Soke Kanazawa - OSS

Within the world of Shotokan karate, the word “OSS” is no longer viewed in terms of its Japanese origins, but has developed into a universal greeting understood by practitioners across the globe. It is used in various situations not only for such basic every day greetings as “hello”, “goodbye”, and “glad to meet you”, but also to convey “thank you” and “ I understand”. To use “OSS” correctly, you must utter it from the lower abdomen with a properly executed bow, displaying respect, trust, and sincerity toward the person(s) to whom it is directed.

In Japanese, “OSS” is written using the Chinese characters 押忍, meaning “push” and “endure” respectively. The first character conveys a forward-looking attitude and fighting spirit, a willingness always to push forward, regardless of circumstances. The second character conveys the idea that, through perseverance, any obstacle or setback, no matter how formidable, can be overcome.

With youth comes the physical and mental strength to endure almost any hardship or challenge. Without daily training, however, these faculties will not develop. As expressed in the Japanese proverb, ‘A jewel will not sparkle unless polished”, talents cannot be perfected without efforts. The use of “OSS” as a greeting helps young people to remember this important lesson from day to day while also providing mutual encouragement to maintain the mental attitude that this lesson demands. I have heard that “OSS” was first used at Japan’s naval academy.

In Japan, there have been some misunderstandings concerning “OSS”, which have resulted in its use being banned in some places. I believe that this was because of some karate practitioners annoying others by repeatedly screaming, “OSS! OSS!” at tournaments and elsewhere.

“OSS” is not a word to be used casually or indiscriminately. I would like everyone who uses it to do so paying special attention to proper attitude, state of mind, and vocalization. With the chin drawn in and the back straight, “OSS” is said while bowing once. The motion, breathing, and vocalization involved contribute to the concentration of spirit and strength in the lower abdomen. Viewed in terms of the principles of Yin (negative, dark, feminine) and Yang (positive, bright, masculine), the breathing and vocalization employed in the use of “OSS” would be categorized as Yin.

Rather than do away with “OSS”, I would like to encourage the understanding of this word by educating others in the value of its meaning and the proper method in which it should be used.

(Selected from the book – “Karate Fighting Techniques by Soke Kanazawa” )

What is Karate-Do?

In Okinawa, a miraculous and mysterious martial art has come down to us from the past. It is said that one who masters its techniques can defend himself readily without resort to weapons and can perform remarkable feats: the breaking of several thick boards with his fist or ceiling panels of a room with a kick. With his shuto (“sword hand”) he can kill a bull with a single stroke; he can pierce the flank of a horse with his open hand; he can cross a room grasping the beams of the ceiling with his fingers, crush a green bamboo stalk with his bare hand, shear a hemp rope with a twist, or gouge soft rock with his hands.

Some consider these aspects of this miraculous and mysterious martial art to be the essence of Karate-do. But such feats are a small part of karate, playing a role analogous to the straw-cutting test of kendo [Japanese fencing], and it is erroneous to think that there is no more to Karate-do than this. In fact, true Karate-do places weight upon spiritual rather than physical matters, as we shall discuss. True Karate-do is this: that in daily life, one’s mind and body be trained and developed in a spirit of humility; and that in critical times, one be devoted utterly to the cause of justice.


Karate-do is a martial art peculiar to Okinawa in its origins. Although it has in the past tended to be confused with Chinese boxing because of the use of the Chinese character “kara ” character in its earlier name, in fact for the past thousand years, the study and practice of masters and experts, through which it was nurtured and perfected and formed into the unified martial art that it is today, took place in Okinawa. It is, therefore, not a distortion to represent it as an Okinawan martial art.

One may ask why the Chinese “kara” character has been retained for so long. As I discuss in the section “The Development of Karate-do,” I believe that at the time the influence of Chinese culture was at its peak in Japan, many experts in the martial arts traveled to China to practice Chinese boxing. With their new knowledge, they altered the existing martial art, called Okinawa-te, weeding out its bad points and adding good points to it, thus working it into an elegant art. It may be speculated that they considered as an appropriate new name. Since, even in contemporary Japan, there are many people who are impressed by anything that is foreign, it is not difficult to imagine the high regard for anything Chinese that prevailed during that period in Okinawa. Even at the time of the present writer’s youth, lack of a full set of Chinese furniture and furnishings in one’s home was a serious impediment to the social influence of any leading family. With this background, the reason for the choice of the character唐, meaning “Chinese,” as a simple case of exoticism is apparent.

The meaning of KARA

The first connotation of kara indicates that karate is a technique that permits one to defend himself with his bare hands and fists without weapons.

Second, just as it is the clear mirror that reflects without distortion, or the quiet valley that echoes a sound, so must one who would study Karate-do purge himself of selfish and evil thoughts, for only with a clear mind and conscience can he understand that which he receives. This is another meaning of the element kara in Karate-do.

Next, he who would study Karate-do must always strive to be inwardly humble and outwardly gentle. However, once he has decided to stand up for the cause of justice, then he must have the courage expressed in the saying, “Even if it must be ten million foes, I go!” Thus, he is like the green bamboo stalk: hollow (kara) inside, straight, and with knots, that is, unselfish, gentle, and moderate. This meaning is also contained in the element kara of Karate-do.

Finally, in a fundamental way, the form of the universe is emptiness (kara), and, thus, emptiness is form itself. There are many kinds of martial arts, judo, kendo, sojitsu (“spear techniques”), bojitsu (“stick techniques”), and others, but at a fundamental level all these arts rest on the same basis as Karate-do. It is no exaggeration to say that the original sense of Karate-do is at one with the basis of all martial arts. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form itself. The kara of Karate-do has this meaning.

(Selected from SKIF HQ Web Page; original from the book: Karate-Do Kyohan by Master Gichin Funakoshi)

Soke Kanazawa - KATA - Form

KATA (Form) is the legacy left by the masters who created these techniques through grueling practices, personal encounters, spiritual and emotional experience. Consequently besides the fighting techniques used in real encounters it is also a form of gymnastics (that may be applied to physical rehabilitation) and a philosophy.

Fighting an imaginary opponent in a given KATA is a personal challenge and only through this form of mental training the martial art has a value. The Shodoka calligrapher creates art form on white paper with sumi black ink, likewise the Budoka as exponent of the way of martial arts, expresses his personality with his techniques. When performing a KATA, to remain calm and with a clear mind, we must always concentrate and maintain our Ki until the last movement. We should co- ordinate the mind and power in each movement with proper breathing.

Once every three times the KATA should be performed without any power to learn how to tense and relax the proper muscles. Concentrating our Ki 氣 below the navel area where it is the most efficient will help the body to relax and will clear the mind, thus, every technique performed with either hands or feet will have a life of its own. I would like to suggest this form of training when performing a KATA.

We must practice the numerous and basis techniques in SHOTOKAN KATA and always adapt them to our technical level. This is one of the main points to understand KATA and would like to suggest the readers to bear this in mind.”

The main difference in styles and teaching methods of KARATE-DO is clearly shown in KATA.
When performing a KATA, it is important to maintain the same serious attitude as in KUMITE, equally important as mentioned in volume one is to stay calm and with a clear mind. I would like to insist on this important point to enable you to express the true meaning of KATA.

KATA was an integral part of martial art training. The original form was the solitary and repeated practice as opposed to the students performing at the same time under the instructor’s command in a DOJO. This is a beginner’s form. KATA is mastered when the techniques of defense and counterattacks are combined with proper breathing.

KATA practice is not meant for demonstration, but to help us improve through its study our ability in KUMITE and later make a practical application in a real encounter. Consequently the essence of KATA is not beauty of the movement but efficiency in the movement. When the performer can communicate the impression of beauty and power and mainly if the same feeling can be projected if viewed from behind, he may claim mastery of the KATA.

Actually there is a great tendency to practice extensively the KATA we prefer forgetting the others. If we view KARATE as a form of self-defense, we should also endeavor to practice the other KATA because all the techniques are not included in a KATA only.”

(Selected from the books: Shotokan Karate International KATA Volumes 1&2, written by Soke Kanazawa)

Soke Kanazawa - KUMITE - Sparring

In karate, through the practice of kata – the prearranged forms comprising a series of offensive and defensive techniques that are performed individually against imaginary opponents – we are able to learn essential body movements and a wide array of attacks and blocks . In short, kata represent a veritable storehouse of diverse karate techniques.

Through kumite, or sparring, we learn how to employ the varied techniques that are contained within kata against one or more actual opponents. Accordingly, kumite represents the application of kata, and could be thought of as kata that requires the use of maai( the distance maintained between opponents during kumite).

In karate-do(the way of karate), kata and kumite share equal importance, comparable to the two wheels of a cart.

Long ago, when karate was originally practiced on the island of Okinawa, the focus was mainly on kata, with occasional “ tests of strength” , called kake-dameshi, for tsuki (punching) and uke(blocking) techniques. It was only after Master Funakoshi introduced karate to Japan proper that an elementary form of kumite began to be practiced and the same level of importance was given to the training of both kata and kumite. Following many years of research, this gradually evolved into the tournament-style karate that we know today.

Kumite comprises two general categories: 1) Yakusoku kumite, or promise sparring, in which the attacking technique and target are predetermined ; and 2) Jiyu kumite , or free sparring, in which practitioners are free to test their abilities by employing the attacking and blocking techniques of their choice.

Yakusoku-kumite can be further broken down into three sub-categories: 1) kumite for building strength and endurance, 2) kumite for learning the proper execution of techniques, and 3) kumite for mastering the essential components of actual combat, including timing, proper maai(distance), tenshin(body rotation) , and tai-sabaki(body shifting).

To elaborate further, the first sub-category, called tanren kumite(training kumite), is for building physical strength, developing physical and mental preparedness, and learning stepping techniques and proper breathing in accordance with the level of the practitioner.

The second sub-category, called kihon kumite(basic kumite), emphasizes the proper execution of basic techniques and various stances. In both tanren kumite and kihon kumite, attacker and defender face each other from a set distance and alternate techniques in turn as pre-agreed. The third sub-category, called yakusoku jiyu-kumite(promise free sparring), approaches free sparring as there is no set distance maintained between attacker and defender, and techniques are exchanged as fast and as strongly as abilities will permit. Yakusoku jiyu kumite enables practitioners to study maai, develop a sense for sparring , and learn about such aspects as tenshin and tai-sabaki.

And lastly, representing the final stage of kumite, there is jiyu kumite, in which practitioners exchange attacks and blocks without prior consultation or warning, competing on a mental level as well as a physical level.

During jiyu kumite, the punches, strikes, and kicks used when attacking must be controlled , stopping a single sun 寸(approx. 3 cm, or 1 ¼ inches) before the intended target( a practice called sun-dome寸止). Making physical contact with an opponent is forbidden. Regardless of the speed and ferocity with which they may be delivered, attacking techniques must be brought to an immediate halt just before reaching the target.

Jiyu kumite can be divided into two categories: shiai kumite(match-style kumite), which presupposes actual combat; and the sports-oriented kyogi kumite(tournament kumite).

The following lists the various types of kumite and shows how they are related:

Kumite –

  1. Yakusoku kumite (promise sparring)

1.1 Tanren kumite (training sparring)

1.1.1 Gohon kumite (five step sparring)

1.1.2 Sanbon kumite (three step sparring)

1.2 Kihon kumite (basic sparring)

1.2.1 Kihon ippon-kumite (basic one step sparring)

1.2.2 Kaeshi ippon-kumite (attack & counter one-step sparring)

1.3 Yakushoku jiyu-kumite (promise free sparring)

1.3.1 Jiyu ippon-kumite (free-style one-step sparring)

1.3.2 Okuri jiyu ippon-kumite (follow-through free-style one-step sparring)

1.4 Oyo kumite (applied sparring)

1.4.1 Happo kumite (eight-direction sparring)

1.4.2 Kumite Gata (sparring form)

2. Jiyu Kumite(free sparring)

2.1 Kyogi kumite (sport, tournament)

2.2 Shiai kumite( budo, match-style sparring)

(Selected from the book : Karate Fighting Techniques – by Soke Kanazawa)

Soke Kanazawa Demonstrates Choku-zuki - basic punching

Soke Kanazawa teaches correct stances - Basic stance and posture

Soke Kanazawa teaches correct mawashi-geri - basic kicking technique


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