For ten days in November, six dojo members were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to Okinawa (The Birthplace of Karate) with our Chief Instructor Chris Denwood, in order to immerse themselves into training and enjoy the unique culture of the island.
The focus of the trip was to study under Higa Minoru Sensei (10th Dan Hanshi) and other teachers/students at the historic Kyudokan Dojo in Tsuboya. The team had prepared for months leading up the trip so that they could learn as much as possible to bring back here to the Cumbria. It was wonderful to spend time with the Higa family, understand more about their karate and further enhance our appreciation of this wonderful martial art. We are very grateful for their kind friendship.
The group also had the opportunity to learn some Bo-Jutsu at Asato Dojo with Jame Pankiewicz, owner of the Dojo Bar. Over the course of two days, they learned a series of fundamental techniques and drills, a short and dynamic Bo kata called Shiromatsu No Kon (White Pine Staff), plus a set of associated two-person application drills. Chris also had the opportunity to meet up with Shinzato Sensei to respectfully review the content from last year's thought-provoking seminar and engage in some good quality discussion on karate principles.
To top off the event, Chris was asked to teach a seminar in Naha on his approach to the holistic application of Naihanchi Kata and to share some content from his new book on the subject. He covered some ideas around efficient movement pathways, using circles and figure eight shapes to connect techniques, then looked at how these principles may be applied in a combative sense. He ended with some limb control drills from Naihanchi Kata to show how its application may be used in a fluid way.
As part of the sightseeing and cultural aspects of the trip, the group visited the infamous Hacksaw Ridge, which was the sight of some of the most bloodiest fighting during The Battle of Okinawa in World War Two. Everyone agreed that it was a very sobering moment to stand and look around what is now such a beautiful place, yet to think of the destruction and devastation of what happened there 74 years ago.
On the final day, Chris and three members from the group visited Hokama Sensei's dojo to take a look around his amazing karate museum. He answered some of our historical questions, told us interesting stories about some famous karate photos of the past and was also kind enough to brush Chris a wonderful scroll with the kanji for 'Toku Sei Kan'. This now takes pride of place in his garden dojo and will be treasured.
When people ask why we travel all the way to Okinawa, the answer in simple...It is the combination of training, environment, history, culture, and people that serve to provide a very special experience and understanding of traditional karate. It leaves a strong and lasting impression that's simply unattainable from anywhere else and it uniquely changes one's view of this incredible art as a valuable way of life.
The team would like to thank everyone involved in making our 2019 trip to Okinawa so enjoyable and productive. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone again, meet new people and continue forging lasting friendships.
Chris would like to personally thank the six members who accompanied him this year - especially for their extra hard work leading up to the trip, plus their etiquette and performance throughout the training in Okinawa. They acted as fine ambassadors for our dojo here in Cumbria...
...Until next time!