Interview: From Kyokushin to Wado-ryu karate

This is an interview I did for my Wado-ryu karate club’s internal newspaper in Finland (Kuopion karateseura) in the spring of 2010. It was published in the end of November in the 30th anniversary issue (in Finnish translation).

On a side note, I remember that, at the time of the interview, some of my questions were influenced by Iain Abernethy’s podcast “The Practical Application of Karate”, who left a long lasting impression on my understanding of kata and karate in general. There is a question raised about “real” karate, which is essentially the difference between sport karate and traditional karate. I will talk about my experiences transitioning from Wado-ryu to traditional Shotokan some other time.

The Interview

Temir Anaev came to Kuopio, a small Finnish town, as an exchange student from small Italian town Ancona (both have population just slightly over 100.000) to study business administration at Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu (University of Applied Sciences). During this time he trained kumite (sparring) with us from September to December 2009.

How did you like Finland? Was this your first visit?
Yes, it was my first time visiting Finland. For me, it was a great and unforgettable experience of living and studying in Finland. I liked your country so much that after 3 months since I left it, I came back to Kuopio again, but this time only for 2 weeks.
How old are you and what is your karate rank?
I’m 26 years old and I have 1st dan (black belt).

Where did you grow up and where do you train now?
I was born in Russia. In 1991, at age 7, I started to do karate there (Kyokushin karate – knockdown rules). Then I moved to Italy in 2001 to pursue my studies and now I’m training Wado-ryu in Ancona.

How or why and when did you start with karate? Also what specifically drew you to karate and not some other martial art or even some other sport or activity?
When my parents asked me if I wanted to do any sports, I answered that I would like to do gymnastics, but unfortunately in my city there wasn’t a single gymnastics gym, so my parents advised me to do karate, because the dojo was very close to our house, on the other side of the road. And I said –  yes. I remember that I liked my first training so much that I forgot about gymnastics and all other sports and since that moment I never stopped training. During that time karate was very popular in Russia, but of course, the level of fighters wasn’t as high as today.

Can you explain the main differences between Kyokushin and Wado-ryu? Did you find it difficult adapting to a new style of karate? Which one do you prefer?
The difference between Kyokushin and Wado-ryu is huge. First of all, because Kyokushin is full contact karate (knockdown rules). The second is the difference in kata. The third is that Kyokushin is not a member of the WKF (World Karate Federation). In the beginning, it was quite difficult to adapt to the new techniques and rules in Wado-ryu, but after a while, I learned them. To be honest I have to say that I prefer Kyokushin because I think it is more real karate (fighting style) than Wado-ryu. In Kyokushin fighters one can see the spirit of real karate fighters!

What is your personal opinion on cross-training? Have you practiced or are interested in practicing any other martial arts style?
I have never practiced any other martial arts apart from karate. Maybe in the future, I’ll try something, but not now.

How long did it take you to get to Shodan (1st degree black belt)?
It took me a really long time to get to 1st dan, but that wasn’t my main purpose with karate.

You train only kumite nowadays. Do you also compete?
In the last few years I have been doing kumite, but I also used to do kata. Yes, I compete, but unfortunately not very often as I would like, because of the university which takes a lot of time to study and to do exams.

How often do you train?
Usually, I train 3 times a week.
Do you train only inside or do you also do stamina training, like running, lifting weights and going to the gym?
I train inside, but during the summer I also go outside for running. I think stamina training is a good thing, but it must be done when there are few or no competitions… for example during the summer period. This type of training is useful for building up resistance.
Do you think kata has any merits for someone who is focusing on competing in kumite? Because it is very easy to develop bad habits if you only do kumite and that is why you need to be constantly working on your basics.
Kata is a fundamental thing in karate, without kata karate doesn’t exist. I think everybody should do it. Karate is not only kata or kumite but both.

Tell us a bit about your karate school in Italy. What kind of training program do you have on a weekly basis?
Well, in the dojo where I go to train now, we have about 30-35 people in total. We also have a small group of children. Almost everyone in our dojo does kata for some reason. I can say that I’m the only one who competes in kumite. We train 3 times a week for about 1h 30min. When everyone else does kata I do kumite by myself, but sometimes I also do kata, basic techniques, and applications with them. Every year here in Italy we have an international summer camp with Christophe Pinna. Many people from different countries come here to train with us. This one is the biggest event in karate that we have here in Ancona. This summer we are also excited about it!

What or who inspires you?
Well, at the beginning when I started to do karate in 1991 there were two people who inspired me to do karate. The first one was my sensei and the second was Masutatsu Ōyama (the founder of Kyokushin karate). Now the only thing that inspires me to be doing karate is my big passion for it. By the way, if you want to know more about Kyokushin karate you should read the book “The Kyokushin Way: Mas Oyama’s Karate Philosophy” by Masutatsu Ōyama.

What would you say to young kids or anybody who is just starting with karate? Any advice or something interesting you have noticed since you’ve started?
Well, I can say to kids who start to do karate to keep training and never give up even when sometimes it becomes difficult or boring. Karate is a good thing not just as a sport but also gives you values, helps to educate people to not give up and to achieve objectives in your life. I also feel karate is not a sport but a martial art.
What was your experience like during your time here in Kuopio? What would be your favorite memory of practicing with us?
My favorite memory of doing karate in Kuopio will be everything I learned in your dojo, meeting such good people like your Sensei Petri Toivanen and all of you guys and of course the victory in the team kumite Finnish championships (as part of your club)!

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