‘Practical Karate’ and Nakayama Sensei’s Self-Defense Video

For those of you who own or know Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s book series “Practical Karate” and “Self-Defense Films” (especially those made in the early 1960s), you probably have a few “metaphorical questions.” floating in your mind.

Some of the “self-defense techniques” outlined in these books and videos are clearly useful; however, many of them are ‘show boats’. I’ll divorce it later. Anyway, I’ve heard some people say that “… the demonstrating instructors were so masterful that they could pull these wazes in real battles. ” Well, certainly, I do not deny their technical excellence, strength, and mental endurance; however, as a person who has spent the best part of decades working on nightclub doors and getting into numerous violent quarrels, I could not help being skeptical and permanently ignoring it.

IIf you’ve read my last article, you may be a little confused now. This is because the techniques in these books and videos are largely neither bunkai nor practical oyo.So what are they? What was their purpose ???

Actually, I didn’t know that either, so a few years ago I finally asked some of Japan’s top Shotokan Karats. Thanks to that, I found a consistent story that adequately answered all my questions and more. So here you have it!

These publications and films on self-defense were and “Fast public advertising campaign” for 協会 団 法人 日本 空手 協会
(JKA). That’s right, they were purely to capture the imagination of the public through bling – a simultaneous connection between karate and some “superhuman form of practical self-defense” – to attract masses of members.

My seniors also explained that karate was still a mysterious art for people in Japan (especially mainland Japan and even more around the world), so “… such spectacular demonstrations were an effective way to promote Kyokai: at home and abroad. It means “controlling the domestic karate market (Japan)” and then “spreading JKA-style Shotokan all over the world without any problems.” Sure, it worked!

I must mention here that other groups also “competed to attract members”; therefore, the stakes in the 1960s and 1970s were particularly high for Nakayama Sensei and his JKA. The “Golden Age” was created not only with the international commitment of professionally trained Japanese instructors, but also with 9mm films and published literature to “spread the Shotokan Gospel.”

So what we have here is “… a series of books and videos that are historically unique in terms of commercialized karate.”

Ironically, many of the techniques shown in the videos are the basis of the Japanese enbos (demonstrations) we still see at competitions and festivals. This is largely because they are visually impressive and demonstrate karate athletics. In addition, many famous instructors told me that they had deliberately “technically linked” their respective enbos with Nakayama’s sensei. This really emphasizes Japanese culture, especially in the budo world; however, this topic is too broad. deep, and disruptive (to address this article today).

The most passionate instructor who spoke to me about Nakayama Sensei was Abe Keigo Sensei. If you watch some of his enbos, you can see “Nakayama-style karate” in them. And that’s what he told me once after training. Unfortunately, I didn’t link it to self-defense videos at the time, because it was about ten years before I knew about the history I’m writing about today. In retrospect, however, what he said made quite sense to me; moreover, he was in line with the remarks of many other Japanese masters who said similar things.

Well, how about some useful content in books? The books contain some very useful basics, such as stomping feet, stabbing eyes, hooking fish, testicle kicks, various elbow strikes, and basic escapes. But again, the content is rather “an attempt to freely connect karate with self-defense in the real world so that one can take regular karate lessons.” “Regular karate”, ie JKA lessons, of course! Based on what I read and heard about Sensei Donn F. Draeger (as co-author of the Practical Karate series), I suppose he would “encourage more pragmatic aspects” in the books.

Overall, when I learned about this promotional phase in the history of Shotokan and the Japanese Karate Association, I felt relieved and, truely, a little disappointed. However, as has been said, no one can deny the amazing work of Nakayama Sensei he made his organization be called “out there.” Shotokan is still by far the most popular style of karate in the world. I have no doubt that this ‘promotional campaign’ aimed at ‘self-defense’ played a very important role in this process and was therefore particularly useful at the time in history.

Nakayama Masatoshi Shuseki Shihan: Unsu kumite no bunkai.

Enbu Master Nakayamy.

Abe Keigo Shihan Enbu.

In short, it’s easy to look back and be critical. I’d rather look back and see the value of things in the past; moreover, armed with this knowledge, push forward into the future. Times are certainly changing, as are the appearance of things; however, the human state – physical, mental and, I dare say, spiritual – is relatively constant.

With that in mind, a new battle is underway; Thus, the promotion of budo karate, in the predominant and increasingly sport-oriented world of karate.


© Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

David Berry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.