Taikiken, Yiquan, Dachengquan

An interview with Michio Shimada by Jean-Luc Lesueur published by the French magazine Dragon in 2006. I used Google to translate the original and tried to filter out the weirdness that is an inevitable part of software translation. If you can read French please read the original here.

Jean-Luc Lesueur: Can you briefly tell us something about yourself ?

Michio Shimada: My story is very simple. Throughout my life, I have had one thing in mind: fighting. I love fighting. At the age of seven, I first started with judo. Then when I was twenty-two years old, I started karate. For a month I practiced Shotokan Karate, then I changed my style of karate to a form of training with more contact. In this school (Kensei Ryu), blows to the face are permitted and there are daily excercises in kumite (fighting).  This form of karate is not well known in Europe. I  trained for seven years. I became the Sempai (senior member). My teacher was a police officer. It was at university that I practiced this special karate and it was during this period that I met master Kenichi Sawai. It was a friend who introduced me to him.

JL: How did that first meeting go?
MS: I was very young when I met him. I remember very well what he said: “Learning techniques is very easy. Train yourself, that’s the most important. ” I attended his lesson of course. I immediately knew he would become my master. I was not surprised by his personality because he was very natural. I immediately understood that he was a great teacher.

JL: What are your memories of Sawai Sensei?
MS: Sawai Sensei treated me like his own son and he was like my father. Once a week, he called me and chose a partner for me to fight. Each time, I had to fight against a different person. At first I was a little worried. Later I got used to it. My master told me to be natural and not to make too much effort, in the way of looking for a training based on strength and fitness. He also asked me to pay attention to women. Master Sawai showed me just once. When he said something, I had to understand immediately. If forced to explain three times, the communication was broken. Master Sawai opened my first dojo. He supported me and encouraged me to teach. My duty is to continue to do so. I am a student of master Sawai.  My dojo is like his dojo.

JL: What is your definition of tai ki ken?
MS: Tai ki ken is internal energy boxing. It can also be called the boxing of high energy (in the internal sense of the word).
JL: What is particular to tai ki ken in relation to Yi Quan?
MS: Some masters teach Yi Quan only for health. Master Sawai’s teaching focuses mainly on the fight.
JL: What separates tai ki ken from other disciplines?
MS: I think judo is a very good discipline to start martial arts. I like the theory of judo, I think I understood it. On the contrary, I have not found theory in karate. Tai ki ken is very different from other martial arts because it takes as its base the foundation of good health. The meeting with master Sawai allowed me to release and respect myself.
JL: What difference is there between tai ki ken, yi quan (i ken) and da cheng quan (tai sei ken)?
MS: It is often said that tai sei ken (da cheng quan) and i ken (yi quan) is the same thing. Tai ki ken however  is the martial art created by master Sawai. But basically, the theory is the same. This discipline can not be understood by everyone,  because of their complexities and secrets are not accessible to the majority. I think there have been too many different interpretations. The most important is the true theory of Wang Xiang-Zhai and to capture the essence, the rest will come later. Many practitioners study and focus on too many details, but they lack essence, the essencial concept that encompasses universal knowledge. The practitioners in the west include parts but forget something global.

JL: Can you explain a little about Wang Xiang-Zhai’s boxing ?
MS: The history of Wang Xiang-Zhai’s boxing is very old. It dates back more than two thousand years. It was founded on the ancient techniques of health. It is necessary to learn the health techniques to access the martial aspect.

JL: What was it like fighting with master Sawai?
MS: it was a hard battle. When I fought, I really came to respect his personality highly. The story of the master is something bloody, in suffering and in extreme conditions. The master had reached a transcendental level.

JL: What culture is tai ki ken a part of?
MS: Tai ki ken is a synthesis of Chinese culture and Japanese culture.

JL: Some people ask about the nature of the relationship between master Kenichi Sawai and master Mas Oyama (founder of Kyokushinkai)?
MS: Kenichi Sawai helped Mas Oyama a lot. He was Korean. He was a gaijin (name used in Japan to refer to those who are not of Japanese origin and may sometimes have derogatory meaning). In addition, he was Korean. Because of the war and resentment, relations between the two countries have always been difficult. Mas Oyama had at the beginning of his stay in Japan many difficulties integrating into Japanese society. Kenichi Sawai was a soldier and had lots of relations. It is partly thanks to him that Kyokushinkai karate became famous.

JL: What do you consider the most important point in the practice of tai ki ken?
MS: First of all how to stand up and learn to preserve your territory in the sense of personal space. Kenichi Sawai explained a lot about the theories and methods teaching of Wang Xiang-Zhai. Especially, the exercise of Hai (art of displacement) particular to tai ki ken

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