JKA Columbia University

Seek Perfection of character, be faithful, endeavour, respect others and refrain from violent behaviour

Profile of Sensei Masataka Mori in the New York Times

by Christopher S. Wren,
New York Times, June 11, 1999
At the Shotokan Karate-Do of New York, his modest dojo, or training hall, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Mr. Mori teaches a karate as classically Japanese as anything found east of Okinawa.

Sweating for an hour or so under the tutelage of Mr. Mori, who holds a stratospheric eighth-degree black belt rank, is like visiting Japan without having to buy an airline ticket.

Before each class, lawyers, police officers and teachers fall to their knees to mop the floor with damp rags. The commands are given in Japanese. Classes begin and end with meditaion and ceremonial bows. A late arrival must kneel, awaiting Mr. Mori's eventual invitation to join the class. And black belts who perform sloppily may feel the chastening sting of Mr. Mori's shinai--a swordlike bamboo stick--on the offending foot or arm.

For Mr. Mori, karate is not about mayhem, but about balance, focus and proper breathing. Karate's roots, he said, lie in the same Japanese traditions as kendo, the art of sword fighting, or ikebana, the art of flower arranging.

"This is the philosophy of karate," Mr. Mori said. "It stresses manners, sincerity, modesty and courage, truthfulness and respect. I do not believe you will find these in all other sports."

Yasunobu Ohama, a lightning-fast young black belt who learned his karate techniques at his father's dojo in Osaka, said traditional masters like Mr. Mori were getting harder to find, even in Japan. "He is a Japanese samurai," Mr. Ohama said respectfully.