Master Mitsusuke Harada
Principal Instructor of the KDS and former personal pupil of Gichin Funakoshi and Shigeru Egami.
Interview by Jonathan de’ Claire with the valued assistance of Marie Kellet.
J.de’C – Sensei, you have trained uninterrupted since you began Karate at the Shotokan in 1943. It must have made quite an impression on you. Can you recollect what those impressions were, all those years ago?
M.H. –There were two things that made an initial impression upon me, whilst training at the Shotokan. One was Yoshitaka Sensei and the other was the kata Kanku Sho.
Training at the Shotokan was usually in the evenings. While we were training Yoshitaka Sensei would call over a blackbelt to practise with him. The blackbelt would then attack, but as Yoshitaka touched him on the body the blackbelt would fall over and with each different attack the same result would happen, with the blackbelt falling over. This impressed me greatly and has stayed with me to this day! Seeing Yoshitaka achieve this created my personal search of what is now called HAKKEI.
I first saw the kata Kanku Sho at a local display and it was the jumping kick that impressed me. But, unfortunately at the Shotokan dojo I had no opportunity to study it. When I joined Waseda University in 1948, in the first year I didn’t know all the kata but by the second year we had practised all of the designated Shotokan katas. But we never did Kanku Sho. So, I asked some seniors about this kata and although I did not know the name at the time, I remembered the jumping kick, which I described to the seniors. They then told me it was “Kanku Sho”. But, unfortunately I didn’t have any opportunity at that time to learn it. Then, in 1967 when I returned to Japan from Great Britain, I had the chance to learn Kanku Sho with the university (Waseda) group.
J.de’C – Sensei, you run your group the KDS, according to the philosophies or teachings of your teacher Gichin Funakoshi. What are your memories of O’Sensei and his Karate?
M.H. –Funakoshi O’Sensei’s idea of Karate was mainly gymnastics not fighting. His philosophy was - by training in Karate, it would enhance or develop one’s character. He came to Waseda on Saturdays where he showed a few things, but not so much as he was at that time, in his mid – eighties. But in my opinion, O’Sensei was an educator of Karate rather than a coach. But, his personality and especially his faith to Karate, is what greatly impressed me!
J.de’C – O’Sensei’s son Yoshitaka, was extremely highly thought of both in Japan and Okinawa. Yet his Karate was markedly different to his fathers. What differed in Yoshitaka’s Karate when compared to his fathers?
M.H. –As I mentioned earlier O’ Sensei’s Karate was more like gymnastics. His main emphasis being on kata with occasionally some self-defence or kumite, but mostly his idea was just kata. However, his son Yoshitaka wanted a different kind of Karate, what the Japanese categorise as a Budo type of Karate!
Most people didn’t know Yoshitaka Sensei’s practise; they didn’t know his final level. I was lucky because I saw Yoshitaka Sensei’s practise and I was fortunate enough to be able to experience this kind of technical influence through my personal practise with Egami, who was a training partner of Yoshitaka. So for me personally, this kind of practise was completely different to Funakoshi O’Sensei’s Karate!
J.de’C – Yoshitaka was responsible for many innovative changes in Shotokan Karate. His tragic death at such a young age must have had a profound effect on the potential developments that would have continued, had he not died. How do you think Shotokan karate would look today if Yoshitaka had remained to an older age?
M.H. –If Yoshitaka would have lived on, then things would certainly be very different today! Yoshitaka would, certainly have ignored the original members of the JKA. He would have concentrated on his group such as Miyata and Morihana from Takushoku University and Okuyama, Muramatsu and Egami from Waseda University. This group would, after the university course, go to the Shotokan dojo and practise with Yoshitaka. Having seen Yoshitaka and what he was capable of in the 1940’s and also through what I experienced as a result of practising with Egami, I believe that the technical level today would certainly be very different and of a higher level had Yoshitaka lived on.
J.de’C – How is Yoshitaka remembered today in Japan?
M.H. –Unfortunately, no one remembers him and only know his name.