Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Then and Now - Insights from Tasaki Sensei

The following excerpts are from an interview with Shuji Tasaki, who occasionally supervised special seminars at the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo, as did fellow Gojukai master Motomasa Mayama, also mentioned in the full interview, and who personally instructed me on many occasions.

Shuji Tasaki was born in 1933 and was well known as one of Gogen Yamaguchi's students back in the late 1950s, winning the very first All Japan Karatedo Gojukai Championship in 1963, when it was a much more brutal style of competition than today. He left Gogen Yamaguchi's organization in the early 1970s to form his own Seiwakai. Currently, he is Hanshi of Gojuryu Karatedo Seiwakai and one of the most senior members of the JKF Gojukai.

What was training like in those days?
Compared with now, it was hell. Lessons now are now more scientific. The first 8 - 10 months were of building the basics intensively and physical strength to be able to use the techniques as a good foundation. No karate techniques were taught in the first 10 months.

You won the first Goju Kai tournament. What are your views of tournaments then and now, and how do you feel about the change? 
If trained in Goju Ryu dojo kumite you can continue karate after reaching middle age. Point kumite fighting would not result in this. If you lose your speed you lose your karate. By application, Goju dojo kumite gives you the edge, as it is not dependent on your youth. In karate if you step back you lose everything. Side stepping is good, younger have speed, older are slower. Therefore you must step in to receive. If you train only in modern karate, once you are passed 30 years your karate is over.

What place do you see Karate having in the modern world?

Primarily, spiritual and mental strength. The real value today is that, without karate, in this world of trifling things and conflicting values, it is hard to survive. It takes endurance to deal with things with a definite purpose and target.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Paul Coleman Demonstrates Applications

Paul visited us at the dojo earlier this year. This grainy but highly instructive video from way back demonstrating a variety of applications is well worth watching. Paul demonstrates each technique twice, firstly in slow motion for ease of understanding, and then at full speed.  It shows his command of technique and also some of the qualities that make him such a good instructor. We wish him and his family well.

Sunday, 21 December 2014


Starting with Gekisai Daichi, Goshi Yamaguchi, son of Gogen Yamaguchi, founder of Goju-Kai, shows the Bunkai applications of the various Goju kata.  It is worth repeated viewings. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014


Yame! (or stop!) is the instruction given at the end of the performance of a kata or when two sparring partners are to cease action.  In the latter case, the sparring should stop immediately the instruction is given to avoid unnecessary injury. Even when an action is finished, however, a state of zanshin readiness should be maintained, with the seika tanden, or lower abdomen, tensed and the mind fully focused. 

In kata and other practice, there is a simple (though not absolute) rule for transitioning from the final stance (e.g. shikodachi, nekoashidachi or zenkutsudachi) into the yoi no kamae and closing “rei” bow: reverse the direction originally taken going into the stance. For example, when coming out of shikodachi or nekoashidachi (as shown), move the front foot back into musubidachi. When coming out of zenkutsudachi, move the back foot forward into musubidachi

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Gojuryu and Gojukai

What are the differences between Gojukai and Gojuryu?  On the surface there are many, mostly stylistic, but in truth they are essentially the same.  Because of the system of personal teaching common in Japanese traditional arts, lineage is often complex to discern. Gojuryu (literally "hard-soft style") refers to the karate developed in Okinawa by Miyagi Chojun under and after the tutelage of Higaonna Kanryo.  This style employs many traditional tools and techniques known as hojo undo (補助運動), or supplementary conditioning exercises, that distinguish it from most other styles of karate.

Yamaguchi Gogen
Miyagi Chojun's disciples included Miyazato Eiichi, Miyagi An'ichi and Yogi Jitsumei, and their students in turn included the likes of Aragaki Ryosei, Higaonna Morio and Yamaguchi Gogen. Although all are practitioners of the Gojuryu style of karate, Yamaguchi Gogen and his family established Gojukai (literally "hard-soft group") as an association in mainland Japan and introduced karate tournaments as a sport, a concept that for many years was anathema in Okinawa. As Wiki states: 
After graduating Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto in 1934, Gōgen designed and introduced Jiyū-kumite, known today as sport and tournament fighting. In 1935 he officially formed the All Japan Karate-dō Gōjū-kai Karate-dō Association (which later split into the JKF Gojukai and the J.K.G.A.)

Yamaguchi Gogen did much to popularize karate and cut a very distinctive figure, wearing traditional Japanese attire and his hair long. Some of his students are still active in karate, and several have taught seminars at the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo in the past, including such luminaries as Shuji Tasaki and Motomasa Mayama.