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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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MICHAEL R. BERGER

''Development of Character through Practice''

 

 

 

An Interview with Michael R. Berger

 

 

 

Sensei Berger at TakudaiLast year, Michael Berger published his book ‘Masterclass Karate, Kicking Techniques’. When he sent me a copy to read, inside he wrote, ‘To Shaun, Each moment only once, Michael’. This statement has stayed with me over the past months of training. The book was excellent, as was the footage that I had seen of him teaching at Jon Keeling’s Hoitsugan Seminars. I was very eager to interview him. When we set about doing so, I was so excited to hear his thoughts and bits of his history. Here in this interview, he discusses his introduction into karate, his training in Japan and the experiences and lessons he had, and his close relationship with Masters Watanabe and Shoji. This anecdotal interview gives a great insight into this budoka, who is still on the ‘way’. Enjoy!! –Shaun Banfield 08

 

(Shaun Banfield)     Can we please start by asking you how you first got started in the Martial Arts. Can you tell us how this came about?

 

(Michael Berger)     Well, I suppose that would depend on how we define “martial arts.”  I started boxing when I was about five years old, then started competitive wrestling when I was in Jr. High School. It may sound funny but I used to love watching The Green Hornet and later the TV series Kung Fu. I always wanted to learn martial arts as a kid, but there was really nothing around. I ended up getting a college scholarship to wrestle at a top program where most of my team mates were all from Iowa. After the season was over I was recruited by the Judo Club to be on a team that was competing in a big multi-state tournament. I had a lot of fun practicing judo and won second place in the tournament. After that one day I saw a guy practicing karate by himself in a small gym. He saw me watching and came over to talk to me. He had trained in Vietnam as a soldier in the Vietnam War. He offered to teach me and a friend of mine at his house for free. I guess I was at least very intrigued, but still not sure that it would really work in a real fight.

 

(SB)     And what was it he taught you?

 

(MB)     He taught me about the quiet humility of a karateka. He was kind of a rebel with long hair and a motorcycle, and I really related to that at the time. He taught us techniques that were real fighting techniques that he had learned from a master in Vietnam. I’m not even sure what style it was, but I think that there may have been elements of Viet Vo Dao and and some Chinese system.

 

(SB)     Who else did you train with in the US before making your big trip to Japan? Can you tell us about these experiences?

 

(MB)     Well, I trained for a very brief period of time with Toshio Osaka, a 7th or 8th dan in Wado Ryu, before discovering the JKA. For me, the JKA Shotokan techniques had real power and effect, and the techniques were explained in terms of biomechanics and physics, which made sense to me. It was all based on one killing technique. John Linkletter, who was one of Nishiyama Sensei’s senior students and a member of the US Team, was our teacher, but there were about four other black belt instructors from Minnesota under Fusaro Sensei who rotated into the teaching. Nishiyama used to come about three or four times a year, and Fusaro would come sometimes too. I received my brown belt from Nishiyama Sensei a couple of years before going to Japan. 

 

(SB)     You decided to follow your Martial Art study in Japan. What was your image of Japan prior to travelling there, and how did that image change or develop?Tatami room at TDK factory - 84

 

(MB)     I had no idea or image of Japan before going there. I was just very adventurous at that time, and I knew that if I really wanted to learn karate, I had to go to the birthplace to see the real thing. I had just graduated from college, and I had a job offer there teaching English in the countryside with the cassette company, TDK. Up until then the only other employment ideas that I had pursued were with the CIA, FBI, and the Navy Seals. So when I was given the choice to go to Japan, I took it! I arrived not knowing any Japanese other than how to count to ten. My image of Japan obviously developed significantly as time went on.

 

(SB)     And what happened when you first arrived in Japan? Where did you first train and with whom?

 

(MB)     I first arrived in Japan on a company contract, so the first day that I was taken to the factory, I met all of the top managers. It was a small factory in the middle of nowhere in a very rural town. The manager of the whole factory sat with me for tea, and asked me what my hobbies were. I told him that I really came to Japan to learn karate. He said a few words to someone, and a few minutes later another employee arrived. He was the teacher of the karate club, Mr. Teruo Honda. He was very imposing, strongly built, with dark glaring eyes, and a husky voice. He walked in they said a few words, I assumed about me learning karate. Then he came over to me and grabbed one of my hands and looked at my knuckles, threw my hand down and started to laugh and shake his head. I guessed that he was looking to see if I had done any makiwara training, which I hadn’t. I looked at his hands, which were huge, with deformed knuckles. The manager asked him if he would teach me, or maybe ordered him to, I don’t know. That began my real initiation into real karatedo. Mr Honda taught me privately every single day after work for two hours, in a small room at the factory with a tatami floor. It was like starting all over again. He made me take much longer stances, carry him on my shoulders, and pushed me down when stretching until I thought that I had torn muscles. There was a lot of body conditioning. Sometimes he would bring Yoshida Sensei with him, and they would both teach just me, so I could never rest. It was all kihon, and I owe all of my kihon to Honda Sensei. Later they took me to meet Akita Sensei, who was a very senior student of Shirai Sensei, probably in the 50’s or early sixties. He was so strong ! You have to understand, that in Japan there are so many strong teachers that no one even knows about. They are factory workers or salary men who don’t want all of the attention of being a big name. Really, I owe so much to Honda Sensei. He gave me the foundation for everything.

 

(SB)     You were awarded your shodan by Master Nakayama am I correct? Could you please describe your memories of him?

 

(MB)     Yes. I was awarded shodan at the JKA Honbu in Ebisu by Nakayama Sensei in May of 1984. I had received my brown belt from Nishiyama Sensei some time around 1980-81 I think. I remember the first time I ever saw Nakayama Sensei walk into the Honbu. Everyone in the place stood at attention in silence as he With Kase Sensei and friend P.Kuhn at Nishiyama Gasshuku 82walked in. He appeared to be so big, so confident, with such a presence, such an aura. I didn’t meet him that first day, or even when I tested for shodan. I was actually formally introduced to him when I was competing in the All Japan Tournament at the Budokan, later that year. I was surprised that he was so nice, although he didn’t smile much. He asked my sensei who I was and where I had trained, etc, all the while staring at me, (or through me!). I didn’t say anything, just looked down and bowed the whole time. Later he signed his book for me, (Dynamic Karate), and then made me a calligraphy character of MU, which is a Zen word that means “non” or “negation”. It’s very special to me, and I still have it hanging in my house. Ironically, or perhaps in a karmic way, I went on to study Zen, and it ended up being a very crucial part of my life. Just last year I was finally ordained a Zen Buddhist, and given the name Genko. 

 

I really can’t say that I knew Nakayama Sensei well, however. I remember him as being very strong, confident, and kind. He was one of the few Japanese teachers who really seemed to care about foreigners. I think that he really wanted us to spread karate to the world. He was very direct., and undeterred in his vision of world karatedo. Last time I went to Japan I had a photo of myself with Nakayama Sensei, and when I showed it to some of the Honbu Dojo instructors, they were very surprised! They told me that even they did not have a photo with him! !

 

(SB)     And what was the training like at the Hoitsugan dojo? How did it differ to training elsewhere?

 

With Enoeda Sensei 82'(MB)     Well, truthfully, I only trained at the Hoitsugan a few times. Most of the time I was training at Takudai , Komazawa, the Honbu, or at various other dojos, like the Shotojuku in Chiba Ken or the TDK company dojo. Jon Keeling, Leon Montoya, or Richard Amos would be better at answering that question. But I will say that anytime you trained at a private dojo, it was much more personal, and you got a lot more individual attention. I loved the atmosphere at the Hoitsugan. It was a dark, hard-core dojo with a classic old floor, and all the guys there trained hard and were a tight group. They had something to prove, and in some ways trained harder than many other dojos. Any of us who were over there at that time were of a certain breed, I guess. We were really hard core, renegades, extremists… crazy maybe!  What kind of person would drop everything and move to Japan to train? I think that’s why Nakayama Sensei took such an interest.

 

(SB)     You competed in Japan for the Takushoku University team. Can you tell us about this time in your life?

 

(MB)     I was training with the team, but not officially part of the team.   In about 1986, I spoke with one of my teachers together with Shoji Sensei about trying to enter the Instructor Training Program. Shoji Sensei told me that I could, but that I should get more hard training first. I asked him where the hardest training was, and he smiled and said that I should to Takudai. The other teachers told me that it was very dangerous for me to go there, but I really wanted it at that time. The danger of it excited me even more. Shoji Sensei wrote me a letter of recommendation to give to Tsuyama Sensei, and told me that he would give him a call. One of my friends from the Shotojuku Dojo where I was training was a member at Takudai, so I arranged a meeting to go together. I went to the Honbu the day before and saw my friend Leon there. When I told him that I was going to go to Takudai, he became very serious, and told me “Don’t go. They are going to try to kill you.” He was already at Komazawa, but told me that Takudai was worse. I told him that I had already made up my mind to go. Shoji Sensei had told me beforehand that when I went there, never to go backward , or they would kill me worse and not respect me. Needless to say that first day was an experience. 

 

 

with Nakayama Sensei- All Japan 84

 

(SB)     Could you tell us about any memorable fights you had competing in Japan?

 

(MB)     I had many memorable fights in Japan, but most of them were not during competition. I used to fight with Naka Sempai and Suzuki Sempai every day at Takushoku. I guess Taniyama san must have been there too, but I didn’t know who he was. I just remember that when we would kumite, sometimes for 2 hours straight, there was no rest, and each time we shifted left, there was someone else stronger waiting, like a hungry shark. When the program was banned due a death of one of the members, I moved over to Komazawa, and used to fight with Kobayashi Sempai, and Oi Sempai, who was the captain and very very strong. Sometimes we would be on the floor, rolling around and no one could separate us. Kokubun san, who would also go to Takudai and become a JKA World Champion, was my kohai at the Shotojuku Dojo in Chiba Prefecture. He was a white belt when I made shodan! But he was a very strong kid, and had already won the All Japan High School Championship. In about 1984 I went to the All Japan Team Trials/Training Camp at Katsuura. Everyone was there- Shina, Yahara, 84 - Narita -with Asai,Ohishi,Ishikawa,NakamuraImamura, Koike- all of the Honbu Instructors and Kenshusei. I guess at some time or another I fought with most of them in training. On the first day there, Shina knocked someone’s tooth out and we were all looking for it on the floor.  I was always the most afraid of Yahara Sensei. He fought with such ferocity and intensity, and I really thought I could get killed. It really heightened your awareness and made karate a life and death kind of experience, something that I think has real value.

 

Tanaka Sensei, Asai Sensei, Shoji Sensei, Abe Sensei were all there teaching.

 

(SB)     Had you heard of Takushoku University’s reputation prior to going to Japan?

 

(MB)     I only knew that it was where all of the JKA legends had trained, and that it was tough. I wanted the toughest training. That’s what I was there for… but I had no idea just how tough and how brutal it really was. You have to remember that you have a lot of ambiguous feelings being a gaijin in Japan.

 

(SB)     Can you please tell us about your training at the University, sharing some memories?

 

(MB)     Well, the first day I went there, us kohai had to go one hour early to clean the dojo and the toilets spotlessly. I went about 2 hours early so that I could give the letter of recommendation and a nice bottle of whiskey as a gift to Tsuyama Sensei before training. After we cleaned the dojo, we had to line up against the wall and wait for the captains to come in. We waited , standing there in silence for about 30 minutes. When they finally came in , they started their “inspection” of us and of the dojo. One of them found a tiny spot on the mirror, and asked who had cleaned it. He brought the guy out in the middle of the floor and told him, “jyu kumite” . In an instant he kicked the guy in the head and knocked him down. He kept telling him to get up, then told him “Mo ikkai “  He kicked him again with mawashi geri hard in the head, and this time the guy was out, not moving. The guy who had kicked him walked straight to me, stared at me, and started to laugh. At that moment I wondered just what I had gotten myself into . But I was determined, mainly because I didn’t want to let Sensei Shoji down. We did kihon for 30 minutes, then kumite for two and half hours. There was a 10 minute break at the halfway point, and one of the captains, Suzuki, took my wrist and took me back toAt the All Tokorozawa JKF Finals 01 a room where he pulled out a wooden box that turned out to be a first aid kit. I thought that he was showing me where to find it, so that when I got hurt I would know what to do. Instead, he pulled out some first aid cream and put some on my knuckles, which were cut to shreds from hitting guys in the teeth. 

The training there was an all out brawl. After the first day, I cut off all of my hair so that they couldn’t pull it. It was dirty, and they were all very very strong and very fast. They all had no front teeth, except for Naka Sempai and Suzuki Sempai. And they all resented me being there, and wanted the glory of taking me out. Everyday it was pure survival. I would go one hour early to get my mind ready. But it never entered my mind to give up. I felt so ALIVE because I was facing death…. Later that year the program was banned because they had killed a guy for not washing the do gis of the seniors.

 

(SB)     Would you say this extreme abuse of the position was/is quite common, and do you think a lot of karateka abuse karate to fulfil their desire for violence?

 

(MB)     Sure, I am sure that some do, but that is where they are in their lives, and they have to go through that perhaps. There was a lot of abuse. We had to carry bags, clean toilets, wash gis, light there cigarettes, hold umbrellas over their heads while we got soaked… there was all kinds of torture and abuse, but I really don’t to get into that. It was a stage of life, and we all go through stages of evolvement, transcending things by going through them completely. In the end, most of those guys become very compassionate. And in a certain way, it taught me a lot too.

 

(SB)     In what ways did the ‘life or death’ atmosphere develop you?

 

(MB)     It is something that lives in me to this day, and will never leave me. It is a fire that burns inside, that can go from a small smouldering coal to blazing when it is fuelled. It effects every aspect of my life. People who have not gone through this kind of thing experientially can never know what I am talking about. But if you talk with Leon or Richard, or Sensei Stan Schmidt, (or a few select others) they know… it changes who you are forever. You really can’t put that into words. 

 

 

Chuo Camp with Shoji Sensei 84

 

 

(SB)     You of course did leave with your teeth. What do you attribute your survival there to do you think?

 

(MB)     Well, I do have my teeth, but I did have some cracked that broke later, and made many trips to the hospital! I used to go to Takudai an hour early just to get my mind ready. It was like… every day I would think, I could get killed. I could really get killed. I kept seeing guys get dragged off the floor when they were out. So it became a kind of a kill or be killed attitude. We all used to do whatever we could to win, including just about every dirty trick you can think of. I had to cut off all my hair after the first day, so they couldn’t get a grip on it. Kicking to the groin was not uncommon. You were not allowed to miss training if you were injured, but if you taped an injury they would go after it, so you had to tape the other side to trick them. Cheating on the techniques or even on yakusoku kumite was to be expected. I guess I just went in there each day and thought, well, it is either them or me. If you got a tiny window of opportunity, you seized it and tried to end it fast. It was really like facing an opponent in a life and death moment, like facing an opponent with a live sword. I learned to fight with what I call , “ patient urgency,” with a kind of intense focus of concentration that is really indescribable. If you have ever had a gun held to your head, or a knife pulled on you, then you know what I mean.  

 

Kumite at Mitsubishi Dojo(SB)     Can you please tell us about Sensei Tsuyama? 

 

(MB)     Tsuyama Sensei was not often there, but when he was he was very powerful, very confident, quiet. He was big and strong, and serious. His kicks were really something. The assistant teacher was Nagakura Sensei. I remember the first time I saw him do sonobazuki, and it looked entirely different from anything that I had seen. It was SO STRONG and you hear every punch crack like it would break something!  I never forgot that image ….

 

(SB)     And how would you describe the captain of the University team, Sensei Naka?

 

(MB)     Well , Naka Sempai was special. First of all , he and Suzuki Sempai were so strong, but they were the nicest to me. Naka Sempai had the most beautiful technique I had seen. He so fast and so strong, and he could have killed me so many times, but I would just see his heel stop next to my face , and look to see him smiling at me . We became very good friends, and are still good friends to this day. I saw him about 3 years ago, after a 15-year absence. I showed up at the JKA Honbu at his class, and when we bowed to start the class, he looked up and saw me. “Michael san ! Michael san ! “  He was so happy, and so was I . We had gone through a lot together, and that bond amongst warriors is very special. It never goes away. That is one thing that I really love about budo…

 

Tokyo Hombu - 04(SB)     Is this tough skill coupled with kindness and compassionate the very essence of Budo do you think?

 

 (MB)     I think that we transcend one to become the other; that we have to experience the fighting completely in order to become more compassionate. By experiencing all aspects of battle, including getting beaten, we can experience what it is to be truly compassionate, as we identify with it firsthand, from and experiential nature, not one that is simply vicarious lived through others…in this way, the fighting has great value in the end, its greatest values being that it generates great compassion. A lot of people haven’t experienced the total humiliation of being beaten again and again and again. It gives you a different perspective.

 

(SB)     What do you think are the differences between Budo and Bujitsu?

 

(MB)     Those are just words, just concepts, just ideas that don’t have anything to do with your training and what we are trying to achieve. I think people get too caught up in trying to find definitions, analyzing every little detail. What does it have to do with training?  Stop trying to figure all of this out, and just train. The great master Tesshu said it best…”Dammate kekko ! “ Shut up and train ! “ Don’t fall into the trap of this and that, of this means this, and that means that. What difference does it make to your training?

 

(SB)     In your book, which I will come back to later, you state that Sensei Shoji taught you ‘great lessons of real budo’. Can you please expand on this and please tell us about Sensei Shoji and his karate? Could you also share some stories you have of him?

 

(MB)     Well, I first met Shoji Sensei through Watanabe Sempai, who I also mention in my book. He was one of my teachers at the Shotojuku Dojo, and became like a brother to me. He had a longtime relationship with Sensei Shoji as one of his students. They invited me to the Chuo University Gasshuku, where Shoji Sensei and Yoshioka Sensei taught. I got to know Shoji Sensei there. After the brutal trainings, he would send someone to my room, and they would take me to Shoji Sensei’s room, where he and Yoshioka and Watanabe were all drinking and playing Mah Jong. There we would talk about budo and Sensei Shoji would teach us many things about karate and talk about his training with Gichin Funakoshi. He told us about the importance of kata, and how the kihon developed.  Yoshioka Sensei was a master of the shakuhachi, and he would play for us. Sensei Shoji loved that. I remember the way that his eyes used to sparkle and his would start to laugh . Everyone loved Sensei Shoji. He was so kind, so humble, but so strong !  He was very sturdily built, and hit very hard ! His sweeps were amazing. He took a liking to me, and would invite me and Nabe Sempai to do other trainings and camps where he was teaching.  I was the first foreigner ever to visit his home. He always wore traditional kimono. He was so kind and so unassuming, so humble.  Everyone loved Shoji Sensei, but Yoshioka Sensei told me a story of him that happened on a train in Tokyo late one evening. A drunkard was on the train causing trouble with everyone, and approached Shoji Sensei and told him to get off the train. Sensei ignored him, but the drunk persisted to scream at him to get off the train. Finally Shoji Sensei stood up and stared the man in the face, then drew an imaginary line with his foot on the floor of the train. He told the man, “ If you can step across with Hanzaki Sensei,judges at All Tokyo 04this line, I will get off the train.” Needless to say, he didn’t. I visited Shoji Sensei at his home just a few months before his passing. His wife had passed away, and he really enjoyed having Watanabe san and I visit him. He told us about how the JKA had wanted him to become the Chief Instructor and make him 9th dan, but that he had refused, telling them that that was not budo. I always respected him for that. I think about him everytime I put on my belt, that I am honoured to have with his name on it.

 

(SB)     Why had he refused do you think?

 

(MB)     Because he was a true budoka. He was not motivated by desires or fame or attention. He didn’t need it, didn’t want it. I think that he knew that it would create great envy and jealously amongst those who really wanted the fame and the glory, and that nothing good would come of it. Shoji Sensei was a very humble man. That is what everyone loved about him. This is the true ideal character of a budoka.

 

(SB)     What were the most important things he taught you about karate would you say?

 

(MB)     Well, he taught me so much, so it is really hard to say. In broad terms, he taught me to be fearless and to never retreat. Those lessons alone are enough to affect you for an entire lifetime. One of my Zen teachers once told me that greatest gift that can ever be given is the gift of fearlessness.

 

(SB)     You also speak about Sensei Kubota of Go-Soku Ryu, describing him as the ‘Last Samurai’. Can you please explain what you mean by this and please tell us about him?

 

(MB)     When I first met Soke Kubota in about 1995, I felt like I already knew him. I walked into his dojo and bowed, and he immediately walked over to me and started speaking to me in Japanese. I wondered how he knew that I spoke Japanese. I felt like he was a samurai who had been stuck in time, and that somehow I already knew him. He invited me in and sat down to talk with me about Japan, Takudai, the JKA , etc. He was so kind and cheerful, like Shoji Sensei was, but also so tough ! I had heard stories about him pounding his hands and feet with sledge hammers, and about him fighting with the yakuza while working with the police in Tokyo after the Second World War. Of course I had seen the Kubotan, but didn’t know that he was the inventor. He invited me back to train the next day, and that was the beginning of our wonderful relationship. I continue to learn so much from Soke Kubota. His techniques are endless, and he is a true creator, innovator, and revolutionary. I learn new things every day. He is constantly evolving the waza and techniques. Karate has to go beyond the kihon, it has to evolve, and continue to challenge us after many years of training. I am also privileged to train in his weapons class, where we practice with the sword, bokken, cane, jo, tonfa, kubotan- it is really endless. We have two man sword and bokken kata, very long and intricate sword kata, and even practice kendo and bokutojitsu. We fight with various weapons and empty hand. He also teaches us Kubota Style Jujitsu. In addition to practicing the Shotokan kata, we practice Go Soku Ryu kata, that Kubota Sensei created himself. In recent years, many top masters have gone beyond the traditionally taught kata to create their own kata. Kanazawa Sensei, with Naka Sempai 01Nishiyama Sensei, Asai Sensei and others have forged new kata. This has become a somewhat controversial topic. In my opinion, this a not a bad thing, but very valuable as a more complete understanding of karate can be attained by practicing a more unusual variety of movements that are not always found in the Shotokan kata. The Go Soku Ryu kata are many and very intricate and complex, and have deep inner meanings. Some of them come to him in dreams. The last one that he created, “Jyu no Michi” has taken over 3 years to develop. Only myself and two other senior students have been allowed to learn it, and we are actually involved in the process of its creation. It has taken us a full 3 years  !   

 

With Soke Kubota, we also have meditation kata and techniques, so his style really encompasses a very complete system.

 

Aside from that however, I really learn more from Soke Kubota outside of the dojo, by observing him in his daily life, the way that he treats people and handles the situations that come up in life; the way that he eats, plans, makes choices, and cares for other people.

 

(SB)     It is always spoken about how karate is not only about fighting, it’s about developing our characters. In what ways does the Martial Arts and its practice affect its practitioners do you believe?

 

(MB)     It all depends on how you practice. It can affect people in a very positive way, or in a very negative way. If we approach practice as a means of fostering the ego, by focusing only on winning trophies or  on overcoming an opponent, this only fuels the idea of duality, the idea of me and you , winning and losing, of this and that, which can only lead to suffering. If we approach training rather with the idea of polishing the self, of attaining some sort of higher understanding of self and other, namely that we are all part of the same great oneness, then we can generate more compassion amongst ourselves. This is the real art of karate-DO.  Collectively we need to focus on the DO aspect, on the Great Way, rather than on the fighting. There is a Zen koan that describes two clans fighting across the river, and the student is asked, “How do you stop the fighting across the river?”  It takes great contemplation and introspection to solve the koan. There is a big hint : “Who is the fighting with… who is it always with ? “  We have to have the right teacher in order to practice karate accordingly. Karate is a martial art, with martial applications, but is really only another method of practicing Zen, of being present, of finding the Way. In that way, it is no different than the practice of tea ceremony.

 

With Shoji,Yoshioka,and Watanabe Chuo Gasshuku 87

 

(SB)     Do you think you have to already be of a certain mental maturity to reap the fruits of the Martial Arts when it comes to the development of the character?

 

(MB)     No, absolutely not !  In fact, I think that in some ways, this is the beauty of working of children, who can be like pure empty vessels, able to receive without questioning. As we grow up and “mature” we become conditioned, victims of societal beliefs and concepts, and often we get stuck and lose the lesson. We lose the ability to keep the beginners mind. Sometimes this requires the complete submission to a teacher, who can break us of our self created chains of imprisonment. Development of character through the practice of   karate requires elements of doubt, faith and ultimately, surrender. Growth requires pain and trust. 

 

(SB)     How have your experiences with these other Martial Arts influenced the karate you now practice?

 

(MB)     Well , I think that ultimately we make karate our own, by embracing certain elements and discarding others, according to our body types, beliefs, strengths, etc. I used to watch people like Asai Sensei, Kanazawa Sensei, and Tanaka Sensei, and their karate all looked very different, even though they were all from the same style! In the old days this was more clearly evident, as the various ryu-ha were attributed to the teacher, like Matsumura Ryu. This is really more accurate, in my opinion. So I think that in my case, the experiences that I had with other arts and activities have all contributed to the karate that I practice now.

 

(SB)     You have written the excellent book ‘Master Class: Kicking Techniques’. How did this come about?

 

(MB)     Well, several years ago, I was introduced to Jose Fraguas, who is a prominent publisher of martial arts magazines and books. He did several pieces on me for various magazines. One day he asked to meet with me, and indicated that he had an idea for a book, and that he wanted me to write it. We started exchanging ideas and before long, we were in the studio shooting photos. It is quite a process to write a book, believe me.

 

(SB)     What is your favourite kata and why?

 

(MB)     Well , there are several that I like, and sometimes my favourite kata changes !  I think that while it is good to embrace a particular kata, it is also important not to become too attached to only one, this can only result in a kind of one dimensional, partial understanding. You have to love all of the kata !  My competition kata was always Goju Shiho Sho. But I have always also liked Sochin, Jitte, Meikyo, Kanku Dai, and Tekki Sandan. I think that Tekki Sandan is a very important kata. There is so much that you can learn from all of the kata, and you have to practice more and more to go deeper and deeper. 

 

(SB)     Can we just say a huge thank you for this opportunity to speak with you, and may we wish you every success with everything you do.

 

(MB)     It has been a great honor and pleasure…