Sunday 5 October 2008

Kokutai Karate Championships

Today I accidently bumped into a very tanned looking Yamaguchi Takashi Sensei (JKS Tokyo Sohonbu Dojo) who gave me a friendly “Osu”. He was attending this year’s Kokutai (National Athletics Meeting) currently being held in Oita Prefecture. The Karate Championship has been hosted by Nakatsu City at the purpose built Daihatsu Kyushu Arena.

Even though I admit not being into competitions, I thought I drop in to watch the senior kata divisions, and a couple of rounds of the kumite. During the shitei rounds it was pleasing to see one excellent Jion, two faultless Kanku-dai, and one amazing Empi. In the free kata rounds I saw three tremendous Unsu, and one near perfect Gojushiho-sho. I won’t comment on the Goju-ryu and Shito-ryu kata I saw, as I’m far from qualified to do so (I'm still trying to sort out my Shotokan...). But I will say that ‘they looked impressive to me’ and took out the titles. Furukawa (Goju-ryu) won the men’s kata with his Suparinpei; and that Shito-ryu girl (featured on Kagawa Sensei’s second book/dvd) who I always forget the name of, won the women’s kata with her Chatanyara-kushanku.

Sports kumite: Breaking the Trinity
The JKF / WKF style kumite, without being disrespectful, really isn’t my thing. I appreciate the athleticism and hard training of all serious karate competitors. However, I cannot relate 'game kumite' to the fundamentals and kata. As a result, this type of kumite clearly breaks the trinity of karate. The outcome is that it's not based on finishing the opponent with a single blow (ichigeki-hisho), which to me, is the heart of authentic karate technique, whether it's kihon, kata or kumite.

Needless to say, this type of 'fighting' doesn’t capture my interest. Therefore, I naturally did not stay to watch the kumite finals. Just as a quick note: I'm very sorry if you are an avid sports kumite fan, my intention is certainly not to make anyones blood boil (if annoyed please look at the Oita Kokutai's mascot 'Mejiron' to calm down). My reason for making this commentary is to merely express how I was taught, and how I practice Karate-Do. Perhaps this is worth an article in the future...
To conclude I'd like to say that the overall standard of the kokutai was extremely high, as expected of a national tournament here in Japan. The kata was particularly inspirational and really demonstrated that Japan still produces the very best kata performers in the world. I'm sure that if many Western karateka saw the level of kata today, they'd be too embarassed to don their karate do-gi ever again!

Time for me to rush to the dojo… Take care and all the best!

Osu, André


© André Bertel, Japan 2008

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