Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hanshi Eihachi Ota's Three Questions

The following article was submitted by an old friend and long time karateka, Kyoshi Michael George. Thank you Kyoshi George for sharing this with us.

GM Jim Harrison (left), Kyoshi Mike George (center),
and GM Bob Yarnall (right)

A few years ago my friend Hanshi Eihachi Ota asked me to answer 3 questions. He said he would post my answers to his web page and did. If I answered these today, I might change a few things but not much. I know this is about Shorin Ryu, but others might find it helpful. The following are my answers:
Question 1. What improvements do we need for a successful Shorin Ryu style today?
Have an open mind. Bruce Lee once said “That the usefulness of a cup is in its emptiness.” To put it another way, “the usefulness of the mind is its openness.” I believe that we should strive to learn all that has come before and all that has been passed down to us from past teachers. But, we also need to be open to new knowledge and methods.
We need to…
• Be creative in the ways we teach.
• Find people who can be mentors and take advantage of their experience.
• Brainstorm with other teachers and coaches.
• Create a positive environment and team chemistry for our students to be a part of.
• Be good communicators.
• Teach our student to set goals for themselves - long term as well as short term. Process goals as well as outcomes.
Question 2. In your opinion, what are the mandatory characteristics of a Shorin Ryu role model and leader?
• He or she must be able to motivate and communicate.
• He or she should be as fit as age and health will allow. Students often come in to a new dojo looking to get in shape as well as to acquire self discipline. If the instructor is out of shape, what message is he or she sending to his students?
• Beginning students should always be taught tradition, as it is vital if they are to have a good start.
• A sensei should have a good understanding of the principles of his or her style and be able to plan and deliver meaningful instructions, taking into account the varying needs, interests and abilities of his/her students.
Question 3. What areas of knowledge must a Shorin Ryu practitioner have to be considered a master?
I have a problem with the notion that anyone ever really becomes a master. But I will try to give you my thoughts on what it takes to be considered a Renshi (one who knows), Kyoshi (one who teaches), and Hanshi (a model for the whole). A comparison may be made to our college and university system of degrees - Bachelor, Master, and PhD.
To start with he or she must know all kata and bunkai (application) for their system, as well as their system’s technical requirements. From this point, one is just getting started. I also feel that a person needs to be part sports psychologist, part personal trainer, and part student with an unending quest for knowledge.


  1. Some people respect traditions, I am one of them. However, once during a warm up time before a class, I did the Chen Tai Chi 108 form. I was a Black Belt under Sensei Ota in Los Angeles and was visiting from Palm Springs where I had a Dojo at the Palm Springs Youth Center. I think that Sensei Ota might have been upset a little about that. I respect Sensei Ota and love his dedication to the Shorin Ryu.
    However, it has been written that a pond can grow stale if a fresh stream does not flow into it. The classical Karate is wonderful, to include the Zen aspect or option. I
    was told to try to perfect one system before looking beyond. I must ask myself if Bruce Lee or many MMA people will agree? Bruce Lee studied Wing Chung Kung Fu as his classic foundation it seems, but acknowledged other systems effectiveness as well.

    1. I have trained with Sensei Ota for decades. I have also dabbed in Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and Tai Chi. I enjoy the arts. My passion is Matsubayashi but it does not stop me from learning. I have yet seen Sensei Ota be upset or show any frustration that I tried and learned something new.
      Shoshin Nagamine and many pioneers trained under several teachers and styles, its normal and if you have trained in one long enough it will not change anything but help you ad to what you already know.
      I learned a lot from each style and had studied two other style before joining Sensei Ota.

  2. Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to share your insights and experiences with us.