The spirit of “never give up”

This is an interview with honorable Hirokazu Kanazawa, who is among the most revered Shotokan masters alive today, when he was merely a black belt Sempai in Japan. He was in training at the time for the first All Japan Karate Championship. The following is an excerpt from an interview he gave many, many years later This tale of his fight is known by most senior karateka and yudansha.
GN: When you were preparing for the first All Japan Championships did you do any special training?
HK: Yes. For two months before I didn’t train with my friends because of course they would be my opponents in the tournament. So I did secret training by myself and visited other dojos sometimes other style dojos. There were many dojos in Tokyo. Sometimes I went to university dojos, to a Shito-ryu dojo, but mainly I went to Takushoku University dojo to do kumite with the students.
Then four days before the championships I was training in the dojo. Of course, I did the general training, maybe an hour and a half, two hours, and then after the end of training I did fighting, kumite, with seven of the students. They were very good for my tournament training. I finished and said thank you, but then my senior said “Kanazawa! Are you finished?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “No, you are not, you must do more!” so I did another six fights. But on the last one I broke my hand.
GN: Your right hand.
HK: Yes. Therefore, the JKA said I couldn’t compete. Two days later my mother came to Tokyo to see me fight in the championship. I said, “I cannot fight because I have broken my right hand.”
She said, “Ohhh, in karate you only use your right hand?”
I said, “No, no, karate is also the left hand and both of your legs.”
“Then why can’t you participate if you have only broken your right hand?”
“Because the JKA says so”
But my mother said, “I still don’t understand. Please ask the JKA why you cannot participate. You still have your left arm and both legs. Only one hand is broken.”
I went to see Nakayama Sensei and Tagaki Sensei (Masatomo Tagaki, the general secretary of the JKA) to explain, and then I went to see one of my seniors from high school. He was my senior in Judo and he ran a clinic. He said he would write a letter to the JKA, and he would accompany me to the tournament and take responsibility for me if something happened. So Nakayama Sensei and Tagaki Sensei said, “Ok, you can participate.” Now, I never pray to God for things. I respect God, but I do not pray for help with things. Only this one time, I said, “Please God, let me win just one fight,” so I could show a winning fight to my mother.
Then I won my first fight, and I thought that was enough. But then I won the second fight, and the third–funny. My niece came up to me and said, “Ok, uncle, grandmother says that’s enough.” But I said, “No, I still have to go on now because I’m winning. If you’re winning you can’t stop.” So I continued to fight, but from this moment all the opponent’s movements seemed to happen slowly. I could see all the detail. I used left hand blocks and counterattacked with kicks–only kicks: combination kicking, or sometime just one kick to take the point. I used one hundred percent kicking techniques.
GN: So you won all the fights with kicks?
HK: Yes, one hundred per cent. I used my hand to block or feint. In the final match I met Mr. Tsuyama. He was a famous person in university karate, also a champion. His favorite technique was jodan mawashi geri. He would take kamae then kick, no initial movement, with the front foot kick–bang! He got everybody. But I couldn’t block because I couldn’t use my right hand; my left hand wasn’t enough. Therefore as soon as he moved, at the same time, I slipped into his attack and then pushed with my shoulder and used kekomi against his supporting leg and fell down. He was very shocked because no one had done this to him before. Then I thought, “He is not so confident now. I have a good chance.” I did mae geri, then mawashi geri chudan and scored. I thought, maybe I can use that technique one more time, it’s a possibility. A third time would be impossible, but a second time, maybe. But of course not exactly in the same place. So this time I did mae geri and then jodan mawashi geri to score and win by nihon, two ippons, the first one mawashi geri chudan, and the second one mawashi geri jodan.
Moral: As you can read, having lots of techniques is not necessarily the formula for success. Kanazawa Sensei was left only to his left hand and his kicks. Yet he managed to use those to win. A simple block and Roundhouse Kick – middle level and upper level.That was it!
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