JOURNEY TO JAPAN September/October 2010

A KSK group has completed a fantastic journey to Japan to train and learn from Kei Shin Kan instructors and from other Masters based in Okinawa.

Participants on the tour were:

  • Melbourne: Peter Walton and Tony Defrancesco
  • Sydney: Marcel Radojevic and John Jameson
  • Gold Coast: Sean Linnane and Luke Amery
  • Launceston: Reg Green, Damien Freeman, Andrew Biner, Adrian Kelly, Andrew George-Gamlyn and Josh Meissner

Okinawa

On our first day in Okinawa we were permitted to train under Master Masakazu Kinjo, who is Kyoshi of Okinawan Uechi-Ryu and also specialises in Kobudo (traditional weapons) skills. We had a vigorous session practising with nunchuku and we were privileged to learn a nunchuku kata (Kubogawa No Nunchuku.) We also observed training with sai, tonfa, bo and several other weapons and the skill level was excellent. We noticed that there were senior students from the USA and Germany who were training under Master Kinjo. Afterwards, we enjoyed their hospitality at a party and we were shown Master Kinjo’s personal kobudo collection at his home. His nunchuku collection would have exceeded 100 with many different configurations and sizes!
It was an excellent evening and showed us that we must work hard to improve our kobudo skills. Master Kinjo’s hospitality to us was very generous.

On our second and third days in Okinawa, we were invited to train twice under Master Higa Minori, who is 10th Dan and Hanshi of Kyudokan. Our first session was at Honbu dojo and on the second day we trained at a dojo where Sensei Mrs Higa (also a karate instructor) teaches traditional Okinawa dance. Both sessions under Master Higa were exhausting. He demonstrated many important points on basic punches. We also studied many blocks and stances. We understand how effective these techniques are in making speed and power although they are quite different in some respects to Kei Shin Kan techniques. Master Higa invited us to a party after our second training session. We were truly humbled by the time and effort shown to us by Master Higa and his attention to detail. We can now appreciate more fully the commitment to traditional Karate-Do that exists in other karate schools.

Several KSK students subsequently participated independently in an Okinawan dance class conducted by Sensei Mrs Higa. It was not a pretty sight!

On our fourth day in Okinawa we attended a Kata and Kobudo tournament and saw many excellent performances. There was a section for disabled participants and it was very moving to see the spirit of these people who overcame enormous obstacles.
On that day we also visited a local karate museum and saw many interesting pieces of Okinawan karate history.

In the morning of the 4th day all the participants joined in a training session to practice our own techniques as well as the lessons given to us by Masters Kinjo and Higa.

On our 5th and final day on Okinawa we were allowed to train under Master Higaonna Morio. Master Higaonna is 10th Dan Hanshi of Goju Ryu and is respected throughout the karate world. The training session was extraordinary in every possible way. The session continued for 3 ½ hours and was a traditional Goju class. Master Higaonna gave a deep insight into technique training, mind training, proper breathing, as well as history and many other aspects. We practiced basic training, traditional martial art weight training, as well as makiwara, kata and grappling. We were quite exhausted physically. Although this type of training is quite different to our normal training, we gained an enormous respect for the proper principles of Goju (Hard/Soft) and Master Higaonna is a truly great teacher yet still a humble man.

We also had numerous opportunities to visit local historical sites in Okinawa. Of particular interest was Shuri Castle as well as the underground naval military headquarters, where thousands of Japanese soldiers committed suicide in the final desperate days of World War 2.

Nagasaki

The 6th and 7th days were spent sight-seeing in Nagasaki. Of course a major feature of the city is the Peace Park and Memorial which is devoted to the nuclear bomb of 1945 in that city, and the enormous tragedy and sadness of this event, together with the commitment around the world to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again.

Kyoto

Days 8 – 10 were spent in Kyoto, also mainly sight-seeing. Kyoto is probably the historical and cultural centre of Japan with approximately 2,000 temples and shrines. In particular, Nijo Castle is the place where, in the 19th century, political power and control of Japan transferred from Shojun/ Samurai system to the Emperor.

We visited the Budokan in Kyoto and were fortunate to be given permission to observe a class in Kyudo (Japanese archery). We could see the mind/body/technique training of Kyudo that is similar to Karate-Do.

The participants had an early morning training session on Day 10 to practice some of the lessons learnt so far.

Tokyo

Days 11 through to 16 we were in Tokyo where we stayed in Shinjuku. At last we were able to meet with and train under the instructors from Kei Shin Kan/Kai. Sensei Yamazaki and Sensei Ijima gave us an enthusiastic welcome.

We trained under their instruction on 2 occasions. Sensei Yamazaki spent a lot of time teaching correct technique, emphasizing the importance of small details which can make such an important difference. Points such as keeping the body centre stable, correct stepping and avoiding unnecessary tension were explained carefully. We also spent much time on Kata practice. We appreciate the tremendous knowledge of the art of both Sensei Yamazaki and Ijima and we were able to learn many things from them.

We enjoyed a magnificent banquet provided at the home of Sensei Yamazaki and the friendship and mutual respect with the students of Tokyo dojo made us feel so much at home. Sensei Ijima gave gifts to all of us which included calligraphy that he has been practicing and teaching for 28 years. We extend our full gratitude to Sensei Yamazaki and Ijima.

In our spare time we enjoyed the sights of Tokyo. We were amazed by the size, congestion and night life of the city.

Nagano/Matsumoto

Our final main days of the tour (Days 17 and 18) were spent in Matsumoto, which is nearly an hour by train out of Nagano. Again, our main objective was to meet and train under the local Kei Shin Kan/Kai instructors, whom we had not met before.

A dinner was planned for our first night where we were to meet our hosts for the first time. Our expectations were modest; however we were totally overwhelmed by the evening. Sensei Mrs Takazawa attended the dinner after travelling from Nagano to meet us and her humility and kindness was amazing. In addition, Sensei’s Koike and Saito (both from Chino City) and Sensei’s Katayama, O’mae and Konosuke (from Matsumoto City) attended and their generosity and hospitality gave us an evening that we will never forget. The restaurant is owned by the mother of one of the senior students, and the food and drink was magnificent.

The following evening we had a long training session at Sensei Katayama’s dojo, and Sensei O’mae and Konosuke also assisted. After practising correct basic techniques, Sensei Konosuke gave instruction on combination techniques which was a great class. Finally we practiced Kata. After class, we had a meal together and reflected on the great hospitality and Karate instruction that we had received in Matsumoto, which we all thought was a wonderful city.

The following morning all the participants had a final brief training session together on the banks of the local river in Matsumoto, to review the lessons of the past 18 days and to assist everyone to set their own goals for self-improvement.

In Matsumoto we also found time to see the famous Matsumoto Castle, which was first built by the Samurai in the year 1590.

We spent days 19 and 20 finding our way back to Australia. The trip home included a whirlwind half-day stopover in Shanghai, visiting famous Nanjing Road, the Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The lessons of our whole journey are hard to describe adequately in words. We were honoured to have the opportunity to train under so many Masters and Sensei. The friendliness and hospitality we received was universal. We can recognize the skill and knowledge of the Art that these great people have. It was emphasized to us many times that we are all part of the same karate family and that we should try to work together more in the future to help each other develop the Art. Finally, there are many things that each of us need to improve, and our study of Karate – Do will never end.

All of the participants extend a sincere thank you to our Sensei Uchida. The opportunity to meet and train under these great people was only possible due to the introductions given to us by Sensei Uchida.

We hope that we can improve our Art as a result of our wonderful experience from this trip.

Peter Walton