Women of Shotokan: Hiyori Kanazawa

Last weekend, Hiyori Kanazawa achieved what she had dreamed of: She became grand champion (1th place in kumite and 2nd in Kata) at the SKIF world championship in Czech Republic. We think it is time to read the full interview again, we did with her in March. It shows how far determination and an the will to break through boundaries can lead. Hiyori has shown that she is an inspiring woman of Shotokan. Congratulations, Hiyori. Oss!!!

Portrait of Hiyori Kanazawa

Citizenship: Japan

Age: 21

Karate since: I began when I was 3 years old. But between age 15 to 19 I did not practice Karate because I was abroad for studies.

Rank: 3rd Dan

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Dojo: SKIF Honbu Dojo in Japan

Additional information: Manager and instructor of Akasaka Dojo in Tokyo, Instructor of Narashino Dojo in Chiba, SKIF World Champion in individual Kata girls between 12 and 13 years of age division in Greece in 2009, member of SKIF national team Japan.

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

My grandfather was President of the Shotokan Karate-do International Federation at that time. My father and my uncles also practiced and taught Karate back then for a long time. So it was natural for me to begin with Karate training.

What do you like about Shotokan Karate?

The simple answer is: It matches my body in terms of movements and distance (dynamic movements and long distances).

In addition, I like the philosophy behind Karate in general (respect others and so on).

Is there something you do not like? What is it?

When I was younger, I did not like hard training. But I am really passionate about Karate now. So I enjoy training hard everyday!

Part of Hiyori Kanazawas latest video (see below).
Part of Hiyori Kanazawas latest video (see below).

One thing, I think could improve, is the number of women practicing Karate. I hope that especially women in my age will become more in the future.

What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?

About three years ago, I competed in The SKIF World Championships in Indonesia. At that time, I was in the UK for college and I didn’t have time to train much. So my level was not good enough and my focus was directed towards other things than Karate. I lost in this championship. This was maybe one of the lowest point I had in my Karate practice. But after losing, I realized that I wanted to become better and my motivation went up again.

I started practicing very hard. In the following year, I opened my own Dojo. To see my students improve week after week and to work very hard together with them, has probably being the best experience I have had with Karate so far.

Hiyori Kanazawa in her dojo.
Hiyori Kanazawa in her dojo.

What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from?

First of all, I push myself to go and train every day. But when it becomes too difficult I look at the people around me, my training partners, my students and I see them training hard. That gives me strength to train hard also. In addition, my teachers can be quite tough sometime. But the fact that they are always training with us and always give their best although they are all older than me (but still in very good shape) I think to myself, that I have no excuse to not train hard.

How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Through training, I have improved my body and have become physically stronger. This is important because being physically stronger makes me also mentally stronger and I am not scared to be alone, for instance.

And pushing myself in training every day, helps me face other problems in my life with more confidence.

How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life? Has it helped you overcome or deal with difficult situations in your life?

To give an example: When I lived in Australia I was very shy and did not interact much with other people. But one day, I gave a demonstration of Karate at my school and by showing this side of myself to other people and also the fact, that everybody was impressed, gave me a lot of confidence and made the rest of my stay there much easier.

From the time I started until I was about 19 years old, I was scared of doing Kumite. I was, of course, practicing both Kihon, Kata, and Kumite. But I did Kumite halfheartedly. At some point, I started training more with men, in particular with my teachers, and slowly my Kumite improved. I was practicing mostly with taller and physically stronger men than me (and sometimes getting injured ). So it made me stronger. Then, when I was practicing with women again, for instance in competitions, I was not scared at all anymore.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Today, I like practicing both Kata and Kumite equally.

Since I started, I have been told that a genuine Karateka has to do both Kata and Kumite. Now, many people choose one or the other in competition. But I am very happy and proud that I do both.

Hiyori Kanazawa with students during an international seminar.
Hiyori Kanazawa with students during an international seminar.

What are your personal Shotokan Karate short- and long-term goals?

My short term goal is to participate and win the next SKIF World Championship that will take place this summer in Europe. This is, of course, a selfish goal.

How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?

First of all, however, Karate evolves I think preserving Budō is very important.

Talking about competition: we see a lot more women than before, which is very good. But when I look at people practicing traditional karate, for example in seminars or abroad, I see maybe 90 percent men in classes. I wish more women would take interest in traditional Karate and I want to work to improve this aspect and get more women involved in traditional Karate.

Hiyori Kanazawa during a tournament
Hiyori Kanazawa during a tournament

Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?

Of course, I would recommend Shotokan Karate to female friends. Because Karate has so many positive aspects and it is a fulfilling art. I believe people can become mentally stronger which would be especially good for many women. Because women, more often than men, can feel weak sometimes. Karate can bring out the inner strength of people. I know it is true because it happened to me.

3 comments

  1. Fantastic read. What a wonderful advocate of karate. Very inspiring. As a middle aged women that stopped practicing some years ago, Hiyori has inspired me to get back into the dojo. OSS!

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