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Harada Sensei Shotokai Course - February 2015

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

We are all aware of how many martial arts organisations, federations, associations and clubs there are around today. In fact every leisure centre, community centre, school, college, university, church hall and village hall and even tin shed seems to have one. There are also many different styles of karate even in our local area, Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Kyokushinkai as well as Kung-Fu, Tae-Kwon-Do and other martial arts and it's very rare that they ever meet or cross train, each preferring to stick to their own style, their own "Way" or "Do" thinking that their system is the one and only way, that it is the best. Renshi has always said that no style or system has a monopoly on the answers; it is up to one’s self to discover a way and make it work for one’s self.

Many years ago, Shotokan and Shotokai (two styles of karate) went their separate ways, each working from the same building blocks put in place by Gichin Funakoshi O'Sensei but each taking a very different path to 'karate-do'. Those paths have run in parallel but never crossed.

Until now...

A while back, some CFTS Senseis visited Harada Sensei's Shotokai organisation (Karate Do Shotokai) and a friendship was born. From that friendship, one of Shotokai's most senior instructors, Minh Chung, visited CFTS and showed us the Shotokai 'Way', opening our eyes to the subtle, but major, differences between our 'sister' styles.

CFTS was to have been bestowed with the ultimate accolade and compliment - a visit from Shotokai's Grand Master, Mitsusuke Harada Sensei. Harada Sensei is one of the few karate-ka alive today who actually trained under Gichin Funakoshi Sensei in Japan and also with his son, Yoshitaka 'Gigo' Funakoshi, the karate-ka who developed his father's art form into the martial art we practice today.

Now in his 86th year, Harada Sensei was to travel from his home base in Wales to further cement that friendship by holding a Shotokai Kata and Kumite course, joined by some of his senior instructors from KDS clubs countrywide. Unfortunately, Harada Sensei became unwell prior to the course and was unable to travel. Our thoughts and good wishes go out to him to wish him a speedy recovery.

But Harada Sensei's senior instructors, in his absence, still gave us an outstanding course to remember.

The Course.

Renshi Kidby opened the course by welcoming students of CFTS, guests and instructors. He went on to say that the course would be a “Red Letter Day” for all who attended. After we recited the Dojo Kun he took the warm ups before introducing Sensei Minh Chung. Sensei Chung explained why Harada Sensei was not present and apologised on his behalf for not being there but left us all feeling positive that we were in for a good afternoon’s training. He in turn went on to introduce each instructor who in turn came out and gave their name and experience. Each of them had a minimum of twenty years’ experience and most of them in excess of forty.

The course attendees were then split into three groups: dan grades, adult kyu grades, and juniors of all grades.

The first part of the course was kata based, with the instructors showing us the Shotokai way of performing Heian Yondan (to the juniors and kyu grades) and Jion (to the dan grades). They allowed us to question and comment during the katas and explained their bunkai. They describe their bunkai as "Bunseki" which has a deeper meaning than just the application behind a move, technique or sequence. Bunkseki, means to analyse or breakdown, to take apart and rebuild those moves. This enables a student to understand techniques so be able to perform them to the best of their ability with good stance, body shape and so be able to deliver them with the appropriate power required.

The second half of the course was aimed at showing us Ten-no-kata as kumite, and the KDS instructors helped everyone again to understand the differences between the two sister styles and training methods. The slow relaxed way we performed these sequences without physical contact allowed us to focus on technique, stances and weight and power transference. The other benefits of training in such a slow relaxed way develops balance and aids with the development of each technique. Tony Lima (from Southampton KDS) showed us the quiet composure of the moves that lead to striking with dynamic speed and power. He also passed on some valuable insights and information given by Harada Sensei, from his own personal experiences training under Funakoshi O'Sensei and his son.

The course concluded with a question and answer session. Senseis Lima, Chung and our own Renshi capably fielded these questions. Renshi then thanked all the visiting instructors for their efforts throughout the afternoon for their diligence, patience, capability and for sharing their knowledge and expertise. He then gave a personal gift to Sensei Chung for organising the afternoon’s tuition. He went on to present a hand crafted gift to Sensei Chung for him to pass on to Harada Sensei with the words Shotokai and Shotokan, United in friendship, training together in the memory of Funakoshi Gichin. Also on it was the KDS logo and the CFTS Kosugi tiger with the kanji for Shotokai and Shotokan inscribed beneath.

Sensei Chung commented on the openness and willingness to attempt new concepts of the students on the course a compliment to one and all. He went on to praise the etiquette and discipline of even the youngest. Well done!

Those who attended the course should realise how rare and how special this course was, to have Shotokai and Shotokan training together; indeed a unique and monumental event. As Renshi had promised, it truly was a red letter day for all those there and they were truly fortunate to have been a part of it.

Our thanks go to the visiting KDS Shotokai instructors;

  • Minh Chung, Ian Treherne and Katie Carter (Oxford University)

  • Tony Lima and Steve Hope (Southampton University)

  • Roy Margetts and Ian MacKenzie (Wales)

  • Mark Hallam and Chris Gidlow (Keele University)

  • Adrian Quick (Essex)

  • Peter Jackson and Tim Swan (Newcastle)

Our thanks also go to Renshi Kidby and the Executive for organising the day, one that will live long in the memory of students that attended. Let us hope that when Harada Sensei’s health and fitness has sufficiently improved he may still one day come and give us first-hand tuition.

In June 2015, Harada Sensei sent a special message to Renshi Kidby from Japan; Read it here: Message from Harada Sensei

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