Wrekin Shotokan Karate Club
Gichin Funakoshi
Masatoshi Nakayama
Hirokazu Kanazawa.
Modern Shotokan Karate.

Hirokazu Kanazawa, 10th DAN, currently holding the highest black-belt rank bestowed by the Japanese upon any martial artist, was born on 3rd May 1931 in northern Honshu, Japan. He started training in his early twenties and went onto forming the Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation, to which he is chief instructor.

Before going to University he had studied and practised European boxing as well as judo achieving the rank of 2nd Dan. Looking to start karate he looked for a style which suited him, with heritage and history. The Shotokan style as taught at Takushoku University was for him and that was where he went.

Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei was one of his many teachers. Nakayama would explain the 'why' of karate. Kanazawa feels that whilst the old ways of following blindly and doing what you were told built up great speed, the bad point was that they were unable to build upon what others had learned. A particular movement that could be performed a better way may take ten years to discover when it could have been noted in a day. But too much explanation was not good either, and so a middle way is best.

Kanazawa was also taught by Minoru Miyata, an equivalent ranked karate-ka to Nakayama. Sensei Miyata had different form, he had learned from Yoshitaka (Gichin Funakoshi's third son) at the Shotokan dojo. This led Kanazawa to the realisation that 'Shotokan 'pure' does not exist.'

Kanazawa gained his Shodan at the end of 1953 in an astonishingly short time, one of the examiners being Funikoshi Sensei. Kanazawa says passing Shodan is just the beginning of studying karate really. A year later he gained Nidan under Funakoshi. Kanazawa noted that freestyle was observed and Funakoshi did not oppose it; however Funakoshi did object to competition. Training regularly with the likes of Funakoshi Kanazawa graduated from Takushoku University in 1956 and at the request of Nakayama, Kanazawa joined the J.K.A. just as they were about to instigate an instructors programme.

The JKA was established as an educational body in 1955, and became accepted as a corporation in 1958 with a great deal of help from Kanazawa. With about 200 'karate' styles around it was important to establish standards for instruction and register them with the education ministry, so under the guidance of Master Funakoshi the instructors training program was formulated by Kanazawa, with significant contributions from other more senior students. Kanazawa was one of the first two students on the course.

Funakoshi and Nakayama were concerned for the next generation, not just Japanese, but worldwide. They wanted peace, and they considered karate a means of spreading it. Nakayama being an academic taught theory at the instructor's course and to get karate truly established he gave it a firm and rational base.

A pivotal point in Shotokan karate was the 1957 JKA All-Japan Championships. Struggling with the idea of karate's promotion Master Nakayama and the JKA believed that competition would be the next evolutionary step, doing for karate what it had done for Judo and Kendo. Many of the 'old boys' believed it degraded the art and was the antithesis of what Funakoshi had stood for. Competition rules were devised over time with safety in mind and competition was indeed a success. However the notion that real karate might be lost in competition haunted Nakayama until his death.

Kanazawa won the first JKA Championships in kumite and won again the following year in both kata and kumite, becoming the first JKA Grand Champion before being sent out into the world, followed by many other great karate-ka, to spread karate. Shotokan was becoming firmly placed on the world map.

Kanazawa Sensei's book "KANAZAWA, 10th Dan - Recollections of a Living Karate Legend" is highly recommended and is the source of this article

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