Shotokan Way: Interview with Master T. Okazaki
Interview with Mr. Teruyuki Okazaki, 9th Dan
Chairman and Chief Instructor of the ISKF
By Paul Willoughby
(Paul Willoughby) Okazaki Sensei, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I have read that you were instrumental in establishing the JKA’s instructor training program. When you established the ISKF’s program, did you model it after the JKA’s program or did you have to make any changes?
(Teruyuki Okazaki) Well, Mr. Nakayama would always come to Master Camp. I explained to him that ISKF-US was growing and we had many members. I told him that we need more official instructors since we didn’t have any official American instructors at the time. Mr. Nakayama asked me how many we needed. I told him we needed 50 since the US has 50 states and I need that many for the future. Mr. Nakayama thought I was joking and said that we don’t have 50 instructors. So, he suggested that I start an instructor training program in the US. He knew that I helped him start it in Japan and he told me to do exactly like we did it in Japan. All of the subjects and everything are exactly the same. In Japan at that time, we didn’t have any part time instructor trainees, they were all full time. I told Mr. Nakayama that the US is a little different than Japan so I started a part time program. Ron Johnson and Gerald Evans did the program full time. Full time means that the organization pays expenses and then you have to practice, study and assist with teaching 6 days a week. We still have a full time program for anyone who wants it but it is difficult for most people. Young, single people can do it but if you have a family it is very hard, so that’s why we have a part time program. Whether you complete it part time or full time, the qualifications are the same; it just takes a little more time to complete.
(PW) I notice that there are many part time trainees like myself. Are there any full time trainees?
(TO) Well, there are a few that are like half and half. They have a full time job but they’d like to do the program full time so they come to the dojo everyday to practice and help teach.
(PW) About what percentage of trainees who begin the program actually finish and become certified instructors?
(TO) In the East Coast itself we have about 80 trainees and I can count by hand all of the qualified instructors. We have 11 in the East Coast and that is the largest number in the US.
(PW) You seem to embody the principle of nijukun #9 – Karate is lifelong Training. Your energetic teaching style and agility for a man of your age never ceases to amaze me. I also know that you have a very extensive teaching and travel schedule. What is it about training and teaching Karate that keeps you going when most of your contemporaries would have retired years ago?
(TO) Well, Mr. Funakoshi told us that Karate is lifetime training. He was still training a week before he passed away. So, I try to follow in his footsteps. Even though he was 89 years old, he was still training and teaching the week before he passed away because he wanted to share his experience. I feel challenged to be like Master Funakoshi. Of course, physically, once you’re older you cannot move as quickly like when you were younger but that’s nature. You cannot go against nature but you can still continue to develop. I want to give everything that I have experienced to the next generation.
(PW) Do you have any advice to offer the current and future instructor trainees?
(TO) Yes, just as I was saying during today’s subject. As an instructor, you have to be able to practice yourself and continuously keep your abilities. It is important to show your students a good example. That’s why I told you in class today that if I see your students, I can judge what kind of instructor you are. Your students are your instructors. If they are not doing things right, that means you did something wrong and when that happens, don’t blame your students, you must blame yourself. Challenge yourself always.
(PW) Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions for me.
(TO) Hai. My pleasure.