Ashihara Karate

Hideyuki AshiharaAshihara karate employs scientific logic, based on a natural rationality and the exclusion of all unnecessary things. Traditional karate has put too much emphasis on either light techniques or solely on strength. In the society of today a more realistic form of karate is needed, one where speed, strength, wits and strategies all are included.

Ashihara karate also tries to provide the students with a safe environment for development. If this is to be obtained one must offer a place where students can enjoy practice and improve their techniques without getting injured. Ashihara karate has fulfilled, and continously tries to fulfill, this requirement. It supplies the equivalent of a true battlefield. In short, it is the most realistic karate , it teaches the student how to avoid getting hit by the opponent, as well as how to control and restrict him in an even more advantageous and effective manner.

Ashihara karate strives to create flexible instructors. When you train there are different ways of doing this depending on your age and physical condition. Not all practitioners will become professionals, thus it is important that teachers never can forget to be flexible.

Ashihara karate is supposed to be fun! It is supposed to give the student an urge to become even better, even stronger, and even smarter. In order to keep up that line of thinking we must strive to keep practice fun so that even though the students hit a wall and feel unable to go on, they still strive to overcome that obstacle and become better. Don't be satisfied with the present condition, but harbour the desire to seek out on even more logical and realistic karate; always advance a step further.

This is the sum of what Ashihara has to tell.

Hideyuki Ashihara (1944-1995)

Kancho Ashihara was born on December 5th 1944 outside Hiroshima. Kancho grew up with his grandparents in a small village called Nomicho. As a boy he was a restless soul and often got into fights. He first came into contact with Budo when he started training Kendo at the age of 10 to get an outlet for his energy.

In 1960, when Kancho was 15 years old, he moved to Tokyo and started working at a petrol station. This was his working place for six years. In September 1961 the young man first entered a karate club. He saw karate practitioners train and spar hard and realistically, something he liked immediately. The club was Oyama Dojo, later the Kyokushinkai Honbu Dojo.

Kancho trained intensely and participated in every possible training session. His stubbornness and perseverance finally made it possible for him to grade to Shodan on March 26th 1964. He was then only 19 years old, and no one at the dojo could defeat him in kumite.

In 1966 Kancho was made instructor in Kyokushinkai Karate at the Honbu Dojo. He performed well, and it was decided that Kancho would have the honour of travelling to Brazil to instruct and spread Kyokushinkai Karate, something he had dreamed of for years.

Unfortunately it was not to be. Kancho got into a fight and defeated five persons, who attacked him in the street. The police brought him into questioning, and the whole incident was reported to the Kyokushinkai Honbu Dojo. Kancho was suspended from all training. After two months suspension he was pardoned and sent to Nomura on the island Shikoku in southern Japan.

After three months he was called back to Tokyo and received a new chance to travel to Brazil. This time he declined. He wanted to return to Nomura and continue the work, he had started there. This was granted, and now Kancho's reputation as a fighter and instructor started to spread in that part of Japan.

Nomura soon became too small, and Kancho Ashihara moved to the neighbouring city Yawatahama. He quickly founded one of the biggest Kyokushinkai clubs in Japan, and the activities were extended to two additional cities, Uwa and Uwajima.

It was during this period that the concept of Sabaki was developed by Kancho. Three principal points for Ashihara Karate was formed. Preparation, and the use of the four positions represented by the circular symbol of Ashihara Karate became the first point. The importance of timing and evaluation of distance (maai) became the second point. The third point is the stance, which must always be maintained whatever the situation to give maximum mobility.

Kancho Ashihara continued to the city Matsuyama, and Ashihara Karate quickly became popular there as well. Kancho started to instruct the police force, and universities started clubs in the area. Clubs were developed in Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Shiga and other places. In March 1978 the construction of the Dojo in Matsuyama commenced and Kancho moved there at the end of the year. In 1979 the building was completed, and since 1980 it is the Honbu Dojo for NIKO -Ashihara Kaikan.

Kancho was still associated with the Kyokushinkai organisation, but instructors in neighbouring districts were complaining about Kancho's expansion of clubs. To avoid conflict within Kyokushinkai, Kancho Ashihara choose to resign from actively practising Karate at an official meeting in Tokyo in March 1978. Kancho announced that he was willing to give up leadership for the clubs, he had developed to concentrate on running his club in Matsuyama. It turned out that this was not enough, and Kancho was expelled from Kyokushinkai shortly thereafter, following urge by competing instructors. It was with this background that Kancho Hideyuki Ashihara created New International Karate Organisation in September 1980. In this organisation Kancho could continue to develop his own Karate, Ashihara Karate.

Shortly after founding NIKO, Kancho Ashihara started to plan the publishing of a series of books on the Ashihara system. The first part was published in 1983, and a total of three books were published. Two of these have been translated to English. There are also three instructional videos by Kancho, which are still used for educational purposes.

In 1987 came the first signs of Kancho's illness. He had ALS, a rare disease of the nervous system. In the beginning of the 90's his condition worsened and Kancho passed away on April 24th 1995, only 50 years old. Over 1000 persons were at his funeral and paid their last respects to a man, who went in to history as a truly, great karate master.

Ashihara Karate Today
After Kancho Ashihara's death his son, Hidenori Ashihara, took over the leadership of NIKO. Hidenori Ashihara is to-day our second Kancho and thus heads an organisation, which is steadily growing, now consisting of 250 branches representing 35 countries covering all continents.

Each of the dojos around the world has direct contact to Honbu in Matsuyama City, and every Branch Chief is responsible for the dojo, he represents.

Since 1994 there has been a world championship in Ashihara Karate: The Sabaki Challenge Spirit. At the 4th championship, which was held in Denmark 1997, Kancho Ashihara visited the competition for the first time.

Technical aspects
The technical aspects of Ashihara karate are shaped around 6 basic areas:
- The basics.
- The four movements.
- The positioning.
- The sabaki
- The Ashihara karate katas.
- The realistic approaches to fighting.

These areas combined shape the technical essence of the Ashihara karate.

The basics is 21 basic techniques. These techniques will provide the students with a fundamental approach to Ashihara karate. The student must strive to perfect these techniques in order to overcome many obstacles. The 21 basic tecniques can be directly implemented into fighting giving Ashihara karate the "nickname" figthing karate.

The four movements are in many ways descriptive for Ashihara karate. The ideology of moving around your opponent to a more advantegeous position instead of colliding head on shows that Ashihara karate can be applicable to other than merely the strongest of fighters.

The positioning is a direct consequence of the four movements. Naturally, using the four movements to get around your opponent will place you in various positions. These positions will provide the students with tools to practice this approach.

The sabaki is a difficult concept to translate. The closest translation is probably "partner-control". It is the effective way of benefitting from the positioning. Giving even the weaker fighter an advantage in controlling the opponent. In Ashihara karate sabaki is largely emphasized allowing any person of any shape, strength or size to benefit from the training.

The Ashihara karate katas are based on basic control techniques. The katas are applicable to real fighting situations making them unique in the world of karate.
There are six kata types:
- Beginners kata - Shoshin no kata.
- Basic kata - Kihon no kata.
- Throwing kata - Nage no kata.
- Sparring kata - Kumite no kata.
- Fighting kata - Jissen no kata.
- Self-defense kata - Goshin no kata

In the katas there are three types of pattern: short, middle and long range.

The idea of creating so many katas is that they can be practised step by step according to the relative difficulty of the techniques required. Each kata can be used for solo combination practice or with a partner as control technique training.

The realistic approaches to fighting indicates where Ashihara karate departs from standard practice. In a real fight you have to win, and in Ashihara karate that is exactly what we aim to do. To reduce the possibillity of being hurt ourselves and to guarantee a win, we seek to attain the ultimate rational performance from the body, and work at improving our speed, techniques and power.

Rationality is what sets Ashihara karate far apart from traditional karate methods. In a fight where both fighters clash head on, making no attempt to block clearly the strongest fighter will win. Too many karate methods are like this giving no thought to defense. This might have been acceptable in earlier days, but today we need a more realistic approach to fighting.

About joining
If you head a dojo or plan to open one, and wish to practise Ashihara Karate and to offer teaching legitimately, you must apply to have a contract with Honbu in Japan.

On accepting you as a branch chief, Honbu provides your branch with:

- A branch certificate; the legitimate proof of rights to operate a NIKO dojo together with the contract.
- Always direct contact with Honbu in Japan.
- Technical information on how to practise the style.
- Support, information and advice to operate a dojo.
- Access to train at Honbu for you and your students.
- Access to international events of NIKO.
- Legal rights to make use of the name and logo of Ashihara.
- Legal rights to issue kyu certificates of Honbu.
- Legal rights to recommend dan certificates, issued by Honbu.

If you care that your students practise Ashihara Karate in a legal way, please apply to Honbu for membership:
Kancho Hidenori Ashihara
360-1, Sanban-Cho, 8Chome
Matsuyama City, Ehime
Fax: + 81 899 33 8668