Sensei Dave Hazard can be described as nothing less than a ‘Shotokan Legend’. As a student of Enoeda Sensei, and spending time training in Japan in the infamous ‘Instructors Class’ he has gained a powerful reputation as one of the most significant figures in British Karate.
Having been lucky enough to train under him many times, more so in the last few months, we have been able to see for ourselves exactly why Sensei Hazard is regarded so highly.
Since the beginning of the Shotokan Way, we have been exposed to many fantastic Shotokan instructors, who have inspired us to no end. Sensei Hazard however holds a special place in our karate, being one of the first instructors to inspire us so, and to interview him was a great honour.
(Shaun Banfield) As a student of Enoeda Sensei, what was it that Enoeda Sensei instilled in you that has kept you so passionate about karate today?
(Dave Hazard) Sensei influenced me so much in so many different ways, but I suppose as a Martial Artist it was his spirit and integrity, and no one I have met has had more of either.
(SB) Do you have any personal stories about Enoeda Sensei that you would care to share with our readers?
(DH) I have many wonderful memories with Sensei and I would not know where to start. In saying that, when he passed away I was devastated, and had many a phone call asking my thoughts and for a comment. I decided from the start that I would not, and at that time could not comment, as I was too upset. Now after seeing all that has been said and written about Sensei I am glad I said nothing, and for now my mind has not changed, I keep my memories to myself.
(SB) Having trained in Britain, you then decided to travel to Japan, to study at the Heart of Karate. What would you say was the most important thing you took away from this time in your life?
(DH) The question is impossible to answer. I came away from Japan with so many different experiences. I had many a bubble burst and then so many new ones that I did not expect. I suppose if you had to have an answer that was on a technical level, it would be the way to analyse a technique as a biomechanical movement; so the performance produced the maximum effect with the least damage to the body.
(SB) How did you find the language barrier, did this limit your development? If not, how did you manage?
(DH) There was no problem with the language, I knew enough dojo Japanese to understand most things, then the performance of the instructors spoke for itself. Along with this, Master Nakayama made sure things were explained in great detail in the Instructors class so you were left in little doubt what was meant.
(SB) Do you think Japan today is still the heart of Shotokan, and do you think it’s still as relevant as ever? And what advice would you give to any budding traveler to the Honbu?
(DH) Japan will always hold a special place in Shotokan history and have an important part to play in the future of Karate-Do, but Shotokan is practiced throughout the world and has been now in most country’s for over 40 years. Master Nakayama sent his best instructors to these countries, not the worst, and after that time they have produced some great Karate-Ka. Things move on as they are supposed to, nothing stands still, and we know so much more about the body, nutrition, and ways of training now than 40 years ago. Everything has improved. And to anyone who has the opportunity to visit Japan, go and enjoy, it will be an experience you can use for the rest of your life.
(SB) Who of the other Master’s that you have trained under would you also say has had a major influence on you and your karate?
(DH) Many Sensei have influenced my karate over the years and most I would say were not Japanese, many in England, Italy, Spain, Germany, and the USA and also recently Thailand and Cambodia. I have only trained with one Master and that’s Master Nakayama. I think the title Master is well over used, Enoeda Sensei never referred to himself as Master and I never will.
(SB) Everyone I have ever spoken to about your karate comments on how brilliant a communicator of karate you are. What keeps you excited about developing Shotokan?
(DH) Exactly that. Shotokan is developing all the time and hopefully I will too, and to see students improving and taking karate forward is and should be every Sensei’s ambition. I feel if I cannot produce students to surpass me I would have failed as a teacher.
(SB) As a Martial Artist, you never stop learning. When you need answers, or clarification, who or where do you turn to?
(DH) I always had Enoeda Sensei to fall back on. If I had a question, I used to research as much as possible then talk to Sensei about it. Now he has gone it’s more difficult, at first I felt very lonely, but I have many experienced Karate-Ka who I can talk to and get their views. I also continue to study daily to try and improve my understanding.
(SB) Having trained under the Standard JKA, do you feel your karate today is Standard JKA, or has it changed in any way over the years?
(DH) I don’t believe there is a standard JKA. I have never seen one. In the past when I trained on courses with Sensei’s Kase, Enoeda, Shirai, Miyazaki, Kawasoe and Tomita all at the same time none of them looked the same, but they were all practicing Shotokan. How can they look the same, they all have different bodies. Shotokan basics are a template to build a foundation, so we have longevity to train. The JKA was the same, all the instructors were different, just as a suit of clothes will look different on each person, and so will Shotokan.
(SB) In your own personal training, what do you place most emphasis on now, what do you spend most time developing?
(DH) In my own training, I try as much as possible to keep healthy by performing the basics correctly. That allows me the time to experiment with the techniques in kata and understand how I can apply them. Underlying all of this is the breathing; understanding the breathing will keep my karate alive.
(SB) Kata we see today, appears quite different to that performed by the Masters many years ago. How do you feel about these changes, or do you think the attitude that they are performed with is what really matters at the end of the day?
(DH) Kata is a subject that you could discuss for hours, there are so many views and it could fill volumes. In my view it is the feel of the kata that is important, so many perform every kata with the same intensity without understanding. Bassai-Dai is to storm a fortress and its movements should reflect that, Empi is flight of the swallow, not flight of Dumbo the elephant. Once the movements and understanding have been learnt, it has to be performed in the spirit in which it was developed. Kata today especially in competition seems to be a performance for someone else. Kata should be for yourself not other people. I think that’s the difference in the way we view the Masters of the past to today’s young athletes. Sensei performed his kata with a spirit and a feel that went past technique and perfect form and gave it life and meaning. So when people say to me such and such a Sensei said a movement should be done this way or that, I say ‘Ok, no problem, as long as you understand what it means, do as he said’. And whoever the Sensei teaching you at the time is, work their way and after, you decide how you want to perform.
(SB) Tying the previous question and the next questions, I would like to ask you about the rhythm and timing of karate. How important is rhythm and timing to karate, and how do they differ in the performance of kata and when faced with an opponent in kumite?
(DH) The rhythm and timing of karate without sounding like Master Po, is everything. You can have the best and most powerful technique in the world, but if you can’t apply it it’s worth nothing. With the correct timing and rhythm even in a technique less powerful or correct has some value. In kata you have more time to express this, in kumite you don’t.
(SB) Out of what you may call ‘Sport karate’ kumite, what principles do you feel are worth applying to your traditional karate kumite?
(DH) The sports side of Karate I have been involved with within the England Squad has improved my understanding of the health, training programs, and total commitment the modern athlete needs to succeed. They are truly amazing. Also the skill and understanding taught by Sensei Donovan and Sensei Otto on how to apply these skills are lessons I can incorporate into my own teaching.
(SB) What is Sensei Dave Hazard’s favorite kata and why?
(DH) It depends on how I feel. If I get up and feel weak I will practice Hangetsu to give me some energy, if I feel strong maybe Sochin or Jitte, if I feel sharp Empi, so I let my body decide. But of course I have to practice all of the katas at times so when I am asked to teach them I have some idea of what I am doing. My favorites though are Heian Yondan and Unsu.
(SB) Can we just say a big thank you to you Sensei for your time and expertise.
(DH) Thank you, I have enjoyed it and also congratulations on a great web site I am sure it will be very successful.