Karate legend Tetsuhiro Hokama speaks about the martial art form that defines him
When they met the first time, karate legend Tetsuhiro Hokama likened K.S. Sekar's body to a wall. “A wall will develop cracks after a while. But, a bamboo tree can withstand the most devastating typhoons. It is supple, and does not break easily.”
That piece of advice, received during a visit to Okinawa, did Sekar immense good. Hokama's student for life, Sekar went to Okinawa four more times. Early this year, the master came here for the “Second Hokama World Cup” organised by Sekar.
For the competitors, who came from Dubai, Iran, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and various regions of India, seeing Tetsuhiro Hokama was the moment of a lifetime. It is easy to see why. The only surviving student of the incomparable Higa Seiko, Hokama represents all that seems lost in the world of karate. With the massive popularity of the sports form of karate, the traditional martial-arts form has receded.
It is only a few masters such as Hokama who can show what it was like in the beginning. For Hokama, the two forms are equally valuable. “Just as man and woman are required for the continuance of the human race, these two are essential for the progress of karate,” he says.
A museum for karate
Besides protecting the traditional from the cross-winds of innovation, 66-year-old Hokama is the architect of the Okinawa Prefecture Karate Museum, one of three sports museums in Okinawa.
Hokama's museum, which tracks the evolution of various disciplines within karate, draws students from 140 countries. Many of them are chief instructors in karate schools, and are humbled by Hokama's skills — not only his swift movements in the dojo, but also his erudition. He holds a doctorate in karate and his 17 books are characterised by thoroughgoing research. For Hokama, no detail is too small.
Hokama does not want to rest on his laurels, and is planning a film with karate as central theme. He has a ready script and is in discussion with filmmakers.