Sensei Tomiko Mitsuoka, 7th Dan WSKF
By Arijit Chakraborty
National Special Correspondent - WMA
Sensei Tomiko is one of the highest ranking female Instructors in Karate-do. She has trained for more than 40 years and is now WSKF Shihan-kai Member, based in the UK. This interview was conducted by Arijit Chakraborty who has trained with Sensei Tomiko on various occasions.
(WMA) Thank you Sensei for providing us with this interview. May we start this interview by asking you the very predictable questions regarding how you first got started in the Martial Arts? Could you tell us about this?
(TM) 41 years ago, when I was 18, I got a job in a department store. I finished work late each night so I decided to take up self-defence classes to protect myself. The Judo club in Iwata did not allow women then, but my cousin Yasuyuki Mitsuoka who is a karate instructor in Shizuoka Prefecture, helped me out. He introduced me to his teacher, Hirano sensei and explained to him what I wanted to do. Hirano sensei was one of the co-founders of the JKA and had trained with Gichin Funakoshi from time to time. Mr. Hirano took me under his wing and I went everywhere with him.
(WMA) Can you please tell us a little about Sensei Hirano and his karate?
(TM) Mr. Hirano had a warm heart to all his students. Not only in karate but also in his personal life. If we were in trouble he was there, it does not matter what it was.
(WMA) Can you please tell us about some of your experiences with him and what would you say were the things you learned from him?
(TM) Mainly, we spent a lot of time on basics. We started at 7:00 pm and finished at 10:00 pm. Usually, we would spend two hours for basics and one hour for kihon, kumite or ippon kumite then kata.
(WMA) What University did you attend, and can you please tell us about the karate there?
(TM) I did not go to university.
(WMA) How much importance was placed on karate in schools and Universities in Japan at this time?
(TM) Not only Karate but most of the martial arts were taken very seriously to discipline us.
(WMA) Can you please tell us about your experiences and training with Master Nakayama and Kanazawa?
(TM) When I became black belt Nakayama sensei was already retired from teaching, however I have been training under Kanazawa sensei many years where I met Mr. Kasuya for the second time. Mr. Kanazawa taught me all advanced kata when I was a first dan, for which I am grateful. Mr. Kanazawa is always polite and gentleman, he treated everybody with a very friendly manner. I spent many occasions with Mr. Kanazawa’s family, I knew all his three children when they were very small.
(WMA) Studying all of the Advanced Kata with Master Kanazawa must have been a superb opportunity, how would you describe his karate?
(TM) Strangely enough, Mr. Kanazawa did not spend a lot of time on basics. He believes 30 punches and 30 kicks is enough. However, we spent a great deal of time on kata practice.
His kata is beautiful and dynamic.
(WMA) What were the most important elements of the kata that he stressed the most?
(TM) It must look beautiful.
(WMA) In what year did you sit the SKIF Instructor Class?
(WMA) Can you please tell us about your time in the Instructor class? Who were the main instructors teaching on the course during the time? Can you tell us a little about these instructors?
(TM) In 1973, when I joined Mr. Kanazawa’s dojo, he was still belonging to the JKA. It was mainly Mr. Seto as instructor and also Mrs. Kobayashi (she took the first place when JKA allowed woman to enter kata for the first time).
(WMA) Being a famous female Instructor in a man’s world, do you feel like your gender has been a hindrance at all do you think?
(TM) Not at all, because I was a pioneer, people treated me with respect.
(WMA) Can I also ask how you feel about mixed gender kumite and competition?
(TM) I believe man and woman should fight separately.
(WMA) Can you share some stories that you have from the instructor Course, and share some of your memories?
(TM) I remember, I used to go to Hoitsugan dojo (Mr. Nakayama’s dojo), the instructor was Mr. Kanazawa, and included three to four hours training after full time jobs. It was very very hard and we could not walk properly afterward. Major black belts gather from all over Tokyo, mostly they are instructors. We did not spend a lot of time for kumite but kihon and kata.
(WMA) During the daily training, a huge emphasis would have been on kihon am I correct? Can you please tell us, what were the main points you studied in these classes?
(TM) Yes, we spent 70% doing Kihon. Body co-ordination, timing and speed.
(WMA) Was there a huge emphasis on kata application during this time – and how do you feel about the current state of huge emphasis on kata application by many groups?
(TM) We do not place emphasis on kata application at all. In Japan, we do not talk but train. I believe who does not train, they start talking. When you start to talk for kata’s application, kata does not look beautiful.
(WMA) Were you with Master Kanazawa when the split from the JKA occurred? How did this affect everyone do you think?
(TM) There were mysterious rumours circulating at that time. Mr. Kanazawa was already well known in the Karate world. Obviously, we stopped training at the Hoitsugan Mr. Nakayama’s dojo.
If you trust your sensei, you just follow him don’t you?
(WMA) Can you also please tell us about some of your competitive successes?
(TM) 1983 world championship SKI kata 3rd place.
SKI Team kata, which I was leading – three times 1st place
WSKF Team kata, - once 1st place.
(WMA) When and why did you join WSKF ?
(TM) 1990, when I was invited to train by Mr. Kasuya at Hosei University, that was the established date of WSKF. When Mr. Kasuya left SKI, I was the only senior person and there was nobody to teach me except 1st dan. When Mr. Kasuya left SKI, he said we will train together no politics just training, I liked his idea that is why I joined.
(WMA) What is WSKF Style karate all about?
(TM) Very practical.
(WMA) Please tell us about your experience with Senei Kamiyanagi and Kasuya .
(TM) I have known Mr. Kamiyanagi when I joined JKA, Yotsuya dojo 1973 September, Mr. Kamiyanagi at that time was chairman of Kanazawa’s dojo.
I believe the first time I met Kasuya sensei, he was a trainer (Kenshusei) of JKA. My ex-husband was training at Goju-ryu, Yoyogi dojo. The JKA trainer used to come to Yoyogi dojo where I met Mr. Kasuya the first time.
(WMA) And what were your impressions of Mr. Kasuya? What was his karate like then and how would you describe it now?
(TM) We have been training karate at Kanazawa’s black belt session and Mr. Kasuya was one who took the class, since Mr. Kanazawa was always abroad. Mr. Kasuya’s karate is very practical. He always thinks, does it work? Is it effective? Mr. Kasuya is not narrow minded but open minded therefore if he thinks a technique is good he might take another martial arts and studies. I must say he is modest and still training even though he is the world chief instructor. That is what I respect in him.
(WMA) You are one of the world’s highest ranked female karate experts. How does it feel.?
(TM) I feel I am honored to achieve, I just carry on.
(WMA) What are your experiences of teaching and staying in England for the past 14 years or so?
(TM) It is very hard to teach in a foreign country. Fortunately, most of my students stayed with me more than 10 years and they are very supportive.
(WMA) What is your favourite kata and why?
(TM) Nijushiho, is my favourite kata. This kata is not a long kata but requires a lot of coordination and timing, which is challenging for me.
(WMA) What are your activities as WSKF Shihan kai member and close to Kasuya sensei?
(TM) We are working on it.
Since I have known Mr. Kasuya with his family many years, and we also have mutual friends, I respect him not only as my instructor but as a karate ka.
(WMA) On behalf of WMA, a huge thank you for this opportunity to interview you and may we wish you every success for the future!!
(TM) Thank you for giving me this opportunity.