Sarah Amos: Would you please tell us how you got started practicing karate?
Luca Valdesi: I started practicing karate because my father and my uncle were black belts, and so it is almost a kind of a family tradition.
SA: How much emphasis do you place on training normally in the dojo, without really working towards a tournament?
LV: Every time that I train, I always attempt to give the maximum…It’s my idea of karate
SA: You are highly recognised as one of the greatest kata competitors in the world, do you have any memorable competitions that stick out in your mind?
LV: Yes, all the first times: my first victory to the National championship 1995 (I was just 18 and I won the absolute category (21-35 age), my first European championship 2000, I didn’t know I could also do the individual competition, I found out the day before the actual competition…I won, and my first victory to the world championship 2004 Individual and team. They all stand out in my mind quite vividly.
SA: In the lead up to a major tournament, what kind of preparations would you make, both months in advance, but also the night before the event?
LV: My preparation changes, when the competition is around the corner, I prefer to focus on the technique. The night before the competition, I don’t do anything, I think about other things, and I relax myself.
SA: You are recognised as both a competitor of individual kata, but also of team kata. What would you say is the most important part of your training when preparing for the team kata events?
LV: The most important part of our training is the rhythm, which is important to do a good kata together. It’s also very important that all we are at the same level of preparation.
SA: Reading through your biography on your site, you have achieved success that many can simply dream of. What do you think it is that keeps you on the top of your game?
LV: I think that it’s very important to have a target… When I was a child I wanted to become the best. Today, I think that the best is not who wins, but who is able to maintain their own titles, and reach your own goals and targets.
SA: Obviously, anyone who has ever seen your kata will notice that you are a tall man. Do you feel your height has been a hindrance, and how have you personalised kata to suit your body type?
LV: Yes, it was very hard… with time, I have learned that karate is an Martial Art, and the art is harmony with the body and the soul, and if you understand this then you will find your way.
SA: One thing, in kata competition in many ways that cuts the men from the boys is the speed you can generate. You are highly respected for the impressive speed of both your legs and your arms. What kind of training do you do to develop speed?
LV: This is my little secret!
SA: Many people, in trying to develop speed use leg weights, arm weights as well as rubber inner-tubing. Do you use such pieces of equipment in your training?
LV: No, I prefer just to use my body.
SA: How important do you feel it is to keep the basic principles of kata in place? All the time you see competitors changing sections of kata to make them look more flashy and beautiful. Do you avoid this, or is this something you have done?
LV: I try to keep the basic principles of kata, but it’s very important to understand that the times are changing. In all sports the method of training and the performances have changed. 20 years ago, running was different and the record was lower, it’s the same with karate. The times are changing.
SA: Who would you say is your biggest rival in the competitive sense, and how do you intend on ensuring you always stay on top?
LV: I will answer you after the world championship!
SA: You have produced a series of kata videos, which are very popular with many competitors who look up to you. Do you believe the kata you practice respects the heritage of karate?
LV: I think my videos are a good way to better the performance of kata, and are useful in that way!
SA: What instructor has had the biggest influence on your karate, not just in the competition sense?
LV: My father has had the biggest influence on my karate, and still follows me today.
SA: What do you see for the future, when you retire from competition, where do you see your karate taking you?
LV: I don’t really know. I travel the world a lot teaching seminars and I like it. I would also like transmit what I have learned to help coach up and coming competitors.
SA: What is your favourite kata and why?
LV: My favourite katas are unsu and gankaku. The first is a very fast and spectacular kata and I can show my character through it; the second is the most difficult kata in shotokan because of the balance and the need for big concentration … the body and the mind …
SA: I would just like to say a big thank you for giving us the time to interview you, and I’m sure your words will be of great use to many of our readers.