"Yoshiharu Osaka sensei was always the textbook of shotokan," one experienced karateka said."True," his colleague replied. "But Kanazawa sensei was always the book of its poetry."

Stories of Hirokazu Kanazawa are a soundtrack of post-training bull sessions. Kanazawa, who won the first All Japan Karate Championship in 1957 — with a broken wrist. (When his mother heard he was dropping out of the competition because of the injury, incurred only days before the event, she asked him why he couldn't win with the other hand and with his kicks, compelling him to stay in. Moms then, and Japanese moms in particular, were a little different.)


Kanazawa who, along with his roommate Takayuki Mikami, was one of the first graduates of the Japan Karate Association's instructor-training program, where his skills were polished by Masatoshi Nakayama, Hidetaka Nishiyama, Teruyuki Okazaki and other members of the JKA whose names are still spoken with reverence.

Kanazawa, who established the United Kingdom and Germany as centers of karate excellence in the West, who was forced to leave the JKA — or who voluntarily left, according to whom you believe — and who founded almost single-handedly an organization that remains among the strongest karate groups in the world.

Clearly, there are lots of stories, some of which are less well-known. Like Kanazawa's repeated sojourns to Okinawa for serious, long-term study of its karate — which flew in the face of a JKA that's always been arrogant and provincial in its refusal to consider such cross-training.

Like his embrace of tai chi, which he credited with improving everything about his budo and which doubtless did much for the synergy of his art, giving it the suppleness and flow that are missing in most iterations of JKA karate today — which explains the comment about his karate being the poetry of the art.

And there are lots of examples of his extraordinary character. One of the least-known is his inspiring humility, his genuine lack of pretension. He always insisted on demystifying the whole "master" nonsense.

Some years ago, Kanazawa visited the offices of Black Belt. He posed for hundreds of photos, performing over and over again the kata known as jion, which were to be used to illustrate an article about him. Over lunch, he answered the editors' questions graciously.

One editor asked, "What is your definition of a sensei?"

Kanazawa smiled. He turned toward one of the two students who had accompanied him, both Japanese, and he spoke in that language.

"Best thing that could happen for American karateka to do is to quit using 'sensei' at all and just start calling us kusobera-san." A visitor who was at the table laughed, prompting Kanazawa to ask, "Did you understand what I said?"

The visitor did. Instead of using paper, Japanese toilets in the feudal era had smooth sticks for cleaning oneself. Kusobera translated as "poop stick."

What Kanazawa meant, he went on to explain, was that students should forget about the "sensei/master" mystique and recognize that teachers are tools, humble tools, meant for improving the lives of their students. They should be treated with respect but not as objects of near-worshipful devotion.

Kanazawa died late last year. He was 88 years old. He was one of the last of the karateka who could consider Gichin Funakoshi to have been a direct teacher. He was one of the most influential martial artists of the last century, as well as one of karate's most inspiring champions, teachers and leaders.

Kanazawa's tens of thousands of students and readers — he wrote several texts on karate — might find it odd that a poop stick would figure in his obituary. Hirokazu Kanazawa, however, the man, the karate sensei, the subject of all those stories, might have found it satisfying.

SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

Just like royalty has dynastic families that rule over nations, martial arts have dynasties that rule over the world of combat. So here's a list of our top five family dynasties in martial arts...


Keep Reading Show less

Having just concluded hosting the Hungary Grand Slam, the first international judo competition in eight months, it was announced Hungary will now host the 2021 Judo World Championships. László Tóth, head of the Hungarian Judo Association, said the event will take place starting on June 3 in Budapest.

The 2021 championships were originally slated to be hosted by Uzbekistan with Hungary to have hosted the 2022 tournament. The world championships will be a qualifying event for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

On Friday, October 30, ONE Championship presents ONE: Inside The Matrix. The event will feature World Championship contests across four divisions with some of the best and most exciting global stars.

The six-bout card from Singapore will air live and free on the B/R Live app starting at 8:30 a.m. EST/5:30 a.m. PST.

Click here to find out how to watch the event if you live outside of the United States.

A Card Full Of Finishers

If there is anything fans should know going into ONE: Inside The Matrix, it is to have their snacks ready because every contest will feature athletes who can finish bouts in the blink of an eye.

Two title challengers, Thanh Le and Iuri Lapicus enter their respective World Championship clashes with perfect finishing rates. However, both of their opponents, Martin "The Situ-Asian" Nguyen and Christian "The Warrior" Lee respectively, have finishing rates above 90%.

In the main event, both Aung La "The Burmese Python" N Sang and Reinier "The Dutch Knight" De Ridder have finishing rates of 92%.

And strawweights "The Panda" Xiong Jing Nan and Tiffany "No Chill" Teo have also finished more than half of their wins before going to the scorecards. In an evening of title tilts, every match for gold is filled with the possibility of a show-stealing ending.

Keep Reading Show less

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his title at the company's "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi Saturday defeating Justin Gaethje by second round submission, then promptly announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.

Gaethje employed a stick and move strategy that helped him avoid Nurmagomedov's relentless wrestling game until the end of the first round when the champion took him to the mat and easily passed his guard going for an armbar attempt. Though the bell sounded before Nurmagomedov could cinch in the armbar, he was instantly back to work in the second round taking Gaethje down, mounting him and wrapping his legs around the challenger's neck to fall back into a perfect triangle choke. Gaethje quickly tapped but, when referee Jason Herzog was slow to step in, he appeared to briefly go unconscious.

Reaction to Khabib Nurmagomedov retiring after UFC 254 win vs. Justin Gaethje | UFC Post Show www.youtube.com

Nurmagomedov, competing for the first time since his father passed away earlier in the year, immediately announced this would be his final fight. If he does stay away from the cage, he leaves the sport with an unblemished 29-0 record.

Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter