An interview with Master Higaonna & Master Kyuna Part II

The second and final part of our Interview with two 10th Dan Karate Masters from Okinawa, Japan. To see rare pictures of these Masters check out the FREE IOGKF Magazine for December 2013 available through this newsletter.

Fitness vs Strength. Which do you think is more important?

Kyuna Sensei: It’s hard to say which is more important. However with traditional Karate it is a way of developing your whole body along with your breathing – which is very important.  But it only works if you train properly. The student needs to trust their teacher and be loyal to what they are saying and slowly, step by step, they will be shown more and more detail. For example when you punch Makiwara or you break a board, you use two knuckles, but eventually you will be shown that outside you would strike only with the first knuckle. It’s a progress system which develops both.

My teacher was Aizo Shimabukuro Sensei and he had a Dojo after World War II. He had so many years of experience teaching Karate, but now in Okinawa there are only two of his students that have their own Dojo’s, Shimabukuro Sensei’s son and I. So the traditional way is hard, but the finished product is high quality and develops both attributes.

With Bunkai, there are many Oyo Bunkai (variation applications) today. Do you think too much Oyo Bunkai training can lead to losing the essence of what we are doing or trying to achieve?

Kyuna Sensei: Oyo Bunkai is ok to practice, as long as you keep it close to the basic movements of the Kata. If you stray too far away from the Kata and get too fancy, there is a very real danger of changing the Kata itself. People begin to think that if the Bunkai is like this, then the Kata must be done that way too. So that’s the key with Oyo Bunkai, don’t get too fancy and keep it close to the original Kata movement.

Also Kata is designed to be used against multiple opponents. In many Kata movements you may be blocking or striking forward with one hand, but also to the side or behind with another hand. If you practice the Kata correctly and don’t change the movement, the correct defence should emerge when you are attacked. That is true bunkai, Oyo Bunkai is a natural variation on these. You have to followed the Kata movement first and then the self defence movement will come from this.

Traditional Karate is strong across the world. What do we need to do to keep it like this for the future generations?

Kyuna Sensei: This is the main reason we formed the Okinawa Traditional Karate-do Development Association six years ago as we felt that it was a necessity for Okinawan traditional culture to survive. The association is going to establish who the carrier or the real master of each traditional Karate style and we want people to come and study properly under these Masters and understand the spirit and mental philosophy of each style. This is a key part in keeping traditional Karate alive and well.

If a person could only spare 10 minutes a day for training, what should they practice?

Kyuna Sensei: For Shorin-ryu it would be Naifanchi Kata. To practice Naifanchi you only need a small, straight line space – it doesn’t need a lot of room. You should also practice basic punching in the air.

Higaonna Sensei: It has to be Sanchin. You can definitely practice Sanchin in only 10 minutes. Sanchin gives you breathing power, physical power and mental power and even 5 or 10 minutes each day will be beneficial. Then practice basic punching, kicking and blocking techniques. Anywhere, any time! Everywhere is a Dojo. Today my hotel room is my Dojo [laughs]

Chojun Miyagi Sensei said one of the best things about Karate is that you don’t need too much space or too much time and you can do it anytime. Morning, afternoon, evening, any time is a good time. You can be asleep and train inside you mind! [laughs]

Kyuna Sensei: Judo, Kendo, Sumo, etc, you need a partner to practice, but the beauty of Karate-do is that you can do it by yourself, anytime of the day or night.

Higaonna Sensei: The most important part is that you continue. You fight the battle against yourself. You don’t need a partner, the best enemy is yourself.