This author thought it would be beneficial to the Kyokushin-kan community to summarize, to the best of my ability, some content of Kancho Royama’s Internatinoal Instructors’ Seminars, held every year in Japan. Although I do have the dual advantage of having attended more of Kancho’s seminars than any other American, and of having acted as Japanese-English interpreter for those seminars in many cases, the reader should understand that, still, I can only do the best I can to explain concepts presented by Kancho and other high-level instructors in Japan. I do have the advantage of having been there, but my level of understanding in karate is only just what it is, and I can only explain what Kancho and others explain, through the lens of my own limited understanding. Yet to assist the development of Kyokushin-kan in the West, I will do the best I can.
Ikken is a parallel, Chinese martial art heavily stressed by Kancho Royama and other instructors during Kyokushin-kan’s seminars. At its foundation is the training of ki energy. Westerners who’ve never seen Ikken might think it similar to Tai Chi, although it is very self-defense oriented (one might say combat-oriented) in that the goal is to learn destructive (and therefore defensive) physical power that transcends the normal sources that we tend to think of when looking for power (i.e. our muscular system).
Kancho Royama points out that, in a sense, real karate training doesn’t even begin until the age of 50. Prior to that time, we have such easy command of our body that practitioners tend to look there for power, because that’s where power is easy to find. As we get older, however, and begin to lose the ease with which we tap into muscle/bone sources of strength, we have no choice but to begin to look for alternate sources. It’s then, Kancho points out, that the serious practitioner begins to become aware of ki energy and how it can be used to supplement muscular power. Of course, we can practice ikken, and thus become aware of our ki energy prior to the age of 50, but Kancho’s point is that that’s where it becomes easier to find, because the 50-year-old budo karateka has no choice but to look for it.
At a glance, one might think that Kancho Royama is intoducing Ikken training to Kyokushin (and therefore altering Kyokushin) but the more accurate assessment is that Ikken was one of the arts assimilated into Kyokushin by Mas Oyama in the very beginning. It was part of the original Kyokushin synthesis. It has always been a part of Kyokushin, and, if anything, its practice was lost among Kyokushin karateka during the years that Kyokushin’s popularity boomed. Kancho Royama had extensive practice with Ikken Master Sawai Kenichi, and Sawai Sensei’s successor, Sun Li Sensei, pictured above, teaches at each of our Kyokushin-kan seminars. We all know that our vice-chairman Shihan Hiroshige became renowned in Japan for making champions. Midori, Yamaki, Kazumi . . . all were Hiroshige Shihan’s students and they all practiced Ikken. Kancho Royama practiced Ikken extensively before his first All-Japan Tournament win.
My own first exposure was in 2003 when I traveled with Kancho and the Japanese team for a seminar and tournament held in Kazakhstan. In this photo Iwata Shibucho (a former uchi deshi of Kancho Royama) is practicing “hai”, an ikken exercise, on the coast of the Caspian Sea the morning before the tournament, where he took first place. I was particularly impressed by his short-distance destructive techniques. He dropped more than one of his opponents with very-close (maybe just 4-inch distant) shita-tsukis to the diaphragm. Here Kancho Royama can be seen practicing the same exercise, and in the last photo that’s me with Kancho practicing another.
Please stay tuned for part two of this article on Ikken. In the next segment, I’ll write about the training method by which this kind of power can be found, albeit as best I can, since my own exposure is limited.
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