Sensei Hitoshi Kasuya, 8th Dan is the Chief Instructor of WSKF and one of the leading Shotokan karate instructors in the world. A former protégé of Nakayama Sensei, he was JKA Instructor and has an impressive tournament career in the JKA, SKIF and IAKF championships. He emphasizes budo karate, ikken hissatsu rotational dynamics and a thinking, analytical approach to Shotokan karate-do.
Sensei Kasuya’s specialty is his unique teaching method, scientific approach and dynamic technical skill. This interview was conducted after my training under Kasuya sensei in course of WSKF India National camp. In this venture, Sensei Sattrajit Chaudhury, WSKFI Chief Instructor, 6th Dan WSKF/AIKF, has very kindly helped me a lot by facilitating the interview. I will always be grateful to Kasuya Sensei and Chaudhury Sensei for their guidance, inspiration and help.
I hope Kasuya Sensei’s teachings and concept, encapsulated as follows, will prove immensely useful to global karatekas, to understand the nature, theory and implications of traditional Shotokan karate-do. – A. Chakraborty
Questions by Arijit Chakraborty
(Arijit Chakraborty) Sensei, Welcome to India! Please share your thoughts on the essence of technique in Karate-do.
(Hitoshi Kasuya) Thanks, Arijit. I am pleased to see the positive response of Karate-do training in India. I will try to explain my thoughts on Waza (technique) of Karate-do. My first point is Maai (distance).
In general the word Maai means the space between two contestants or it can sometimes mean the time between two actions. In Japan where we have traditional cultural activities such as the tea ceremony and flower arranging, as well as Japanese Noh plays, Maai is considered very important. For example, in the performance of KATA, there is the Maai between techniques. In KUMITE the distance between the opponents, their strategy, the strength they have etc is all referred to as Maai. You can easily control your opponent by the good use of Maai. Unfortunately there is no textbook for the study of Maai, it must be learned from experience, practice and actual jiyu kumite.
The next point I will discuss is proper BREATHING (kokyu). When you concentrate your efforts to make an attack, you should pay careful attention to your breathing and also extra attention to the breathing of your opponent. It is a very good time to attack when your opponent is breathing out. You could also look for the precise moment when he is about to begin breathing in. It is at these vital moments that your opponent will have his power and concentration diverted. Be careful not to hold your breath during the contest. During the performance of KATA, other than at the appropriate KIAI point, there is no need to make loud breathing noises. The important point is to breath in a natural relaxed manner.
(AC ) Sensei, please explain the importance of mental concentration during kumite and kata performance.
(HK) This is a very important point you have raised.
During a fight, if you find yourself concentrating too much on your strategy or thinking what technique your opponent will use, you are in danger of a stalemate and your mental faculties will be jammed. Even many senior Dan grades make this mistake. MUSHIN is the vitally important technique of mental detachment. That is to see the fight from an objective point of view. This can only come from hard, long and consistent training. The mental aspect of MUSHIN can sometimes be thought of as unscientific, but we must consider every aspect in the effort to win in combat. Most important things are through experiences, if not through experiences, that is only dream. The same mental state is required for Kata.
(AC) Sensei, how should we execute proper Taisabaki (body shift)?
(HK) This is the technique of turning or evading your opponent’s attack. In this technique, distancing is an important element. If done correctly, Taisabaki not only avoids your opponent's attack but in turn, opens your opponent up for your own attack. My rotational kihon techniques are a specialized form of practicing Tai-sabaki.
(AC) Sensei, from your vast experience, please discuss on some strategies for Kumite.
(HK) During defense in Kumite, the elbow should act as the axis. Do not move your elbow too high. The axis should not move much, otherwise power cannot be generated. The motion of the elbow should be as small as possible. If the elbow is too far from the body or out of alignment, your motion will be slower and weaker, consequently you attack will be slower too. In defense, your stance is important as well. Practice more kihon and kata extensively to grasp what I am saying. If you find yourselves stalemated or jammed by your opponent, keep cool and then you must use a feint.
A feint is used to create a chance to attack. Your feint must be of good technique to cause your opponent to break his concentration. If you fail to fully commit yourself to a good feint and strong follow up you will leave yourself open to a counter attack. Please appreciate the use of complex feints in ‘Unsu’ or ‘nijushiho’ to understand the proper application in kumite. In a feint you make a motion to your opponent preceding your attack.
Drawing is the opposite; you open yourself up to your opponent’s attack by dropping your guard waiting for the attack and then countering. Feints and Drawing are opposites, like the head and the tails of a coin. Even if you are facing a strong opponent, with the two techniques of feinting and drawing you will create the chance to attack. Most first class contestants have these skills.
(AC) Sensei, please comment on the art of reading your opponents mind.
(HK) This is vital for kumite and also application in daily life. This technique is called YOMI in Japanese, which is the cultivation of the technique of sensing the intentions, the movements and techniques of your opponent. This can only be gained by experience. When you have YOMI, your technique is very elegant and you do not waste time on irrelevant technique. Yomi is a prerequisite for winning. If you try too hard to judge your opponent’s actions you will fall prey to the state of indecision, "shall I do this or shall I do that'. You must read the situation and act almost at the same time, in a clear, decisive and determined manner. Also you must make extreme effort to develop good and clear concentration. I believe Human beings can do almost anything if they concentrate and focus their attention. Without the ability to concentrate you will become weak and be in a dangerous position. Most first class Karateka can be in control anytime and in any situation. You must choose your time to attack. Attacking without rhythm or reason is useless even if you have sufficient power and speed. The most important thing during a fight is that you should be relaxed yet on your guard. Do not have doubt or be scared and do not show hesitation. Do not waste your action but rather act speedily. This is the essence of what I have learnt from my experiences and training. The traditional Ippon shobu system provided opportunity to demonstrate budo karate.
(AC) Sensei, please share few words on KATA.
(HK) For me, kata is a type of meditation. It is the heart of karate-do. Mastery of karate-do means first you become totally comfortable with the techniques, bunkai and oyo of each and every kata.
This requires continued perseverance and daily serious training in kihon and kata. Maybe after lifetime study, you become Master in 10 or 12 kata. But always remember, Karate-do is like technology, so constant research, asking questions, thinking and applying one’s mind is the key to success and fulfillment.
(AC) Oss Sensei, thanks a lot for your time and sharing your vision
(HK) Oss !, thanks , lets train now !