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A Ghampion inThree Decadesl
Toyotaro M iyar.kf S".?":arch for Tradition
the glow of the limelight that bringshim out. And while all competitorschance the tournament game lorsome personal gain, he is not lookingfor the proverbial pot oI gold or tameand fortune at the end of lhe rainbow:the chain ot schools, the lucre oI theseminar, the stab at Hollywood. lt isnot the high of competition thatmakes him tick, but instead his self-aoDointed role as the "ambassadorlor the traditional"- his need to keepthe ideas ot classical kata alive onthe c i rcu i t that br ings h im to tourna-ment atter tournament, Year afteryear.
To fully sketch the Miyazaki spirit,the Miyazaki character, a brief diver'
sion into history is warranted. Back inthe 60s when he first started com-peting, there were no national ratings(and no Kl until 1969). Becord booksmust subsequently be substituted byfading memories and dim recollec-tions. To remember Miyazaki is noteasy; in all honesty he lacked the colorof a Mcoallum, the arrogance of a JoeLewis, the cool calculations and tlashytoggery of a "Nasty" Anderson. Yet hewas as tough as the best of them,
"He was very clean, very sharp," remembers Chuck Merriman. "The thingthat always stands out in my mindabout Miyazaki was that he used ex-cellent karate techniques; he didn'tresort to any type of flashy things justto get points. He was always a guy Ilooked to because he never com-promised his ideals of karate just towin tournaments."
"He was a gentleman," adds FredHamilton, "but he also had a great dealot courage. He would nerer take acheap shol, but h could be aroused.Because of the foibles of lhe tour-naments-poor retereeing or fegional-ism-there were guys who got inFaginary victories and that fi(b theircareer, but they really didn't bat him.They ran around and talked abouf,'Oh Ibeat Miyazaki,' when in reality thydidn't beat him."
Miyazaki was not a big traveler inthose days so his standing slippdsomewhat before his injury. Afler retirement, he was content to retum to hisschool and maintain a lull sciEdule ofteaching. So why all of a sudden did hereturn to competition atter a tive yearabsence? lt's hard to pin him down tothe exact reason, but Miyazakidoes ad-mil that it was a quick decision. Hepegs his choice to return around threefactors: first, he saw a strictly tradi-tional AAU tournament which slirredmemories of competing; second, he feltthe number of classical kata comDet-itors in open tournaments was lackingand third, he believed active participa'tion would maintain his own level ofproficiency in his art.
"l saw the AAU tournament; thetighting didn't impress me too much.But in the kata competition, especiallywomen, that really impressed me. Thenthat night, well, lstarted thinking. lreal-ly enjoyed it and lsiarted thinking ofcompeting again. That night lcouldn'teven sleep."
Miyazaki also felt lhe emphasis wastoo strong on open as opposed to clas-sical kata. Accordingly, he wanted toprove to himself and to his studentsthal you could stil l win with a com-
pletely traditional form. Further, he alsobelieved by competing he could be apublic relations vehicle to show com-petilors and spectators alike what theoriginal forms were.
Miyazaki notes that by regularlycompeting, he tricks himself intomaintaining a certain level ol practiceand a high degree of perfection. "ltkeeps me up on my martial art and alsoeach specitic technique. lf l just taughtclass and practiced by myself, it wouldbe different. But when a tournament lscoming up, I am looking forward to gc
ing, so l'll practice harder. That'shelped me a lot. The younger people,their movements are so much faster: itis really good for me to compete withthem."
Notlcably lacking among hls rea-sons for returning is the desire to placehigh in the national ratings. "Well, Ithought about 'number one'of course,but it is not easy to go to all the tour-naments. I have my own business; Iconducl classes in two schools. wealso have some of our own tour-naments. Traveling takes up the wholewekend; it's really not easy for me. Soit's not my goal to be in the numberonespot." Miyazaki wouldn't mind it heended up there, but he frankly admitsthat it is not his end-all and doall ambi-Iton.
His contemporaries on the circuitdon't really view him as a rival. "l wouldsay that he's at a level where hedoesn't even have to compete," notesStuart Quan. "He doesn't have to beout there, but I think it's good that heshows pople what old martial arts, theold way, is all about."
"l remember reading about himwhen lwas a kid," recalls SonnyOnowo. "l don't want to make him loelold or anything, but hs has already
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made one trip around on the circuit. ltis really something for me to competewith somebody that I read about; that'swhy it's always been a thrill to me. Iwanted to be like N4iyazaki when I wascoming up in karate, and to competewith him is something else. He has
I blended what is reouired in the nationalcompetition with his skill, with whatkarate is,
"He's also a wise person. Miyazakiis not vocal when it comes down to.aproblem or whenever there is a con-lroversial thing. He's very stable, so thewhole circuit leans toward him as faras when it comes down to a question olone thing or another."
All compliments aside, is Miyazakias good as he was in the 60s, or has thepool of competitors jUSt weakened tohis advantage? "l think he is much bet-ter now," argues Merriman. "l think theolder you get, the better you get if youtrain properly. And in his case, he hasnever stopped training. He has thal in-ner thing that most people look for; thespirit has to really shine. Everybodytries to put his finger on whatMiyazaki's gol that a lot ot other peopledon't have. I think it 's the strong spiriteverybody teels when he does hiskata."
Otten in lhe winnofs clrcla In lir igHiredays, Miyazakistands at th. f|. rlgltt d-a 1970 toumamont. Mlko Wr r rJ JoHayos sil al hr lsll
Fred Hamilton adds, "Tts isn'lmuch ot a diflerence; I grB it's tikeTom Seaver. He rnay heE ld a tootott his fast ball, hrl lt|al's abn dl-"
Miyazaki is in the unklF podtbn tosurvey the lasl throe dc& of td,]r!*ment karale. Whib rivals lrqn tE dlsmay now be judging d 9(nElho djust dropping out, ho sdll c-t ar fEaction from lhe sarrE va.irga gd-that of a competila- Acco.tlqgt |Fhas developed strmg o|t.nir|! ot Adltournament judgin0 ard b|r! cd}petition.
Having a blad( bdt t5 rd U.rgbusy during a partlrlr b|t! tftbnare not sufticif rElfrrur!4 Htyazaki believes- "To lin o! ltarFe,we'd spend malto sL nEd6, aqhtmonths or a year to nS lt goo4" heexplains ol the tratnhC tu t fradi-tionalist. "Othet pada irn (b splitsall the way to the froo., hn ldFs aremore i mpressed wiltr tl!|. To nre, lo geta good, strong sta'r b fls3 difticultthan a split. SomlirrE3 | s gpod pecple losing. For exanple, sey I se.d twopeople to a tournaflsrt and one is befter than the other. &rl atlr the judging,they come out the op0o6ite way. Thatbothers me."
To remedy this prcblem, Miyazakistresses that judges should meet someeligibility requirern.rt lor lhe largeopen tournament, psataps gren test-ing. He does admit lhal such a changewould take a period of time; however. inthe interim, those iudging should studyto familiarize ttEmselves with thebasics of a number of differing arts.Even after 24 years of iis own study,Miyazaki urges that he would not bequalified lo judg an open division ornight final.
Has he ever been hurt by poor judg-ing? While he hints without specificsthat he has. others are more exDlicit. "lf
lhey were judging just on form andstances and focus and technique,"Quan notes, "he should score higher.But a lot of judges don't know; theydon ' t unders tand. He 's t rad i t iona lwhere everybody else is doing openforms. even in the Japanese division."
While he doesn't particularly haveanything against open forms, l\ i l iyazakiis not their most enthusiastic sup-Dorter. lt is f ine to compete in the opendivision, but one should be able toenter with a traditional torm as well.Additionally, Miyazaki stresses that afighter should not feel restricted fromalso entering the kata competit ion-tothe extent that there almost might bethe same number of entrants in bothdivisions.
The key to understanding the tradi-tional, and accordingly a traditionalistsuch as Miyazaki, he explains, is to dis-cover that there is meaning underlyingthe classical forms, regardless ol hownew or how many changes it has under'gone; open torms are merely a personalexpression. And while an anti-tradi't ionalist might argue that certain Oki-nawan forms are not that old, his adver-sary wil l argue that the meaning, thehistory and the understanding in thosekata must be Preserved.
Allow Miyazaki to elaborate. "lf youwant to really study the meaning ofkata, you have to know what China wasor what Okinawa was. For example,many kata were made up in the dark. Insome movements we go to the floorand look up; it is really to look up at thesky and see your opponent's shadow. lfpeople just go down to the floor, theydon't know, thus they don't imagine.They just go down to the floor."
Don't be mistaken; Miyazaki is notsome stern Puritan scowling the tour-nament circuit. He is often compli"mented most on h is adherence tostandards and also his abil ity to adapt.During a night f inals, you're more l ikelythan not to see hi