Welcome
TSW Appeal
Editorial
Our Mission
The Team
Our Sponsors
Forum
Interviews
Articles
Book Reviews
DVD Reviews
Course Reports
Website Reviews
Tournament Reviews
Trips to Japan
Instructor Profiles
Beginner's Guide
Beginner's Diaries
Learning Resources
Teaching Resources
Instructor's Diaries
Scientific Study
History of Shotokan
Shotokan Kata
The Dojo Kun
The Niju Kun
Competition Rules
Karate Terminology
Equipment
How to Submit Material
Coming Soon
Contact Us
Mailing List
Online Shop
Paul Herbert 5th Dan
e-mail me


 

A WEEKEND WITH MASTER T. OKAZAKI 10TH DAN

INTERNATIONAL SHOTOKAN KARATE FEDERATION

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

On the weekend of 17th/18th/19th April 2009, Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan – Chief Instructor of the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) travelled overseas from the ISKF Headquarters to teach at his UK branch, led by Ahcene Moussaoui 5th Dan.

 

The UK based ISKF branch, headed by Ahcene Moussaoui, is a highly respected group in the UK, with its students being of very high quality. They are also renown for generating some very successful competitors; gathering both national and international medals, promoting karate at its highest level.

 

When we originally received the information about this seminar, we tried to find out when Sensei Okazaki had last been to the UK. To my knowledge, this was to be his first visit (Readers ~ If I am wrong, please do correct me), so Emma and I could not miss such a special event.

 

We had originally planned to travel to London the night before the training; to be fresh, awake and full of energy – avoiding the hustle and bustle of busy London traffic and the sweat, stress and unavoidable nail biting that is a bi-product of anything associated with driving in London.

 

My step-father however, who has been recently relocated to Dubai with work, was home for a short visit and a surprise birthday party was planned in his honour. Therefore, my fantasy of a sweat-free drive to London was killed, and I was to drive up on the day of the course.

 

Now, for those of you that regularly read about our trips and gallivanting to train will know that I hate being late. I am a genetically wired early bird, so again I decided to leave with plenty of time.

 

South Wales to London, by car, is approximately a 3 hour drive. But when you factor in London traffic, you are looking at more of a 4 ½ drive. With registration for the seminar taking place at 2pm – we left at 6.30am. Yes…7 ½ hours for a  4 ½ hour drive, my reasoning being that I could not miss any of this weekend with this Karate Master. I wanted as much time with him as possible…Emma however was not so thrilled by my plan.

 

We completed the drive in remarkably good time, arriving at the Sobell Leisure Centre by 9.30 – eek…just imagine Emma’s face. We had 4 ½ hours to kill before registration. Perfect opportunity I thought to catch up on current affairs by reading, and consequently re-reading the same newspaper four times – with each turn of the page further annoying Emma who attempted to sleep in the passenger seat next to me.

 

If looks could kill, I’d have died by 11am – some three hours before the course. I nagged for about half an hour and Emma eventually broke, and agreed to come for a walk into Islington to see some of the local area. We found a beautiful pastry café, where they sold coffee, cakes, croissants and to our delight…crepes. After my Belgian Chocolate and almond crepe, and Emma’s chocolate and banana crepe, we made our way back to the sports centre to get dressed.

 

I was excited, very excited by the time I was dressed, additionally so when I saw some friendly, familiar faces from our travels over the years.

 

As we walked into the room, Sensei Okazaki was warming up. Once I had recovered from the overwhelming sensation of being star-struck, I paid attention to his personal warm up. I couldn’t believe how flexible he was, and at his age of 77 years young, he put my 23 year old body to shame.

 

Sensei Okazaki teaching

 

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

 

The other thing that caught my attention was the size of the course. We were told initially that the number of attendees was limited, so Emma and I were sure to book our place in plenty of time, and thankfully we reserved our place. The places for the seminar were truly ‘limited’, which was so pleasing to us.

 

Sometimes you attend courses and it’s overfilled to the rafters; so much so that you cannot move, let alone relax into the training. The organisers here in the UK were clearly respectful of this and wanted to give everyone an enjoyable experience, so capped the number of attendees to a very reasonable number. Everyone in the room could see and hear Sensei Okazaki and were only a short distance from him at all times. This was brilliant, and such a rare treat being able to train with him on what I could describe as a personal setting.

 

The first session on the Saturday consisted of a kihon focus, with him placing huge emphasis on the strong rotation of the hips and the relaxed movement.

 

Having several friends within ISKF – and having just finished an interview with Sensei Okazaki, conducted by his assistant Lois at the ISKF HQ (Coming Soon to TSW) – I had heard of Sensei Okazaki’s approach to training. I had an idea as to how the class would run, but was so excited to have it take place in real time.

 

The first sequence he taught went as such:

 

 

 

SEQUENCE 1

 

  • Start in Kiba-dachi. Make a double punch (Right, then Left)

 

  • Pivot on the balls of the feet into Zenkutsu-dachi (to face the left hand corner), punching Gyaku-zuki with the right hand.

 

  • Pivot on the balls of the feet back into Kiba-dachi. Make double punch (Left, then Right).

 

  • Pivot on the balls of the feet into Zenkutsu-dachi (to face the right hand corner), punching Gyaku-zuki with the left hand.

 And continue the sequence from there on…

 

 

During the explanation of points, Sensei Okazaki placed much emphasis on ensuring the youngsters in the room fully understood the points he was making. This was very important, and an experience these young karateka – the future generations of karate and those with the responsibility of taking traditional karate forward – will be able to treasure forever.

 

Sometimes, it’s too common for karate instructors to only ‘teach’ the adults, and sometimes the younger karateka get neglected to some extent. Sensei Okazaki however invested much energy into their development and understanding of the art.

 

An example took place at the very beginning of the session, when he asked everyone to line up. There were a small number of youngsters who were slower to take their place in the line up, possibly out of nervousness. Sensei Okazaki simply said “Line up quickly, remember that you are a Martial Artist.” This line, so early on in the training to some extent exemplified Sensei Okazaki’s attitude to not only the youngsters, but even more profoundly, to all of Karate-do itself.

 

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan kicking

 

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

 

As highlighted thoroughly throughout the weekend, Sensei explained the place that karate has in life – within and beyond the dojo doors. His book ‘Perfection of Character’, a testament to this, Sensei Okazaki was keen to highlight how karate has benefits for all of life. He emphasised the point that karate is for self-defence and to protect yourself; but that the training has benefits beyond this.

 

During the session, he called us around and asked us to sit before him. He asked three or four students around him how often they train. Some answered, “Twice a week Sensei” and others said, “Three times a week Sensei”. He then explained that the Martial Arts should be a part of your every day life, and that simply dedicating a small time per day can have a huge improvement on your karate development, but also affecting the rest of life.

 

He then went on to explain the regime expected of the University Students in Japan from his time there prior to coming to the US. He used the students of Takushoku University as an example. The regime, of regular everyday training, helped clear the students’ minds and the students’ academic grades improved.

 

 

SEQUENCE 2

 

  • Start in Shizentai.

 

  • Step back with your right leg into Zenkutsu-dachi, blocking Gedan-barai (L) followed by Gyaku-zuki (R).

 

 

  • Step to the right at a 45 degree angle, blocking Soto-uke (R).

 

  • Withdraw the right foot to meet the left and then push back out into Kiba-dachi, striking with Yoko-empi-uchi (R) (Remaining at the 45 degree angle).

 

  • Whilst in Kiba-dachi, strike Uraken-uchi (R). (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Take the Right foot across into Zenkutsu-dachi, punching Gyaku-zuki (L). (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Whilst remaining on the spot, block Age-uke (R). (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Step forward Oi-zuki (L) (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Step back with the left leg into Kokutsu-dachi, blocking Shuto-uchi (R) (So that you are now facing the front again)

 

  • Step across into Zenkutsu-dachi, punching Gyaku-zuki (L)

 

 

 

He then countered this by explaining that he often hears many excuses that people make, such as ‘But I don’t have a dojo at my house’. This was then the perfect introduction onto one of his training methods which, as he said, requires very little space.

The sequence went as follows:

 

The sequence was practiced on the left and right hand side of the body. Then the sequence was reversed so that it went like this:

 

 

 

SEQUENCE 3

 

  • Start in Shizentai.

 

  • Step forward with your left leg into Zenkutsu-dachi, blocking Gedan-barai (L), followed by Gyaku-zuki (R).

 

  • Step left leg backwards into Zenkutsu-dachi, blocking Soto-uke, going to a 45 degree angle (R)

 

  • Withdraw the right foot to meet the left and then push back out into Kiba-dachi, striking with Yoko-empi-uchi (R) (Remaining at the 45 degree angle).

 

  • Whilst in Kiba-dachi, strike Uraken-uchi (R). (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Take the Right foot across into Zenkutsu-dachi, punching Gyaku-zuki (L). (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Whilst remaining on the spot, block Age-uke (R). (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Step right leg backward Kizami-zuki (L), followed by Gyaku-zuki (R). (Remain at the 45 degree angle)

 

  • Take your right foot forward to face the front into Kokutsu-dachi, blocking Shuto-uchi (R).

 

  • Take front foot across into Zenkutsu-dachi, punching Gyaku-zuki (L).

 

 

 

When we think of ISKF, it has been responsible for generating some of the World’s most talented and respected karateka and instructors. A big part of the reason for this, besides the first rate instruction, is the intensity of the training. Sensei Okazaki insisted on full commitment, and you constantly felt his eyes on you.

 

There was this fascinating balance between the hard and soft in his teaching approach. There was the hard and demanding pace of his lesson, and the attention to detail and strict following of etiquette. Then there’s the softer, thoughtful explanations he provided, coupled by his eager smile, great sense of humour and giving personality.

 

The above sequences were then followed by the same pattern of movements, but this time with Keri-waza.

 

 

 

SEQUENCE 4

 

  • Start in Shizentai.

 

  • Step back with your right leg kicking Kizami-mae-geri (L) followed by Gyaku-zuki (R).

 

  • Step to the right at a 45 degree angle, kicking Yoko-geri-keage (R) followed by Gyaku-mae-geri..

 

  • Kick Kizami-mawashi-geri (R).

 

  • Step forward Mawashi-geri (L) (Remain at the 45 degree angle) followed by Gyaku-mae-geri (R).

 

  • Step back with the left leg (So that you are now facing the front again) and kick Kizami-yoko-geri-kekomi

 

 

And then reversed:

 

 

 

 

SEQUENCE 5

 

  • Start in Shizentai.

 

  • Step forward kicking Mae-geri (L) followed by Gyaku-mae-geri (R) (Step back with the kicking leg, don’t step forward).

 

  • Step back with the left leg to a 45 degree angle, kicking Kizami-yoko-geri-keage (R) followed by Gyaku-mae-geri (L).

 

  • Kick Kizami-mawashi-geri (R).

 

  • Step backward (Remain at the 45 degree angle) kicking Kizami-mawashi-geri (L) followed by Gyaku-mae-geri.

 

  • Step Yoko-geri-kekomi (So that you are now facing the front again).

 

 

 

These sequences were the impetus for the bulk of the teaching throughout the weekend. He used them as a platform from which he was able to teach us about karate-do and the physical, but also very importantly, the non-physical aspects of the Budo arts.

 

Upon reflection on the course, when I think about the way Sensei Okazaki teaches, his approach comes back to the very nature of what Sensei Funakoshi wanted to promote.

 

I get the sense that Sensei Okazaki uses the physical aspects of the art, almost as a ladder to enable him to reach the mental and spiritual point that he wants to reach. The hard rigor that he no doubt inflicted upon himself during his younger years, but also the training his students experience – which to some extent we were lucky enough to gain a glimpse into – is all geared towards developing the tools to access the doors of character perfection.

 

I think, like many things in life and therefore the Martial Arts itself as well, the beauty and significance of any experience can only be truly analysed and appreciated after the fact…sometimes weeks, months, years and possibly decades later. So prematurely after the training, when I look back, things he touched on and spoke about are striking a chord. I will be interested, with increased maturity within myself, my skills and my wisdom, how his teachings will further strike a chord with me.

 

As a product of travelling, we have had access to train with a wide and fascinating list of Martial Artists. This has had a huge impact on Emma and I, and we have trained with many wonderful ‘Teachers’. Sensei Okazaki has the traits of a true ‘Sensei’. The connotations and suggested image of the word ‘Sensei’ are sometimes more powerful than the textbook translation itself. Translation can often kill the imagery certain words concoct, and being someone in his own head for much of the time, strict translation can kill my mental paintings.

 

When I think of the word ‘Sensei’ I think of someone who is committed to learning as well as the teaching. But within the role of passing on the information they have gathered over a prolonged period, they give you much more than the technical details of the art. They don’t just teach you the ‘Do this, or do that’ within the framework of physical activities. They also give you their wisdom. Within my own interpretation, this is the very reason as to why I do not consider everyone that teaches karate a true ‘Sensei’. Naturally, my own interpretation will possibly differ slightly, or potentially dramatically from  you reading this report, but this is my own understanding.

 

Sensei Okazaki throughout the weekend punctuated the class with stories and his thoughts. This was very much the case during the second session of the Saturday.

 

This was a tough session, one I thought would dehydrate me to the point of pruning. He took us through the kata Bassai Dai, Enpi, Kanku-Dai and Jion. He discussed the importance of studying both Shorin-ryu kata and Shorei-Ryu kata, and how they both have different characteristics but both serve a vital role in the development of the karate. He highlighted that kata requires visualisation, to see someone in front of you, and that through kata you develop the necessary skills for kumite. He said that kata looks at multiple attackers, and said that fighting multiple attackers is no different to fighting one person. You are simply fighting one person multiple times. This was his mindset, further highlighted through the partner exercise he had us do.

 

With the first day over, I was looking forward to another day of training with him on the Sunday, but not looking forward to the aching muscles so much. After the class, he spend a considerable amount of time signing books and taking photographs, constantly with a smile on his face. Nothing was a chore and he took a big interest in everyone who approached him.

 

On the Sunday, I arrived early to prepare for the training…not as early as the previous day I might add. A short while after my arrival, Sensei Okazaki arrived. Whilst on the Saturday I had managed to get a photograph with him, I – being the geek I am – wanted my ‘Modern Textbook’ signed. As I sat next to him, he grabbed at my belt ends and read my name…looking up he smiled and said ‘Shaun Banfield’. I was so thrilled as there’s always the fear that my belt may have said something else – potentially a practical joke at the manufacturers at my expense that I would never know anything about. He then signed my book, taking an interest in me all the while and never giving the impression that he had had enough book signing for a lifetime. When you think of the travelling he has done, the popularity of his seminars and the popularity of the books he has published, you can imagine how many books he has signed. He was all smiles however.

 

Shaun Banfield with Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

 

Shaun Banfield getting his book signed by Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

 

The first session took very much the same format as the previous day, with additional heightened awareness on what he wanted to achieve. The sequences focussed on remained virtually the same, with a few additional ones added in.

 

One of the sequences he asked for went as such:

 

 

 

SEQUENCE 6

 

  • Start in a short fighting stance, with hands out before you.

 

  • You slide the front leg in, punching Kizami-zuki.

 

  • Followed by Oi-sanbon-zuki

 

 

 

Now, something very embarrassing happened to me, much to the delight of Emma, John Barker and Dennis Hanwright who were to the right of me. When Sensei Okazaki said that he wanted Sanbon-zuki, I misunderstood thinking, the lunge forward Kizami-zuki was the first punch of the three. When I did this – therefore doing Kizami-zuki, Oi-zuki, Gyaku-zuki – Sensei Okazaki walked over to me and said ‘Sanbon-zuki has three punches’…Doh! What an idiot I thought to myself, additionally so when Sensei smiled and everyone around laughed. I fear people will always remember me as the Sanbon-zuki guy, much to my hissing.

 

After the first session, he called us all around to speak. He started by saying that he wanted to give us a bit of information into his background. He explained that before starting karate, he practiced other Martial Arts such as Kendo. He then told us a story from his years practicing Kendo, please forgive my inability to tell the story word for word:

 

Sensei explained that he once saw his Kendo teacher perform a demonstration using a sword. He said that his teacher would make a model from bamboo, which represented bone, wrapped in wet straw, which represented skin. His kendo teacher would then draw the sword and split the model from ‘shoulder’ to ‘hip’ in one fell swoop. Sensei Okazaki said that he himself wanted to try this feat, and upon returning home, asked his father if he could borrow one of his swords to make an attempt. His father replied jokingly ‘If you touch my sword, I will chop off your head!’ Okazaki waited until everyone was asleep, made himself a model, and ‘borrowed’ a sword. He said he drew the sword, swung it, and it hit the side of the model and bounced away. The model still stood. He hurriedly checked the sword for marks, and returned it, praying his father would remain none the wiser!

 

 

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

 

He returned to his Kendo teacher the next day and relayed his attempt to his teacher. His teacher said, ‘There was nothing wrong with your body, all wrong with your mind. At the point of impact, you hesitated, causing the slightest tension in your arm, which in turn changes the angle of the blow, making you attack with only your arm. Next time, sit in Moksou first, and attack with all your body and mind.’ Okazaki returned home, ‘borrowing’ his father’s sword once more. He sat in Moksou, then stood, drew the sword and swung. The model lay in half in front of him. 

 

He went on to explain that karate has the same focus on hitting with not only the limb, but also the whole body forged with the strength of the mind. Here he said that the Seika Tanden is of great importance and that every technique should come from this source of power to ensure a full body action. I loved how he made the link between the two Martial Arts, something he stressed fervently in the interview we have awaiting for you – how the Martial Arts are the same, with the same objective.

 

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

 

 

 

The second session was to be the most intensive lesson of the weekend. Again, continuing the format of the previous day, this lesson was going to based primarily around kata. Whilst on his visit, Sensei Okazaki was to be conducting a grading with many of the karateka on the course. Some were going for Shodan, whilst others were going for second dan etc. With the karateka grading standing at the front of the line, brown belts and black belts were called up separately. We practiced the following kata twice slow and once full speed: Nijushiho, Bassai Dai, Empi, Bassai Sho, Gankaku, Jion...and the list went on. Whilst providing details about the execution of the kata, Sensei Okazaki was sure to keep the pressure and intensity of the class going.

 

If I use Bassai Sho as an example. He stressed that when executing the three double arm punching techniques, the leg does not kick mikazuki geri. Instead, he pointed out that this was a sweeping technique. He also noted that the two punches are not straight. The reverse punching hand is bent at the elbow (as if you punch choku-zuki shomen, and then bend the arm to point the hand in the direction of the head and other punching hand.) Another important point he made was that during the final sequences, the body posture must remain correct and vertical, not leaning at all.

 

Just when we all thought our bodies were going to give up, he asked us to pair up for jiyu-ippon kumite. After we executed the kumite once all the way though, he called us all around. He explained that sometimes in kumite, it is essential that we embrace the opponent’s energy. To highlight his point, he used a karateka from the crowd to push him to his left shoulder. The force of the push helped whip Sensei Okazaki’s body around and he delivered a chudan mawashi-empi with his right arm. Here he ideally demonstrated how the opponents force can be used to your advantage. He wanted us to go away and execute the jiyu-ippon kumite again with this in mind.

 

Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th DanSensei Teruyuki Okazaki 10th Dan

 

By the end of the training I was exhausted, Emma was exhausted and everyone I caught a glimpse of was exhausted. Sensei Okazaki drilled us hard, and encouraged us at all times to persevere.

 

In your lifetime there are certain things you must do, things you must achieve. Training with Sensei Okazaki was undoubtedly one such experience I will forever cherish. Prior to writing this report, I re-read the interview that we have with Sensei Okazaki that is awaiting publication here on TSW and I found in it a fresh understanding of the points he was making. This man is without a doubt a treasure to the karate community and the karate he promotes is of the very highest quality and standard. This is a man who is linking 2009 with the karate of Master Funakoshi. Simply being in his presence and experiencing his wisdom, even for a relatively short period of time, is something I will tell my grandchildren about some day.

 

I would like to thank Ahcene Moussaoui, and all at ISKF UK for making us feel so welcome! It was a pleasure meeting and training alongside you all.

 

 

Shaun Banfield 

 

Shaun Banfield, Sensei Okazaki, Emma Robins

 

Many thanks to Ahcene Moussaoui for his hospitality and Dennis Hanwright for use of some photographs.