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Our Shihan, Mr Kato, worked with master Asai’s JKS (10th dan, the founder of JKS and Asai style shotokan karate: 1935-2006) the organization now led by Shihan Kato.
I have been asked, “Why did Kato join forces with Asai, when he could have worked with so many other great masters?”
Asai was a world renowned karate-ka and martial artist and a few of us in the club are privileged to have trained with him. He was the Technical Director at JKA for many years, and then he founded Japan Karate Shotorenmei (JKS) in 2000. He took Shotokan to another level and according to K. Yokota, a long time associate of Asai, there are several things that affected his martial arts style, one being White Crane style kung fu
Asai lived in Taiwan for many years. He spread Shotokan karate there and studied White Crane kung fu with various masters. He practiced more than 150 kata and some of them were created by him and influenced by White Crane kung fu. This is why his style is more circular; it has a lot of open hand techniques and body spinning movements.
Other essential factors are:
Flexibility and joints
Flexibility was very important to him and he spent a lot of time doing stretches to keep his flexibility.
Relaxation and Ki
His moves are whipping actions and this came not only from flexibility but also from total relaxation of his body. He studied chi kung.
Tenketsu (Dim Mak)
He studied tenketsu, an art studying the critical nerve points of a body. He knew the points of a body where he could inflict severe nerve damage and paralysis. By applying pressure to these you do not have to depend on strength to make attacks and blocks effective.
Weapons (nine section chain whip)
He practiced many different weapons but what he liked the best was 9 section chain whip as this weapon taught him how to use his arm like a whip.
He said “You do not block with your forearm or wrist. You use elbows and use shoulder joints.” This is a difficult concept but it makes sense when you see the demonstrations of these blocking techniques.
We have always taken stretching and flexibility as an essential component of our training and you can see immediately those who stretch and those who don’t. My observation is that those who stretch and train correctly can improve their karate performance throughout life, and those who don’t gradually lose speed and become more prone to injury.
Many of us in the club have practiced chi kung and it helps one to understand relaxation, which is essential to gain speed and the power associated with speed.
There does seem to have been a subtle but significant change in the type of blocking and striking techniques taught by Shihan Kato in recent times and I am sure this is a development of Asai’s teachings.
Once you pay attention to certain technicalities, these techniques have a simple elegance. The ability to simultaneously block and counter attack is a very difficult skill to counter in close quarter kumite. It may also be useful in a street situation outside the dojo!
YouTube video demonstrating Heian Yondan bunkia