recognition it deserves and would grow clubs and members worldwide.

Dislikes, too much bull shit, egos and politics for my liking.

 

 

I would like to thank John Johnston for conducting this interview and forwarding it to me.

I would especially like to thank John Kelly for agreeing to be interviewed and for sharing his very traumatic experiences with us.  To go through something like that and able to come back achieve what John Kelly has achieved is a real inspiration to all martial artist.

Kata And Its Bunkai Is Like A Sword

The following is para-phrased from part of a lesson given by Sensei Pete Manning 6th Dan Shotokan Karate, during the recent residential course hosted by the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association:-

“Kata is like a sword.  If you strive only for technical excellence, then it is like putting the sword in a glass case and hanging it on a wall for display.

However, if you learn how to use and apply the kata bunkai, then it is like taking down the sword from the glass case on the wall and actually using it”.

I liked the analogy, so I thought it was worth sharing.

 

Shotokan Karate Magazine: My Article & Letter From Reader

I am honoured to have recently had a second article published in Shotokan Karate Magazine.  The article was titled “Using “Whip” Technique”, which I have written about elsewhere on this site.  Although it primarily relates to Shotokan Karate, it should be relevant to other styles too.

I have recently received an email from the editor John Cheetham informing me that the article has been well received and forwarding a letter from a reader.  I thought this letter raised some interesting points.

I have therefore responded to this letter and asked John Cheetham’s permission to reproduce the letter and my response here on this website.  John has kindly agreed, so here below is the readers letter:-

Dear John, I read your magazine (issue 111) with great pleasure, as always!
Time over time you manage to find interesting aspects and trigger discussions that are of great value. I thank you for that!

In issue 111, the article by Charlie Wildish especially caught my attention!
Even though I am just a humble 1st kyu, I have often thought about this method of whipping the techniques.  I found it to be very fast, and also I felt as if it took less energy to perform.

However, I was only really able to perform this somewhat successfully with a Gyaku Zuki (Reverse Punch). I have not really been able to apply the whipping effect in other techniques. Therefore, I wonder if you could ask Charlie to go into more detail of how to apply this for other techniques, including kicks.

The other thought that comes to my mind is that of possible injury during training.

First, I am thinking about how easily I could hurt my own joints due to the fact that I am performing such extremely fast movements with less tension on my muscles. What I am trying to say is that it is probably very difficult to fully control the movements and the stopping point (moment of impact) every time.  So I fear for my elbow.

The other worry that I have is with respect to injuries due to possible blocks that are performed against my whipped technique. In order to perform the whipping effect, I have to keep my arm ( e.g. Gyaku Zuki) extremely
relaxed. I hate to imagine, what a hard block, such as Soto Uke would do to my arm and elbow at that point (i.e. before I maximize the tension at the end).

Maybe these are stupid questions, but as, I too, am getting older, I am continuously thinking of ways to train healthily. As you get older, every
injury takes longer to heal, and coming back after a pause of training due to injury gets harder.

If you don’t want to publish this, I would be very grateful to hear your thoughts on this via Email. And also, maybe you could forward my questions to Charlie?

Thank you and best regards,
Frank Kretzschmar
(Bad Soden, Germany)

And my response to Mr Kretzschmar:-

Dear Mr Kretzschmar

Thank you for the positive feedback about my article.

Starting with hand techniques, you should be able to apply the whipping feeling to techniques other than Gyaku Zuki (Reverse Punch). The main points are:

  • Focus on generating movement from the hips.
  • Keep the torso as relaxed as possible so as to allow the hips to slightly lead the shoulders, thus creating the wave effect through the body (the wave culminates in the whip). 
  • Keep the hand/arm from moving as long as possible until the “wave” reaches the shoulders, then the hand will feel like it is being thrown rather than having to thrust it forward.

One of the easiest techniques (other than punching) to feel the “wave” is Age Uke (Rising Block), so maybe focus on that for a while till you have it, then put it into other techniques.

Kicks can use the whip too, but it is a bit more difficult. As power comes from the hips, it helps to pull the foot in as close as possible to the hip before releasing it to the target, (hence the emphasis on raising the knee).

Creating the wave through the body is about sequence. You will probably have to practice this slowly if it is not coming easily; but first raise the knee and bring the foot in as tight to the hip as possible without creating too much tension. Then move the hips/foot as one unit, then release the foot when the hip nears the completion of its movement. If you’re interested, I have actually produced a DVD which might help you understand this a bit better at: http://bunkaijutsu.com/store/

This is just brief overview (which I might expand on later).

I understand your concerns about the lack of muscular tension to protect your joints, but ironically you are less likely to damage your joints this way. With this relaxed technique, the joints actually open up lightly letting more fluids in which actually keep them lubricated. This is a Tai Chi principle. When somebody uses too much kime/tension, they actually pull the 2 sides of the joint together which more likely to create wear and tear. It also makes for a less efficient punch as the fist is actually being pulled slightly back by your own muscles rather than releasing all of the energy forward into the target.

The other factor is that when you have good structure, the reaction to impact is easily absorbed by the body’s skeletal system as the bones are in the correct alignment. 

As for hard blocks like Soto Uke (Outside Block), the original function of this technique was not to block straight punches. Just try sparring with a club mate for a while where one can only do straight punches and the other can only do classical blocks (Soto Uke, Uchi Uke, age Uke etc). You’ll find that the blocks simply don’t work. On top of that, in a real self defence situation, you are more likely to be attacked by swinging haymakers rather than straight punches. The creators of Karate centuries ago (who had to fight for their lives, rather than points) would not spend so much time creating “blocks” that don’t work – to defend against attacks that are not likely to used.

Therefore (coming back to your question), the only time you’re likely to be blocked with a full Soto Uke (Outside Block) is when you’re doing pre-arranged sparring when you can if you deem necessary brace yourself as you know when its coming. Having said that, even without using the whip technique, the arm should still be relaxed when moving (only tensing on impact) and the Soto Uke should intercept it before it reaches that impact (or its too late – you’ve already been hit). Therefore, with respect, you should be used to being blocked with your arm relaxed.

I do not think that you are asking stupid questions at all. Quite the opposite, as we get older we are wise to take our age into account, it would be stupid not to 🙂
I am luckily that my own Sensei, Paul Mitchell, is very aware of this subject. One of his sayings is “young people should use the full dexterity of their bodies, older people should do it properly”. An example of what he means by this is that high kicks are good for youngsters to develop their bodies, but not effective for self defence, so older people should keep their kicks to a practical height (doing it properly for self defence).

I hope this answers your questions to your satisfaction.

Best Regards

Charlie

Please leave your own feedback below if you found this useful, or if you would like to add your own knowledge to my answer.  I always welcome input from others.

Practical Shotokan Course: Karate Kata Bunkai

The following video clip is taken from the Practical Shotokan: Beginner to Black Belt Course taught by Sensei Paul Mitchell, Chief Instructor of the Wells Traditional Shotokan Karate Club earlier on today.  Sensei Mitchell is talking about stand alone karate kata bunkai which could be fight finishers by themselves.  As Shotokan Karate puts a lot of emphasis on multiple assailants, there are many techniques which can incapacitate an opponent very quickly, although they are not always obvious and have been dumbed down a lot over the years for many social and political reasons.

Kaki Waki Uke (Reverse Wedge Block) is usually seen as breaking somebody’s grip when they try to strangle you.  However, if they have both of their hands on you, why not just punch/strike them?  It is much quicker, they have nothing to defend themselves with (as they’ve committed both of their hands to your neck) and it could finish the fight then and there.  If you use Kaki Waki Uke to separate their arms and release their grip, then you can both continue the fight on an even basis.

So what is Kaki Waki Uke more useful for?  Well one of the most common street attacks of all is a swinging haymaker, which as Sensei Mitchell demonstrates here can be easily stopped with one side of the Kaki Waki Uke.  Note that when he does this, that his opponent head is jerked slightly downwards and onto the other arm with is attacking to the neck.

In this instance Sensei Mitchell quite lightly attacks a specific point on the  opponent neck causing him to almost pass out straight away.  Had the blow been delivered with any real force, the opponent would have out cold.

Now if you’re thinking multiple opponents, you want techniques which give instant results and doesn’t waste a lot of your own energy (which you’ll need for fighting the others).  Sensei Mitchell demonstrates how this can be done very simply using a common technique which most people happily overlook on a regular basis.

 

Interview With International Instructor, John Johnston, 6th Dan Shotokan Karate

The people that Sensei Johnston has trained with reads like a who’s who on the early Shotokan Karate scene in the UK.  He has also trained at many seminars with other leading martial artists outside of the Shotokan world.  This is all backed up by years of experience at the sharp end doing door work at the toughest nightclubs in Coventry, as well doing personal protection for some high profile businessmen and celebrities.  Unfortunately, John can’t really talk about  his personal protection work for reasons of confidentiality.

Many people these days talk about “reality based martial arts”, but John was poineer these methods long before it entered in the mainstream of martial arts.  In fact Geoff Thompson, who’s name is synonymous with reality based martial arts received his early training and many of his early ideas from John.  In Geoff’s own words:

“John was and still remains probably the greatest influence to my development in martial arts, taking me through all those vital fundamental lessons, offering me (free) private lessons when he saw my potential; he even brought my suit and belt for me when I didn’t have enough money. He is a great influence and great friend and a powerful presence in British martial arts. Without John I would not in any way be doing what I am doing today and I am very grateful to him for that, and I highly recommend him and his instruction to anyone looking to fast track their martial arts”.

John is a humble man and not a one to push himself forward.  As such he is not as well known in the wider martial arts world as he deserves to be.  I have been very lucky and honoured to have secured this interview with him.  Later this month, I will be having a private lesson with him, which I shall report back on later.

In the meantime, here’s that interview.

 

CW:      Please tell us about your early training in martial arts and who your main teachers and influences were when you started?

JJ:      My first teacher was Richard Jackson. I started training with him shortly after his return from Japan. Having trained out there and taken his 2nd Dan. The reason I started with him was after having looked at some other Karate styles and Kung Fu, the immediate impact of the Shotokan style and his method of teaching. Seeing that made me realise that it was exactly what I was looking for. By the time I got to around 4th Kyu (2nd purple belt) Kawazoe Sensei had arrived in Britain and started to spend allot of time with myself and other colleagues from the Coventry Dojo. Someone else that also had a profound influence on my Karate was Neil Thomas from Wolverhampton, whom we had regular mixed sessions with. We were also very lucky and privileged that the Coventry Long Ford Dojo was used for the National and International squad sessions, which were taken by Enoeda Sensei and Andy Sherry. We were allowed to train alongside such names as: Steve Cattle, Billy Higgins, Bob Rhodes, Bob Poynton, Terry O’Neil, Mick Dewey, Dave Hazard, Mick Ragg and countless others from that era. I say we were allowed to train alongside them it felt more like we were being used for cannon fodder. I could tell you countless stories about those times, suffice to say  training was very hard on many levels, retaining students for financial purposes was not a criteria, you could either put up with the harshness or pack up.

John was renowned for his fantastic leg sweeps

CW:      You competed quite a bit in your younger days.  Competitions and training could be much tougher and harsher back then, can you tell us about some of your experiences from those days?

JJ:      My first experience of competition free style came when I used to visit one of the local Wado Ryu clubs at 8th Kyu stage.  I remember my basics although stronger seemed slow and ponderous in comparison and finding it strange when Randori was called, watching everybody pad up and starting to dance about. On reflection I look back at those times and think about my frustration at not being able to score points the way they were initially. Visiting the Wado Ryu club periodically over an 18 month period I started to find it very easy to overwhelm and score points on people of a higher grade than myself. In the first competition that Coventry Shotokan Karate club attained, we were nearly all disqualified in the team event and the individuals because of our strong technique, lack of experience and understanding. Although other styles were allowed to use protective equipment, it was frowned upon for us to use, we neither wanted to or were allowed any type of protection for many years. Only after at least 10 years of training was it that groin protection and gum shield became mandatory. Any other form of protection required a doctor’s consent and would meet with disapproval from your team mates. I think because of this we all myself included gained far more control, precision and was better able to apply our techniques. Initially myself and likeminded colleagues would enter the open competitions with which we had some minor success and also gained allot of experience. Later I became a member of the KUGB Central Region Squad which was coached by Frank Brennan. I was with the squad for many years as its Captain and as a full competing member. The experience gained from being on the squad was phenomenal. We had many senior and junior champions on the squad of international and national level, people like: Ronnie Christopher, Dean Hodgekiss, Ronnie Cannings, Donald Campbell, Glen Davidson and Bruce Thomas, these all won either national, European and world championships. Along with the fact that whilst being coached by Frank Brennan who that over this period of time was at the top of his game. I was very lucky and privileged to have been a major part of the squad for 12 years or more. Any new members that were selected to the squad would quite often be initiated with a line up. I can’t describe how devastating that could be on a young lad who’d never encountered such action before.

John fighting Shotokan legend Frank Brennan . . . and taking him down

CW:      How do you feel that Shotokan Karate has developed and how have training methods changed from those early days to what it is today?

JJ:      I see many changes in Shotokan over a long period of time. Quite a lot of it I feel is detrimental to the ethos, attributes and benefits of Shotokan. It has been diluted and lessened either because of financial considerations, fear of prosecution on health and safety grounds and or lack of understanding and knowledge of instructors that were badly taught themselves and do not have enough courage to step outside their small comfort zone and seek further knowledge and experience in a larger arena. They inherited inadequate and poor technique from their instructors and seem blind to the fact that they are passing on their bad technique to their students. I could write pages and pages on this topic but it needs to be said that it’s not all gloom and doom, there are allot of really good instructors on many levels, club, seminar and courses who are doing great work. I think that Kata especially has developed and improved from my early days. This has happened on both the competition and Dojo level. This seems to be a greater understanding of biomechanics, breathing and psychological focus combined with greater athleticism, speed, analysis and understanding of movement. It is a pity that this only happens in the more progressive Dojo’s. I know that in my case when I gave greater focus to my Kata training over long periods of time I became so much more successful with my Kumite. I think that there is quite allot of instructors who’ll teach only certain aspects of Karate which they may favour themselves. I feel that we should be teaching what the students need rather than what they want or we as instructors favour.

CW:      As you progressed and became more knowledgeable, did anybody else especially influence your martial arts development, and have you tried other styles of martial art?

JJ:      As I have explained in previous questions I have had many influences and I have experienced one or two other styles of martial art but I only train for Shotokan and in Shotokan. I have enjoyed some experiences of dabbling in Judo, I taught Karate at Neil Adam’s (who was the Judo World Gold Medalist and Olympic Silver Medalist) Dojo in Coventry for 11 years and for the fitness aspect I did boxing training for a two year period. Occasionally I get the opportunity to train outside Shotokan with various people i.e.: Steve Morris, Master A, Dev Barrett, Ian Abernathy. These have been within the last two years, previous to that there have been countless others in different styles of Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Aikido and Jujitsu. Although having enjoyed these as one off sessions it is Shotokan which I find suits me physically and psychologically.

CW:      You spent a lot time working on the doors in Coventry, which was noted for being a tough city at the time.  Can you tell us about some of your experiences and what effect these experiences had on your approach to your Karate?

JJ:      First I started working part time as a doorman alongside some ex boxers and local hard men. Later working full time until there was a major incident at which point the police came back with the condition that to keep the licence for the club which was one of the largest in Britain, the club could no longer employ anybody with a criminal record. I would say that this was a precursor that helped to establish today’s criteria for door staff. It also helped to elevate me to head doorman. As you can imagine there were numerous incidents every night, unlike Geoff Thompson I never kept a diary otherwise I would have written a book long before now. I would say working on the doors gave me allot of experience in understanding the psychology of confrontation and was a good testing ground for various Karate techniques and it taught me that your basic technique needed to be adapted and refined depending on your intent. Not only physical adaptation but mental adaptation is required to be effective as a doorman.  Charlie I would love to tell you about numerous colourful incidents but 1) I cannot just pick one out and 2) I would have to kill you so as not to incriminate myself.

CW:      Karate these days has become very diverse with some people adapting or adding in things to make their teaching more realistic.  However, do you feel that despite individual initiatives, most mainstream Karate is still lacking elements of realism which would make a difference in a real life confrontation?

JJ:      The simple answer to this question is yes. The majority of my senior students have never had a serious or violent confrontation in their adult life and I think the same applies to the majority of society.  Karate can be used for self defence/ protection and I believe that to teach this should come from experience and requires a certain mind set for it to be of benefit to a student. Most Karate is done or practiced for recreation, some for self development and improvement and some to fulfil a spiritual need.

CW:      You have taught for many years that traditional Karate (as passed to us by the Japanese) needs to be modified to make it work in real live confrontation.  Can you explain what you mean by this and what elements need modifying?

JJ:      I would say as a way of explanation that training needs to be done in a very robust fashion with correct intention from all participants and with an intensive competitive mindset. That is to say that you could have really good Karate technique but when put under pressure or in a stressful situation you lose the ability to apply it. Conditioning mentally and physically needs to be part of a comprehensive training regime for you to be effective with Karate in a real life confrontation.

CW:      Does this only apply to Shotokan, or do you feel that it applies to most traditional Oriental  martial arts?

JJ:      I would say yes in the greater majority

CW:      You call your teaching method, “Adaptive Karate”.  Can you please tell us exactly what that means and how it relates to making Karate more effective in real confrontations?

JJ:      I don’t call my teaching method Adaptive Karate. The majority of my teaching is in Shotokan Karate. However, I do Adaptive Karate courses and seminars in which I try to teach people how to apply techniques. I take people through drills to increase their skill level and give them a greater understanding of disruption, destabilization and distraction against an opponent and how to use the body as a unit.

CW:      With other instructors making a name for themselves with practical applied bunkai, do you feel that your approach is different to the way most other instructors apply Karate for self defence?

JJ:      Yes.  I will take moves from Kata and make them as straight forward and effective as possible. I do not believe that we have to call this Bunkai and directly relate it to a given Kata. I do not wish to go on a crusade or preach to other people about what they believe to be their version of correct Bunkai. However honesty has to play a major part in what you say and do in reference to your Karate. If you have not robustly pressure tested your technique as it applies to Bunkai. In reality, it is only your theory. If you can prove that the techniques that you are teaching are realistic and valid then your Bunkai will stand up to scrutiny, in other words if it don’t work then don’t teach it.

CW:      On your Adaptive Karate website, it says that “Traditional Shotokan Karate has an underlying spiritual essence that builds character and inner strength which empowers the mind and so empowers the body”.  How important is spiritual and character development to you?

JJ:      My personal development is of paramount importance to myself and to be able to give my students the advice, information, instruction and tools so that they can develop into considerate, humble, courteous, respectful, strong minded and determined members of society.

CW:      As somebody who puts a lot of emphasis on real world no nonsense self defence, do you see spiritual development and realistic self defence as being intrinsically linked, or are they separate elements where the student can focus on one more than the other?

JJ:      The answer to that question I would say is down to the individual; on a personal level for me they are linked but other people will have different perspectives and priorities at various times throughout their lives. Their needs and ambitions will fluctuate, vary and change depending on what their immediate influence in life is. That makes it a very difficult question to give any sort of definitive answer to.

CW:      Modern trends in martial arts tend to go either towards sport (primarily MMA) or “reality based”; both of which tend to move away from the emphasis that traditional Oriental arts placed on etiquette and pure form (such as kata).  What do you feel traditional Oriental martial arts have to offer in the modern world which can’t be found in the more modern approaches?

JJ:      I feel that in today’s fast moving and instant gratification society, that something such as Traditional Shotokan Karate taught correctly and progressively with the correct emphasis on courtesy, humility, self discipline and respect; has an enormous amount to offer to both children and adults. The benefits to children are obvious, but to adults there is the added bonus of a certain amount of spiritual fulfilment which can fill the void if you have no religious commitment or as an add on if you do have a religious conviction. It is so much more than a young person’s sport. It is a lifetime endeavour and commitment if you so want it to be.

CW:      You have at least 2 testimonials on your website which mention that you have given free lessons to students who had financial difficulties at the time (including the now famous Geoff Thompson) and that you even went so far as to buy them their Karate uniforms and other training equipment.  In a world where many people are just looking to make money, that was very generous.  Do you have any criteria for the people you help like this?

JJ:      The criteria which I have is that people are honest, and want to train and advance in their Karate. I don’t want to open the floodgates but I feel  and have always said that if somebody can’t afford to train, I would rather they came training for free up until such time as their circumstances change.

CW:      I understand that your wife, Elaine, does talks at local schools about peer pressure and bullying.  Do you help her with this and how important do you think this work is?

JJ:      Yes, everything that we do is some form of collaboration and we do almost everything together, and yes this type of work is important because not only as a Karate Instructor but as a member of the community, you have a civil and moral duty to help out wherever possible.

CW:      Although you’ve trained in other martial arts, you still teach primarily pure Shotokan.   Have you ever been tempted to add elements of other martial arts, or do you feel that Shotokan is complete enough without any other influences?

JJ:      Anything positive from other Martial Arts are always worth integrating into your training. Pad and bag work should be an essential part of any Martial Arts training regime. Strengthening and fitness exercises of the right nature are always valuable. Nothing should be set in stone, that is to say that we should look at other Martial Arts and use and incorporate anything that is beneficial and effective. On my Adaptive Karate courses I have incorporated techniques from Judo, Aikido, Taekwondo, Jujitsu, Boxing, Thai Boxing and other forms of Martial Arts and styles that I believe have any validity and effectiveness and the people that train with me in the Adaptive Karate are not expected to do things exactly the way that I demonstrate but to find their own way of executing the basic principle of the drill that it suits themselves.

CW:      What are your future plans for your own personal Karate development and for teaching?

JJ:      For the future I hope to be able to expand my teaching base so that I can instruct on more courses and seminars as well as developing my clubs. As for myself, I train every morning, mostly on my own, in which I will go through drills that I have devised for myself as well as Kata. I know that this year I am booked to train on several courses with people such as Sensei Dave Hazard, Sensei Aiden Trimble, Sensei Ian Abernethy and hopefully will attend other courses with other Senior Instructors. I still sometimes train at some other local clubs occasionally.

CW:      Are you available for courses and seminars outside of your own Karate Association, and if so, how should people contact you?

JJ:      I am more than happy to teach outside the association to any Karate style or Martial Arts discipline. I can be contacted several ways. My website is: www.adaptivekarate.com. Any telephone enquiries can be taken by my wife and Secretary Elaine Johnston on: 07791 635958 or drop me an Email:j.johnston@adaptivekara

CW:      Sensei, it has been a privilege to have done this interview with you and I look forward to training with later this month.  Thank you very much for your time and your interesting and informative insights.

Interview with Shihan Kousaku Yokota, 8th Dan Shotokan Karate

I have written previously about Shihan Kousaku Yokota, 8th Dan Shotokan Karate, and his book Shotokan Myths.

Note:  For non-Japanese stylists, Shihan means a master level instructor, (above an ordinary Sensei).

This is one master that I particularly hold in very high respect for 2 main reasons.  Firstly is that through his book Shotokan Myths, he seeks to give us (mainly in the West) the real truths behind much of the mysticism and mis-information that has built up over the years for social, political and even commercial reasons.  The honesty and directness is very refreshing.

Secondly is that he truly understands the difference between Western and Eastern thinking and applies it (rather than expecting others to meld to his way).

I hope I don’t offend anybody here, but most of my previous experience of Japanese Karate masters was that some of them would even pretend that they could not speak English properly when you know full well they can.  This was so that they did not have to teach you very much.

When I took my early gradings in the late 70’s early 80’s under the late and charismatic Ray Fuller, we would all come out from his classes thinking “wow, isn’t Karate great” and being really inspired to learn it all.  When I moved to Scotland and gradings were conducted by 2 senior Japanese masters, my class mates come out saying “isn’t the wee man great”.  I was thinking to myself, yes he is technically brilliant, but I’ve learnt very little.  There’s a stark difference.

This is why after several emails between Shihan Kokota and myself, I was blown away when this Japanese 8th Dan suggested that we have a chat on Skype and that I don’t need to be so formal with him.

I don’t think Shihan Yokata will mind me sharing this with you, but in one of his emails to me on the subject of being a master, he said “I am only 64 so I am still too young to hold that title.   I will wait till I am 70 or even 80 and see if I feel old enough to be a master”.  For a  man who’s trained in martial arts for over 50 years, compare that to the many much younger martial artists who readily use  the title Grand-Master!

Anyway, on to the interview.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Shihan Yokota’s answers and I hope you do to.

 

CW:    Please tell us how old you were when you first started your martial arts training, how you started and what led you to focusing on Shotokan Karate in particular?

KY:    My father was a Kodokan judo practitioner so I wanted to practice judo as soon as I was in junior high school.  I joined a club at the local police station where the policemen taught the classes and I was 13 at that time.   I was an energetic child so I loved the rigorous training of judo and practiced it very diligently.  After a year or two later a new student joined.  He was a short and small guy so I threw him easily.  He liked to be thrown but he was different.  If you are familiar with judo, a person who gets thrown would do ukemi (breaking the fall with slapping an arm on to the floor) and stays down for a short moment.  That was what I expected from the new student but he jumped up like a bouncing ball every time I threw him.  As he was a small boy and was light it looked very natural.  I did not think too much about it.  As he was a cheerful fellow I got to like him and we became sort of friends after several months of training.  One day after the training, we walked to the bus station together.  I asked this boy (maybe he was 16 or 17) why he would jump up after a throw.  He surprised me with his answer.  He said he is a karate practitioner and he wanted to learn judo to improve his karate.  I knew the word of karate and have seen a demonstration or two but I had no idea about karate.  I still believed judo was the most lethal method of martial arts so I asked him if he would switch to judo.  He said no way as karate was the meanest system of fighting.  I could not believe his words.  I told him that I could throw him on the hard road and hurt him.  He told me that he could disable me before I had a chance to throw him.  I thought he could not punch me if I grabbed his arms very quickly.  So, the next day, I asked him to show me how he would disable me as I grabbed both of his arms so he could not move them at will.  He smiled and without moving his arms he kicked me in groin.  I know he only tapped me but I had to let the arms go as I crumbled to the ground for a few seconds.  I saw the sparkles in the eyes and I knew he could kill me.  He apologized and helped me up.  After this event, he stayed with us for a few more months but he went back to his karate training.  During that time I asked him to teach me karate but he said he was not an instructor and he could not teach.  So, I waited till I get my shodan in judo before I made my switch.  I had to do this to show to my father that I was serious in training in judo.

I was 16 when I switched to karate.  I did not know that there are many different styles in karate so I did not ask that boy which style he was.  I thought karate was only karate.  I wanted to dive in karate in full so I decided to train every day.  I joined a karate club at a local YMCA (Kobe is my home town) but they practiced only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  So, I went to another YMCA in Osaka (a big city about 50km from Kobe) as they trained on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  One thing I did not know or realize was Kobe YMCA club was Shotokan (JKA) and Osaka club was Gojuryu (with Gogen “Cat” Yamaguchi).  I trained at those two clubs for one year before I quit Gojuryu.  It is a long story how this happened but I will keep this story to another occasion.  I stayed at Kobe YMCA club for 3 years and practiced Shotokan under Kashimoto sensei.  Sugano sensei was his teacher and he came to see the training once in a while.  I remember this clearly as I was scared of him.  When I rejoined his dojo about 15 years later he was not as scary as I thought but for a high school boy Sugano surely had a scary face.  Many new students quit but I stayed and I got my shodan when I was 18 (1965).

CW:    Sounds like a painful introduction to Karate!    What kind of a man was Master Jun Sugano and what was his main strengths in Karate?

KY:    He was independently wealthy so he did not need to earn money from Karate which I liked very much.  He did not care whether you join his dojo or leave.  He liked the traditional hard training and he liked to push you to your limit.

He was a large man for Japanese.  He was close to 180cm tall and weighed nearly 100kg.  He was strong like a bear.  We were all afraid of his punch when he uses you as his opponent in a demonstration.

CW:    Later you trained with Master Tetsuhiko Asai, 10th Dan and founder of the JKS.  What made you change over to training with him?  What kind of a man was he and what unique things did he bring into his Karate teaching?

KY:    When I hit the age of 50 and Godan in JKA, I felt I reached a plateau.  I felt I could not learn anything new to develop my karate and I was very discouraged with my karate.  This is when I was reconnected with Asai sensei.  He came to California for a seminar.  Of course, I have known him from 80’s and have seen his demonstrations at All Japan National Championship in Tokyo when I participated in 1981 and 1982.  I knew his karate was great and different.   I saw my answer in his karate.  He was in his late 60’s and he was flexible and his moves were sharp and dynamic.  I said to myself this is the way I want to look in my 60’s and 70’s.  I decided to follow his path in 2003 when I resigned from ISKF (JKA then).

You must experience his karate to fully appreciate Asai ryu karate.  The movements are freer or less restrictive.  There are more complex foot work with a lot of spins and rotations in many different ways and directions.  Many combat effective techniques such as finger thrust, enpi, teisho, etc. are used and practiced.  Your body is required to be flexible and that is not limited to the hip joints but all joints including back bones.  The flexibility of the muscles is critical so that your moves will be fluid like a cat or a tiger. The body movements follow the nature of water (fluidity) and they are performed with the strong foundation of the legs.  This is why we include the exercises like one leg squats and other squatting involved workouts.  Your body needs to be like a whip when your arm and leg techniques are executed.  There are too many unique things and I cannot list all of them here.

CW:    He sounds a very interesting man.  I understand that Master Asai also trained in White Crane Kung Fu, which had quite an influence on his Karate (which you describe above).  When Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Japan, he tried to hide some of the Chinese influences on the art.  How was Master’s Asai’s Chinese influences accepted by the Japanese Karate community?  And how did the Twainese accept Master Asai teaching Karate in their country when they have so many of their own martial arts?

KY:    This is an excellent question and I can write a book on this.  Let me explain something about your statement, “When Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Japan, he tried to hide some of the Chinese influences on the art.”  There were two major reasons for his action.  One is he wanted to brand Karate as an Okinawa grown martial art which is true despite there was an influence from the Chinese martial arts.  The second reason was the period when he introduced karate to Japan.  The first public demonstration Funakoshi did in Tokyo was 1922 and that was exactly when Japan was in a war against China.  It was wise for him to de-emphasize anything that may be related to China and Chinese culture.

Back to your question about Asai sensei’s karate, unfortunately, he was regarded as unique to be nice or an odd ball by some of the JKA instructors.  I do not think his ability (Nakayama claimed he was the best karate-ka JKA has ever produced) was not truly appreciated or received the credit it deserved.  After passing of Nakayama in 1987, Master Asai tried to change the syllabus of JKA and that caused so much up roar the organization split in 1990.

Regarding the second part of your question, how did Taiwanese accepted his karate, I cannot tell you too much as my exposure to the Taiwanese on this matter is limited.  I have spoken to Mrs. Asai who was a Taiwanese origin and I also have met a few JKS members from Taiwan.  They all told me that Asai karate is different from JKA and also kung fu (white crane style).  I support this idea and it is true that JKS had the affiliates not only in Taiwan but also in Hong Kong and some other Chinese cities.  If Asai karate is not good enough or too similar to the kung fu style then his karate would have not received this much of support by the Chinese people.

CW:    What other martial arts besides Shotokan Karate have you studied along the way and how have they affected your development as a martial artist?

KY:    I already mentioned that I took Judo for 3 years.  With karate, I took one year of Goju ryu when I initially started karate training.  The period was so short so fortunately or unfortunately, I do not have any effective influence from this experience.

In 1981, I also took Kyokushinkai training for one year.  I wanted to learn the full contact karate to expand my kumite experience and ability.  It definitely had some positive influence and learned several very important facts about kumite.  I can write a book on this too but I will stop with only one comment.  I suggest all the Shotokan practitioners who are into competitions or tournaments to experience full contact karate.  Then they realize that the sports karate kumite is not a martial art activity.

I also took a Ki training for over two years at Nishino dojo in Tokyo (1998 and 1999).  Even though I do not feel that my ki became stronger I can tell that ki exercise made my body more flexible and elastic.

CW:    What about weapons?  Which weapons have you studied and how relevant are traditional weapons to the modern Karateka?

KY:    I practiced kobudo including nunchaku, tonfa, sai, three sectional stick and 9 chain whip.  I find nunchaku and chain whip are the best supplement to karate training especially in developing the circular motions with your arms.  The weapons are the extension of your body so it is good for all the advanced practitioners to select at least one weapon and include that to the regular training.

CW:    Karate has many elements to it.  Do you have any particular favorite element?  If so, what is it and why?

KY:    There are five major elements in karate;

1.    Stretch and exercise
2.    Kihon
3.    Kata
4.    Kumite
5.    Bunkai
They are like five fingers in your hand.  They have different functions but yet all of them are necessary to do the coordinated work of karate.  I like them all in their own ways.  What I love is the art of karate as a whole.

CW:    In your younger days you had a very successful competition career, could you tell us a little about that please?

KY:    I have had some years of tournament days when I was younger but I cannot say it was a very successful competition career.  Maybe my highlight is the participation of All Japan Championship (JKA) in 1981 and 1982.  I was lucky to be a state champion of Hyogo prefecture in those years.  I was also a representative of Hyogo prefecture in National Athletic Tournament (Japan’s local Olympic game) called Okutai (short for Kokumin Taiku Taikai) in 1981 which was the WUKO event when JKA joined as one of the karate organizations for the first time.  One funny story I can tell you is a little story when I checked the roster of the karate participants in Okutai.  It listed all the participants from 47 prefectures of Japan and it showed the styles (Shotokan, Gojuryu, Shitoryu and Wadoryu), dan rank and age.  I was 35 years old then and I knew I was one of the most senior participants as most of them are in their 20s and a few were even in their high teens.  I was going from one page to another not finding anyone in their 30’s.  I finally came across a guy who was either 33 or 34.  So I said to myself “Yes there is another senior guy who is willing to mingle with those young guns.”  I wanted to find out if he was in kumite or in kata.  I flipped the pages to find him but he was not in the competitors list.  So I thought “Maybe he is one of those back up guys.”  But when I got to the last page where they showed the names of the coaches he was there.  So I realized that I was older than this coach and I was the oldest competitor in that big event.  I retired after this tournament.

CW:    I have read a number of interviews and articles on how most Karate in Japan has become almost obsessed with competition results as a way of measuring a clubs success.  Do you feel that this is a fair criticism?

KY:    I am afraid the competitions and tournaments are very popular and play a very important role in many dojo and organizations.  It is true that a karate magazine may use the competition results to measure a club’s success especially among high school and university clubs.  However, many instructors know the difference between the tournament karate and martial arts karate.  They do not use the competition results to measure the level of a regular dojo.  At least that is what I see with the instructors in my home town, Kobe.

CW:    That’s good.  We’ve also previously discussed how the levels of violent crime in Japan are so low that even in Tokyo young ladies feel quite safe walking home alone late at night (something that would be considered madness in many Western cities).  As such most Japanese people do not see any real need for self defense.  Although this is a fantastic achievement for the Japanese people, which many in the West would like to emulate, how has it affected the Japanese perspective on making (or keeping) their martial arts practical and functional?

KY:    It is true that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.  So, the people do not pick up karate or any martial art for a self-defense purpose.   They choose to practice one of them for other purposes or objectives.  I believe the lack of this need for self-defense was one of the reasons why bunkai was not seriously studied in Japan.   I am also afraid that Samurai spirit is almost extinct in Japan.

CW:    That’s quite sad to hear you say that.  During World War II the rest of the world could not help but admire and respect the fierce fighting spirit and sacrifice of the Japanese servicemen. Japan has also been very influential in spreading so many fine martial arts to the rest of the world. I was therefore quite surprised the first time you told me how you feel about the Japanese fighting spirit today.  Would you please elaborate on those views for the readers?

KY:    When Japan lost in WWII, it was our first total defeat in any international wars.  It is sad to admit but it is true that the Japanese lost both the patriotism and samurai spirit.  The entire nation went to commercialism and the core value has changed dramatically from honor to money.  Some good part of the old culture did survive, however.   In Japan, we see more respect to the others as well as the rules and the laws.  For instance, at a red traffic light a pedestrian would stop and wait until it turns to green even if it is 2am and there is no traffic in the street.  This is why it is very safe not only in the small towns but also in any of the big cities in Japan.  However, the general population lost some important values such as honor and principle.  Along with it, we lost the fighting spirit to uphold those values.  The occupation army (mostly the US military) after the WWII did a good job as they planned to change the social structure and education in Japan so that it can never be a threat to the US or other allied countries.  It was a cunning strategy but the Japanese must not blame the US for its policy as they did the similar treatment to Germany but the Germans recognized the consequences if they followed blindly.  The Japanese were too naive as they had never lost in a major war and the leaders were not prepared for this kind of policy and to bring the Japanese population back to the old culture with honor and self-respect.

CW:    That’s a shame.  You have also told me how you have found many of the bunkai explanations given to various kata movements in mainstream Shotokan to be quite unrealistic.  We discussed in particular the double Uchi Uke “blocks” near the beginning of Bassai Dai which is simply not realistic when used literally as 2 blocks and could only conceivably work with a compliant attacker.  When did you first start to doubt the explanations that you were being given for these bunkai and how do you think they came about?

KY:    My sensei, Master Sugano, told us at one of the casual meetings we had after training that we should not be fooled with the names of the techniques that are used in kata.  He also told us that kata do not always start and end with a block as it is publicly announced by many organizations including JKA.  He told us that most of those techniques are attacking techniques.  He further explained that there is no one application or bunkai to any of the techniques.  He said the fighting situation has millions of variations thus a technique must be any solution that works in a particular situation.  He told us that our mind must not be ridged but fluid and open so we can be prepared for any situations.

First of all, bunkai is not popular or common in Japanese dojo.  The main reason is, believe it or not, JKA headquarters at its foundation chose to drop bunkai from its main syllabus so that the sufficient knowledge was not handed down from Funakoshi.  At JKA headquarters in 50’s and 60’s, a standard training menu was only kihon, kumite and kata.   Any of the bunkai training was almost completely ignored.   Along with bunaki, another major component, kobudo, was dropped from the menu.  Now I am talking about the general trend. There were a few instructors and dojo like Master Asai and Master Sugano who considered bunkai and kobudo as the important aspects of karate and believed they must be studied along with other elements.

CW:    It seems then that you were very fortunate in your teachers.  How did you go about finding more realistic applications for yourself?

KY:    Sugano sensei used to tell us, “Do not get stuck on one application.  The actual applications are limitless.  The techniques must be free and natural”.  I could not quite understand what he meant when I heard it more than 30 years ago but now I am beginning to understand it.  As you practice all the different techniques in many kata and if you keep your mind free, the applications can be “felt”.   One technique can be very neutral so to speak.  In other words, I can feel that a technique can be a block but at the same time it can be a strike.  A good example is the very first move of Bassai Dai.  In the end, any applications can be correct if it serves the purpose of the situation.  So, I do not look for, or I’d better say I do not need to look for more “realistic” applications any more.

CW:    A number of Westerners have made big names for themselves in the field of applied Karate and practical bunkai geared for street self defense.  How do you feel about their work and do you feel that they are on the right track or not?

KY:    I believe there was a huge contribution by those practitioners and exposing there are other applications and bunkai.  They tried to bring karate back to an art of self-defense so I give a credit for that.  However, one thing we must not forget is that the number of applications is limitless and any of them are “correct” so it is almost impossible to list all of them.   What you as a martial art karate practitioner must do is to learn the concept and the principle then apply them according to the situations that can be limitless.  It is almost like Mathematics.  There are limitless numbers and what we need to learn is the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc.  We all know that we cannot remember all the combinations of numbers which is unlimited.  What is interesting with karate is it is somewhat different from Mathematics.  In Mathematics 1 plus 1 is always 2, in karate it can be different numbers such as zero or three, for example, and those answers are all correct if they meet the principle of karate.

CW:    Point taken.  For many people, Karate is mainly about self defense.  To others it is more about self developments.  What are your feelings on this?  Do you feel that either aspect takes precedence over the other, or are they both equally important?

KY:    Those two aspects of karate must compliment each other thus they are equally important.  I am afraid many practitioners put emphasis only on the physical part (self-defense or tournament) of karate.  In fact, karate is the most primitive and less effective weapon when compared to a stick, a knife or a gun.  How good is karate if it only creates a karate expert who has no respect and honor?  What would be the difference between that to a gang who has a knife or a gun?

Shihan Yokota on cover of Masters Magazine

CW:    Having been based in America for many years and teaching all around the world, how would you describe the attitude to training and the fighting spirit in the West?

KY:    I found the practitioners in the countries I have visited (not only Europe but also in Latin America) have an excellent attitude in general.  I cannot say which country has better or worse attitude because I found very serious and less serious practitioners in all countries.

CW:    That’s good.  You are also noted for the work you’ve done in uncovering myths within Karate (particularly Shotokan).  In a culture noted for not questioning the official line, did this get you into trouble in younger days, or did you develop strategies for getting to the truth without rocking the boat too much?
(Note:  I remember you saying that you sometimes had to wait until your master had taken a few drinks)!!

KY:    In my younger days I did not ask questions as I followed our culture.  The questions and doubts blew in me and I always investigated on my own mainly through the publications in Japanese.  When I got older I had more chances to ask questions to Master Sugano and Asai.  Yes, it was much easier to ask the questions in a non-training environment in a restaurant or a bar.  I held my opinions and thoughts to the masters as I did not want to offend them or their organizations.  I came out of the hiding only 3 years ago after the passing of both masters.

CW:    I’m sure that many of us are very grateful that you have finally come out of hiding.  You have also expressed concern with me previously that Karate “will end up in a museum some day”. Would you elaborate please and explain these concerns?

KY:    Let’s look at the other martial arts that have become museum pieces.  One is kyudo (Japanese archery).  They judge the practitioner’s skill by their posture and the body movement only.  It does not matter if their arows hit a target’s center or miss it by many meters.  The original archery’s biggest purpose was, needless to say, to hit an opponent with an arrow.  Now kyudo forgot the original (and true) purpose of shooting an arrow. Therefore, it cannot be classified as a budo (martial art) any longer.  If an art loses the true purpose as a martial art then I consider it a museum piece.  I definitely consider kendo and judo are definitely in that category.  I am afraid jujitsu and iai-do are on the verge of joining the museum classification.  Karate with the increase of sport karate is showing the same trend.  Even if some of us would try to keep the martial art aspect of karate alive, we will no longer be the mainstream and our style of karate may be classified as a forgotten karate or a museum piece.

CW:    I see what you mean.  What are you personally trying to do to stop this from happening? Was this one of the main reasons why you wrote your recently released book, “Shotokan Myths”?

KY:    You are correct.  The main reason to publish my book was to expose and shed more light to the martial art aspect of Shotokan karate.  The book was translated in German now and a company in Germany will publish it in the near future.  I plan to have it translated in Spanish also.   In addition, I plan to write more articles around the same theme and publish them in various magazines and publications.  This interview is also contributing to my effort and I am thankful for the opportunity to express my thoughts and beliefs.

CW:    You’re more than welcome.

KY:    I also accept invitations from any organizations or styles for a seminar so that I can share the concepts and training style that are related to the martial art aspect of karate-do.  I have been testing my training menu all around the world and hoping that the participants would find the unique value of Asai ryu karate.  So far I feel I have been very successful and the feedback has been very positive.

CW:    I’m very glad to hear that.  Can you give us a couple of simple examples of some of the myths you expose?

KY:    Here are a few:
·    Kata do not necessarily start and end with a blocking technique as it is commonly believed.
·    There was no ki-ai routine (at least audible ones) in any of the original Okinawan kata before 20th century
·    In the original kata you were not required to return to the exact spot where you start your kata
·    Many techniques in kata are named with blocking techniques such as shuto uke, uchi uke, age uke, etc but the true applications are “hidden” behind those names and they are most likely attacking techniques.

CW:    Interesting!    Who is this book primarily aimed at and how exactly do you think it will help them?

KY:    This book is primarily aimed for the advanced (dan belts) students who have been practicing karate for at least several years.  However, the information in it is useful for the intermediate as well as the instructors as the subjects are very general and well known among all the Shotokan dojo.

CW:    Many styles have been spawned or influenced by Shotokan.  Therefore, although your book is called “Shotokan Myths”, do you think that it is relevant to people of other styles as well?

KY:    I used Shotokan in the title because that is the only style I am familiar with.  But this does not mean the subjects I covered are limited to Shotokan.  Many subjects such as ki-ai, coming back to the same spot in kata, etc are common subjects as they stem from the same karate history regardless of the styles.   I am sure Shito ryu, Goju ryu and Wado ryu practitioners can relate to the topics and learn something from this book.

CW:    How well is the book doing and what kind of feedback are you getting from your readers?

KY:    I only have the record of how many books were sold during the first 3 or 4 months, but we sold at least 2-3 hundred copies so I am very happy for the very positive reception of the book at the initial stage.  It has been only 6 to 7 months since the initial publication so I will know how more on how well it will do as more time goes on.

The feedback I have received so far has been very positive.  They agreed with my opinions and showed appreciation to bring the subjects out in public.   Many have said they wondered about those points but they did not bring them out in the open as they assumed those points are not to be discussed or what they heard was the fact and not to be challenged.

CW:    I’m glad to hear that it’s doing well.  It should really pick up when the German and Spanish translations are completed.  Have any of your Japanese peers objected to you writing this book and revealing what they would not?

KY:    I knew they would object and advise me not to do this so I did not contact any of the Japanese peers about this project.   I am also hoping that they do not read the books in English so they will never find out.

CW:    Well we in the West are very glad that you have.  What do you think the average Karateka can do to keep his/her training relevant for today’s world and to stop Shotokan from ending up “in the museum some day?

KY:    Karate has many venues such as self defense, sports, health, discipline, confidence building, etc.  All purposes are fine and we must not judge one purpose is better or worse than the other ones.  The tournament karate seems to be becoming the main stream and majority in many countries.  I wish to see more practitioners for the martial art karate and balance the scale.  I wish to see the preservation of the original karate techniques by more practitioners.

CW:    Understood and I hope that through your book and interviews like this, you are able to persuade more Karateka to do so.  What are your future plans?  Will you be writing any more books?  Will you be travelling and teaching very much?

KY:    I have many ideas about the next book.  The only problem I have is time or lack of it.  I cannot promise how soon the next one will be out or on what subject but it will be out as soon as I complete the content.

As far as the seminars are concerned, I am booked solid this year and have received many invitations for the next year.  If the readers are interested in my seminars, the details can be found on the website of WJKA (www.wjka.org). All my seminars are open course, so, everyone is welcome.  It does not matter from which organizations and styles you are from (as long as you pay the fees).

CW:    Shihan Yokota, on behalf of myself and my readers, I would like to thank you for a very interesting and informative interview.  It’s been an honour.

 

As mentioned by Shihan Yokota, he is interested writing more books.  As such he is very interested in receiving feedback to answers above and about his first book if you’ve read it.  Please leave your comments below.  In particular if you would like to know more about any of the subjects that Shihan has touched on, then please tell him.

 

 

Karate Bunkai Course: Practical Shotokan, Beginner To Black Belt

My Sensei, Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan will be hosting a special Karate bunkai course looking at the principles & techniques of  Shotokan Karate and applying them to realistic self defence.  Along with the more obvious punches and kicks, this will include locks throws and takedowns utilising moves from both basics and kata.

The course is open to all Karateka regardless of grade –  Beginner to Black belt.  However, there is a minimum age of 12 for anybody under 4th Kyu

Basic details are:

  • When – Sunday 3rd April 2011, 11:00 – 2:30pm.
  • Where – Wells Blue Sports Centre, Kennion Road, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2NR
  • Cost – Adults £12.00, Juniors £10.00
  • Light Lunch will be provided

To book your place please contact Sensei Mitchell at shotokankaratewells@hotmail.co.uk

If you are interested but unsure, then please look at the videos from his last special course on Gojushiho Sho kata and bunkai.  This will give you some idea of the type of teacher he is.  This course is highly recommended.