Sensei Kase interview – Finland 2002

Interviewer: Jarmo Niiranen (Tampere, Finland 2002)

What has been the most memorable thing during your remarkable karate journey?
It is the love towards karate which has lasted almost six decades. I cannot name only one thing because so much has happened. Sometimes I ask myself – why do I continue training? I must continue because karate gives me so much – karate is my life. I have been training and teaching karate all over the world for over half a century.

What is the purpose of your training?
Main purpose is the continuous development. Even though I am 73 years old – I still feel that I am developing all the time. When I decide that I am standing after the fight – I will. This is the original budo spirit – the training should also be done this way. Budo – karate takes about 20-30 years of basic work. Only after this period one can start to understand karate more deeply and see things more clear. The development is a continuous process – continuous training gives basics for that.

Who were your teachers when you started to practice – could you tell their the main characteristics?
Gichin Funakoshi was my first teacher – he was the one who established Shotokan ryu school. His karate was more like Okinawan. Stances were short and kicking techniques were only few. The second teacher was his son Yoshitaka Funakoshi – who developed karate tremendously. He created more dynamic moving patterns – lower stances came along and kicking quantity and quality expanded. Karate as a whole became more versatile. Yoshitaka created fudo-dachi stance – which enabled one to move towards multiple directions more strongly and more naturally than old zenkutsu-dachi does. Fudo-dachi is the basic stance of the Shotokan ryu Kase ha. My third important teacher was Motonobu Hironishi who teached me during my six Senshu university years in Tokio. Hironishi sensei was a very important person in Shotokai school after he left shotokan.

Could you tell us some more about Motonobu Hironishi sensei?
He started to practice karate in 1931 when he was 19 years old. He was a student of Gichin and Yoshitaka Funakoshi and he teached karate in Japanese universities. Hironishi did not like competitions and he was always saying that karate should be trained as budo – not as a sport. He said that karate is not real in competition situation. As I told you before Hironishi changed to Shotokai and the main reason was that there is no competition element in Shotokai.

It has been said that Tadao Okuyama sensei reached higher level in karate that Yoshitaka Funakoshi did – is this true?
In my opinion Yoshitaka reached higher level than Okuyama. When Yoshitaka passed away in 1945 – Okuyama naturally continued his own development – but still he did not reached Yoshitakas skill level. To me Yoshitaka is always number one. In fact these two cannot even be compared because their karate was different. Yoshitaka was more physical karateka and Okuyama caught his energy from somewhere else – strange isn’t it.

When was the last time that you met with sensei Okuyama?
We have not met in a few years. We call each other time to time. Usually we discuss about training and change opinions. He is over 80 years old and training and living in Japan. Our friendship has lasted from 1940`s – university years.

What is your opinion about training attitude nowadays compared the spirit during the Yoshitakas times – are there any problems?
Problems, not necessarily. The training of course was quite different during the war compared to nowadays. The difference is in controlling the technique. Atobaya was very common in wartime training – there was no control. Killing with one blow was the basis of the training. Nowadays some people are training for competition – why is that?

How do you see the future of karate – in which direction you would like it to develop?
Budo is not competition. Budo is fighting. Karate is protection / defence – yourself, other people, your and others property. The traditional karate does not include competition – if somebody claims otherwise then he is wrong. Believe it – I have seen the whole development of modern karate. The rules of competition were developed during 1950`s. There is no points for effective uke-waza. Budo is realistic fighting based on samurai tradition – this tradition also includes traditional karate. The realistic fighting is very far from competition karate. The rules and narrow technique selection does not give real picture of karate. The technique becomes unilateral and karate changes to point scoring sport as dancing – this is not the case with true budo.

Karate should be trained more seriously. Why do people practice kata only to learn the form? It is like dancing. The realistic kata bunkai training helps people to understand katas thru totally different way. A strong block(ukeuchi) hurts your opponent – there is no need for attack necessarily. There is no needless movements in karate. These are the things I wish to be remembered while training karate. Karate ni sente nashi – block always first.(There is no first attack in karate.)
Thank you sensei – arigato!

In this interview Sensei Kase also stressed out that Shotokan ryu Kase ha (SRKH) style is very different from JKA karate. Shotokai style is in its some features similar to SRKH. The SRKH training is very realistic and very versatile. It is the result of sixty years of continuous development.

Taiji Kase sensei has developed karate training continuously during his spectacular career. Even today he is adding some new ideas into training. The starting spark for this development was given by Yoshitaka Funakoshi in 1940`s.