The Wisdom of Inoue Yoshimi: Legendary Japanese National Team Kata Coach (Seminar Recap)

Inoue Yoshimi sensei is not your ordinary grey-haired, chain-smoking Japanese gentleman.

Well, he is a gentleman, and he does smoke a lot, and his hair seems pretty grey… but he is by no means ordinary.

Far from it.

This man is probably the last person you would ever want to mess with, especially if you’re one of those guys who think “kata is useless for self-defense” and/or serves as nothing more than “a pretty karate dance”. Believe me, Inoue sensei wouldn’t hesitate to promptly, yet respectfully, tear you a new asshole in two secs if he could just refrain himself from smiling and laughing (his two main characteristics) for a while.

Because, as you’ll soon see in the videos below, Inoue Yoshimi is a man who truly seems to have found his ikigai (meaning of life) in teaching Karate (with [tournament] kata as his specialty), having such world-class athletes as Mie Nakayama (4 times female kata world champion back in the 80’s), Rika Usami (soon-to-be female kata world champion) and Antonio Diaz (current male kata world champion) as his personal disciples.

In other words, this guy has magic fingers.

And every dedicated Karate athlete he touches seems to jump to a new skill level in the blink of an eye.

But let’s rewind the tape a bit. Before I show you my four brand new videos (uploaded yesterday night!) of his awesome teachings, shot at an international seminar held this weekend, I think it’s important that we learn a little more about the man behind the teachings.

Soke Yoshimi Inoue (8th dan JKF) was born in 1946, in the small coastal village of Tottori, Japan (that’s on the west coast). He dabbled in other regular sports such as Judo and baseball at an earlier age, before eventually settling with Karate, which he taught himself after having bought a Karate book at the age of fifteen. After some time, as the Tottori University Karate Club got stronger, and Karate gained more followers, as soon as Inoue sensei finished high school he went to Osaka to look for the teacher he had read about in his beloved Karate book. The teacher was Teruo Hayashi, direct student of Mabuni Kenwa (founder of Shito-ryu). Inoue asked to be his student for about 6 months and was finally accepted as an uchi-deshi (personal student living in the dojo). He stayed there for 4 years; eating, breathing, living Karate.

To make a long story short, Inoue eventually had to return to Tottori, as his father had gotten sick. He got a day job to support his family… and at the same time opened his first dojo.

Which proved to be an epic move.

Success soon followed, and Inoue sensei became known for producing some of the finest kata specialists in the country (although he did a lot of kumite too in the beginning), with basically the whole national kata team under him for many years, giving individual coaching to legendary Karate-ka such as Ryoki Abe, Atsuko Wakai and the Hasegawa brothers.

Why? What makes him so special? Does he know something we don’t?

Well, I thought you should see for yourself.

So, without further ado, here’s four short video clips (straight from the Official KbJ Youtube channel) shot at his international Inoue-ha Shito-ryu (his own organization) seminar held this weekend in sunny Sweden, featuring his #1 international student Antonio Diaz (see my previous exclusive interview with Antonio here) as occasional assistant.

I sincerely hope you learn something.

(note: turn the audio up!)

#1: Teaching Scapula Tension/Relaxation for Power

In this clip, Inoue sensei talks about how the individual movements of the shoulder and scapula (shoulder blade) are optimally connected in achieving maximum power and speed in arm techniques, through using the full range of movement coupled with proper relaxation and tension (what ultimately produces kime). As you see from his own physical demonstration, this is good stuff – that will take you far when you master it!

#2: Bad Sounds & Stomps for Kata Performance

Have you ever noticed that Inoue sensei’s students refrain from making those awfully loud grunts and noises, as they execute their flawless kata? Well, the reason is simple: Inoue sensei totally despises that kind of “artificial” kata techniques, and advices you to stay completely silent (just breathe naturally) as you punch, block and kick your way to the gold. Why? It’s all about relaxing, not tensing your chest as you huff and puff (thereby changing your center of gravity). Additionally, stomping down for loud “action” effects when you step is not adviced. Why? Again, it’s all about relaxation (= balance = power output). See further explanation in the video below (featuring Antonio Diaz)!

#3: Hip Joint Relaxation for Zenkutsu-dachi Stepping

As if you haven’t noticed it yet, Inoue sensei is big on the whole “relaxation” thing. This holds equally true for both arm and leg movements, as we see in this clip where he simply explains the best way for efficient moving (stepping front/back) in zenkutsu-dachi (front stance) through relaxing in the hip socket and knee joint (rather than kicking away with the back leg). As he said about a thousand times during the day: “You cannot fight gravity! Make gravity your friend!”. Sounds good to me. Obviously, the concept applies to all stances and movements, not just zenkutsu-dachi. Check it out (also featuring world champion Antonio Diaz!):

#4: Street Fight, Bunkai & The Real Meaning of Kata

Lastly, we have the most important part. Why I saved this for last is because every great kata coach I have ever trained under (including Sakumoto Tsuguo in Okinawa) stressed that although kata is an individual performance, we must never forget the real meaning and intent of our movements (unless we want to end up like this guy!). Kata is a solo representation of a collection of defensive sequences (bunkai) meant to save your ass in a self-defense situation. That is the meaning of kata. And that is what you need to express.

So, with that last clip, I end this swift recap of a wonderfully informative seminar with Inoue Yoshimi sensei.

Hopefully, you just added some fresh knowledge to your cup of tea.

If not, pour the old tea out and try again.

And do let me know in the comment section what you think.

42 Comments

  • Pure genious. I have to watch and study carefully a few more times and let the lessons sink in. I will try to apply this in my Taekwondo. Tank you for sharing Jesse.
  • Boban Alempijevic
    Finally a proper way of actually moving from one stance to another one. I would simply LOVE to train under Inoue.Now I have to train the relax part... easier said then done, I think Shotokan has been trying to destroy me a bit to much, but hell, I will pour the old tea out no matter what and pour me some new instead :)
  • Diego Romero
    why did i instinctively know who the one in the "this guy" link was going to be? :pinoue sensei is really cool :D
  • Marko
    Hi Jesse SanCan you explain me the mouvement of tension relaxation of scapula. I didn't understand it well.Thank you
    • elC
      Relax your shoulders, don't pull your hikite back too much, the only muscles you should use in your upper body are your lats (which can be nicely done by pulling your shoulders down). That's how I learned it - and at Ohshima Shotokan we're very into that "relax - no power in the shoulders"-thing.
  • elC
    Nice videos, good sensei! I like the emphasis on relaxing. That's what the many, many "kime=full-body-contraction" karateka need.
  • Paul
    The issue with the last video on bunkai is that any bunkai based on defending against Karate attacks, as in the one shown above (step staight punch) is useless.The only way drilling this would be useful is if the person attacking you was a Karate exponent, wasn't emotionally arroused by the adrenaline, told you they were going to attack, attacked from a distance straight at you.How many fights have I ever seen that fit the above? NONE. All Japanese bunkai is based on false assumptions of voilence and miss interpretted bunkai
    • Is there an echo in here? ;)
    • Diego Romero
      methinks you might not have watched the whole video. he mentioned and tried to show both haymakers and grabs followed by punches, but the one assisting appeared to have no idea how to do it (see also when inoue has to grab him because he wants to go into shiai kumite range to throw a full extension tsuki).
  • EJ
    Jesse, thank you for sharing. Is there a standard weight gi used in the competitions, i.e. 5, 7, 12 oz.? I like the starched look and the sound they produce during their performance. Also, what was making the sound in the scapula video? My video was a little choppy and could tell if it was the gi or the combination of gi/snapped closing of hands, or something else.
    • Erik-san: Nope, no standard weight. The snap sound most likely comes from when the sleeves snap forward as the arms stop (kime).
    • Ricardo Cruz
      Soke Yoshimi Inoue actually wears standard Hirota Pinack Karate-Gi's, which are by no means heavy. Any movement he makes at full speed do make that sharp snapping sound. KIME is TECHNIQUE, buddy! No special FX! And remember he is approaching his 70's! I feel really blessed to be his student and for spending every single time with him in Brazil during his stay to establish our organization in the country. He is truly a masters' master, not to mention his amazing, captivating personality. Inoue-Ha Shito-Ryu Keishin-Kai, as Soke smilingly says "is his family, so people must be good people above everything to be its member... the technical problems, we can solve them!"Ricardo Cruz -- Brazil Inoue-Ha Shito-Ryu Keishin-Kai’s Technical Director & Kata Coach rcruz.br@gmail.com
  • kairu
    Well it is time to pull out the phone book and plan my next trip. I would love to spend just one day training with Sensei. His movements are amazing and his no none sense Bunkai is refreshing.
  • I hope you can interview or do a more in depth research on this Inoue Yoshimi. Very informative! Hope he does a seminar in New York, USA!!!!
  • It's helpful to note that scapular retraction is initiated by the rhomboids, and protraction (forward movement of the scapulae) is performed by the serratus anterior. Simply squeezing down with the lats will not affect the scapulae- the lats insert on the humerus with no direct connection to the scapulae. Have someone watch your back, sans shirt, as you attempt to retract the scapulae. If your traps have taken over the job for underactive rhomboids, the inner border of the scapulae will "wing" out from the back, and if the serratus are underactive, they will stay that way throughout. Karate people tend to have inhibited, stretched rhomboids from all of the forward arm movement (which indicates tight, short pectorals. Look for "scapular retraction" and "scapular protraction" strengthening and activation exercises to ensure proper muscle recruitment and balance.If your shoulders already "roll" and hunch forward from tight pecs, squeezing the lats will simply make this worse, and continue to stretch and inhibit your rhomboids.The second bit is that if the prime scapular retractors & protractors are underactive, your rotator cuff muscles will attempt to take over the work, which will exacerbate impingement syndromes and rotator cuff injury risks. Make sure your external rotator cuff muscles (teres minor & infraspinatus) are functioning properly (ie, not stretched and inhibited, no pain in the shoudler capsule when performing a forward arm raise) before you start trying to whip your arms around like this, or you increase the potential for imbalance and subsequent injury.
  • Daniel Osiris Rios Pacheco
    Nice Post. SO you meet with Soke Yoshimi Inoue and Karstad Inoue ha shito ryu, with my friend Emilio, Roger,Marcus, Sarah and other great gays.I write students and member Inoue ha shito ryu. Inoue ha shito ryu is very traditional, diferent of european karate concept.(ESPAÑA, FRANCIA, ITALIA, ETC), Many referee must to participated in Inoue ha seminar.Soke Yoshimi Inoue has helped many karate International championStudents Mie Nakayama 3 times WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP Rika Usami 1 times World Junior Championship and Asian Games and many times Japan champion. Miyuki Ozawa 3th place in National Games in Japanforeing students of goju ryu Ryoki Abe 2 times 2nd place in world championship and 1 times World championship 98 Atsuko Wakai 4 times world championship 98,2000,2002, 2004.foreing students of SHITOKAI Hassegawa Brothers Many Times World Championship in kata team. Nao Morooka Many times National and University Champion in JAPAN,and 1 time in Asian Games.Member Inoue ha StudentsAntonio Diaz World, Panamerican , centroamerican and caribeam Champion. Keat Ku Jin 1 Time Asian Games Champion. MALASIA Lim Lee Lee 3th place in Asian Games Luis Felipe Pipe Aguilar Panamerican Champion and 3th place in World Junior karte Championship Malasia 2011 Sakura Kokumai 2th place in World junior karate championship in Moroco 2009,3ht place in Panamerican championship ,SENIOR Koki Andrade North American Champion, 2th place in Centroamerican and caribean championship. Sara Pereira 1 times Panamerican Champion in montreal 2010.Other Promisses Josep Martinez, Miguel Dina, Jessica Brew, thaina Alexandre, Eranda Kudagoda, Cheko Nakamura, Mina Yamazaki,Luis Mata,Juan Gaviño, Alvaro Castillo, Daniel Miyasat...
    • Robban
      Hey Daniel, who are you? We apparently train in the same dojo :) I need a face!
    • Ricardo Cruz
      Hey, Daniel! Shihan Paulo told me you were interested in getting the videos from Brazil's 2008 Seminar. You can contact me through my e-mail, buddy! Hope to meet you soon.Ricardo Cruz Brazil Inoue-Ha Shito-Ryu Keishin-Kai’s Technical Director & Kata Coach
      • Prezado Ricardo, I would like to get in touch with you from Los Angeles, CA in USA. Please write to directly: josefraguas@mastersmag.com Abraco Jose
    • Christan Medina
      Other Student:Carol de la Paz, Chile, 7° place, World Championship, Paris 2012.
  • Robban
    He is good. I have hade the opportunity to train for him for one session.Hey Jesse, I cant find you on Google+. C'mon join and look for my email.
    • Robban-san: I'm on Google+ but can't find you either, haha!
      • Robban
        Cool, you called "karate by jesse" there too? I would love to get your news in my listings. Im not that much active at facebook anymore.
  • Barbara Hesselschwerdt
    Excellent teaching. Excellent videos. More please!!!!!
  • Gerry
    I just watched the videos at work, so no audio. Why does it appear there are missing frames in all the videos? For myself, I always preach complete relaxation until the target is struck, then instantaneous tension for the briefest time necessary to have an impact, then back to complete relaxation.
  • Luke Harty
    Hey Jesse, do you know when his next seminar in Europe is?I wish I could have gone to this in Sweden, I was only there a few weeks ago for the Swedish open! Where were you?
    • Sorry, don't know... :/ Go to Japan! I was in Slovenia :p
      • Luke Harty
        I might actually. It sounds like the perfect gap year. Although I still imagine it would be difficult to train with him. Slovenia... Awesome
      • Nicki
        Jesse, I'm going to Japan! How do I get in touch with him?
  • Ian
    Great stuff Jesse. More of the same please.
  • Ricardo Cruz
    Since most of you guys seem to be pretty attracted to the snapping sound of Soke Inoue's moves. His definition of KIME is pretty different from that of Western senseis. There is no actual muscular tension of the body in order to "stop" the techniques, since this would hinder speed. KIME or power in basic Physics is generated by mass multiplied by acceleration (read "speed"). Since we cannot physically alter our body mass in order to generate more power, we must then increase speed. When tensing the muscles at the striking point, one then decreases speed, which in turn decreases power. A technique is stopped by your Seichushin (body gravitational center line) allowing the snapping of the shoulder and elbow. So in our way of teaching, the chest and arm muscles are basically relaxed throughout the technique, snapping the shoulder and the elbow when approaching the target. This is a bit hard to be explained in a blog post. I will be publishing the book "Inoue-Ha Shito-Ryu Karate Techniques" by the beginning of 2013, supervised and authorized by Soke Yoshimi Inoue. I'll be happy to receive any questioning concerning our organization and style.Ricardo Cruz - Brazil Inoue-Ha Shito-Ryu Keishin-Kai's Technical Director & Kata Coach rcruz.br@gmail.com
  • Nestor Cubas
    NICE! I believe he is Kasuga Wakabayashi and Nao Morooka´s sensei too... isnt it?
    • Ricardo Cruz
      Sure!
  • Inoue sensei is so good! Where was this class held? do you know if he comes to the US sometimes?
    • Sasha-san: This seminar was organized by the Inoue-ha organization in Sweden. He does visit the US from time to time, your best bet would be to contact a local branch to find out. Good luck!
  • Aaron
    Where is Inoue Sensei's dojo located? Does he take general practitioners or does he only train competitors?
  • Dani'yal Maneveld
    Jessie-san, this sensei is VERY quick! From what I see, it seems like it is shotokan... too bad we don't have authentic shotokan schools in Cape Town, South Africa. There was one affiliated for almost twenty years, then they became their own organisation... does that make them a McDojo? I am with OGKK now. Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate-do Kyokai.
    • James
      Hi Dani'yal-sanI did a little research about Inoue-Sensei, it turns out he studied Shito Ryu, and according to sempai Wik E. Pedia, there's even a style called Inoue-ha Shito Ryu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shit?-ry?#Branches)Regards!
  • April
    I was honored to live in Tottori and train with Inoue for a few months. It will always be one of the highlights of my karate training.
  • zeeshan
    plz share a diet food plan for kata players in compition
  • Casper
    Understand ;)
  • Brasileiro Karateca
    Guys, can someone help me? I trainee karate without knowing much about it off my School, about the different styles and etc. I train Shotokan, so can I watch de Master Inoue vídeos and fully add what I learned to my training?

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