Saturday, November 19, 2022

Interview with Shenmue Martial Arts Advisor Tetsuya Hattori and Masaya Matsukaze (Feb 2000) | Translation

Translation of a four-page feature interview from early 2000 with Tetsuya Hattori, Bajiquan master and martial arts director for Shenmue, along with Masaya Matsukaze, the Japanese-language voice and motion capture actor of the game's protagonist Ryo Hazuki.

When younger, Hattori had studied under Bajiquan grandmaster and friend of Yu Suzuki, Master Wu Lian Zhi, and went on to found his own Bajiquan school within Japan called Kaimon Kensha.

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Tetsuya Hattori and Masaya Matsukaze: The Two "Ryo"s Talk About What Makes Shenmue Great

Tetsuya Hattori, martial arts supervisor for the huge Shenmue project, and Masaya Matsukaze, who plays the leading role - two people for who you could say the story's main protagonist, Ryo Hazuki, is like their other self - talk about what makes the world of Shenmue so captivating and about what lies in future.
Instructor Hattori corrects the stance of the Elbow Assault.

The photo above shows how Hattori taught Bajiquan (Japanese: hakkyoku-ken) during Shenmue's development. He also took part in a number of other activities, including the motion capture for everything relating to Bajiquan and Chinese martial arts, checking the form of moves, adjusting the game's battle system, and creating the scenarios and descriptions for all move scrolls in the Shenmue Passport. Despite this, he is usually a very mild-mannered person. He is also a big fan of the Sakura Wars series.

About Tetsuya Hattori

Born in Tokyo in 1959. He has been interested in martial arts since his youth and began practicing Chinese martial arts, mainly Xingyiquan, in his early 20's. In 1986, he commenced training in Bajiquan under the 7th generation master, Wu Lian Zhi upon the master's first Japan visit, and studied the Wu family's Bajiquan in Mengcun, China. In 1996, he founded Kaimon Kensha, an association specializing in Bajiquan, under the official approval of Master Wu Lian Zhi. (This name is derived from the Bajiquan's full name in Chinese, "Kaimen Bajiquan", as pronounced in Japanese). In Mengcun, Hattori was certified as an 8th generation master of Bajiquan and is currently the only Japanese official disciple of Master Wu.
Tetsuya Hattori

About Masaya Matsukaze

Born on September 9, 1977 in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. While working as an actor, he won the lead role in an audition for the latest game produced by Yu Suzuki. He took on the unprecedented challenge of becoming a motion actor, a role encompassing both the movement and voice of the game's character.  As you know, the result was released as Shenmue ~ Chapter 1: Yokosuka ~ at the end of last year (1999). He is already enthusiastic about the production of the second installment.

Masaya Matsukaze

Genuine Bajiquan Exhibited in Ryo's Motion

Originating in Cangzhou, China, it is said to have the strongest striking power of all the Chinese martial arts, capable of defeating an opponent with a single blow: it's name is Bajiquan, formally named Kaimen Bajiquan (開門八極拳, 'open-gate eight-extremities fist').

Acknowledging the authenticity of the movement, Hattori says: "In Shenmue I, only one pure form of Bajiquan makes an appearance: the Elbow Assault. Even so, every detail of the movement characteristic of Bajiquan in which power is derived from the feet by friction with the ground, called zhèn jiǎo, has been reproduced.". Furthermore, he reveals that many other Bajiquan moves have already completed motion capture, among them some highly-specialized advanced moves. Will these numerous moves be unleashed in Shenmue II and the later chapters?!

Move Instruction: Matsukaze studies the instructor's movements.

Elbow Assault: a classic Bajiquan move. This is the real thing!!

Elbow Assault: in-game

Hattori's lists of motion-captured movements.

Shenmue Meets Bajiquan

Q: How did you get involved with Shenmue?

Hattori: SEGA asked me if I could invite my teacher, Master Wu Lian Zhi, to come to Japan to work with them on a new game. However, a visa couldn't be obtained immediately and it looked like he would not be able to go abroad.

So I spoke with Master Wu about it, and he said that since he could not go himself, he would leave everything to me. SEGA also made a sincere effort to try to understand Bajiquan, visiting my dojo several times, and Mr. Yu Suzuki requested to meet with me and talk about it. I remember being nervous!


Hattori: At first, I used Akira's moves in Virtua Fighter as a reference and worked to make the moves and their naming more realistic. 

Matsukaze: I was in attendance while Mr. Hattori was correcting moves, and a lot of the move names were wrong [laughs].

Hattori: In Chinese martial arts, one slight difference can make it a completely different technique. I asked if he [Mr. Suzuki] wanted to be so particular about it. And he wanted them to replicate the names of real Bajiquan moves - and not only that, but specifically those of the Mengcun Wu family's Bajiquan. I was impressed at how far he was willing to go.

Q: After that, you motion-captured the moves.

Matsukaze: When Mr. Hattori told me that he was going to record some Bajiquan moves, I skipped work and rushed over to the studio. Once there, I found out that the moves that were going to captured were ones that would make people observing them gasp.

Hattori: I recorded all the moves that are commonly known as "special moves".

Q: How did you find the experience of motion capture?

Hattori: I think SEGA would have preferred to have invited Master Wu rather than me, but I didn't think this job was one he could be asked to do [laughs]. Since we don't train wearing a capturing device, it was very difficult to move, and the limited area that could be captured made it tough. The sensors would often stop working after being exposed to several Bajiquan moves [laughs]. Another thing is that the motion suit is heavy. I only wore it for a couple of hours when I was filming martial arts movements, but it was still very tiring. Mr. Matsukaze wore it all day long, so I think it must have been very difficult for him.

Matsukaze: But it was also amazing to see the filming of the sensei and his student sparring.

Hattori: I brought along the most robust of my students (laughs). Even so, Bajiquan is a powerful martial art, and sparring can be dangerous, so I had him put on protective gear.

Q: Bajiquan used to be secret and lethal?

Hattori: Yes, now it is popular in many parts of China, but it was originally a martial art of the Hui people - it was a Muslim martial art. They are a minority tribe, and about 2001 years ago, they fought with other ethnic groups, using spears to kill each other. The Wu family in Mengcun is the birthplace of this martial art. So, it was a means of self-defense and was absolutely not taught to other ethnic groups. Even though it is becoming more open, when you go to Mengcun, it is still quite secretive. So when the teacher really carries out his instruction, it takes place in the courtyard of the house with the gate closed so that no one can look in from the outside.

Q: Is it okay for those techniques to be reproduced on screen through motion capture?

Hattori: I asked the Master about this point before the recording. He said he'll leave it to my judgment, but even if they are seen, they're useless without practicing them, so "show away!" [laughs]. The famous technique called 猛虎硬爬山 [mouko-kohazan in Japanese] is also included, almost in its original form. It will be a little while before we'll be able to use it in-game, though.

Matsukaze: Hattori-sensei says it's okay because Master Wu has given his permission, but it's a really big deal! That's why I was really excited, all by myself.

Hattori: The names of moves carry important meanings. The written system of Chinese characters are an integral part of China's culture, right? Move names that are long are called 歌訣 [uta-gui in Japanese], which means that the essential element of the technique forms a poem, and the method of how to attack and defend against the opponent is hidden in the characters. For example, in the case of mouko-kohazan  ["fierce tiger running up a mountain"], the words must express the explosive power of a springing tiger. So move names are actually secrets, you see.

Matsukaze copies instructor Hattori's form. During his training, a training method in Chinese martial arts called Tao Lu (套路) was used.

[image added by Switch] Mysterious Scroll. Guizhang translates this as: "O Fierce Tiger. Thou are ruler of the forest, the bravest of character. As tranquil as the most majestic of mountains. As swift as a bolt of lightning. As violent as an earthquake jolting the great earth. Show no mercy, with twin fangs strike, and rush up Moon Mountain. Striking fear in all, nary a soul challenge thee."

Update 22 February 2023: Richard Payne has created a spectacular video showcasing many fighting animation moves that were unused in the final game but left in the code - and among them is Mouko-kohazan! He notes that this is also a move used by Virtua Fighter's Akira Yuki. View the move below (time-stamped):

"Keep friends... those you love... close to you" and the teachings of Bajiquan

Q: Are there any anecdotes you can reveal now that are relevant to Bajiquan's teachings?

Matsukaze: At the beginning, Yu-san was trying to achieve more realism in Chinese martial arts. However, if we did that, the fights would be over in 20 seconds. That wouldn't look appealing, so us and others were called in to help with the visuals. Among those was an amazing action movie director by the name of Wataru Tagaya.

Hattori: He knows karate, doesn't he.

Matsukaze: He corrected my motion capture of Ryo's basic kick, saying "Your kicking leg isn't fully extended". Thanks to him, we were able to capture my best kick at that time. [laughs]

Hattori: I think Matsukaze's understanding is due to learning Bajiquan from the basics. Previously, he might have thought "Hey, this spinning kick's really cool". He has really developed an eye for it.

Matsukaze: As a result, my muscles ached every day. [laughs] After the daily shoot, I had to do muscle training. It was worth it, with Shenmue's battle mode being overly ferocious, which is great [laughs]. 

When I met Hattori-san today, the first thing I mentioned to him was the scene of training with Fuku-san, I told him, "that went beyond training!" [laughs] I hadn't expected it to go that way, so the voice tone and movements don't quite match (laughs).

Hattori: The Hazuki jujitsu style is not a totally fictitious thing. I once learned Japanese old-style jujutsu, and I used the knowledge that I gained from it. Some of the moves Ryo learns, or moves that are introduced as Hazuki jujitsu, are real techniques. Although some are very dangerous, so I have adapted them a little bit.

Q: Has any kind of martial arts related message been incorporated into the game?

Hattori: The words "Keep friends... those you love... close to you", which Yu-san has stated as a theme, are similar to those spoken by Master Wu Lian Zhi. When we were having a drink together, Master Wu said to me, "Compared to Japan, Mengcun is poor, the food may not suit the Japanese palate, and I don't have much money. But I have many friends. My friends are my treasure". When I first heard the theme, I wondered if it was something Yu-san had heard Master Wu say.

Tetsuya Hattori

Q: What are the fundamental points of the Bajiquan philosophy?

Hattori: it may be a little strange to say this about the martial art that I practice, but Bajiquan is quite a dangerous martial art. It is a martial art that can kill people. Therefore, you have to judge for yourself what you can do and what you cannot do, according to Master Wu.

There is a saying in Bajiquan: 一胆ニカ三功夫 ("One: courage, two: power, three: kung fu") which indicates in order what is important when fighting. Kung fu is the skill gained through daily practice; power is the strength to defeat your opponent, and courage is the most important. The other two are skills that can be acquired gradually over time, but how do you develop courage? Master Wu says that you must live a righteous life. When you have nothing to hide, you should have no hesitation when the time comes to fight to protect those who are weak and things that are dear to you. So we should do the right thing in everyday life.

This is a bit off-topic, but in Chinese martial arts, there are hidden weapons, known as "dark weapons". The deadliest ones are poisonous. But Bajiquan has no weapons like that. Using those is something that only "small-scale" people do. If you're going to fight with a weapon, show it clearly. I think it's a gentlemanly martial art. The techniques are harsh, though. [laughs]

Q: Ryo's personality, too, is bold and straight-spoken.

Matsukaze: Quite like the teachings of Bajiquan, isn't it.

Hattori: Yes, I think they're in line. Although I have a feeling he's a bit aggressive. [laughs] Does he really need to give his opponent a last kick when he's down? [laughs]

Matsukaze: Actually, that was something Yu-san that insisted on, telling me to put in a final boot. [laughs] We would have been happy to end the fight by making the guy go flying, but he made sure I put another blow in after that. According to one theory, Yu-san actually saw a scene like that somewhere and thought it looked cool.

Production Complete on Chapter One and the Appearance of the Second!?

Q: What did you think of the final version when you played it?

Hattori: I was in charge of some martial arts-related scenarios, and for a period I was pretty much working full-time at the SEGA offices. Then I used to get borrowed to be a test player for free battles. I'm really bad at things like battles, and developers are super good gamers, right? They told me, "We want data from someone like you who's not very good". [laughs]

So in this way, I thought I had become pretty familiar the world of Shenmue from seeing various scenes, even if they weren't in order. At the time, I thought it would lessen my enjoyment of playing the game later, but when the game was completed and I saw it in a continuous stream for the first time, it felt fresh. I thought it looked fun, and tried it out. But, from both a gameplay point of view and in terms of the martial arts, the first chapter of Shenmue is merely a prologue. The real Chinese martial arts will come out from the next installment, which you can look forward to.

Matsukaze: If the game continues to evolve in this way, what Yu-san and the other people involved in the first chapter have envisioned should be realized. It was never intended to finish with just the one chapter, but what we really wanted to do with Shenmue comes from now on.

Cheating through the clever use of angles wasn't an option for convincing fighting scenes, so actual contact was made!!

Q: I know it's early, but do you have any hopes for the second Shenmue game, or any predictions about what it will be like?

Matsukaze: At any rate, Ren is going to make his appearance! There's going to be all sorts of trouble! [laughs]

Hattori: Ryo and Ren's personalities are completely different from each other. And since they both have distinctive personalities, their characters will come to the fore even more.

Matsukaze: In the first place, Shenmue was supposed to be a two-person story. Two characters with different personalities clash with each other as they go forward, which is what makes it so interesting. But then, a sudden decision was made with a first chapter, in which only Ryo would appear.

Hattori: And Matsukaze is like Ryo... he's not violent [laughs], he is a nice guy with a personality that's as straight as split bamboo! Hagiwara, who plays Ren, also has a great personality that's basically Ren as is. [laughs]

Matsukaze: Yu-san told him, "You don't have to act, just be as you are." [laughs] Even when we talked together over a drink, he was just the same.

Hattori: The three of us often go out for drinks. [laughs]

Matsukaze: We get into arguments daily. [laughs] Of course, we enjoy each other's company at work as well. The scene of the two of us running around hand cuffed together was shown at the [Shenmue] premiere event, wasn't it.

Hattori: The premiere casually showed off a great scene that won't come for quite a while. I think it really built huge anticipation in the fans who attended.

The two get on well together in private also. The atmosphere was relaxed throughout the interview chat!

Q: Have you heard anything about the current progress?

Matsukaze: I think Yu-san is looking on the internet and other places to gauge the reactions to the first game. No doubt he's picking out the best parts to include, or completely redoing things even after a decision has been made about them.

Hattori: However, since the next games will be in the "Shenmue world", I think that the systems that have already been developed will be further improved. I think that after the second chapter, the game will pick up pace.

Matsukaze: I think the battles will become more in-depth. Even players who were able to win fights in the first game with a repeated action may not be able to win anymore. Also, as players of the first chapter can probably imagine, there will be battles where you have to use a certain move in order to beat your opponent, timing will come into play, and things like the creation of a Difficult mode etc. I think there will be many aspects that will be recognizable as having been created by Yu Suzuki, the creator of Virtua Fighter.

Masaya Matsukaze

Q: The first game was open for anyone to pick up and enjoy, but now things may become a little more intense?

Hattori: I think what Yu-san calls "reality" is a wonderful thing, because the part that I'm involved in is real martial arts. I believe Ryo will be going to China to train in martial arts. It would be strange if he were to then suddenly use the final, deepest secret move. Bajiquan, I think, will be the main focus, but if a mastery system is included for acquiring martial arts skills, that would be very realistic and fun.

Matsukaze: The first chapter's story starts with the sudden death of your father. I think the developers are aware that the element of avenging one's father's death is weak. The next game will probably be a balancing exercise, after the first game. The drama will flow with each scene having a clear motivation for existing, together with training and battles. Some extraneous things can also be present, but even with these, the game won't deviate from the main plot.

Hattori: Yokosuka is Ryo's hometown, and since he's well-liked, people greet him casually. But that likely won't be the case when he goes to Hong Kong. It is an unknown land, and there are more enemies, and there are likely to be many practitioners of martial arts, so he is entering a world where he cannot let down his guard.

A message for the next generation to come

Q: Finally, do you have a message for those who have not yet played the first game?

Matsukaze: I think Shenmue has a good overall balance. I think the graphics, quests, battles, and the forklift that got me hooked [laughs] are all well-balanced at a high level. At least in terms of quality and amount of content, it's second to none, so if you're a Dreamcast user it's a must buy.

Hattori: I think a lot of players have known from the beginning that Bajiquan appears in the game. The first game may not be enough for those who are "Bajiquan freaks", but I hope they will look forward to the second and later chapters.

Autographs Give-away!

To commemorate this interview, we are giving away an autographed card with a message on it to one lucky winner. Send a postcard with your name, address, age, telephone number, and the words "Enter me for the interview autograph card" to the address below. No entry ticket necessary.

The message on the autograph card reads: "Are you enjoying Shenmue? Look forward to what's to come!" 

Source: Dreamcast Magazine, Feb 2000
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  1. Amazing article! Thanks a lot.

  2. Thank you for digging out this treasure, Switch, you have no idea how much it means to me. I have a personal connection to Baji Quan and the moment I first spotted it in Shenmue I wished I could one day learn more how this Chinese style found its way into this Japanese game. Absolutely magnificent!

    1. That's wonderful to hear, David! There are still loads of historic magazine articles and interviews out there and it's always fascinating to dig up new information that hasn't been published in English before. I'm really happy this one struck a special note for you.