Harada Sensei MBE
At the invitation of the famous Judoka, Kenshiro Abbe, Master Harada went to Great Britain. Already though, a faithful group had already formed in Europe, and Harada was to return regularly. Abbe was a Budoka of high recommendation, not only was he an 8th Dan Judoka, but held a 6th Dan in Aikido, having studied under Master Morihei Ueshiba; he also held Dan ranks in Kyudo, Ju-Kenjutsu and Kendo. On the 23rd November 1963, the National Judo Championships were being held at the Albert Hall in London. A number of martial arts demonstrations were performed aside from the Judo competition, these included Kendo (Tomio Otani), Aikido (Masshiro Nakazono 6th Dan, Masamichi Noro 6th Dan) and Karate that was demonstrated by Master Mitsusuke Harada and an assistant. This allowed exposure for Harada, he also wrote an article in the Judo News entitled “The Essence of Karate “. This rare piece gave a comprehension of Master Harada’s thinking at the time. When considering the dynamics of Karate training Harada thought speed, endurance and strength were the 3 factors involved; elements of these he considered important were correct form of posture, relaxation, concentration and natural movement.
He also commented on Karate in Europe, writing that he thought Karate could become as proficient as in Japan, once the fundamentals were understood.
After giving a course in Karate at the Abbe School of Judo on the 7th and 8th November 1963, Master Harada was asked to give a number of courses and demonstrations around the country. From early in 1964 through to 1968, Harada would alternate teaching between the U.K. and Brussels. His organisation was fast growing into a large Europe wide following. It was during one of these trips to Brussels, that Master Harada met Jotaro Takagi who was on a business trip. Takagi was a graduate of Chuo University (and the future Chief Instructor to the Shotokai in Japan). He showed Harada new practise developments from Tokyo and for six months, towards the end of 1967, Master Harada returned to Japan to investigate.
Master Harada learnt many things on this return to Tokyo, but on the whole felt it was not a good trip. Harada was unsure of the direction that Shotokai was taking, he had grave reservations. He visited Master Egami to inquire as to his position – Shotokai or Shinwa Taido. But, Egami sat on the fence not giving an answer one way or the other. This depressed Harada greatly, however one thing was confirmed; a replacement had been found to take Harada’s place in Brazil – Arinobu Ishibata a graduate of Chuo University. Master Harada was now free to stay in Britain.
Early summer schools were held in the Spartan conditions of Grange Farm. At this time Harada’s Karate group was a part of the International Budo Council, but when Abbe left to return to Japan in 1966, Harada resigned from the IBC being unhappy with developments. It was then that Master Harada formed the Karate-Do Shotokai (KDS) Organisation. Initially, there were some ten clubs up and down Great Britain. He would also train at Kenneth Williams’ dojo in Hillingdon 3 times a week. Master Harada soon earned a reputation as being an uncompromising instructor, always willing to demonstrate his ideas, at great risk to himself, in the name of progress.
After his trip back to Japan, many of Harada’s senior students travelled to experience the new ideas for themselves. But, in 1971 Harada took a definite direction, returning to a more orthodox style he had experienced in his University days. This included the invaluable year and half under the tutelage of master Egami. Whilst this was welcomed by many, others wanted to carry on with the way they had been practising. This led to an inevitable split in the organisation.
But Master Harada was now untethered by the constraints of Japan. Having spent 3-4 years with unsuccessful experimentation, he had drawn the line, effectively breaking technical ties with Japan. Master Harada now studied his own training background and Karate-Do in great detail, slowly but surely changes began to appear in his practise. Counting aloud stopped, for this was verbal stimulation, conditioning the student to sound, neglecting the visual. Instead he used visual perception as the trigger.