Karate Legends Series
There are only a handful of men alive who can be credited with taking the Okinawan art form of Karate Master Gichin Funakoshi and contributing to the development of what we know today as traditional Japanese Karate With the passing of Taiji Kase Sensei in November of 2004, the world lost another “first generation” JKA Karate Master and founder of a new Ryu-Ha.
Taiji Kase Sensei takes his place among Karate legends because not only was he a master of his art, he was, to say the least - different.
If there is such a thing as a model Shotokan exponent and teacher of Shotokan Karate techniques, he did not fit it, either in appearance, style or philosophy.
Global Expansion of Japanese Karate
In 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Taiji Kase Sensei left Japan as part of the JKA’s plan to globalise Japanese Karate. He spent time in South Africa then toured the US and Germany before moving onto Holland and Belgium.
In 1967 he helped Master Shirai establish himself in Italy, then moved to France where he settled permanently.
Stories abound about the early days in Paris where Kase Sensei had to prove himself in several direct physical challenges. Henry Plee, known as the pioneer of French Karate, spoke about this when he said, once you saw Taiji Kase in action, you admired and respected him, “...he goes directly to the essential. Shotokan Karate Techniques for him are only the means - what is important is the result”.
A Karate Legends Special Brand of Karate
Taiji Kase Sensei’s brand of Karate was naturally suited to his body type. He had a very stocky but strong physique with short legs and arms, but incredibly his waza defied his appearance. He would routinely hold classes where nothing but keri waza - Karate kicks - were practiced. Not just standard Karate kicks, but every variation of hook-kick, reverse roundhouse kick, heel kick, inside front roundhouse kick imaginable.
For sure, Kase Sensei had at some point become determined to be a kicking specialist despite not having the long skeletal structure thought to be necessary for good Karate kicks.
Whilst his leg techniques amazed everybody, his open hand techniques, his tai-sabaki, his fast and precise movement and his unique Kamae were also special.
He taught Karate blocks with a full range movement at maximum power then reduced the movement, firstly to half range and then to just a few inches.
During this process, he would still retain the power of the block as if it was a full range movement - very difficult to do.
He said that in combat there would be no time to do full Shotokan Karate techniques especially Karate blocks, but short range blocks done at full power would hurt the opponent's attacking limb. He described this as "speed plus power Karate". In kumite, he would say that “you should be able to go from zero to one hundred percent in an instant”.