Memories of Mitsusuke Harada related to Yoshitaka (Gigo) Funakoshi and their implications
Harada sensei in a biographical book written by Clive Layton, gives us a series of important memories. Many are related to very important karateka and many budoka. For example he gives us great amount of details of extreme relevance related to Yoshitaka (Gigo) Funakoshi, the third and youngest son of O-sensei.
There is for example a place in the book where he recounts details that definitively clear up wrong interpretations related to Shotokai-kan development. He recounts details on the relationship between Yoshitaka and his father. Yoshitaka adored his father and Gichin Funakoshi sensei had complete faith in his son together with the changes and direction in which he was developing his Karate-do. He tells us that they often joked together about the right practice method.
You very often encounter authors, supposedly well informed ones, imagining conflicts and fights between Gigo and O-sensei. Conflicts related to the changes, the training, the method and the correct technique. This is obviously not so. If I let my cynical side take hold, I may say that this could be due to specific interests. By creating conflicts, any deviation from the practice Gichin and Yoshitaka Funakoshi established can be justified. This way sports karate is justified, really low positions are avoided, specific kata are bypassed, etc.
Harada sensei furthermore explains that Yoshitaka’s presence was an overwhelming experience. His mere appearance at the Dojo would change the atmosphere and charge the air with energy, he projected self-confidence and authority even though his height was 5 foot 4.
Harada Sensei classifies him as a member of a small and select group of karateka that combine not only psychological and physical strength but also excel technically and are spiritually advanced. He would never lose his temper unlike his father who would do so at times. Furthermore Harada Sensei clears up a doubt relating to his death, he informs us that it was not due to tuberculosis directly, rather lung gangrene, a terrible condition to die of, but surely related to the tuberculosis he had acquired as a young boy. Somewhere I read that he was killed during the war… this of course is totally wrong.
Furthermore Harada backs up the notion that my Sempai had given me some years ago, that Shotokan practice would have been totally otherwise had he lived past 1945, many NKK (JKA) seniors would not have been in top positions, neither would he have permitted freestyle sports competition. Thus there would never have been a need for Shotokai as a separate organization and Shotokan would never have become a name related to sports karate.
From these two comments Harada sensei makes, you can easily draw some conclusions. I will base the following comments on miscellaneous information.
First of all, freestyle competition is an aberration of Karate-do. Master Gichin Funakoshi was strongly against it. He could have been more forceful but that was a bit against his character, he was strong enough on that point that his less advised and less educated students organized the first sports karate competition a year AFTER his death, that way he could not oppose it. By then Yoshitaka Sensei had also been dead for 12 years, so he could obviously do nothing either.
After Yoshitaka’s death many who had not trained very much, others through political manipulation such as a very important NKK teacher, became a part of the higher hierarchy in the organization. These progressively took over and redirected karate practice towards commercialization and sports. Cynics will say Karate is now known because of them, but my question is, is it Karate-do people know about? They recognize the suits, but that is the skin of Karate-do, there is no guarantee that even though you wear a Karate-gi you are actually practicing Karate-do. I believe that the moment you recognize that competition is useless, either in kata or kumite, and that it actually contradicts the basis of Karate-do, and you modify your practice as a consequence of this insight, real Karate-do begins once again.
If you read interviews of different Sensei’s of Sports Karate you always are surprised by their low opinion on competition, so much that you end up questioning why they ever introduced it!
Masatoshi Nakayama: …I believe all participants that start practicing Karate should first seek traditional Karate, the true, the real practice and then compete if they so desire.
How important should competition be in karate-do in general?
Masao Kawasoe: I think competition should be a minor part.
I am not a master, I am not a sensei, I am a student but I believe these opinions are sound. Whereas some reached that insight much earlier due to hard and sincere practice and able guidance, many of the strong sports karate supporters ended up retracting and subtracting importance to competition and freestyle sparring after a life of training. This is crucial information, why waste forty, fifty years in an egocentric practice to later on realize you were on the wrong road, avoid it immediately. Rather avoid pitfalls and mistakes that have previously been done by others. There are a few lucky ones that are guided by the right teachers, which can explain and guide you in the correct direction from the start. If you have been fortunate enough to fall in their hands, do not let go, do not be tempted by the ego-developing limelight, follow the direction laid down by them and never give up, it’s you duty and it will be your reward.