Fragen an Shihan Koichi Sugimura

Wie es zu dem Interview kam

Zwei Zufäl­le führ­ten zum Inter­view. Erstens gab Shi­han Sug­i­mu­ra vier Trai­nings im Kim Dojo Zürich, weil das Dojo in Uster über­schwemmt wur­de. Und Ets­uko, unse­re japa­ni­sche Kara­te­ka, mach­te gera­de dann Sommerferien.
Wie ihr seht, war Shi­han Sug­i­mu­ra ein­ver­stan­den, uns auch Fra­gen jen­seits von Gya­ku- vs. Oi-Tsu­ki zu beant­wor­ten. Ets­uko hat die Fra­gen auf Japa­nisch und die Ant­wor­ten von Japa­nisch auf Eng­lisch über­setzt. Wir fin­den die Ant­wor­ten infor­ma­tiv und zum Nach­den­ken anre­gend. Aber lest selbst.

Wir dan­ken Shi­han Sug­i­mu­ra herz­lich für das Interview!

Das Bei­trags­bild aus dem Eikan­do Park in Kyo­to hat Ets­uko beigesteuert.

Questions about Karate in general

What do you say about Kara­te as a sport ver­sus tra­di­tio­nal Kara­te? What is the impact con­side­ring Kara­te  beco­ming an Olym­pic disci­pli­ne in 2020?

Like Ame­ri­can Foot­ball and Fen­cing, so cal­led dan­ge­rous sports, Kara­te fol­lows strict rules and the ath­le­tes are wea­ring pro­tec­tors in order to avo­id injuries.

WKF/SKF style Sun-Dome (stop a punch befo­re it hits the opponent’s body deeper than his/her skin to pre­vent inju­ry, look here) Kara­te is elec­ted for the Olym­pic Games 2020. Actual­ly many dif­fe­rent groups do their Kara­te fol­lo­wing own rules and regu­la­ti­ons, and some are very par­ti­cu­lar. I think from 2020 the Olym­pic rules will be the Kum­ite rules which will set the stan­dard of Kara­te and being part of the Olym­pic Games will increa­se the sta­tus of Karate.

As in ten­nis or soc­cer, sci­en­ti­fic accu­ra­cy in judgments using came­ras and elec­tro­nic devices will make the expe­ri­ence for the audi­ence more enjoyable.

Kata also is an Olym­pic Kara­te disci­pli­ne. As long as the judgment is sub­jec­tively made, I sup­po­se that the trend will go to more show in Kata com­pe­ti­ti­on, which I do not favor. Kata per­for­mance by dif­fe­rent groups as a show could demon­stra­te Kara­te to the world more attrac­ti­ve, even though it goes off the pro­per Karate.

What whe­re your sources of inspi­ra­ti­on? (Masters, Books, incidents)

In my more than 60 years of Kara­te life I have met many gre­at Sen­s­ei, Sen­pai and fri­ends I trai­ned tog­e­ther. Espe­ci­al­ly the encoun­ter with Shin­ji MICHIHARA Sen­s­ei was my big­gest luck in my care­er (he was the lec­tu­rer of Nip­pon Sport uni­ver­si­ty, the Shi­han of Kara­te Club of Nip­pon Sport Uni­ver­si­ty, the  tech­ni­que Shi­han of Tokyo Pre­fec­tu­ral Kara­te Asso­cia­ti­on). He was a won­derful Sen­s­ei for me and I trai­ned by him till I left for Euro­pe (Sep­tem­ber 1965).  If I had not met him, I would never have kept on doing Kara­te for such a long time.

Sin­ce I came to Ger­ma­ny, I had Kana­za­wa Sen­s­ei, Naka­ya­ma Sen­s­ei, Asai Sen­s­ei and other Sen­s­eis as masters in JKA and lear­ned a lot of valuable things from them. Ochi Sen­s­ei, as old as I am, as a gre­at per­son had an impact on me. Many books I have read, but the actu­al exer­cise under the gre­at peo­p­le is much bet­ter than any words, I think.

What are your wis­hes for the Swiss Karat­dô Ren­mei (SKR)?

The SKR was estab­lished in 1969 and it will be soon beco­me 50. Most of the ori­gi­nal foun­da­ti­on mem­bers have pas­sed away, but some are still fine and doing Kara­te like Jür­gen Stut­te­rich (born in 1943, soon 75 years old), Rene Weber, Tom­ma­so Mini, Peter Buho­fer are alre­a­dy vete­rans and train young peo­p­le in their own Kara­te Dojo.

When I star­ted Kara­te (ca.1955), only young men did Kara­te, but nowa­days child­ren, women and even elder peo­p­le are doing Kara­te and I find that SKR has coped well with the times.

On the tit­le of the memo­ri­al book of the 40th anni­ver­sa­ry of SKR, Sei­zo FUJIMURA Sen­s­ei wro­te Fri­end­ship-Cul­tu­re lin­ked with Tradition.

After 10 years his idea is taking shape and I belie­ve that next gene­ra­ti­on will fol­low and take up the sprit from the acti­ve SKR mem­bers and me. I am sure, when they will give ratio­nal and serious trai­ning for all ages, the pro­s­pects for the future of SKR look very bright.

Questions about Karate as a philosophy

Is the­re a link bet­ween Kara­te and Zen?

Kara­te should be regard­ed like other sports. By the for­tu­ne of having the good Sen­s­ei, good trai­ning places and con­di­ti­ons, good col­le­agues and the cor­rect, ratio­nal tea­ching, one can impro­ve his Kara­te by hims­elf.  The young peo­p­le should go actively for tour­na­ments. The efforts to win the fights can earn them the big pro­gress in phy­si­cal strength and Kara­te techniques.

But despi­te their strong will and much efforts, the­re are the limits of phy­si­cal strength by aging. And when they can­not win the fight any­mo­re, the importance of Kara­te chan­ges and the mind does not keep on with Kara­te. So reg­rett­ab­ly the excel­lent Kara­te­kas who won many tit­les and ear­ned sple­ndid results could not find inte­rest in trai­ning any­mo­re and stopped.

In young age it is important to try to par­ti­ci­pa­te in the fasci­na­ting tour­na­ments, but later, the­re are also a lot of inte­re­st­ing things when one keeps on trai­ning. I find it of gre­at value to go in trai­ning bey­ond the “out of limits” of the phy­si­cal strength impo­sed by aging, which is cal­led “Kara­te for life”, so I wish as many peo­p­le as pos­si­ble will not give up and con­ti­n­ue training.

When one is young, the phy­si­cal results are important and the men­tal sprit is litt­le. But when one gets older, you can iden­ti­fy yours­elf more with the men­tal condition.

In Gichin FUNAKOSHI’s book “Kara­te­do Ichi­ro” (Kara­te­do in Ear­nest) Sank­ei Shim­bun Co., Ltd. (1956), (chap­ter 6. 6), is writ­ten that kee­ping on Kara­te trai­ning brings peo­p­le to the belief (reli­gi­on) and  will bring them to the per­fec­tion as a human being.

Though I am actual­ly not inte­re­sted in the reli­gi­on so much, I real­ly rea­li­ze the spi­rit (mind) of gre­at importance, but I do not under­stand well how the reli­gi­on can deve­lop it.  Once I have had an inte­re­st­ing stay tog­e­ther with the priests in the Bud­dhist temp­le for 3 days, so that I recom­mend the Kara­te­kas who have been trai­ning serious­ly to stay once in the for­mal Zen temp­le situa­ted deep in the moun­tain and get up befo­re dawn to try to join priests’ trai­ning, that was a very impres­si­ve expe­ri­ence for me.

Does it help the Kara­te­ka to know about the Japa­ne­se Shin­tô (Way of the Gods) reli­gi­on and the Bus­hi­dô (Way of the war­ri­or) moral principles?

When one gets older and rea­li­zes that the­re are limits to phy­si­cal strength, one starts to think of what does it mean to live one’s life.

The wish to keep strong health is not only for Kara­te­ka but for all peo­p­le. I think, Kara­te­do (Do) means gro­wing tog­e­ther with body and spi­rit.  When I was young I could not find value and sen­se in spi­ri­tu­al things. They should just help not losing a fight , not miss­ing a chan­ce to win, and doing the best and rea­ching far in the tour­na­ments. That was all what spi­rit meant for me.

I regard that the peo­p­le who are keen on win­ning in the tour­na­ments have rea­li­zed clea­rer the importance of the spi­rit than other peo­p­le who have never joi­n­ed the tournaments.

Nowa­days peo­p­le look at sports only from the bio­lo­gi­cal side and fol­low the sci­en­ti­fic rese­arch about the body shape of ani­mal and humans. They train their body only under phy­si­cal aspects in order to feel com­for­ta­ble and hap­py. But I am some­what out of this idea.

Though I have never serious­ly stu­di­ed about Zen, Shin­to, Ethics and etc., I am inte­re­sted in the­se things through Kara­te trai­ning. Of cour­se my per­so­na­li­ty has been made up by the stan­dards of Japa­ne­se socie­ty, e.g. what I had to do and what not.  Sin­ce my child­hood time, I min­ded very much about the way of Samu­rai (Bushi­do), but after a long Kara­te life I still do not know exact­ly what it is — and I still have many things to do with my best efforts in aging, now, I just keep on doing.

It is dif­fi­cult to think of some­thing com­ple­te­ly new, so I think one should be inspi­red by Zen or Shin­to or Bushi­do etc. and work into ones own thoughts, stan­dard and ethics, that are only not allo­wed to be the self-righ­teous. They should be uni­ver­sal and make sen­se for everyone.

Kara­te is very hier­ar­chic. How can misu­se of power be prevented?

I think, not only Budo, but also all fields pushing their tech­ni­que out, can­not deve­lop effi­ci­ent­ly and ratio­nal wit­hout hier­ar­chic order.  If the per­son is sel­fi­sh and does not try to be the grand lea­der with the good natu­re, it could be harmful. But when he is the per­son who has been try­ing to pro­gress in Kara­te tech­ni­que and mind, he should regard the nega­ti­ve side of the hier­ar­chic order  “dis­grace (shame)”.  The most important is that both, trai­ners and pupils, must have the clear con­scious­ness to learn together.

Questions about the life of Shihan Sugimura

Are you today more for­gi­ving or more strict when it comes to Karate?

Till 20 years ago, Kara­te was main­ly for young men and the­re were very few women, child­ren and old peo­p­le, so of cour­se the trai­ning was very hard and seve­re. And the­re are still some Dojos whe­re only young peo­p­le do fight­ing trai­ning for the tour­na­ments and make good results. But in our times, I belie­ve that Dojos which only con­cen­tra­te on com­pe­ti­ti­on and neglect the trai­nings for other groups will not exist any­mo­re in 10 years. This is some­thing dif­fe­rent from what I want to sug­gest by the “Kara­te for life”.  Right­ly the fight­ing is also one essen­ti­al part of Kara­te­do, so one should try it hard­ly in young age. I hope to con­ti­n­ue Kara­te­do tog­e­ther with peo­p­le who want to do their best by trai­ning, not like the easy fitness.

Can you tell us some­thing about the nice and less nice moments in your Kara­te life?

My bad memo­ries in Kara­te are only inju­ries. I have a lot of good memo­ries and do not go into details now. My life was made up by Kara­te and was chan­ged by Karate.

By grace of Kara­te, I have had my own way and how I have done it. It could have may­be distur­bed many peo­p­le, but exclu­ding it I have had the good care­er wit­hout any reg­rets. To Kara­te I am most gra­teful now becau­se I have lucki­ly met many gre­at peo­p­le through Kara­te — and I am real­ly hap­py about it.

Many Kara­te­kas are inspi­red by your Kara­te. What do you think when you look back?

I seem to have given somehow influence to Kara­te­kas.  But what I said were my views from my dog­ma­tic way of thin­king that could be enti­re­ly chan­ged in the future becau­se my recent aim of Kara­te­do is kee­ping on trai­ning for the “life as life Kara­te”. So, when it hap­pens that I start to say com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent things, let’s exch­an­ge frank­ly ide­as to dis­cuss and make pro­gress tog­e­ther in Karate.

Question about Kim Dojo

You used to call Kim Dojo an “urban Dojo”. Now we are a “gen­tle­man Dojo”. We think that both labels not only  express prai­se. What points should we deve­lop? What is important to main­tain good Kara­te spirit?

 A long time ago, I have once told that Kim Dojo was somehow dif­fe­rent from other Dojos as it is situa­ted in the big­gest city in Switz­er­land, that made the grown (adult) atmo­sphe­re. The­r­e­fo­re I felt the social gent­le­ness in the Dojo.  It is very important for humans and I hope your Dojo will go on with this spe­cial characteristic.

But Kara­te is the sport for fight­ing and defen­ding from the oppo­nent.  And when you do trai­ning only as a sport and not as Budo (Kara­te­do), your posi­ti­ve gent­le­ness could affect nega­tively in respect to knock the oppo­nent down.

Actual­ly I am afraid that you misun­derstand my words, I do not say that you should do the bru­tal trai­ning lack­ing the human natu­re. The rever­se is what I wro­te in about in  “Can you tell us some­thing about the nice and less nice moments in your Kara­te life?” It should be serious and under ten­si­on, not like the amusing free­ly chat­te­ring fit­ness exer­cise during the Kara­te trai­ning which I always hated.  Of cour­se it is not easy to deal with peo­p­le, but they should be earnest.

Now in Kim Dojo the­re are some women who have been keen on trai­ning to pass the Dan exam for the black belt.  I am sure, the trai­ning, with one’s own con­cre­te goal, or the cer­tain goal show­ed by trai­ners are hel­pful for pupils to moti­va­te for the ear­nest Kara­te trai­ning. So I wish Kim Dojo that peo­p­le will stay enjoya­ble but serious in the training.