J.de’C – What are your memories of Egami’s Karate?
M.H. – Mr. Egami had a different approach to most instructors in as much as he believed in accepting ones attack with his body at the right time; without smashing and while the attack was at its peak. This was in contrast to others who would either, shove or smash ones attack when the attack was finished or static.
This kind of physical contact from Egami would only be possible if one had reached a certain level, not a novice. When I practised with Egami it was always - oizuku, gyakuzuki and mae-geri that’s all and each time he would accept my attacks. This kind of practise I had never experienced before!
Through his training with Yoshitaka and also practise at the Nakano School (equivalent to MI6 or Special Forces) Egami managed to develop his own method. I was very lucky and fortunate to practise with Egami at this stage.
J.de’C – During your association with Egami you encountered Tadoa Okuyama. Can you describe him?
M.H. – When I was at Waseda, Okuyama practised everyday. But, it was difficult to understand his Karate as he did not show much but kept emphasising feeling, but what kind of feeling? Each time he taught he was very keen on this feeling, but it was very difficult to understand or get anything from him at this point in time. However, after I met Mr. Egami, he said to me – “…well Harada, now Okuyama’s technical level is now over Waka Sensei’s (Yoshitaka Funakoshi)” that’s what he told me! Okuyama believed that karate must change or it would never improve. For instance if a building has only 5 floors then we can only go higher by building more floors. So, what is important in the development of Karate? It is not creating more blocks, kicks or combinations. It would be like saying to a runner to gain more speed - run faster, but that is not enough! We must look at the whole training regime in order to develop the runner’s body, so that greater speed is then achievable. This is also true of Karate. To improve Karate, we must research how to physically change our bodies; this is what is needed to change Karate.
J.de’C – Do you know what became of Okuyama?
M.H. – He is living in Kyoto. I am not sure if he is still practising, but I hope to go and see him when I visit Japan.
J.de’C – When you first pioneered the Shotokan Organisation in South America, you didn’t affiliate to Japan, why was this?
M.H. – Well originally, I called my group Karate-do Shotokan Brazil meaning Japan Shotokan Branch. I wrote a letter to O’Sensei asking his permission for me to form a branch of Japan Shotokan Karate. But he said no! He wanted me to create Brazil Karate like O’Sensei did, when he brought Karate to Japan from Okinawa. So I called us the Karate-do Brazilero meaning Brazil Shotokan. Each Karate nation should be independent and it is not necessary to be a branch of Japan. Of course we recognise each other, but that is enough.
J.de’C – When you heard from Egami about the death of Gichin Funakoshi and the ensuing disagreements about his funeral arrangements, what were your feelings on this?
M.H. – Well, such disagreements were not a surprise, as most people wanted to use Funakoshi O’Sensei, use his Karate for their own personal advantage. As human beings we all look for our own personal advantage, but there must be a 50/50 balance. Unfortunately in Karate’s case the balance was one sided – 90% for ones own advantage and this was the cause of the trouble around Funakoshi’s death.
I think what happened was a great pity, because, as I mentioned earlier, Funakoshi’s philosophy was to create a better person through practising Karate. As a result of certain people’s actions surrounding O’Sensei’s funeral, they showed their disrespect to him.
J.de’C – You are in fact, good friends with Master Chiba the famous Aikido Master. How did you come to meet him?
M.H. – I met Mr. Chiba at a British Budo Council in the UK. Then about one or two years later we met in London. At this time I was due to go back to Japan so I offered him my flat where he could stay and also use the dojo I was using in the Kings Cross. Our friendship developed from there.
J.de’C – Are there any other Japanese Martial Arts teachers you are associated with?
M.H. – I am not really associated with other Japanese martial arts teachers but I am friendly with Mr. Kase. We meet up from time to time if our schedules are not too busy. Mr Tamara the Aikidoka is a good friend. Also, I am friendly with Mr. Kanazawa and Mr. Shiomitsu. In general the Shotokan and Shotokai resist meeting me, so I am a bit of an outsider, which is a great pity.
J.de’C – Sensei, you take a very active hands-on approach when you teach, have you always taught in this manner?
M.H. – As I mentioned before, Egami used this kind of approach and I learnt that from practising with him. To improve ones Karate then, it is only possible with this kind of approach.