9th Dan, Hanshi

On April 28th, 2006, Master Tsuneyoshi Ogura, who himself was raised by Yamaguchi Gogen (1909-1989) and Gima Makoto (1897-1998), gave Sensei Roland Habersetzer, in his Dojo in Kofu (Yamanashi-ken, Japan), the rank of 9th Dan, with the title of Hanshi and the statute of Soké (main founder) of his own now recognized style - "Tengu-No-Michi " (Tengu-Ryu Karate-Do, Kobudo, Hojutsu). These ranks and titles were also confirmed by Tadahiko Ohtsuka of Gojukensha of Tokyo, another Master-reference in Gojuryu and a long time friend, raised by Naha-te and Shuri-te directly from Higa Yuchoku (1910-1994).
This ultimate recognition underlines the direction which Roland Habersetzer always wanted to give to his 49 years of practicing martial arts - an engagement in favor of an authentic Tradition, in the purest respect of the stages "Shu", "Ha" and "Li". This event also legitimates his concept of practice "Tengu No Michi". The title of Hanshi had already been given to him as well by Kokusai Shotokai Egami-ryu Karatedo Renmei.

 Ba ... Giri ... the Bond and the Duty ...

(Japan, May 2006)

I would like to start by bringing up a story allotted to Gichin Funakoshi, which I have quoted in my "Writings on Budo". That same spirit came back to me when I left the Dojo of Master Ogura, on 30th of April. It also can be interpreted as the Master's answer to the question of how would one know to distinguish correctly a "normal" man from another, who is following the Way? Here:
"When the common man passes the examination for his 1st Dan, he is fulfilled with pride in front of the members of the jury, then hurry to announce the good news to his family; when he takes successfully his 2nd Dan, he climbs to the highest eminence and shouts all around to find the distinction of what he has just obtained; and when he takes 3rd Dan, he jumps in his car and storms the city while hooting frantically to celebrate the event...
A man who can recognize the Way acts differently. To the 1st Dan, he inclines his head as a sign of recognition; he receives his 2nd Dan while arching even a little more as a sign of humility; and when he receives his diploma for 3rd Dan, he is inclined to the ground, confused, before eclipsing discreetly, after being able to see more clear now what separates him from the true perfection ".

Tenguryu Karatedo Soke

I have been in the town of Kofu (prefecture of Yamanashi) on several occasions since 1973, after I first met Master Tsuneyoshi Ogura with Sensei Henry Pléé in Paris. I don't want to re-create this story here at this moment. If I go back in time to this first meeting, I have to say that it was decisive for my Budoka practice, at the bottom of this Kimochi (environment) which had suddenly been settled between us. I decided to remain faithful to the man who had then given me 5th Dan, with the title of Shihan. I decided to remain "dependent" (Ba), without hesitation, because he gave me confidence at the moment I thought of stop practicing Karate, which did not reflect any more (within the sporting federation in which I believed at first) the very reasons which initially attracted me and kept me there for more than 15 years already.
When I went once again in his Dojo in Gembukan in April 1992, I knew the Master had health troubles and was recovering from his first attack, I found him brutally aged physically, but his spirit had remained sharp. He then entrusted me, that when he arrived at the Sky (while he was in a coma), God had said to him to go back to his Gembukan, because there would be still many things to be done… but, he should have added, for "some time"… A touching manner to tell me that he appreciates what he felt to be as a deferment. On that occasion, when he gave me 8th Dan, he made a point by adorning his pageantry kimono for the traditional ceremony of handing over the diploma in his Dojo. When I left Kofu, we thought we will never see each other for another examination again…
Nevertheless, some people's Karma imposes strange turns… That the Master was to survive, but still with degrading health. I knew he awaited me these last years. I would like to mention that he discouraged me to visit in 2004, as I had planned, writing to me that it would be a bad year for me… That, indeed, was the year I started to be preoccupied with health issues, which were prolonged in 2005…! Thus, I anticipated this return to Kofu as soon as possible. I had once again the lucky chance to see Sensei Ogura.
Strange thoughts took over my mind when I took the Azusa train from Shinjuku in Tokyo, in direction to the mountains of Yamanashi-ken. A feeling of returning to the source once again, after all this time, like an unhoped-for grace. This time the cherry trees had bloomed, and the vines were already green. Further more, the Master awaited me. How was I going to find him? I was unable to not feel feverish…
To my friends (and also to the others…) who will read these lines, I would like to say only this: Visibly more physically declined, unable to move much accept very slowly, speaking with difficulty, the eyes of my old Master still inhabited the same flame as they penetrated mine. We just had to start by… crying together… happily! Intense sequence of emotions… Then slowly we gathered our feelings again. The words came. Glances, smiles. Happiness to be together in a so unhoped-for way. A great moment! And then, I wanted to speak to him about my "Tengu Way", to explain to him a research which I had undertaken when I left 14 years ago. In the presence of his two sons, Hisanori Sensei and Hirotsune, he listened to the long explanation of my evolution, and spoke with voice so low that I had to come very close to him to be able to understand his remarks of an unexpected relevance, fulfilled with supportive and benevolent glance. Later, before we parted (for how long this time…), the Master pronounced my promotion to the title of Hanshi, in the tradition of the Menkyo system (title which translates in the modern system into 9th and 10th Dan), and more important to me, the title of Soke (Master-Founder) of Tengu-Ryu Karate-Do, including Kakemono with his seal as a sign of his support.
A very few times I have had strong feelings during the attribution of my ranks as Karate expert. In 49 years of practice and passion to this date: joy and pride at the time I was given my 1st Dan (1961) and 2nd Dan (1965) with the French Federation (I was young and I still believed in it). Then still pride at the time of the 5th Dan given to me by Sensei Ogura (1973). Then, mostly nothing, never really, until this evening of April 28th, 2006. When I found myself completely submerged in this feeling of a great peace and immense happiness. Of an immense responsibility… As simple as that… But I absolutely did not want go and shout out on the roofs… I wanted to remain exactly, just like that, forgotten there, to be able to keep this feeling longer to myself… This evening I walked a long time in the night of Kofu. If I share this here, it is only after I have reflected on it for a long time, and I finally decided that it will be right to share it with those, who on their turn, have trusted me for so long time. Here, it is done now. Let us not speak about this any more. There is a lot of work to be done first, before one is able to even foresee the end of the Road: "Kyu Do Mu Gen" (Following the Way never ends.).
When I found myself at the Kofu station, I took a look for the last time at the mountains surrounding the city where my Master continued to fight. The horizon behind was vaguely profiled by Mount Fuji in the morning fog, my heart became heavier. Will I see Shihan Ogura again? With his authorization to teach "My" Way, which from now on could be only mine, in the purest Tradition of the stages "Shu", "Ha" and "Li", he legitimated "Tengu-No-Michi" . The day before, Master Ogura put in the enormous effort to climb the stiff stairs which connect his apartment to the Dojo, with visible pains, to pose for the memorable photo. Where was the happy time we ran to the temples in the country of Takeda Shingen? Yes, of course, we cried when I was leaving. Domo Arigato, Sensei…Mata Omeni Kakarimasho…
Who could know? When I left once again the Kofu Temple dedicated to Takeda Shingen (another rite…) I imagined that I heard the laughter of a Tengu… Could it be laughing at the brittleness of the men? But, another time, perhaps, it will be inspired to give me an answer to the questions I continue to ask myself! A part of my heart remained with the Tengu of the Kofu country. May the life be soft for you, O-Sensei Ogura, still for long. Let your Tengu assists you. O Ki Otsukete, Sensei ... Take care of yourself ...

... on May 28, 2006

(translation from french : Dimitre "Mitko" Mihaylov)

Emotion of the meeting again with Sensei Ogura, fidelity for 33 years.


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