miyazaki sensei

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  • TRADITIONALVERSUSORIGINAL"When people start studying karate inJapan, they think this rough approach is theway it ought to be taught, so they don't complain,But you can't do that in America."

    by MorcTempletonI kata competitor must make up his

    Fown ka ta o r e lse he cannot w in .Th is i s the c la im, perhaps be t te r de-scrlbed as the complaint, of some com-petitors in the tournament scene. But toshotokan karate instructor ToyotaroMiyazak i , 35 , o f F lush ing , New York , "the c la im is no t t rue , even when i tcomes from his students and refers toindividuals he said are i l l-suited to bejudSing competit ion. This was the situa-t ion he encountered las t year . l t i s a lsothe s i tua t ion tha t led h im back in tocompet l | on .

    At one of the main tournaments hereon the East Coast, the judges were nottoo good, Miyazaki said of the init ials i lua t ion thar led h im back inLo karacompetit ion.

    "Many of the competitors had madeup their ovr'n kata," he said. "Some ofthem had good left side kicks in theirkata, and each kata had some meaning."

    These peop le make up the i r own la lafo r compet i t ion so i t w i l l look more im-pressive than a traditional kata, Miya-zaki said.

    "At this one tournament, much of

    t 8

    Shoiokan instructor Toyotaro Miyazaki,a former tournament comDetitor andnow an instructor in Flurhing, NewYork, offers a blend of tradit ion andAmerican.style teaching methods to hi5school 's pupi lr .

    Photos bV Ed lku ta

  • -the kata did took pretty," he said, con' It inu inB thd t l i t l l e o l i t had any mean ing . l"So I was ra ther d i5aooo in led when one Iof my students came up to me and said Ithat kata competitors have to make upthe i r own ld ta fo r tourndmenlS or e lse

    . \

    . . . . :

    they do no t w in . "Miyazaki not only told the student

    this belie{ w.!s wrongr but in effect is-sued an invitation for the young compe"titor to ioin his instructor in performingjo in t ka ta .

    "l told the student that if he doesvery good kata and practices hard, he cansti l l beat th other competitors wthoriginal kata," l\4iyazaki said. "Butwhen he competed, he sti l l didn't beatthe others. so I told him, 'Let's com-pete together. I wil l do all the kataandyou do anything you like. You canmake up your own kata if you want

    Not long after that l\4iyazaki attend-ed another tournament. This time he en-tered the kata competit ion, performed

    Shotokan karateka Toyotaro Miyazaki offers pointers (top) and individual guidance(bottom) to student! at his Flushing, New York, dojo. A tradit ional ist when i t comesto kata, Miyazaki ha! modif ied the teaching methods he learned as a pupi l in Japanto satisfy his Amcrican students'curiosity for detai led explanations,20

  • movements and took firstAt several subsequent tourna-he entered, he also took firstNot long after, he began to per-

    in weapons tournamenE.With or without weapons. the katathe same, said l\4iyazaki, who uti l izesunusually thin, l ight bo for his dem-

    grstratio n s."You can do anything with this

    rEapon," he said.Though Miyazaki encourages a tradi-

    tional approach in studying his art, hedmitted that he has found it necessaryto break with certain procedures helearned in Japan.

    "Basically, my techniques haven'tchanged much," he said. "But even inJapan the karate is changing. Peoplefight different."

    Miyazaki, who was born in Tokyo,lzpan, in

    '1944, began studying karateabout age .15.

    "l saw a couple of demonstrattonswhen I was fifteen years old," he said,continuing that his parents also knewthe peBon who would later become hiskarate instructor.

    "l l iked karate and samurai things

    when lwas young," he said. "But thefirst time I started lessons, I wasn'tthinking about becoming a black belt. Ijust l iked it, so I practiced hard."

    Miyazaki continued to study karateeven after he entered college to major ineconomics. And when he graduated fouryears later, he made the choice to devet-op a career as a karate instructor. In rnelate summer of 1966, he left Japan andcame to the united states.

    "l was going to stay two years with afriend who was teaching karate in Cali-fornia," he said. "Then I was going tovisit fr iends in odler countries."

    Instead, three rnonths after arrivingin California, Miyazaki decided to visitNew York where another friend had akarate school.

    "He wanted me to become his part-ner," Miyazaki said. "So'we talked itover. The school uras successful, but hehad a family and many children, so hewanted to spend more time with them.He also had a regular job, and it waskind of hard for him to teach classes,too."

    Miyazaki agreed to stay on as a part-ner in the school, but soon found him-

    self faced with greater responsibility.The increasing pressure on his friendeventually forced him to decide betweenthe school and his profession, and al-most overnight, Miyazaki became soleowner of the karate school. As onemight guess, the economics of the situa-tion were of l i tt le problem to him. Hisgreatest hardship came about in anotherarea.

    "The students thought I was so fun-ny because I couldn't speak any En-glish," he said, with the words of some-one who has come a long way in dealingwith the situation. "l was just doingkicking and punching instead of actuallyexplaining what I was doing. Their in-structor couldn't explain it to the stu-dents since he couldn't speak any En-glish. Maybe some of them thought itdidn't make any sense to teach karatewithout talking."

    The problem was compounded at thesame time, Miyazaki said, by his strictteaching methods.

    "When the students didn't do right,, 'he said, "l used to get mad. I tr ied roexplain so often that sometimes theydon't understand what l 'm talking

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  • about , bu t I go t madder and then somestudents quit. This made me feel sorrybecause we had misunderstood eachother. "

    After 10 years, Miyazaki's methodsare sti l l what many would considers t r i c t . In the en t i re t ime, he has promot -ed on ly 20 s tudents to b lack be l t . Burhe said there are now some differencesbetween the way he teaches and theway he was taught in Japan.

    " ln Japan, the) d idn ' l pa) anent ionto the ind iv idua l , " he sa id . "Or they ex-p la ined someth ing to you a coup le o ftimes, and after that, just started hitt ingor k ick ing you i f you d idn ' t do i t r igh t .

    "You can do anything with this weap.on," claimS shotokan instructor Toyo-taro Miyazaki of the bo. The stylisttavors a th in , l igh t bo fo r h is demonst ra -t ions .

    For cxample , i f you d idn ' t make a f i s tt ight, they told you about it once. Afterthat, they started hitt ing your fist witha stick, and you had to find out whyyou are getting hit."

    ln contrast, Miyazaki said, his teach-ing of karate in America is considerablyless dramatic.

    " ln Japan, peop le g row up w i th ka-rate in the street," he said, "so theydon ' t compla in much about i t i f they

  • If your performance is wrong inthey are going to take you down

    on the hard wooden floor, Andpeople start studying karate inthey think this rough approach is

    way it ought to be taught, so theycomplain. But you can't do that

    America. People here teach withexplanalion.

    , ' "Studentl are really, really good in," Miyazzki said in answer to the

    of whether or not students inare more proficient than Students

    America, "But Americans are reallyin karate and they study all tech-

    niques. In Japan, you cannot do cartainniques in some schools, because youto do them in the traditional way."

    In America, Miyazaki said, the tech-niques of one art often may be seen inthe techniques of people in another art.This point was driven home forcefullyto Miyazaki when he began serious tour-nament competit ion after coming toAmerica.

    "l wanted to be an instructor," hesaid, "and I wanted to get more experi-ence. But. l 'm not tall. Standing next toan American, l 'm really small. But I had

    to compete against these really big peo-p le . "

    Instead of entering tournaments re-served only for his shotokan style of ka-rate, lvl iyazaki entered open tourna-men$ in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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    "For tunate ly , " he sa id , , , l came outin first place in most of the tournamenrI entered. But at least ten percent of mylechniques were not traditional shoto-kan techniques."

    The wheel kick is an example ofsome of the techniques Miyazaki said heslarted using af[er he came to America.

    "l never use that for f ighting,,, hecontinued. "l use that for practice fight-ing. But I did use it once against a tallopponent who was hard to reach, so Iscored good."

    ln 1971, Miyazaki retired from com-petit ion because of an injury to hisKnees.

    "l had enough experience in compe-tit ion," he said. "l was getting more andmore students, so I had to spend moreand more time teaching."

    This comment may be connected tosomething Miyazaki said later in the in-fervrew:

    "Sometimes karat makes peoplesick. Many people put too much energyinto karak and nothing else. Just ka-rate, karate, karate. After ten years,t