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Karatenomichi World Federation (KWF) is a major international traditional Shotokan karate organization that was founded by Mikio Yahara. Yahara was a leading Shotokan karate fighter, kata exponent and instructor of the Japan Karate Association. The KWF claims members in over 40 countries. The organization's stated goal is the pursuit of technical excellence. It attempts to distinguish itself from other organizations by proclaiming a return to the traditional values of the Japan Karate Association of the 1950s through to the 1980s. Outside Japan, it claims a particularly strong following in South Africa and the United Kingdom. But can also be found, for example, in New Caledonia.

Mikio Yahara himself is considered legendary or notorious by his supporters and enemies. He was a controversial figure in the Japan Karate Associationin the 1970s and 1980s. Despite his lethality as a fighter, he is known as perhaps the finest exponent of Unsu, with which he won the world championship and the best fighter never to have become JKA All Japan Champion.

'Philosophy: "Karate has no philosophy. My philosophy is to knock my opponent out."

KWF is focused on the development of extremely effective and powerful punches and kicks from low and long stances that are a feature of Shotokan in general, and the development of the hips, back and leg muscles to create the movements necessary to deliver attacks that will severely impair, knock down or injure or kill opponents that is particularly emphasized by Yahara himself. According to Yahara, many (although by no means all) Shotokan Karate organizations have redeveloped Shotokan to be a competitive martial art and so have lost the focus on Budo that became a strong feature of JKA Karate in post-War Japan. Such an argument would be strongly disputed by other traditional Shotokan Karate organizations.
However, the focus of the philosophy of the KWF is explicit; the target is to train to achieve "Ichigeki Hissatsu" (a single killing punch/kick). This, according to the KWF, is achieved by unleashing the power of the hips, back and inner muscles and ligaments to produce explosive power. Yahara, who was notorious as a Japan Karate Association instructor and fighter seems certainly capable of this personally; in July 2006 when grading for his 8th Dan and performing jiyu kumite, 59-year-old Yahara managed to fracture three of his opponent's ribs with a single strike. Analyzing the dynamics, philosophy and spiritual underpinnings of Karate means little to Yahara, who is famous (and/or notorious) for his comment:
"Karate has no philosophy. My philosophy is to knock my opponent out."
It may come as a surprise to learn that while inside the dojo Yahara is an extreme disciplinarian, but once off the actual dojo floor, becomes a charming if rather fearsome looking individual who mops the floor along with the most junior white belt after each session. In this respect it may not be surprising that Yahara runs both an executive security and bodygard company and a luxury resort business simultaneously.

The same paradox seems to exist on several levels with the KWF. One of the legends surrounding Yahara is of his beating up 34 local yakuza in a series of running fights in a single day. Yet the KWF is actively sponsored by international fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. While sweat often runs like a river during a tough session, the spotlessly clean dojo is itself located on Platinum Street in Shirokanedai in Minato, one of Tokyo's most famous and fashionable rich urban enclaves. A class populated by rich housewives and the children of foreign ex-pats will finish to be replaced by a black belt class where spilt blood is just a normal occupational occurrence.
KWF Training and Techniques.

In many ways, KWF training represents a return to traditional JKA training as was experienced by the few dozen elite instructors generated by the JKA during the 1960s to 1980s. However black belt seminars focus on techniques that are favored and developed by Yahara himself. KWF training follows the traditional pattern of kihon, kumite and kata. In kihon, the emphasis is on perfecting the form of each technique, developing the maximum power and speed of individual punches, blocks and kicks. The KWF thinks it is more important to keep the correct form and develop speed and power through body dynamics rather than through repetition (although sessions with hundreds of repetitions of techniques do occur).

Kumite is performed traditionally without masks or gloves or padding (although very thin mits are allowed in championships, if only to protect the knuckles of competitors against cuts incurred from striking teeth, etc.) During jiyu ippon kumite, the attacker is expected to knock his or her opponent down with a single blow, and this is only to be stopped by a very strong block. Jiyu ippon kumite is the norm for brown belts and above. During jiyu kumite, opponents are expected to exercise control at every point as injuring yourself or your opponent is considered symptomatic of poor technique. During championships, the KWF would prefer the victor of a match to win by oi-zuki or oi-geri rather than by an exotic technique. Only a clean strong blow will result in a point being scored and only two of these or one felling blow (an "ippon") will see one competitor win a match.

During kata training, very senior Karateka may well practice the most basic kata, heian shodan, as well as more advanced or esoteric forms.

Some of the [training] and techniques imposed on KWF students may be considered unnecessary by some. Critics say that the KWF's training is not useful for helping people win competitions, especially for points scoring. The KWF answers that the KWF's karate has little or nothing to do with the ability to accumulate points in sports karate. For others, the standards expected to attain even a shodan at the KWF’s central (Honbu) dojo are refreshingly tough. Thus visitors to the KWF in Japan are sometimes nonplussed or find themselves uninterested in the organization's training, while others are strongly attracted. (See also Akihito Isaka and Slow Training below.)
KWF History
The origins of the KWF owe mainly to the split in the Japan Karate Association of the late 1980s following the death of Nakayama Masatoshi. While Tetsuhiko Asai is sometimes/often (depending on who is telling the history) stated as Nakayama's chosen successor, the JKA split for a series of reasons that is still the subject of some recrimination and history rewriting by protagonists and their disciples and supporters. There is little doubt that, under the political and philosophical differences that emerged between what was to evolve a division into two camps of senior instructors,Tetsuhiko Asai is seen by many as a legendary figure. However, his incorporation of techniques and kata that were clearly very different from the long, low, relatively simple and linear techniques that evolved in the JKA under Nakayama was, and remains, highly controversial in the Shotokan karate world. One set of senior instructors including Yahara, Keigo Abe, Akihito Isaka and Masao Kagawa joined Asai, while another group of legendary instructors including Masaaki Ueki, Masahiko Tanaka and Yoshiharu Osaka joined Nakahara Nobuyuki, whose group, a decade later, was officially designated as the JKA in 1999.

During the intermediate decade Yaraha was Deputy Chief Instructor to Asai in what is sometimes referred to as the Asai JKA. Following their loss of the court case, Asai formed the Japan Karate Shoto-renmei (JKS), while Yahara formed the KWF.

Conscious of the politics that riddle the Shotokan world both in Japan and internationally, the KWF proclaims its position as being respectful of anyone who wishes to maintain the highest possible standards and legacy of Shotokan karate. In terms of standards, a neutral observer would probably note that the KWF, the Japan Karate Association, the JKS and by a number of other Japan-based Shotokan karate organizations can all legitimately make such a statement.


Akihito Isaka and Slow Training - One of the distinctive features of KWF karate is the imput of Akihito I saka, a former leading JKA instructor and leading kumite and kata competitor from the late 1960s all the way to the 1990s. Isaka, who is most commonly known for his kanku dai kata (the subject of a famous JKA video) radically changed his approach to karate in his early 40s. While Isaka, at 64 as of 2006, is capable of extraordinary athletic feats (such as jodan ke-age kicks with 5 kilogram iron clogs strapped to his feet) and still executes lightening fast techniques for demonstration purposes, his focus for the last 20 years has been on slow-motion training. The main focus of such training is to teach a keen awareness of the body's center of gravity, while at the same time stretching and reinforcing the muscles and tendons in and around the pelvic girdle and the sacrum, as well as the inner muscles of the back. The ability to control the movement of the hips and back muscles is seen by Isaka as the foundation upon which technical excellence can be built. The slow-motion training, by focusing on the key muscle and ligament groups around the hips and back, is seen by Mikio Yahara as a key element of training to enable the development of powerful techniques. However, the training method, which involves slow motion spins, stance changes and kicks, is also used by the KWF to act as a bridge for non-athletes, children and senior citizens. At the same time as wanting its students to attain technical excellence and the speed and power to knock out opponents with a single punch, the KWF believes that karate can and should be practiced by people regardless of age or ability. As such, Isaka's technique also acts as a bridge to enable people of all ages and physical abilities to move to more advanced practice regimens. Ultimately, the purpose of karate is to help peopleteach themselves, according to Isaka.
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