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Rodrigo Medeiros

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One of the world's most renowned and respected traditional karate masters alive, Kanazawa Shihan is the only karateka ever to have won the notorious ‘All Japan Karate Championships’ an incredible three times in a row. On one occasion he won the finals while nursing a broken wrist from an earlier event. In recent years, his eldest son, Nobuaki, has preserved the family reputation by winning the current All Japan Championships.

  Although Kanazawa is now a dedicated Karateist he started out originally as a Judoist. While in high school he held the 2nd Degree rank. After graduation he enrolled at Nippon University. One day, however, he happened to see students from another university practicing Karate. Impressed by their skills, he decided immediately to learn this art of self defense. The students he had seen were from Takushoku University which, at that time, was the most active in Karate participation, and his desire to learn Karate was so strong that he switched to Takushoku. 

Kanazawa soon became the protege of the late headmaster of the Shotokan style, Matsatoshi Nakayama (10th Dan) and is one of the few remaining karateka privileged to have studied under Master Gichin Funakoshi.

It took Kanazawa one and one half years of disciplined training to attain the 1st Degree rank After three years he gained the 2nd Degree rank and passed the other members of the club who had started before him. 

   In 1956 he passed the exam for 3rd Degree rank and also passed the instructor's exam. The first All-Japan Karate Tournament was held in Tokyo in 1957. Kanazawa's right hand had been broken at this time, and he was not going to participate. His mother, however, had come in from the country to watch him, and not wanting to disappoint her, he decided to enter in at least one match. A doctor had to follow him around to check on the injured hand and make sure it had not been aggravated in any way after each match. Using his left hand to fake and block and saving his bandaged right hand for the precise moment, he won all matches on clear one-point blows. 

Kanazawa has sustained many injuries. He has had two broken hands, broken fingers, an injured shoulder and spine, and has had to have stitches over his right eye and right ear. He is quick to point out that these injuries were his own fault.

In addition to Kanazawa Shihan’s mastery of karate-do and expertise with various traditional weaponry, he also has a very extensive knowledge of Chinese art of Tai-Chi, having studied it to its conclusion under professor Wong for more than thirty years.

Currently, Kanazawa Shihan is both Chairman and World Chief Instructor of the world's largest Shotokan Karate organisation, the Shotokan Karate-do International Federation, with in excess of two and a half million members worldwide, in one hundred and  three countries (at the last count). In April 2000, while attending the 7th S.K.I.F. World Championships in Bali, Shihan Kanazawa was promoted to the grade of 10th Dan. He is currently the only living Shotokan Master to hold the grade of 10th Dan. Although having such a formidable pedigree and being accorded legendary status, Kanazawa Shihan is also extremely charismatic but easily approachable. Being a natural teacher and communicator, he chooses to spend individual time with as many of his students as possible. Demand for his services, worldwide, is on the increase and his schedule is extremely intense.


Master Kanazawa speaks for his Art (Excerpted from 4 different interviews)

"The most important points of my teaching are breathing, movement and timing. But breathing is first.... the first thing we do in this world is to breathe and, you know, even today, 90% of people do not know how to breathe correctly. If the breathing is wrong, your body will go wring - your mind will be wrong also - there is a very strong connection. You control your spirit with your breathing and we should always be thinking and trying to learn more about this most vital aspect - it is the very core of life.

With time and thought, I have come to an appreciation that winning can be done with using only 60% of your power - 100% is not necessary if you have good waza (technique) - just enough is sufficient! Whereas before I would try to use all of my power to accomplish something, now I try to use only 60% and rest the other 40%. To simplify, if I use 60% correctly and I also use 40% of my opponent's power against him, the total is still 100% and the combination will result in more damage to him. I must say that my Tai-chi training and studies have greatly influenced my personal style of karate.

I have been accused of changing the Kata but there have always been differences in the performance of Kata. Not only the obvious style differences in the various ryu(schools), like when the same Kata is performed by the Shotokan, the Shitoryu and the Wadoryu, but also minor differences from how you interpret the move and also from your age and physical capabilities. In the Kata, Nijushiho,two side thrust kicks are performed ... a twenty year old may have no difficulty performing them but forty years later . . . how will it be then? The same technique cannot be expected of a sixty year old -rather he should just lift the leg, as the kick was originally done. Likewise, I have sometimes taught a roundhouse kick in the Kata 'Enpi'.I did this because no other Kata contains a standing roundhouse kick. I felt that the addition of this kick was beneficial - yet it did not change the basic concept of the kata.

I have developed several new techniques. One example is my tsuki - this, I believe, has developed considerably since my younger days, but it happed sub-consciously - I mean. I was not thinking about it, it just automatically developed. I now have a double focus (kime) . . . physical focus first, then a speed focus, which gives a lot more shock. I did not realize what l was doing until it was pointed out to me by a very famous teacher in Japan, Mr. Matsuda Ryuchi, an authority on Chinese martial arts. He visited many karate H.Q's. in Japan and he wrote, in his observations that only two people had impressed him on his trouble- a Mr. lwai, lwai, a Goju-ryu and Wado-ryu sensei and myself. He told me that my punch was from Chinese Kempo, but I was unaware of that fact.

The standard of karate is universally high and the level is now equal worldwide. Unfortunately, there is one important aspect that has not developed along with the physical abilities and that is the philosophy of karate - this is a very neglected part of karate and this neglect is true not only in the West but also in Japan.

I dislike and disagree with the trend that karate is viewed as (and indeed has virtually become)  merely a sport in many people's eyes. The karate of the J K.A. (Kanazawa was formerly Chief Instructor of' the International Section of the J.K.A. Editor) has become a very hard karate - based essentially on competitive fighting. In such an environment, there is a tendency to practice only that which works in competitions and forget the rest. So it is a karate of force and therefore it becomes more and more elitist, suitable only for a particular group of karate-ka - the young, strong men. That is a contradiction of my basic idea, which is karate for all and for all your life.

My philosophy is that I try always to be true to myself and to others ... I can say that I fear nothing - not even death, and this I do not say in a big-headed or conceited way. My meaning is that I always try my best in everything I do, so I will be satisfied when I do die - I think the reason that people fear death is because they want to do and accomplish so many other things that are still undone . . . they always want to do more.
Also, I truly believe that life continues after physical death - all life continues ... life is a circle.

In the art of Karate, the basic forms and movements are practiced without any opponent. By just imagining the opponent a Karateist can fulfil every form practiced. It is very important therefore that while practicing, the Karateist put his whole heart, soul and mind into the form. Then the purpose of defeating an opponent becomes complete, for all of these cannot be done at random. A person may study Karate for years, but if he is only moving his hands and feet he will not be able to understand the true meaning of Karate. 

In sparring, a Karateist should concentrate his heart, mind and soul into the art. Concentration plays an extremely important part in sparring. It is so important that the slightest distortion in thinking can cause serious injury to the opponent or yourself . Therefore sparring should be done with the utmost seriousness. 

Karate is a good teacher and builder of character. For a Karateist who goes through the ups and downs of training, it will help him to control himself in whatever else he does, and through patience he will be able to build up his personality and create a harmonious character. But he can only realize this within himself and gradually discover the real spirit of Karate. 
Karate, through its physical and spiritual training and rigid principles, has taught me to control myself. I am confident that in no matter what kind of situation I am in, I would not carelessly use Karate to defend myself. One must always be in a defensive attitude and avoid entanglements for Karate seeks no advantage. In Karate you start with defense and end with defense."