DAN MĂTUŞEA: “IN NIKO I’VE FOUND ASHIHARA-KARATE’S ESSENCE AND I’LL STAY HERE DUE TO MY MORAL VALUES. SELLING ISN’T ITS MAIN PURPOSE, LIKE YOU CAN SEE IN OTHER ORGANIZATIONS”

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I had a conversation with Sensei Dan Mătuşea, 3rd Dan NIKO (New International Karate Organization) black belt, the coach of Romania Ashihara-Karate national team and the president of Ares Dojo DM Sports Club (Braşov). So, I present you a comprehensive interview made by AK MASTERS, in which I approached all the topical issues regarding his activity in nowadays Ashihara-Karate worldwide. The English version of this interview is shorter than the original one, in Romanian language. For complete experience, click here!

Acest interviu are o variantă extinsă în limba română, pe care o puteți accesa aici!

AK MASTERS: – How did you start practicing martial arts and Ashihara-Karate?
DAN MĂTUȘEA: – It’s 30 years since then… I first practiced Shotokan thanks to a friend and, right after the 1989 Revolution from Romania, when martial arts began to be more and more present in society, I started practicing Wushu Sanda (until 1992), and later Goju-ryu, opening my first dojo in 1994. Since 1998 I’ve been in contact with Ashihara-Karate, enjoying the dynamics, efficiency and techniques’ spectacularness. I first contacted Adrian Dejanu, and then I met other members of the organization, such as Petrică Bulmagă, Nicolae Dascălu, Paul Codău, etc. I obtained the black belt in 2003, the 2nd Dan – in 2006 and 3rd Dan – in 2010. In 2005 I set up the Ares Dojo DM Sports Club and currently I’m the coach of the Ashihara-Karate national team.

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Foto: Facebook Dan Mătușea

– How was NIKO World Championship, in Kazakhstan?
– For Romania was easier than I’d expected. We excelled in the cadets and juniors categories, the proof being that we finished in the second place in nations ranking.
– Was Hidenori Ashihara satisfied with the organization in Kazakhstan, because I noticed at that time, in social media, some tough comments between people?
– Indeed, in Kazakhstan we had some less pleasant moments, which I consider to be organizational leaps, not necessarily bad faith. However, because of this situation, Kancho canceled a training, and the other Branches blamed the Romanian delegation. We don’t consider ourselves responsible, and I think there was a lot of noise for nothing. Subsequently, all sorts of exaggerations in the social media appeared, which were irrelevant.
– Could we say there are tensions between NIKO’s leaders?
– To be effective, there must be some “driving levers” in an organization. Otherwise, it would be just a bunch of noisy people. Therefore, some commissions have been set up globally, with some responsibilities (in terms of competition regulations, arbitration, etc.). Or, when such things didn’t exist until recently, it’s normal that when someone says that from now on we must do this or that, there will be dissatisfactions. After all, we are an organization and we have to go in the same direction. The final decision always belongs to Kancho, who usually consults before taking it.

– Many movements from one Ashihara-Karate organization to another have been observed lately. How would you characterize this phenomenon? Can we talk about NIKO losing ground to the advantage of AIKO, for example?
– I could not say that! NIKO is the Ashihara-Karate “mother organization” and no one can say otherwise. It isn’t a commercial organization, the internet not being full of Kancho’s pictures or videos. NIKO is an Japanese organization and sees things differently. They practice martial arts as a way of life. I talked with Kancho and I realized that he never put international expansion on the forefront. We, the Branches, wanted to expand worldwide. Why? Because we have organizational structures, legislation, which implies a certain development. We are the ones who want a strong global organization, so that the national authorities can support us. We want an international geographical representation as wide as possible for being recognized. In this context, Kancho was not disturbed, as long as the martial art and the legacy of Hideyuki Ashihara are the foremost.

– This means that he isn’t disturbed at all by the departures from NIKO?
– I think he doesn’t give them importance and I’ll tell you why. What I’ve noticed from my experiences at Honbu: Kancho wakes up, he trains, and then he deals with other things. Instead, he’s disturbed by the following: his father’s name was Ashihara, and after he left Kyokushin, he founded the Ashihara-Karate, not another structure that included the term Kyokushin. This is the legacy of Hideyuki, meaning the creation of a large organization. So, at some point, you made part of NIKO, and in the meantime you left, why do you still use this name? No one stops you from practicing any kind of martial arts, but at least, for common sense, wear a white karate-gi, because – from an organizational point of view – you no longer represent Ashihara-Karate. Don’t you find this dishonest and unfair? I studied the competition and came to the conclusion that NIKO has the best Ashihara-Karate product.

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Foto: Facebook Dan Mătușea

– How do you characterize Hidenori Ashihara’s involvement in Romania, given the constant presence in our country of Dave Jonkers and Jōkō Ninomiya?
– Was Kancho invited to Romania and did not come?
– If he isn’t invited, then the attitude of passivity is adopted?
– We keep in touch with Kancho; in his absence, we, his Branches, are here. It’s not passivity! I think it’s an error of perception. If there will be some national leaders who will invite Kancho to Romania, he will surely come. Unfortunately, Branches don’t even take part in departmental meetings, what to say more? Dave Jonkers and Jōkō Ninomiya have an interest to come in Romania for image and to develop their organizations. Kancho doesn’t want this; it’s a different vision: martial arts versus contact sports. Many times we have encountered difficulties because Kancho doesn’t understand our priority approach to contact sports. Within the Romanian Martial Arts Federation, we have commissions for organization, arbitration, etc. We took “a terrible fight” with Japan because they don’t understand our system; neither we theirs, to be frank. So, we are talking about Jōkō Ninomiya, who has been living in the USA for decades, and Dave Jonkers, of Dutch origin; they are people who come from other systems and relate differently to these things.

– What does Ashihara-Karate mean to you and why should someone practice this martial arts style?
– I love music and I would have liked to sing. The painting also impress me. I wish I would have written a book… So, I said to myself that I have to discover an activity in which to manifest my potential. Finally, I found martial arts which fulfilled me and this is why I remained in this area. Why should someone practice Ashihara-Karate? It offers you an extraordinary variety of possibilities for manifestation. All the constituent elements of this style develop you from a physical point of view (dynamic, mobility, strength, speed, rhythm etc.), and your mind improves, especially due to competitions. The secret is to make a healthy life routine, to find things that fulfill you, repeat them, then try to discover something new and thus evolve continuously. Doing this, you will forget about age, pain, frustration, shortcomings, because you are already the owner of things that make you happy. However, you have to make the difference between stories / legends and reality… the first can only give you the motivation to go further in everyday life; this way you avoid depression.

– Finally, a few words for AK MASTERS audience and about this blog activity.
– It’s very important that when you publish materials, if they refer to certain people or situations, give the right to reply. Writing about Ashihara-Karate assumes a great responsibility, because you use the name of those who invent this martial arts style. Personally, I am one of those who rejoice for the existence of AK MASTERS blog, because in this way we get to know people (maybe ourselves) and come into contact with situations you were not aware of, but everything should be done with responsibility. Because people all over the world is following you.

“Personally, despite fluctuations, I will remain in NIKO due to my moral values. Here I’ve found the essence of Ashihara-Karate. I like that it’s an organization that doesn’t necessarily want to sell. We have rules that we respect, which aren’t changed for the sake of attracting as many people as possible. Ultimately, it’s about a lifetime journey.”