Budo Karate West
The Kyokushin-Kan International News Blog, Featuring . . .
Unfortunately the news came as somewhat of a shock to some because the news was misstated on public media. Kancho Royama is NOT resigning or even retiring (anytime soon) from Kyokushin-kan. In fact, it would be pretty safe to say that he will never RESIGN (the unfortunate term used in the incorrect announcement), but it is, however, likely that at some point he will RETIRE from his position as chairman. Let’s stop for a moment and consider what that means.
Does it mean that Kancho will abandon us? Of course not! It just means that at some point, as he gets older, he will take a step back from all his professional responsibilities, and start to guide someone younger. Let us remember that this was a step that Sosai Mas Oyama arguably failed to take, himself. And look at the consequences! This author was in Japan last week when Kancho made the announcement (at the Sayonara Party following the International Instructor’s Camp), and I can only say how proud and inspired I was that Kancho and Fuku-Kancho Hiroshige Shihan, are looking to the future and preparing us for what occur SOMEDAY. Kancho is 66, Fuku-Kancho is 67, and Sosai died at the age of 70. Of course Sosai had cancer, and both Kancho and Fuku-Kancho are very healthy and vibrant, but “How genius!” I thought, that both of them, this past week, started to talk to us in the context of a Kyokushin-kan beyond their time. “And how incredible!” I thought, “that Kancho is so sure of a successor, Shihan Hiroto Okazakki, that he is comfortable enough to announce it, while he still has so much time left with us as our leader.
For those of us that have been a regular part of the International Seminars the anouncement that Kancho’s successor will be Okazaki Shihan comes as no suprise. Already, for years, Shihan Okazaki has been taking over a larger and larger portion of the teaching at Kyokushin-kan events. Whereas Kancho has been for all of us the epitome of the Budo spirit, and Hiroshige Shihan (who trained more champions during Sosai’s era than any other instructor in Japan) has been the epitome of tournament fighting genius, it has been Okazaki Shihan who has emerged as Kyokushin-kan’s techical savant in terms of PERFECT kata and how the tradional ART of karate relates to modern-day full contact tournament fighting.
Perhaps it will help folks who were not present in Japan last week to understand if I describe another parallel topic that was discussed last weekend. Kancho and Okazaki Shihan went to great lengths this week to describe for us the history and meaning of the term “Shihan” and expressed an intent to return Kyokushin-kan, even more aggressively, to the traditional (some might say “historical”) system. “Shihan” we were taught, only became a title associated with dan rank during the Kyokushinkaikan numbers boom of the latter decade(s) of Sosai’s life. At that time, anyone who achieved a certain dan, would be called, “Shihan.” Since Kyokushin-kan’s inception, however, Kyokushin-kan has made its intent clear to separate the two by requiring instructors to hold a special license or certificate to call themselves “Shihan”, with only some lenience given to senior instructors who joined our organization who were already accustomed to using the term before joining Kyokushinkan.
Without exception, however, no new “Shihans” have been created by Kyokushin-kan who have not tested, specifically, for a “shihan license” (“Shihan Menkyo” in Japanese) at a promotion test hosted by Kancho. Perhaps, the distinction, however, has only become more strict with time. This author has been to all of the international instructor’s seminars and I can not recall any student being promoted to Shihan in just one attempt. “Let’s see your improvement by next year,” candidates are regularly told. The key point that was made this past week, however, is that “Shihan”, Okazaki Shihan explained, was historically not something that you WANT and therefore ask for. It is rather something that is BESTOWED upon you when the senior instructor responsible for the lineage determines that you are ready to carry that lineage into the future as a “defender of the teaching,” one might say. One can be sure that a future “Okazaki Kancho” is not going to bestow the title “Shihan” on future instructors, until he trusts that teacher’s knowledge and ability to defend the future transmission of KANCHO ROYAMA’S TEACHING, and accordingly Sosai Mas Oyama’s teaching, who went before him.
And THAT is the key point that all of us who have attended international seminars regularly can see so clearly. There is no doubt that Kancho Royama has this level of great trust in his senior student, Shihan Hiroto Okazai, to where he can rest easy and know that his teaching, and Sosai’s teaching, will not only be carried into the future, but will also continue to be improved with time.
Personally, this author is next to speechless, in awe of bearing witness to this early stage of this future transfer. For those of you in Kyokushin-kan on the peripherals who have not borne witness to the “tightening” that is occurring at the top of Kyokushin-kan, please feel at ease taking my word for it and be intensely proud to be part of the branch of Sosai Mas Oyama’s Kyokushin karate that is, once again, remaining at the forefront of an initiative to protect, revitalize and further Sosai’s Kyokushin karate. We live in an era where other instructors simply continue to propagate an imperfect knowledge of what Sosai’s karate was at the moment in time in which they personally learned from Sosai; Kyokushin-kan under the leadership of Kancho Royama, who learned from Sosai in an unbroken fashion for 30 years, is showing us, time after time, depth and TRUTH associated with Sosai’s Kyokushin that many of us didn’t even know existed.
IS there a difference, after all, between following Kancho Royama or a future Kancho Okazaki? Well, the two ARE different men from different generations, and there DEFINITELY was a MAJOR difference between Sosai Mas Oyama and his initial successor Kancho Matsui. But here, in this case, for this author? No. For years already I have already seen Okazaki Shihan as the instrument of Kancho Royama’s teaching. There couldn’t be a better choice, and Kancho Royama teaches us, again, the Kyokushin Way as it was meant to be taught.