Emma Robins: Could you please give us a little information about how you first got started in Shotokan karate?
Shane Dorfman: I grew up in a karate environment as my father, Malcolm Dorfman sensei was already prominent figure in the karate world, and so it was a pretty obvious eventuality. Interestingly though we set the parameters for the nature of our 'karate relationship' right from the outset: just before my 6th birthday my father asked me if I wanted to start, once I replied with a resounding yes, he then added another provision - I could train for fun and he would treat me the same as anyone else or if I wanted to be the best he would be incredibly hard on me, training me Japanese style. I opted for the latter.
ER: Obviously, your father, Sensei Malcolm Dorfman is renown throughout the world for his technical expertise; in what ways has Sensei Dorfman had an effect on your karate?
SD: Beyond laying an incredible technical foundation, he also embedded a true budo paradigm. Beyond this, I think his evolution away from blindly following what had been done before, to constantly seeking better, scientific methods also strongly influenced my own approach to karate and life for that matter.
ER: You are probably most well known for your major successes in the competition arena, how important is competition to you? Is it a major part of your training, or just a consequence of your dojo training?
SD: For the majority of my career there wasn't much difference in my training. However, in the last few years, I adopted a more 'sports' approach in the last couple of months leading up to a major tournament in terms of cross-training in the gym and working on a specific cycle to ensure I peaked at the right time. In terms of it's importance, it has certainly played an essential role in my life (but not at the expense of doing true budo karate) - I am naturally competitive and I guess it was the best gauge for me, not only in terms of where I was relative to my fellow competitors but also in terms of my own development.
ER: As someone who has competed both under WKF and KWF competition rules, what do you think are the major differences between WKF competition and KWF competition?
SD: The differences are not only in the way one needs to fight but also in the paradigm. In terms of the former, WKF needs to be lighter (due to negative points for contact and the fact that unless you deliver a 'killing blow' you will not receive a point in KWF, which is not the case in WKF) and the points system also allows for a different approach- KWF requires more stability as a take down would usually result in an ippon being awarded and hence the end of the fight. In terms of the latter, I feel one is more an athlete in WKF versus a budo karate-ka in KWF.
ER: When in kumite, both in the dojo and in competition, how do you ‘Rev’ yourself up, or build up your zanshin, so you fight with total commitment?
SD: I have a certain routine I tend to follow which entails a number of elements including visualisation, listening to certain music and specific warm-up exercises.
ER: How is your mental approach towards kumite and kata different? Do they require a different mental preparation and approach?
SD: Kata is more inward - by that I mean I focus completely on myself, essentially blocking out all else. Kumite requires the ability to focus on 'everything and nothing' i.e. yourself, your opponent and your environment, while still maintaining a certain level of voidness.
ER: You were awarded your shodan black belt by Master Nakayama, at the age of eleven, making you the youngest shodan in the world at that time. Did you appreciate the significance of this at the time, and what does this mean to you now?
SD: I understood the significance of the age element at that time, but I'm not sure I truly understood what an honour it was to have the most senior traditional karate-ka in the world and arguably one of the world's greatest ever master's not only grading me, but signing my certificate and book.
ER: As a member of KWF, in what ways has Isaka Sensei influenced your approach to karate, and how does his approach differ to Yahara Sensei’s?
SD: Isaka sensei is strongly focused on perfection in posture and form, something I believe is imperative when practicing techniques. However, when executing them, particularly in kumite, this is where Yahara sensei's influence comes in. Yahara sensei is all about reality - his sheer dynamism, hip rotation and the unbelievable kime he is able to create is something all karate-ka should aspire to.
ER: Who, of all the karateka you have trained with, has influenced you the most, and in what ways have they influenced you and your karate?
SD: It must be Malcolm sensei - the answer has really been given above.
ER: On a recent course with Isaka Sensei, he placed much emphasis on the importance of all movement originating from the hips. In what ways do you feel ‘Yahara’s karate’ differs from what has become recognized as ‘Standard Shotokan’?
SD: The basis is the same, what differs are the aspects that are stressed. As I mentioned above, Yahara sensei has a strong focus on reality and 'ikken hisatsu' (to kill with one blow) and so his attention is honed onto factors that increase power output, predominantly hip rotation.
ER: Yahara Sensei has become quite famous for his effective spinning techniques, which I’ve heard are tremendously powerful, do you practice such spinning movements, and why do you think they are so important to your karate?
SD: In honesty, it has not been something I have historically focused on, simply because it has not been my natural way of fighting based on my inherent physical attributes,strengths and weaknesses. Having said that, it does bring a completely new dimension to one's kumite - not only are they powerful but also unexpected, making it increasingly difficult for one's opponent to defend against. As I believe it is essential to constantly change and evolve, it is something I aim to develop and add to my arsenal.
ER: When teaching, but also in your training, how much time do you spend on impact training, and what do you think are the values of working on the makiwara and on the pads?
SD: Maki-wara adds tremendous value - it not only provides a contact point but also grooves the technique, conditions the fist (or other contact areas) and enhances accuracy.
ER: What is Shane Dorfman’s favourate kata and why?
SD: I need to differentiate here. Niju-shi-ho is the kata I probably do best, is the most practiced and is the kata I have won my kata world championships with. However, the kata I enjoy doing the most is unsu as I enjoy the versatility and athleticism needed.
ER: Can we just say a big thank you for your time and knowledge, and we wish you well for the future.