“Heyjoshin o ushinawazu”
Never lose stability of the mind
• For decades we train many techniques, combinations, katas, so many of them. Though all that is important, what actually do we know? All we know is just a bit more than nothing, just a bit more than zero. Mind power is everything.
• It is more important to think about the power in the lower part of the body (“Under body” he used to say), than to rely on the upper body power.
• In order to achieve absolute body control, which is to unify physical and mental potentials, Ibuki breathing must be developed and applied.
• It took me forty seven years to get it, but I know now, this is Budo.
Taiji Kase sensei, in 1992
The karate that Yoshitaka Funakoshi and Taiji Kase created differs from the traditional and most wide-spread Shotokan ryu style karate of the Japanese Karate Association, the JKA.
The concept “Shotokan Ryu Kase Ha” has been in existence for a quite long time, but the style was founded officially in the year 2002.
The SRKH style’s path from the past to today can be outlined, as follows: Matsumura Sokon – Azato Yasutsune – Funakoshi Gihcin – Funakoshi Yoshitaka – Kase Taiji.
The weapon and karate techniques of Matsumura and Azato were influenced by the Jingen-ryu sword style. This is one reason why Gichin Funakoshi’s karate differs from the other Okinawa styles. Matsumura, who was a bodyguard of the king of Okinawa, shared his knowledge and experience with the other guards of Satsuma-clan, who were masters at the Jingen-ryu ken-jutsu. This is also the origin of the extensive and forceful movements of Shotokan style.
Here are some typical characteristics or features of the SRKH style. This is definitely not an exhaustive description but it might give an insight into the principles of our techniques for those who are familiar with different karate styles.
This term means focusing mental and physical power. “More kime” is one of the favourite sayings of Sensei Kase. Kime is a combination of the basics of karate: strong stance, use of hara (the centre of a body), effective movement patterns, relaxation, strength, timing and strong will. If you want to achieve a good kime, you have to give everything that you have, both in your body and mind. It takes several years to find and to develop the inner energy that you need in order to master your kime.
This stance was created by Yoshitaka Funakoshi and it is typical for the SRKH style even though it is practically unknown in other styles of karate. Yoshitaka was well known of practical and effective techniques. In Fudo-dachi he combines his fathers favourite stance kiba-dachi (horse stance) and zenkutsu-dachi (front stance). In SRKH style it replaces the zenkutsu-dachi, which is commonly used in other styles.
The term fudo means immovable, steady and firm. It is a low stance that gives you a good opportunity to move into almost any direction. In fudo-dachi, the movement of the hip is quite little and the use of the back leg differs greatly from zenkutsu-dachi. Instead of large hip movements one should pay more attention to the use of the hara.
O’WAZA, CHU WAZA, KO WAZA
O’waza means large and ko waza means small or minor technique. Chu waza is half in between those two. Beginners start with large movements because they need to develop their muscles and to learn the perfect course of a technique. One can naturally achieve maximum speed and power with a large movement. Sensei Kase describes this phase of practising as the primary school, and continues that it is a very important stage of development that should be studied carefully and repeated regular trough out every karate career. However, there is no sense in staying at the primary level forever. Sensei Kase says: “It is better to wander 10 km up a hill than 10 km on a flat course. When you go upwards, you’ll see more and further after every step you make.”
When a students body and energy production have already improved to a good level it is not always necessary to use the most extensive range of movement to achieve the maximum impact. You can achieve the same impact with ko waza. The aim of this type of training is to produce the same impact with every technique regardless of where the movement starts from and where it ends.
This term means posture or attitude. In the beginning the trainee learns a technique a certain way, for example there are the exact starting and ending points. When carrying out a strike or punch with one hand the other hand is usually pulled tight to the side. This is about learning how to use the body effectively. After a few years of training these movements become automatic.
The SRKH style seeks intentionally to break this kind of learned patterns after the person has been practising already for many years. One should learn to perform a technique from several different starting points, to use far of near reaching movements and to manage to finish the movement by bringing a limb fully controlled into any position desired. The aim is to train the limbs to move fully independent from each other; yet supporting each other. Different postures or kamaes can be used as a trick, a bluff or a shield. They help you to limit and control the opponent’s movements and to improve your own techniques
SEITE AND HENTE
Traditionally Shotokan karate has been a straightforward style for large-sized karatekas. Possible slowness has been compensated by strength. Seite has been the typical way of performing a technique. What it means, in short, is one limb – one move. For example, you block with one hand and counter attack with another.
Hente means performing a sequence of movements without changing the hand. The defending hand becomes also the attacking hand and possibly continues to perform techniques many times in a row. This is often a question of gaining time and space for the final blow. Sensei Kase has often said that these are the kind of things one should pick up and learn from different katas.
SHUTO UCHI, HAITO UCHI AND OTHER OPEN HAND TECHNIQUES
One of the easiest ways to recognise the SRKH style is to have a look at the open hand techniques. Shuto uchi and haito uchi strikes derive from sword (katana) techniques. Hands are used to mimic a sword or it can be alternatively imagined that the hands are holding a big and heavy sword. The range of movements in shuto uchi and haito uchi are large and extensive. Although Sensei Kase is well known of his kicks, especially the ushiro geri and kaiten geri he created, it can be said without exaggerating that there is nobody performing open hand techniques like him.
URA AND GO FORMS OF KATA
An important principle of the SRKH style is that the trainee should master katas both the normal and the reverse (ura) way. Some katas have also a go-version of them. It is a form where the kata is performed by moving only backwards.
The list of the characteristics of the training style could go on. We hope that you have got a preliminary insight into the main principles of Shotokan Ryu Kase Ha.