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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 18, 2001

Martial art has physical and spiritual sides

By Seabrook Mow
Special to The Advertiser

Kancho Kanazawa never dreamed that his organization would expand beyond 30 clubs.

Technique and control are highly regarded in kumite (free sparring), but sometimes a strong thrust counts, too. Here, Alaine Sacbalan slams a fist into the jaw of Lauren Porter during their match at the inaugural Kanazawa Cup at the Manoa Valley District Park gym.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Today, Shotokan Karate Do International Federation has approximately 3 million teachers and practitioners in more than 100 countries.

"I never did expect it to grow this big," Kanazawa said yesterday through interpreter and former student Victor Takemori of Pearl City.

The Shotokan founder was here for the inaugural Kanazawa Cup, which featured 350 competitors from 15 countries, including Bangladesh and Trinidad, at Manoa Valley District Park gym.

Competition was held in kata (a set routine of moves) and kumite (free sparring). In kumite, technique and control — being able to pull the strike back before impact — are regarded above unnecessary aggression.

Kanazawa, 70, a 10th dan black belt, first came to Hawai'i more than 40 years ago when he was assigned by the Japan Karate Association to teach and promote karate in the United States.

One of his first students here was Takemori, now a 70-year-old retired food manager who teaches Shotokan Karate in Pearl City. Takemori recalled his first meeting with Kanazawa.

"I had heard from a friend about a karate teacher from Japan who's going to teach karate over here," Takemori said. "So I had to go, and from the start I was very impressed by sensei's technique like just the hip movement to the posture."

Takemori said he achieved lifelong benefits from taking Shotokan Karate. "I gained a lot, like confidence, and it made me a better person."

Takemori, a 7th dan black belt, says Kanazawa's technique is so precise that for demonstration purposes he has a student hold three wooden boards together and asks someone to chose which board he or she wants broken. Usually, the person will chose the middle board. With a quick kick, Kanazawa will break it without damaging the other two.

Kancho Kanazawa said he is teaching "etiquette and mannerism."

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Along with physical development, Kanazawa tries to instill the spiritual side into his students. He does not subscribe to the flashy styles being popularized by movies.

"What I wanted to teach through the training is the etiquette and mannerism, and betterment of self improvement," Kanazawa said.

Yesterday's tournament evolved through a little luck. Kanazawa always wanted to hold a tournament in Hawai'i, which he considers his second home, but he could never get it organized.

Then, while visiting last year to oversee and teach classes, Kanazawa went golfing with former students Frank and Stan Mukai. There, he met another of his former pupils — Gov. Ben Cayetano, who had taken lessons from Kanazawa in the early '60s, eventually earning a brown belt. The two began talks, which led to yesterday's inaugural tournament.

Cayetano said he never forgot what Kanazawa taught him. "He's one of many people that have impressed me," he said. "He taught you always try to do what you think is right and you always try to be honest about things. And if you conduct yourself like that, you'll become a successful person. That's what he's done for me.

"I still remember the basic moves and I think I could still defend myself," Cayetano said with a laugh.