Kancho: I was told it’s a very hot country and it is true. As for the students in Singapore, I challenge them to train more. It’s important to build up one’s balance and to strengthen the body.
AKS: Could you share some tips with us on how we can improve further?
Kancho: Improve your flexibility with more stretching. Focus on the styles and techniques. For Ashihara Karate, remember to hone your technique and timing. You can build these up through practice… and more practice! I hope the beginners learn to enjoy themselves. For senior students, do practice more and become stronger.
AKS: Kancho, we know you visit many countries in your role as NIKO leader. Which countries’ students have left the deepest impression on you?
Kancho: That would be the students in Russia, Denmark and Romania. Over the years I’ve seen them level up a lot. The takeaway would be to stretch more, become more flexible, and to learn more about our techniques. Most of all, enjoy yourself!
AKS: With the Tokyo Olympics coming in 2020, Karate is one of the sports added into the global competition. Do you see any chance of Ashihara Kaikan fielding a champion for the Games?
Kancho: That’s very unlikely, as the Olympics Karate is not a full-contact version. However, I hope more people will become more interested in Karate as a result of the Games. We do see increasing interest from children to adults. I want the children to improve through their karate training. To grow stronger, take part in tournaments to gain confidence, and to understand that Karate is a way of life.
AKS: Speaking of tournaments, what are your thoughts on tournaments? Do you encourage NIKO members to participate in them?
Kancho: I encourage it. NIKO organizes our own tournaments, and we have champions who take part in the Japan Karate Federation, including women too (AKS: Follow the exploits of Japan women’s champ Kikukawa Yui at this link.).
AKS: Kancho, you’ve shared a little about your hopes for children learning karate. Can you share what it was like learning karate when you were a child, under Sendai Kancho?
Kancho: I started when I was 3 years old. That means I’ve trained for 38 years. My relationship with my father was like one between master and student. I called him Sensei when I was growing up. He was a strict father and if I did something wrong, my father would not hesitate to discipline me. When I was 12, I remember vividly how he made me stand against a wall. He then took knives and threw them at me as a form of punishment. I was shaking as the knives struck the wall around me! Of course, I am not like this with my own children!
AKS: On a side note, could you share with us what’s the rationale of Ashihara Kaikan not having many senior black belts with many dan?
Kancho: The more dan you collect, the longer your belt becomes! Jokes aside, we wish to maintain the standards of our karate by limiting the number of dan we hand out. Sendai Kancho didn’t carry dan on his belt, and neither do I.
AKS: How has Ashihara Karate changed over the years from when your father led it, to how it is today?
Kancho: In the past, when Ashihara Karate was new, we practiced more punches to the face. It’s a good thing that this practice is returning. Ashihara Karate originated as a fighting karate, and that’s what it is famous for. I am glad we are returning to our origins!
AKS: Thank you Kancho, for your time to take this interview. We hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in Singapore. Osu!