until saturation then push harder and go beyond’
I remember being 15, sitting in
the school’s ICT computer suite researching and reading about different
instructors when I should have been writing history assignments. My GCSE studies
often seemed to conflict with the seemingly more important karate research that
I wanted to do. As I researched, I found increasing references to a karateka
that appeared flawless within all photographs I found. I had also recently
bought Masatoshi Nakayama’s Best Karate No.10. This kata textbook included awe inspiring
executions of Unsu by M. Yahara and Nijushoho by T. Asai, but as my
bookshelf expanded to include other volumes of the textbook series, I noticed
the Sochin’s performer Yoshiharu Osaka
seemed to make several appearances across many of the textbooks. His
performance within made it abundantly clear why he was featured with such
My research and extended
reading about the Shotokan style of course led me to the most prominent and
most widely documented feature of Shotokan’s expansion – The Japan Karate
Association (JKA). The nucleus from which all shotokan dojos stem, the JKA was
the most influential force in the worldwide exposure of the style, and
propagation of the art.
I am not a JKA member, but like
all shotokan karateka, I have a lineage to the JKA. In my childhood, that link
would be via Sensei Mike O’Brien, Chief
Instructor of the Karate Union of Wales, former KUGB member. These days my
link would be via my teacher Sensei Dave Hazard, Chief Instructor of the Academy of Shotokan Karate, student of
Sensei K. Enoeda, who lived and trained in Japan in the JKA Instructor’s class.
The point I make is that however ‘disconnected’
from the JKA we believe to be, we are often embedded within the body of the JKA
However, the more I researched,
in paralleled quantity of the ‘technical’ and positive material I read, there
seemed to be just as much ‘dirt’ written on the ‘big’ names that made up the
organization. Tales of bullying, of brutality, of exploitation of power and
status. Ego seemed to rein supreme, with many tales of karate being used as a
means of feeding the fallacy that hierarchy validates vindictiveness and
cruelty. Yet, in spite of all of the reading I did, not once did I read of said
exploitation by Osaka.
Furthermore, years of late
night dinners and drinks, and even post-interview discussions never led me to
such damming stories of Osaka. As abundantly pure his form, his history seems
to be just as uncorrupt. This, in my eyes, made him stand out from many of the
other senior instructors I have trained with. A close friend of mine once
described him as a ‘gentleman’, and
truth be told, I couldn’t have put it any better.
Within this article, I would
like to discuss the background of Sensei Yoshiharu Osaka, share some of the
things I learned from him during my very brief weekend training under him, and
present an interview with him, conducted by Arijit Chakraborty.
Yoshiharu Osaka 8th Dan
Born in 1947 in Fukuoka
Prefecture, Yoshiharu Osaka today is known internationally for his outstanding
technical excellence. In 2009, Emma and I were accepted to participate in the
JKA England Spring Course, with the headline instructor being Yoshiharu Osaka.
This was an opportunity I would not only relish, but would refer back to
consistently for years to come in my own personal study and training. Whilst
there, I spent time with the Secretary and senior members of JKAE, that told me
that any visiting instructor is met with a good attendance and popularity, but
when Osaka Sensei is ‘headlining’, ‘the
course is packed to the rafters’. The popularity of this instructor did not
just come down to his technical
excellence. His smile had something to do with it too.
Like many of Japan’s most
excellent and shining talents, Osaka attended Takushohu University (1966). The
University that helped facilitate the development of renowned instructors like
Teruyuki Okazaki, Hirokazu Kanazawa, and Keinosuke Enoeda, Takushoku
University, and its intense and grueling training, was the breeding ground for
a ‘unique’ level and standard of karate. Osaka became a part of this ‘elite’
heritage. Whilst at Takushoku University, Osaka was mentored by none other than
Readers of Masatsoshi
Nakayama’s Best Karate Kumite 1 will remember Tsuyama’s awe inspiring
demonstrations of mawashi-geri. Of Tsuyama, Nakayama wrote ‘Tsuyama has such hips only because of the
accumulated effect of honest training’. It was this ‘honest’ training Tsuyama passed on, and undoubtedly influenced not
only Osaka’s skill, but his attitude to all aspects of karate.
Upon graduating from Takushoku
University, Osaka joined the JKA Instructor’s Class, eventually graduating in
1972. It was during this time that Osaka’s honing of skills led him to
competitive success, initially taking 2nd place kumite at the All
Japan Championships (1972). This was the start of an impressive and rarely
paralleled competitive record that earned him a reputation internationally.
Today, Osaka is both Vice Chief
Instructor (supporting Masaaki Ueki 8th
Dan – JKA Chief Instructor) and General Manager of technical division. A
JKA Honbu Instructor, and one of the JKA’s most senior instructors, Osaka
teaches both at the HQ and internationally as a popular and highly demanded visiting
Recently, Osaka was on such a
visit, teaching in India, and was interviewed by Arijit Chakraborty. Whilst
short, I enjoyed this interview and felt it effectively encapsulates the open
attitude of the man.
Yoshiharu Osaka Shihan, 8th
Yoshiharu Osaka Shihan is an 8th Dan
JKA and Deputy Managing Director of JKA. He is the ''living textbook' of
Shotokan and has been the 'blue-eyed boy' of Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei, 9th Dan
JKA Chief Instructor (1913-1987). Osaka Shihan featured in numerous JKA Videos,
magazines around the world and has won the All Japan JKA Kata title a record 7
times , every year in succession. He is world renowned for his expertise in
kata and is the epitome of JKA Shotokan. A technical expert, he is a quiet
humble man, with a smiling disposition. He exhibits 'internal' strength in his
techniques, which 'are penetrating' and '' his kata is of the first rank', as
described by the Late Nakayama Sensei. Myself being a Shotokan karate student
from the 1980 s, I have trained in JKA Style Karate , hence I took up this
golden opportunity to interact with the legendary Master of Karate-do and
present readers and Karate enthusiasts,
a brief tete-a -tete from Osaka Shihan. Many thanks to Anil Sinha Sensei,6th
Dan and JKA India Chairman ,Anand Ratna Sensei, 6th Dan and JKA India Chief
Instructor / Executive Head and Sensei Neeraj Dhawan, 5th Dan JKA for
facilitating and interpreting the interaction with Osaka Shihan - Arijit Chakraborty
(Arijit Chakraborty) Shihan,
welcome to India! Oss! Please share your views on shotokan’s technical
evolution and the role of the JKA.
Osaka)Oss, you see JKA karate has always
been hard, fast and tough…strong Kime (shihan
shows a strong punch, which we barely see due to its speed). In recent
years we have been doing more research on how to harmonize kihon, kata and
kumite for all-round physical and mental development. Younger JKA Instructors
like Naka, Kurihara, Kobayashi and others are continuously seeking new ways of
executing technique, adopting a softer approach, utilizing ki energy and
ensuring karate training can bring lifetime benefits.
(AC) Shihan, what is your view of Karate as a
stress management tool, given the speed and complexity of modern urban life,
good question. Let’s remember that Karate is also for health and for life. Many
students come to the JKA Honbu dojo for learning once or three times a week. Some
can afford daily practice, depending on profession, flexibility etc. I say- you
must decide on your training frequency first, fix it, and then follow it. You may lie on just half the tatami, but
when you practice, use the full tatami, so utilize all your time and space
fruitfully. This will bring holistic development in character and technical
(AC) Shihan, what are your thoughts on sports
You see, sports karate is so popular, but the career span is only ten-fifteen
years, you retire by thirty five maybe, but traditional karate is lifelong. You
also practice and benefit in your 70s, understand body limitations, appreciate
the mental aspects, how the mind and spirit are together. A lifetime dedication
is so important. You see Senseis Ueki, Tanaka , Sugiura , although at an advanced
age, they are so fast and strong. This
is consistency and sincerity in training as karate helps to expand your
lifespan. Please understand that development never ends, so one should choose
between short term gain like in sports karate, and lifelong benefit like in traditional
karate, with strong focus on kihon and kata.
(AC) Shihan, we are just inspired by your
unparalleled record in karate - may I call you the ''Kata King''? What is your secret,
No, no, please see that I have no secret! I do daily training, 'Moving Zen' is kata, do it with
sincerity, from the heart. You must go until saturation, then push harder and
go beyond. I always say - ''Mukin Shori''-
the way to success has no short-cut!
(AC) Shihan, please share your favorite kumite
technique and kata?
Always gyaku-zuki! (Shihan demonstrates,
we move away, his punch is incredibly powerful), as for kata, I have always
loved ‘Sochin’! I just try to practice it more.
(Editor’s Note – Sochin – translated as ‘Immovable’,
encapsulates the attitude of being ‘Immovable in the face of danger’.
Therefore, its execution should be of
dogged fearlessness, and a determination to remain unfazed by the threat
of physical violence. Unlike the spring and athleticism of Unsu and Empi, Sochin
has the feeling of being ‘inside’ the ground, rather than operating upon it.
Therein lies the value of Fudo-dachi, often referred to as Sochin-dachi within
the kata. Within the spirit of the kata, many try to achieve this ‘immovable’
feature with a regrettable level of stiffness and over-tension. Osaka Sensei’s
sochin has the ideal balance of weight, heaviness, and rooted commitment,
whilst also being effortlessly smooth.)
(AC) Shihan, please share your message for
Shotokan Karateka , readers of this interview, and all martial artists.
train together, learn and respect each other. Please train and use each other, understand
body structure and related techniques, try, learn, practice. Be open, and
flexible. Experiment, ask, seek and pass on as a diligent, focused study is
vital! Development is like a never-ending staircase, you go up and up, so you
must try harder! Also do more makiwara, geta training, rubber/resistance
training as just air-work is not enough, feel the impact and distancing (ma-ai)
of technique, all the best to readers!
(AC) Oss Shihan, thanks so much for your time
and thoughts. Thanks also to Anil Sinha Sensei, Anand Ratna Sensei and Neeraj
Dhawan Sensei. Let JKA India grow from strength to strength, Arigato Gozaimasu!
Oss , Arijit San
Liquid in Motion
my training career, I have had opportunity to train with a vast array of
outstanding instructors. Some however light a spark that seems to burn for a
long time. In 2009, I had the opportunity to travel to Guildford and train with
Osaka Sensei. Over the course of the weekend, I took 4 separate classes with
the instructor, and whilst this time is of course incredibly limited, many of
the technical points he stressed have become key to many classes I teach and
certainly to my own personal study. In
my report of the Spring Course, I described Osaka Sensei as ‘Liquid in Motion’.
Here I will share just a small handful of the key technical aspects I enhanced
or had highlighted to help illustrate the level of technical excellence Sensei
Osaka is working at.
instructors’ focus within kihon and kata tend to be externally attentive.
Therefore attention is paid, not just necessarily to the aesthetic, but to the
simplicity of angles. Geometry is therefore a priority, ensuring the hips are
at a 45º angle, that the rear foot is at X º, the front foot is at Y º etc.
This geometry in kihon is of course essential, especially when considering
issues of joint protection, and maintaining a healthy body for longevity within
the art. Osaka however seemed incredibly occupied with the internal, and not
just the external. He was trying to capture the ‘Feeling’ of the technique, rather
than just its geometry. An example of this was highlighted within the Kata
Senior grades (3rd dan and above) were taken to a private and more
personal room for a more intensive session with Osaka Sensei. During this
session, Osaka taught the kata Tekki Shodan. Naturally, he highlighted many of
the aspects that reflect the JKA’s standardization. He was therefore often
stressing JKA specific technical details. He then struck upon the way the hips
operate in Kiba-Dachi, something I’ve researched deeper myself.
of course highlighted that within kiba-dachi there should not be excessive
internal or external pressures on the ankle. He also noted that during the
rotation of the hips within kiba-dachi the knees should remain static, and
unaffected by the movement. This therefore means that the knees should not go
forward and back or side to side during the rotation. All of this is very
generic. He then started to talk about the ‘feeling’
of the technique when rotating the hips. Specifically he explored which buttock should engage and at what time,
where we should be squeezing and at
what time, and where we should be relaxing,
and at what time. It was this attention
to specifics that blew my mind. I have since used this specific point as the
impetus for masses of personal research, not just into Kiba-dachi, but into
applying this same concept into all techniques in kihon. That ‘sole’ point has generated limitless
depths of research for me.
impressed me most emphatically was that to the aesthetic, the correct and
incorrect version look more or less the same. They don’t really look too
different. But to the practitioner themselves, and to the opponent attacking,
the difference is more than evident. It is this internal attention that gives
further value to technique.
example happened on the 3rd session of the first day’s training,
during the class dedicated to Jion. Sensei demonstrated the kake-wake-uke as
your step into zenkutsu-dachi. From the mae-geri, there is a habit for the
right shoulder to elevate slightly before rolling ‘up and over’ before going forward with the punch as you land into
zenkutsu-dachi. Sensei had us work on rolling ‘under’ before going forward. Whilst almost impossible to describe
on paper, the two appear practically no different to an observer. The ‘feeling’
however is the difference between night and day. By rolling ‘under’, you are
further connecting the shoulder and limb to the trunk via the side muscles so
that they are therefore fully connected to the core. Therefore, when making
impact, the technique doesn’t bounce off as it’s connected to the mass of the
body. Conversely, rolling ‘up and over’ lessens the connection to the body.
Impact on a bag or pad and the difference becomes apparent.
the course I was told that Osaka Sensei is one of, if not the most demanding of
all the grading examiners. Due to his finely tuned and keen understanding, he
is able to fully identify exactly where the technique is going wrong. As he noted within the interview above, we
should train to ‘understand body
structure’ and be sure to ‘Experiment,
ask, seek and pass on, as a diligent, focused study is vital!’
truth is, that without a close, finely tuned study, coupled with hard, rigorous
training, we as karateka are going no-where. As he said himself ‘go until saturation, then push harder and go
beyond’, Osaka Sensei certainly did!!!