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The following is an interview that was written a number of years ago at the turn of the century between Soke Takayuki Kubota and Jose Fraguas.

Tak Kubota- The Master of Inner and Outer Strength

by Jose Fraguas

Takayuki Kubota is one of the most famous and respected karate masters in the United States. Born on September 20, 1934 on the Japanese island of Kyushu, he demonstrated and performed his breathtaking strength and conditioning exercises at Ed Parker’s Long Beach International Championships in 1966.

The style Gosoku Ryu  translates to 'Go' meaning hard & 'Soku' meaning fast.

To visit Soke Kubota's homepage

In addition to teaching his very aggressive style of Gosoku ryu karate, Soke Kubota has been acknowledged as the most active and innovative karate instructor in the field of law enforcement techniques. Although his hair has grayed some since his memorable Long Beach demonstration in the mid-60s, he still leads his classes with the same intensity and dedication as he did then. As famous for his work in motion pictures, as for his karate expertise, his resume includes appearances in films such as the classic Tora, Tora, Tora, and The Killer Elite.


Someone said once that if you threw all the top masters in the world into one room and had them fight, Kubota would be the one who walked out. --Enough said.


Kihon ichi no kata  

Kihon ni no kata

Kihon san no kata

Kihon yon no kata

Uke no kata

Ni no kata


Ju hachi no tachi kata

Gosoku yodan

Gosoku godan

Denko getsu


Go no kata



Kime no kata

Anso no kata


KATA KOBUDO created by master Kubota:


TONFA:  Washi no kata, Juji no uke.

JO: Keibo jitsu, Ken shin ryu.

TSUE (walking cane): Tsue ichi no kata, ni no kata, san no kata, yon no kata, go no kata, roku no kata, Gyaku tsue no kata, Mawashi no kata,Gyaku mawashi no kata.


KATANA KATA created by master Kubota: Sankaku giri, Atemi no kata, Kubo giri, Gyaku giri, Iaido ichi no kata, ni no kata, san no kata, Toshin.


Three kanji signs in the upper part:

BU- military (militant)

TOKU- virtue

KAN- house or temple


BUTOKUKAN- The Temple of Warfare Virtues

The kanji signs on the lower strip make up the sign: Kokusai karate-do, which means International Karate-do.

The first dojo young Kubota was accepted in to was that belonging to Kanken Toyama in Tokyo, Japan.
-Black belt magazine 06.1990

Creating the effective self-defence Gosoku-ryu style master Kubota emphasised the development of three areas:


1. Universal promotion of the art of karate-do


2. Its adaptation towards practical application


3. Adjusting teaching methods and techniques to the requirements and the level of different people, especially children and the youth.

Why do you have so many foreign students train in your Glendale dojo?

I guess it almost became a tradition. They are students of other top instructors in different karate styles such as Shotokan, Goju ryu, Shito ryu, etc, in their own countries. I think they are attracted by the versatility of what I teach. I honestly don’t know the main reason, though. The only thing I do is provide them with the best training and welcome them. I believe in many ways this is great. You can find students here from France, Italy, Hong Kong, Mexico, Korea, and more – it’s like visiting the United Nations!


When did you start training?

During World Word Two, many Okinawans came to my home in Kyusho and my family helped some of them. Two of these men were experts in to-de (it was not called karate in Okinawa at that time) and taught to the townspeople in return for their assistance. Their names were Terada and Tokunaga. When I was only four years old, my father began to teach me the very basics of karate do – kihon, kata and a lot of makiwara training. My training was very hard; everything evolved around the number 500: 500 kicks, 500 punches, 500 stance changes, 500 hits to the makiwara, and 500 minutes of kata. Every day was very much the same. My father was teaching me karate to fight to kill, not for self-improvement or sport but for war. We had no gi’s to wear after the war, but it didn’t matter, we just trained very,
very hard for real fighting. That is the way karate was taught in those days. Later on, I moved onto Master Kanken Toyama’s dojo. Toyama Shihan (Shudo kan) was a direct student of Yasutsune Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna.


Do you think all those students from other styles come to you in order to overcome the flaws in their own systems?

I don’t know. It is true that some styles have weak points and when the student reaches the black belt level he might see those so he decides to go out and train in a different style. Some styles are very strong but they are weak in defense. Other are very fast but lack stamina.


What happened when you moved to Tokyo?

I began teaching karate a couple of years after I got to Tokyo. At that time there was Mikami of the Japan Karate Association and also Fumio Demura of the Shito ryu style. We used to help each other and visit our respective dojos to teach and make technical exchanges. This was all a long time ago, maybe 30 years back!


What style do you teach?

I teach Gosoku ryu karate. I like to say that it may not look too classy but it is very effective. I teach how to use power when power is the answer, how to use speed when speed is the answer, and how to use evasion when evasion has to be used. Neither one of those work all the time under all circumstances. You need to have all the physical elements but also intelligence in order to combine them efficiently.


Do you teach karate in the traditional way or have you made some changes?

Of course I made changes. It is not that I have changed the basic techniques but since I have studied different styles I understand their strong and weak points. For instance, some karate styles are very good at offensive maneuvers but they lack an extensive repertoire of defensive actions. In Gosoku ryu I have incorporated many different methods.


Your students are very successful in sport karate. Do you teach special techniques for competition?

Yes I do, but they are successful because they train hard and put a lot of time into it. What’s funny is that a lot of them are very good at getting disqualified for attacking too hard. Competition techniques don’t work in real life and in self-defense situation because the whole environment is different – but being a professional instructor means giving people what they want and need.


So you try to give each student what they are looking for?

Yes. That’s why in my dojo you can see movie stars, film directors, lawyers, undercover agents and even street fighters. I believe that a good instructor has to be able to teach every component of his art at every level. You can´t teach a child in the same way you teach an undercover agent.


Do you think that different karate styles competing against each other will lead karate to a modification of technique?

Eventually. They will have to analyze others styles and find their strong and weak points to try overcome them. It will also affect kata performance, since Shotokan people might be doing Shito ryu or Roju ryu kata if the kata their practitioners have selected for competition has its roots in other ryu. Little by little the styles will be modified.


How do you train students for competition?

I take them to as many competitions as possible to match them against different karate styles. I make them train, discover their weak points while they are under pressure and correct them. This is what I call "closing the gaps". Eventually, as they get smarter, all these mistakes will fade away, and they will become instinctive fighters. However, it is very different to be a fighter than a competitor. You have to watch the students in the artificial competition atmosphere. Then, after seeing the weak points they expose during matches, we go back to the dojo and work on producing good competition fighters.


Do you have any favorite techniques?

I like sweeping and counter-punching a lot, but really I don’t prefer any one technique. You need different techniques because people are different – and you need to have tools to deal with different kinds of opponents. This is the reason why it is so important to spar against many different stylists.


Do you have any objection to sport karate?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with competition. What I really dislike is that it is very limiting as far as techniques are concerned. And that is bad. I believe that there should be a lot of more techniques and not only gyaku tsuki (punching) and mae geri (kicking). This is the reason for the poor attendance at karate competition. What do the organizers expect when the techniques are so boring?


Do you feel karate will go the same way as judo?

If we keep doing the things this way, for sure. A long time ago they started to create rules for the judo until judo was not a martial art anymore. To prevent this from happening to karate we must have a widening of techniques, and not prohibit so many practical self-defense moves, like judo. You shocked everybody at Ed Parker’s International Karate Championship in 1966 when you beat your own hand with a sledgehammer. I believe that in order to deliver or take a punch, the practitioner has to be strong. I’ve always trained like this but I don’t push it on anyone else. I will teach it if someone wants to learn, but a lot of it is mental training, too.


How did you get involved with this kind of training?

My teacher told all the students that we must toughen our bodies and make them strong so we could attack anyone. I remember we had no makiwara at all, so we used rocks. I recall hitting one wrong and cutting my hand pretty badly. My teacher came and did what he thought would help me the most – he poured salt in the open cuts!


So you believe in makiwara training?

If you are in a real fight with a big opponent you have to be strong, and you need a lot of power to be able to stop him properly. In the old karate tradition you had to kill him before he killed you. I like that
kind of training. I teach two different styles of hitting the makiwara. First you must hit it relaxed and focus on the surface – I call this the "stopping style.” The next method is to carry the strike through. You must
make the entire body a weapon – even your toes!


What about your special hammer training?

I do special concrete training and hammer training? I have done this for a long time. I pound my hands, arms and shins with a two-pound hammer – this makes you very strong! Back in Tokyo I was good friends, in my younger days, with Mas Oyama and the famous pro-wrestler Rikadozan. We used to train a lot on the makiwara. In fact, when Master Oyama published his first book, he decided to use my picture – but only my hand. He didn’t want to use my face!


It has a lot to do with mental training?

Yes. I believe it is the best way to train. It makes you tough and allows you to develop the true martial arts spirit. You have to overcome pain and the fear and go beyond the physical. Of course, I use certain
criteria to decide whether or not I will teach a student these special methods. They must toughen their bodies and the best way is through these exercises.


How do you start the student into the program?

He starts out slowly and gradually builds up. After a year, the student can punch the makiwara over 1,000 times without a problem. Of course, sometimes we have injures. People don’t train like they should and make mistakes such as hitting the object improperly and breaking their bones. Unfortunately, it comes with the training. It happened to me many times.


Do you think these programs are beneficial to the average practitioner?

I don’t train so I can go to a tournament and do a show. I do it because I want to train my body so I will be prepared for any confrontation. That’s the philosophy of my style. You can hit me anywhere you want and it will probably hurt you more than it does me. The program prepares you to take on anything. At this point I can block a kendo stick with my forearm and sustain no injury.


What is the most important factor in training students?

There’s no simple answer to that. It depends on the student. Some people improve very fast, while others need more time to learn the same material. There are guys that will never become good, but they really enjoy the training because it improves their health and therefore their lives. The bottom line is that you need a good teacher. But be careful, because a good karate man may be not a good karate teacher.


How important is the length of time a person trains?

It is paramount. The student may have timing, speed, technique, etcetera, but after few minutes against a good opponent technique goes out the window. It’s only after over ten years of training, when a student’s body has absorbed the techniques, and the mind is free to work instinctively on fighting, rather than thinking about every move, that you can really be a karate fighter. It takes ten years to produce a mature karate student.


What would be your message for all karate practitioners?

That they practice the art as a whole through kata, kumite and kihon. Today, many people train kata and kumite as if they were two different things. Actually, kumite starts with kata, and kata starts with kumite.
This mindset would vastly improve any students’ kumite. I don’t mean the kind of kumite you see now, but the kumite using other techniques like enpi (elbow) and hiza (knee). But that’s very dangerous. Everything is dangerous if you can’t control it. That’s why you have to study kata for timing and control. Only if we do this will karate grow and avoid the same pitfalls and fate as judo.


Do you like the way karate has developed in the West?

I really like the Japanese karate style, but I also understand that different cultures have different ways of approaching the same subject. It is impossible to regulate the whole karate world but it is not impossible
to teach respect to the students – respect and etiquette. Unfortunately, many dojos in the West lack this. This should be preserved and passed down for future generations. Without respect and etiquette, karate is just common street brawling.


[Many thanks for IKA_POLAND for this interview.]

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