To those who did not have the opportunity to meet my father

My father, Hiroshi Kinjo, departed this life on October 10, 2013 at the age of 94. I'm sure many of you who are visiting this site now have never had the opportunity to meet and talk with him. I would like to share some memories about him and things he used to say. I hope that my memories will help you feel closer to my father.

First, I’d like to tell you two things he often said. They might be useful in your lives. One is the important lesson for karate bouts, and the other is a teaching we should remember when we start to work.

The first is that in our family, everyone except my father was a woman, so when we found a large spider in the house, it was his job to catch it and take it outside. He always caught it quickly with his bare hands. When I said, “Dad, that's amazing! How come you are so good at catching spiders?” He replied, “Never give your opponent even the slightest clue.” I was deeply impressed that the essence of karate was alive and well, even when he caught a spider. So, please keep this in mind. “Never give your opponent even the slightest clue!”

The next point does not actually originate with him, but it is something that he was told by one of his superiors during the war. That is, “The temple bell only rings after it is hit. To be a good worker, you need to be ringing before you are hit.” It means that it is too late to start acting only after being directed to do so. Therefore, you should think about what will be needed next and be prepared at all times. These are two teachings that, I think, are worth remembering.

   Hiroshi Kinjo may have been strict as a karate sensei, but he was a caring and amusing father at home. He told us funny stories about his childhood pranks and failures. In his words, he was a laissez-faire person and rarely told us, his three daughters, to study. Furthermore, he didn’t push us in a particular direction, nor did he say that we should do this or shouldn’t do that. Instead, I think we naturally learned in our daily lives what kind of adults my father wanted us to be.

Until I was in the lower grades of elementary school, when the Tanabata Festival was held in Hiratsuka, wounded soldiers who had lost limbs and legs in the war were seen begging. For me, it was a sad and, at the same time, frightening sight. On the day I went to a festival with my father, he had me hold some 100-yen coins in my little hands and said, “Just put these in his metal cup.” It took a lot of courage for me to get close to an amputee in a dirty military uniform while there was no one giving money. However, from that day on, I think my feelings about disabled veterans changed.

It happened when I was in the third grade of elementary school and went out with him. In a slightly open area in front of the train station in Hiratsuka, a young man, who didn’t look Japanese, was sitting on the ground with some drawings on construction paper. I remember that a piece of cardboard next to him said, “I'm traveling.” My father said, “Let’s put this in that can,” and he gave me some money.

Although it was embarrassing for me to walk through the adults gathered around the young man in a semicircle and hand over money in front of them, I remember very well that the smile on his face brightened my spirits. At that time, our family was not financially stable, so my mother worked at home making small things such as pens and knitted goods to help the family finances. I also recall my father gently saying, “Don't tell your mother, OK?”

When I was in the upper grades of elementary school, I showed my father my homework essays and book reviews and asked him to correct my kanji, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. I don't remember what the essay was about, but he told me, “The phrase ‘spirit of philanthropy’ is appropriate here,” and I learned the word ‘philanthropy’ and its meaning for the first time. Looking back on those years, I think that his values were imprinted on me while he helped me with my homework.

  Although our home in Hiratsuka is located inconveniently, about 25 minutes by bus from the train station, there were people from all over the country who wanted to talk to my father, and they visited him until his final years. Sometimes people even came from overseas. He was a humble person and never tried to make himself look greater than he was, nor did he feel inferior to anyone. He simply never compared himself to others, nor did he compare other people with each other. He always treated everyone in the same natural way.

The Argentina Karate-Do Kenshukai Association had been in contact with my father for decades, and when some members came to Japan, they were practicing at dojos in Numazu and Itabashi. Even though they and their Japanese counterparts didn't speak the others’ language, they didn't seem to have any trouble communicating with each other using the common words used in karate and some gestures. I can still clearly remember my father happily reproducing gestures while saying, “They went sightseeing in Tokyo here and there and saw the statue of Mr. Saigo in Ueno.”

There was a karate instructor who came all the way from Italy many times. At that time, there were no translation apps for smartphones, so we were very impressed that on his first visit, he was able to come to our house by taxi. My father seemed very happy from the bottom of his heart, saying, “I heard that he wanted to know the real karate!” This Italian karate practitioner would send our family gifts at Christmas and Easter. We would all share the chocolates and unfamiliar sweets that came in a big box. My father always enjoyed the festive atmosphere at these times.

It was a few days after the Great East Japan Earthquake. An American martial arts instructor visited us with one of his students, who had been living in Japan for a long time. He asked my father the following question: “If you were walking down a road and a group of gangsters crossed over to block your path, what would you do?” As I listened to the question, I visualized a scene in my head: a deserted Okinawan road with no houses around, 5~6 strong men each with knives and sticks, my father facing them empty-handed at a distance of about 10 meters.

He hardly seemed to think and simply replied, “Well, I'm going to run away.” I thought, “That’s my dad! He is very different from other people.” I felt very proud of him for saying “run away” without hesitation. On the contrary, the person who asked the question seemed to have a slightly surprised, or maybe disappointed, expression on his face for a moment. He may have been expecting practical advice, such as “First, seize the arm of the nearest man holding a knife, and at the same time, kick the shin of the next closest man and stop him...” If my father’s response had been like a fight scene in a

Hollywood movie, I would have been disappointed. He just laughed, saying, “Wouldn’t it be foolish if I got hurt dealing with a bunch of gangsters without a good reason?” After this comment, the American martial arts teacher seemed to be convinced. The word “run away” was typical of my father, who emphasized greater humanity rather than physical superiority. It is the person who has more than enough confidence in his karate skills, power, and technique that can say the phrase “run away” openly.

On a different occasion, an editor and a writer of “the Japan Martial Arts Encyclopedia” came, one of them asked the following question: “Why did you choose karate instead of judo or kendo?”  It was a question I had never asked my father before, so I listened with interest to see how he would respond. He replied in a thoughtful tone, “It was because I was attracted to the philosophy of peace and respect for humanity, which I found in the Ten Precepts of Itosu.” Then, he specifically quoted a part of the first paragraph of the Ten Precepts of Itosu: “You should never harm people with your fists and feet.” I think it was natural that my father, who was baptized a Christian as a child, sympathized with the basic spirit of “educational karate” advocated by Ankou Itosu.

In Hiroshi Kinjo's writings, the phrases “karate based on the philosophy of respect for humanity” and “greater humanity” are often used. As the number of karate schools increased, he always asked what real karate was. It is certain that the teachings of Ankou Itosu were the basic concepts of the true karate that he had been seeking. I would like those who have learned karate from my father to be proud of the fact that they have learned karate in the style of Ankou Itosu. Also, even if you are currently practicing a different type of karate, or even if you stop practicing karate in the future, I would like you to always keep in mind “the philosophy of respect for humanity” that Ankou Itosu seems to have valued the most.

  In my father’s long life, what pleased him the most was not fame or money, but the presence of people who came all the way to see him and people who earnestly learned karate from him. Many of the people who visited my father have continued to show love and respect for him, and even after he passed away, they have visited the house in Hiratsuka and/or visited his grave. There are also some people who continue to send me emails, postcards, and the like. My family and I are very grateful. In October 2023, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of my father's passing, a total of 13 people from Argentina and Uruguay came all the way to Numazu to practice karate with some former students who are still loyal to my father’s teachings. It is very reassuring to see that there are people on the other side of the world who are trying to carry on my father's legacy and pass it on to future generations.

In 2013, on the message board of the November issue of the monthly magazine “Budo,” published by Japan Budokan, they printed a sentence that my father himself had prepared. Here, I want to tell you once again the words that he entrusted to me 2~3 months before his passing. He said, “I would like to express my deep gratitude for the kindness that I received from all of you during my lifetime.”

   When you think of a karate master, you might guess that he spends most of his time at home practicing kata and strength training. But the typical image of my father that comes to my mind first is him sitting at his desk, reading or writing. He was a great reader and had many books in a wide range of genres. It was only natural that he read books about martial arts, sports, the function of the human body, and health. However, he also read books from a variety of fields, including Japanese history, world history,

Japanese classical literature, classical performing arts, biology, and physics, among others. When he read a book, he was often looking for a way to connect it to karate.   He collected various books on the same theme to look at things from multiple perspectives, deepen his understanding, and find universal facts. For example, he read seven books about Einstein's Theory of Relativity, although none of them were for specialists, but ranging from illustrated books for elementary school students to introductory books for adults. I remember my father proudly saying, “My knowledge is shallow but broad as well.” The word “shallow” sounded so funny that we started laughing out loud together. In fact, no matter what I asked him, he always answered in some way, and I don't remember hearing the words “I don't know.“ When I was a little girl, an American TV drama, “Father Knows Best,” was aired. I don't remember much about it, but the title is unforgettable because it reminds me of my own father.

Going back to his remaining book collection at home, the field with the largest number of books is not related to karate or martial arts, but they are books on Japanese language, kanji, and a variety of dictionaries. It reflects his belief, which was “when expressing something, it is necessary to express it grammatically correctly with the most appropriate words, so that the intention can be conveyed to others without being misunderstood.” He was never satisfied with his current level and always aimed to improve. My father, who had an inquiring mind and a desire to acquire knowledge, taught me the joy of continuing to learn and the sense of fulfillment that comes from inner richness.

   For most people, it's hard to imagine the day when their parents will disappear from this world. I also thought that my father would always be there for me and that he would always support me emotionally.

But by the summer of 2013, I was starting to realize that we wouldn't be together for much longer. There was something I really wanted to check with him, but I didn't want him to know that I was mentally preparing for the day I would lose him. So, I was looking for an opportunity. It was at the end of September or the beginning of October, one or two weeks before his condition became critical. Although I can't remember how the conversation flowed, I was able to ask him a question when we were chatting after dinner. I think I incorporated it into our conversation well, but since my father was perceptive, he may have noticed what I was feeling. The question that I asked was, “As a human being, what do you think is the most important thing?” He paused for a moment and replied, “Being sincere.” That was the answer I was expecting, so I said, “I knew that you would say that,” and we didn't discuss it any further. Since the loss of my father, whom I always asked for an opinion when I was in doubt, I have asked myself, “What would Otou-san do?” or “What is being sincere in this case?” In this way, I use his ideas as a guide.

   Finally, here are some of his words that might sound a little surprising to you. After a karate practioner who had been discussing karate with my father had left, he muttered, “To be honest, the ideal world is a world where karate is not necessary.” These words were coming from a person who deeply loved karate and once prepared a farewell haiku: “I will walk this path in the next life as well.” Taking my father’s words into consideration, I’d like to finish this essay with a sincere hope: May we, human beings, value each other, solve our problems through dialogue based on the philosophy of respect for humanity, and move toward a future that my father would have dreamed of.

   Hiroshi Kinjo’s youngest daughter, Mayumi

   Special thanks to my English teacher, Sam O’Toole, and my best friend, Kimmer.
Thanks to today’s technology, I was able to translate my essay in Japanese into English quicker and easier. That being said, without Mr. O’Toole’s professional help, I couldn’t have conveyed the subtle nuances of Japanese in English. I believe that this English version is as close as possible to the original one, thanks to his great help.
To my best friend, Kimmer: Without you, I wouldn’t have made a constant effort to improve my English. I’m very grateful that I was able to help my father communicate with people from overseas. I also appreciate your help suggesting some words from the Bible.

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