Mikio Yahara: The СOne Finishing BlowТ
Interview by Oleg Larionov
Translated by Alexander Chichvarin
Edited by John Cheetham
A special Сthank youТ to Azerbaijani KWF Chief Instructor Elchin Mehdizade for his assistance in this interview.
Ч Yahara Sensei, this is your second time in Russia. Last time you were in
Moscow was 10 years ago. Do you see any changes? What do you think about Moscow?
Ч Actually, Moscow has changed very much since my first visit. And the most
evident changes are in the economy. During my last visit it was very difficult
to find or buy something in stores. Now walking the Moscow streets I see many
various shops, everyone could buy fruits and itТs very pleasant. Maybe it is the
most significant change that has happened over the last 10 years. And it has got
so many cars.
Ч The name of your organization is the Karatenomichi World Federation. Is
there any difference between Karatenomichi and Shotokan? Please tell us, do you
teach Shotokan karate or is it a little bit like another style of karate?
Ч Shotokan style is the original style and the simple thing I teach is the
following: karate was changing during its existence and it is under the threat
of disappearing now. I know karate as a martial art, but now karate seems like
dancing. I would like to return to the original karate, to its sources. Budo
karate, according to my opinion, is when I may finish my opponent definitively
by one killing blow. My work basically consists in forming ways and methods by
which to increase my technical level up to the perfection I require: only the
one blow should be enough for the opponentТs defeat.
Ч What was your impression of the technical level of the Russian karateka?
Are they following your way of karate or are they a little bit far from that?
Ч I think that in Russian karate there are those things I demand and develop.
I think that the Russian karate contains many things, which correspond to my
technical requirements. Actually when I came, I was very surprised. I thought
that the level of karate in Russia would be much lower because the karate
history here is very short. And I was astonished because of the skills and
technical level of Russian karateka. And having looked at them I have conceived
seriously: maybe they walk the same path of karate as me.
Ч What way of development did you choose for Karatenomichi World Federation
as an organization?
Ч First of all, I am aiming at creating the true budo karate with very
effective techniques. The purpose of the organization consists in teaching
people the kumite methods about which I spoke earlier. I want to teach my
students be able to win any competition and then to send these people worldwide.
I want to have people who know my technique and my aim for perfection. Sports
karate is very popular now and many people consider karate like a game. These
people usually forget about karate immediately after competition. I would like
my students could use karate in their real life, but not play in karate like in
Ч Sensei, do you think that competitions help us to understand the essence of
Ч I am against the type of competition that promotes the development of
СgameТ karate. But the matter is that I always have the debates and
conversations with representatives of other organizations to defend my opinion
about karate. And maybe my actions remind them about true karate.
Ч You were highly ranked in many tournaments and also you were the World and
JKA Champion many times. What victory do you remember most of all?
Ч Certainly, I, as well as many other people, remember those tournaments.
The most important moments that remained in my memory are those moments when I
understood that my opponent wasnТt able to control the situation and his skill
wasnТt as perfect as mine. All of you applaud if I use those techniques which
amaze my opponent and nonplus him. Perhaps, these moments I remember most of all.
Ч (Elchin Mehdizade) What is the most important for you, physical or
spiritual victory? And did you ever feel the moral satisfaction in spite of
Ч Is it possible to be happy having suffered defeat? The matter is that when
a strong person loses he doesnТt feel any satisfaction and he will never find
both spiritual and psychological victory in this case, because it is karate.
However, the victory and spiritual satisfaction could come later, because your
defeat stimulates you for new feats. You try to improve the skill and as a
result you win. Probably, in this case you will really understand that this
victory is the result of your last defeat.
Ч Sensei, the chairman of the Karatenomichi World Federation is
internationally renowned fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. Could you please tell
us why this person came into the world of karate?
Ч Actually, it is not as difficult to answer your question as you would expect.
I think that there are two reasons. The first reason is psychological: the world
of Mr. Yohji Yahamoto is the magnificent world with the brilliant atmosphere and
amazing surroundings. Of course, this atmosphere dims the enthusiasm.
Photographers, cameras, beautiful people and clothes have a very strong
influence on his emotional condition because he is part of this world. Karate
allows him to restrain himself and allows him to follow the spiritual way which
is defined by conscience. Karate is the deterrent that gives him a chance to
remain himself. The second reason is physical: the work of Mr. Yamamoto implies
the sedentary way of life and it does not have a good effect on his health. Weak
muscles are not good for man and due to his practice of karate, he now has good
physical condition. I think that Mr. Yamamoto has the budo consciousness that
only a true samurai could have. Mr. Yamamoto has practiced karate with me for
about 10 years and he is very zealous while training. He came into shotokan due
to our friendship and we have been friends more than 10 years.
Ч There are many books about Zen Buddhism and Budo philosophy being issued
now, is there any connection between karate and Zen?
Ч In fact recently many people have turned to Zen and many books are issued
about this; however, it is a fake. But why? Of course Zen could be indicated in
the fight. But what is the sense of Zen? If during a combat both opponents had a
knife it would be too easy if they just killed each other. In this case it would
be an ordinary murder: both of the opponents would die and they would be
absolutely tranquil, because there is no difference for each opponent. But there
is a significant problem. Each adversary always keeps in his mind: what will
occur in case of mistake? Maybe someone will be wounded. The body becomes
enslaved and the mind just thinks about fear. This fear disturbs the use of your
actual power. Kumite teaches us to stay tranquil. If you follow the Zen way you
will have the emptiness in your mind while doing kumite. Fear and thought
disappear from your mind and you donТt feel the fear. In this moment you are
able to demonstrate your true power; the power that is available only to you. No
emotions, no thoughts about past and future. This is Zen. That is why people who
havenТt the experience of serious fighting or mortal combat, who just write
books about Zen Buddhism in the martial arts whilst sitting in their chair, are
Ч And what is the philosophy of karate?
Ч Karate has no philosophy. Some people think that the tradition of karate came
from Buddhism and karate has a connection with the absolute, space and universe,
but I donТt believe in that. My philosophy is to knock my opponent out due to
the use of only one technique. One finishing blow!
Ч Sensei, do you have any time for a rest?
Ч Karate is Сthe restТ in my life. You know I am very busy, because I have my
own business as well as karate. It keeps my mind in great tension: I always
should think about some muddles and deals. Of course it has a bad influence on
my sleep and mind. While training my body feels tremendous stress but this way
everyone steps closer to the art of karate. My body relaxes after training and
it has a good influence on my sleep. By falling asleep after a grueling training
session, you are collecting and re-charging your power for a new day, to make it
as useful as possible.
Ч Away from karate, do you like other things, like music?
Ч Yes, I like music very much. What do you think I like, what kind of music do
you think I prefer?
Ч Maybe modern?
Ч No, I like Tchaikovsky.
Ч (Elchin Mehdizade) Tchaikovsky?
Ч Yes. You know Tchaikovsky is very nice ice cream (jokingly)! And also I like
romantic music. The point is that often I am very tired after training and this
music helps me to relax. I think that music is even necessary for me. I like
УThe Million of Scarlet RosesФ most of all from Russian music. And the sense of
lyrics of this song is wonderful also. I often listen to the CD of a popular
Russian singer while I journey on my ship. Actually, I listen to music in two
cases: one during the rest, and two, when I drive my car.
Ч Sensei, do you like high speed?
Ч Yes, I like it very much. I even do some road events. Some time ago I was in
an unbelievable road event: I was driving a Porsche, it is my favorite car and
my speedometer indicated 250 km/h. The speed limit of my car was 280 km/h and I
tried to speed up more. Suddenly I have seen the car ahead and I have decided to
out-strip it. For this purpose I have changed my lane to the wrong lane and have
seen that the other car was coming towards to me with speed of about 100 km/h.
If there had been a head-on collision there would be something terrible (250 km/h
plus 100 km/h is 350 km/h). But probably due to the reaction of the skilled
karateka I have decided to turn my car in the direction of the curb because the
barrier wasnТt too serious. I have made this decision instantly otherwise we
would slam each other with a speed of 350 km/h! I remember how my car was turned
over; I remember all my movements and actions at this time (like slow-motion).
The only thing I thought is to protect the most important parts of my body:
basically, my head. I did everything to receive as little damage as possible.
The result was that the machine (car) was destroyed so much that it could not be
restored. Nevertheless, nothing happened with my health. I think I was
inimitable in this car (joke).
Ч Sensei, do you also like to read in your free time?
Ч Yes, I like to read very much. Usually I read books about the samurai and
how bravely they passed away as a result of hara-kiri, ritual suicide. It is
very important for me and I will tell you about this without any embellishment.
The matter is that already three of my friends have died in such a way, the last
from them in December last year. The most courageous way of hara-kiri is
crisscross: first from left to right, then from below to upwards to get
hieroglyph УjuФ that means УtenФ. Maybe you know the famous Japanese writer,
Yukio Mishima; perhaps you even read his books. He was my student. We trained
together for one and half a years and he was much older than me: he was 45 and I
was 24. And one week before his passing away he came to the dojo and we were
training together again. After training we were in the traditional Japanese bath
УfuroФ; his behavior was normal, he laughed (in fact he was very cheerful person)
and nobody Ч even I Ч couldnТt suspect that he was going to leave his life. But
you see it was a very important decision and one week prior to his death he
certainly knew that he would do it. I very much respect him for it and I believe
that he is a really great person. There is even a history how Yukio Mishima has
made this step. He came to the office of the commander of the military base of
the Japan Defense Agency, came into the room and everyone Ч even those who has
thought suddenly something was wrong Ч had no time or the possibility to stop
him. He had locked the door of the room. He was accompanied by his friend
Masakatsu Morita. The fact is that under the code of the samurai, after the
worthy person will make a hara-kiri, his friend, collogue or student Ч someone
whom he trusts and respects Ч must chop the head off. Having opened his stomach
with his blade, he felt an inhuman pain and Morita in the meantime held a sword
in his hands, and his hands shivered because of excitement or inexperience. Then
Mishima became angry and started to shout at him: "LetТs do it Ч faster!" After
that, he (Morita) struck, but he missed and has split a part of MishimaТs skull.
Mishima then screamed even more loudly: "You are fool! What are you waiting for?
Let's do it quickly!" Second impact of the sword of Morita only fell onto
MishimaТs shoulder and only after the third attempt he completed the task, (beheaded
him). Subsequently the police rushed into the office. Please trust me, these
events are true and fixed in the police report. I do not want to scare you; I
just want to say that this person I believe had a strong spirit.
Ч And what was the reason and the purpose of suicide by Mr. Yukio Mishima?
Ч The purpose was rather great. By then he was already a well-known writer
and knew that people would speak widely and much about his death. Shortly before
his death Mishima made a political declaration from a balcony of the same
building. By his death he wanted to draw the attention of the public to make the
effective protest against new Japanese orders and laws. Certainly, he has
achieved this purpose.
Ч Sensei, do you practice any other kind of budo except karate?
Ч Yes, I practice iaido. I like the spirit of this martial art: one single
sword blow results in the death of the opponent.
Ч What human quality do you appreciate most of all?
Ч Actually all my friends are very strange people. I always conceive: are
they people or not? And in general I get tired of it. Maybe you think I am
strange human being too.
Ч Sensei, what is the love for you?
Ч Maybe it is a usual thing, but I do not know how to answer. Certainly, it
is a very difficult question. But I think that the love is impossibility of
personal happiness in loneliness. It means that it is necessary to give
everything completely and to see the happiness of sweetheart. Only in this case
you will be happy. I think it is necessary to offer everything to make
everything for the beloved person and then to be happy seeing this result.
Ч Sensei, would you like to wish something to the Russian karateka?
Ч Let me ask you this Alexander. What is the most important thing for you in
Ч (Alexander Chichvarin) Well, it is the great pleasure I have due to the
relation with my karate friends in the dojo and out of the dojo. Annually the
number of such friends becomes more and more worldwide.
Ч I think that we (I and my Russian friends) practice karate with the same
spirit, mood and ideas. Likely, people who practice karate with very similar
ideas have identical inquiries, needs and purposes. The name of our organization
Ч Karatenomichi Ч means, way of karate, way to karate, way due to karate.
Perhaps this also is the way in which we walk the karate path together; and we
should meet many people on this way. Somewhere this way could become wider and
somewhere it could become narrower. The most important thing that I want to pass
on to you all, is never forget about the source of karate, its basic functions
and purposes. Because if you ignore this and do not execute diligently all
techniques, you will absolutely walk other way, which is very far from the
karate which I try to bring to your country and to your life.