An Interview with H. Kanazawa, 10th
James R. Melton
This interview took place just
before lunch, between training sessions, on Saturday, June 21,
2003 at the University of Houston
Recreation Center, with the kind help of Daisuke Sato, 4th
dan in Shito Ryu, doing the occasional translation.
was a three-day training camp sponsored by Deddy Mansyur and the
University of Houston Karate-Do club and Patrick Richoux and the
Houston Shotokan Karate-Do Club. These two gentlemen are my
compadres on the tournament trail in Texas and Louisiana, and I
have the utmost respect for them and what they stand for. The
weekend was a twenty-fifth anniversary celebration for the
University of Houston club, a belated 72nd birthday
party for Mr. Kanazawa, and a training camp.
following is an edited transcription of my conversation with Mr.
(James Melton) During
training you were talking about different kinds of harmony.
Could you explain some of your ideas about harmony?
(H. Kanazawa) Yes. Harmony
has a very wide meaning, OK? In my opinion karate-do is harmony.
First I am training for harmony with myself.
By myself. Yesterday I spoke about technique harmony,
movement/breathing harmony, hara and techniques harmony. They at
last all come together at the same time. This is harmony.
After we understand good harmony
with ourselves, next we try harmony with (other) people.
Therefore we are training kumite. There are different
misunderstandings. In kumite we learn
how to beat opponents. (The) Original purpose in training time,
we must have the same speed, and how to beat the opponent is
very important. But actually the last (ultimate) aim is training
for harmony with people, harmony with (the) opponent. If I am in
harmony with (the) opponent, I will not lose. Person try
harmony, same time move with opponent, then same time breathing
with opponent, same time through ki, OK? And then at last
everything is in harmony.
For example sen no sen, sen, and
go no sen. People think (they are) different. But each one is
harmony. If you are in harmony with the opponent then you can
attack at the right time. People think that “same time” is the
only harmony. No. ”Same time” is one harmony. But after
defending, then attack, or after tai
sabaki, block then attack. Or he relaxes, or breathes and you
attack at the same time. This is also harmony. Sen
no sen or go no sen are equal for me.
After you have good harmony with
an opponent, then naturally we must have harmony with everybody.
This is very important, for peace. This is my hope. Therefore I
(am) teaching many different countries about this karate-do. And
then after good harmony with people, then the next step is
harmony with nature. This is very difficult to do. Yesterday I
spoke technically about how to stand up straight with gravity.
This is harmony. Shizentai (natural stance) is another type of
harmony with the earth. Like this (bent and hunched over) is not
harmony. For good technique we stay straight (perpendicular to
the ground) in harmony with gravity. Motion is also another type
(Translation) So at the end, the
ultimate goal is to get close to the essence of the universe.
That is the ultimate goal of harmony that I am looking for.
close to God. But if I say “God” people are sometimes
misunderstanding, feeling it is religion.
(JM) Did you come to these ideas
about harmony through karate or tai chi? I know you have also
studied tai chi.
Especially in the Yang style, like the new modern style 24 forms
(JM) Yes, I also have studied the
24 forms tai chi set.
(HK) In this you must not use
just muscle. You must move by intention. Also you must not use
speed. And you must not focus (use kime). This is the complete
opposite of karate. Speed all the time, physical power is very
important. Focus is very important. Therefore it (tai chi) is
completely different. Therefore I understand karate better.
If I stand on my mountain, I
cannot see it. I can see other mountains very well. If I stand
on my tai chi mountain, I can see karate very well. Tai chi
helps so much.
(JM) So knowing both tai chi and
karate gives you a new perspective—a different point of view-of
your karate. You can see your karate mountain better from your
tai chi mountain than you can from on top of your karate
Therefore, understanding both soft, hard, slow, how to make
speed. How to relax, relax, relax.
(Translation) I respect tai chi
very much. It is the same system as the universe. Out, out, out,
but never straight. Limitless, it goes around, never ends, and
at the end it converges. That is the principle. Tai chi and
karate come to the same place.
(JM) So someone who studies tai
chi, and someone who studies karate, will eventually come to the
same place and understand each other.
(HK) Yes! Yes.
(JM) I’m also interested that you
have learned and started teaching kata from other styles of
karate, such as Seipai, and Seiunchin. Why did you start
studying those kata and bring them into your system??
they have what we don’t have. Everyone has good points
and weak points. Nobody is a perfect person. Therefore I have a
weak point, but he has a strong point. So, I am learning his
strong points from him. This is very important basic spirit.
(JM) So these Goju and Shito Ryu
kata have strong points to teach us that our Shotokan kata may
(JM) Such as
(HK) Yes. Kiba dachi and shiko
dachi are both very important.
(Translation) Kiba dachi is like
a brick house. Solid and it doesn’t move. Shiko dachi is more
like the traditional Japanese construction.
(Translation) So how are the two
different? A typhoon comes and the brick house is more solid and
always standing. On the other hand, the wood construction is
weaker standing up to the typhoon than the brick construction.
However, when an earthquake comes, the brick house is too solid
and too stiff, and it goes down. But the earthquake does not
destroy the wood house. The wood house is shiko dachi.
They both (kiba dachi and shiko
dachi) have strong and weak points.
(JM) So each stance has strong
points and each has weak points, and we need to know how and
when to use both of them
(Translation) The new buildings
in Japan are designed to not come down during an earthquake.
They move like this (side to side). When you see the traditional
construction of the castles in Japan there is a bone structure
in the middle of the castle. The castle may be big and wide, but
in the center there is a bone structure that is connected to the
ground. In the past they used to put a heavy rock in the bottom
so that it could be resistant to earthquakes.
(JM) So the building had “roots”?
Sometimes heavy rocks, sometimes heavy tanks of water.
This way the castle can withstand earthquakes and not come down.
When you see the tall new buildings in the major cities in
Japan, they use the same system now.
(JM) Tai chi talks about having a
rooted stance and moving in harmony with the opponent’s force in
this same way.
(HK) Yes, tai
chi and karate.
(JM) How many kata have you added
to your system? And what are they?
(HK) Only four: Shito Ryu
Seiunchin, and Goju Ryu Seipai. Also Gankaku
Sho and Nijuhachi Ho. But I know other kata.
(JM) Where do you go to learn a
kata? Who teaches you kata?
(HK) This is secret! (Laughing)
(JM) (Laughing) Well, that is why
I asked. People want to know secrets.
(Translation) There is in Japan,
in Okinawa, an old master that doesn’t want to teach everybody.
They keep it secret, like a good recipe, inside the family. This
is a Shito Ryu and kobudo instructor and he does not teach
anyone else. I requested to go and learn from him, and that
request was granted, and that is all I can tell you now. That is
one of the sources.
(JM) Do you plan on adding and
teaching bo kata, sai kata…?
(HK) Yes, this is kobudo. Yes.
Karate and kobudo are actually brother and sister. But now
karate is independent from kobudo. Therefore they are not
brother and sister like they were in history. We have to
My basic philosophy is that in my
dojo I do not teach kobudo, necessarily. I have all the weapons
so that people can take it up themselves. Usually the tendency
is that when the athletes are competing I want them to
concentrate on the kumite and become better at what they are
doing. But then when they retire from competition they can take
it up as another martial art. Either kobudo or
tai chi. That is my basic philosophy
about teaching other styles.
(JM) One last
question. Is there anything you would like to tell people
who are training in karate in the United States?
(Translation) This time
traveling in the USA I was surprised and very happy at the
manners of the people. Sometimes in the past maybe too much
freedom and undisciplined, but this time I was very happy with
(JM) Thank you for your time, Mr. Kanazawa.