Monday, December 3, 2007

From Gichin Funakoshi to Hidetaka Nishiyama and Moshe Rokah: My old love story with Karate

In my late teenage years and early twenties I used to practice Karate in a group named Fujiyama. It was a non-profit group of friends so we didn't have any place of our own to use as a Dojo. Thus, we used this helicopter landing facility in Gan Saker park in Jerusalem, just a few minutes walk from the Israel parliament, which was just the perfect place when it was not too hot or too cold. I find those days hard to believe myself so here is a Google Earth kml link for the exact Fujiyama Dojo location and below you can see a picture of me practicing when I was about 20, even though this one was taken in another park in Jerusalem rather than our usual Dojo.

Anyways, my point is that (other than having this crazy looking beard) I was in a very good physical shape in those days. A 5-10 Kilometer run, for example, was a common fun afternoon pastime but unfortunately we are talking history here and things have changed tremendously since then. I am on my way to be 39 next June and have been working almost entirely in front of computer screens for the past 12 years. Managing the development of the new Conceptis website in the past 4 years didn't make things any better either. I do walk around the neighborhood from time to time but it's obviously not enough. So, realizing I need to do something about it quite urgently I followed this link from my wife today to the website of the Poleg Karate Center, the central Dojo of ITKF in Israel. It's not much of a website and no, I don't think this would solve my problems but I still like to share a few in my opinion interesting facts:

Karate is not a game or a sport but a form of martial art with a few sub-methods. I used to practice Shotokan which was invented in the arly 20th century by a cool fellow named Gichin Funakoshi (seen in the above picture courtesy of and fits thin (58kg) and, mmm, not very high (169 cm) people like myself. I have visited a few Karate clubs in the past years looking for a place to practice Shotokan Karate with practice routines that will fit the way I would like to train this particular form of martial art. Except for a certain club I visited in Tokyo during my visit there with Dave Green in 2004, I have always been disappointed from what I saw and was tuned off.

The Fujiyama group was disassembled soon after both of our Senseis and a few of our team-members made a move to live in Los Angeles in the early nineties so they can practice in Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama's studio, a legendary Karateka seen in the above video from 1955. To the best of my knowledge at least one of my Fujiyama mates, a fellow named Eran Shine who used to be a very good friend of mine and is also an actor who played the SS officer in Timecop 2 AKA Timecop: The Berlin Decision and has a page on IMDB) still is an active member in Nishiyama's club. Unfortunately I have not been in touch with Eran for a few years. Perhaps this would be one of those things that will somehow change things with that respect. You can see Eran in the above B&W photo, shown behind me on the left side of the photo.

The world is small and reading his website I believe that other than being the coach of the Israeli team representing Israel in international championships, Sensei Moshe Rokah (in the above picture) is also the brother of or otherwise related to Sensei Avi Rokah, who was in some point of time a close friend of a few members in out group and practiced the same methods. It says on the site that the Dojo was established "more than ten years ago, by Sensei Moshe Rokah, after his return from LA, where he studied the art of the empty hand for ten years from Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama, 9th Dan, chief instructor and founder of ITKF".

Thanks wife. What a link! I told myself many times I will change things in my life after we launch the new site. Now I know that one of them will be getting back to practicing Karate. Sensei Rokah's Dojo is open 6 days a week, morning and evening (fantastic!) and all classes are thought by himself. In addition, there are beginner classes in the evenings which is perfect for this individual at home... I plan to contact Moshe Rokah (972-50-268-61-65 or 972-9-8350163) visit and experience one of his beginner classes as soon as I can. The Poleg karate Center in Natanya is located approximately 3 minuets driving from where I write this post.

More about what Karate is in this great Wikipedia article, and here is a beautiful video of the Heian Godan kata. A Kata is a set of 20 to 70 moves simulating a combat between the performer and various number of imaginary opponents in a given space.

1 comment:

  1. Moonbeam McQueen5.12.07

    I really loved this post. My brother has a black belt in karate (I think it's called Wing Chung, or something like that). So informative! I hope you really do get back into karate-- it sounds like you loved it.


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