Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Okinawa 2017

On October 21, Amber and I left for the airport at 3:30 am. After checking in and saying goodbye to Amber, I boarded the plane for San Francisco, after almost 5 hours in flight, I landed and barely made it to the connecting flight to Tokyo. The flight to Tokyo was almost 12 hours, it was on a nice plane, they served us breakfast and dinner, the food was actually pretty good. They also had several new release videos available to watch. I was unable to sleep at all on the plane, so I watched several movies.

As we approached Tokyo we skirted the edge of the Typhoon and landed, I had a couple hour lay over in Tokyo, before making the flight to Naha. The ride was a bumpy ride as Typhoon 21 was in full force (Hurricane for us here in the west). I landed in Naha on October 22nd, glad to have made it. Hobbs Sensei, Talip, Umesh and Khalid were waiting for me, as they had arrived from Kyoto an hour before me. We took a taxi to Koza and our hotel. after checking in Nakamoto Hanshi, Zaha Hanshi and Takuma-san met us at the hotel and we had a nice conversation and set our training times. The hotel staff also gave us a huge steak dinner, that was delicious.

On the 23rd we got up and all met for breakfast, the hotel staff once again gave us a huge meal. We then all wondered around Koza (Okinawa City) and visited Ippondo martial Arts store, exchanged our money and we went to the grocery store and stocked up for the stay. That evening we went for training with Nakamoto Sensei and Zaha Sensei. We covered all of the Goju-Ryu kata, we ran them several times, and then we learned Fukyu Kata, for a demonstration that we were scheduled to do for Karate day. The work out was great and we trained for 2.5 hours. After training Nakamoto Hanshi gave us some of his private reserve Awamori that he makes himself, we went back to the hotel and had another fantastic dinner and then broke into the awamori, needless to say we had a late night. 

I woke up on the 24th feeling like I had been hit by a truck. We again all met up for breakfast and again Talip, Ales and I walked around Koza. We all met in the lobby to to prepare for our daily training class. While we were waiting on the taxi, Nakamoto Sensei walked into the lobby and told me to get in the car. He took me to Ippondo to try on some gi and obi, once we determined my size, Sensei took me to lunch. At first we went to McDonald's, but it was full of children, so we drove quite far to an A&W root beer stand and ate lunch. One odd thing is that i ordered french fries and they served them to me with mayonnaise and roast beef on them. Sensei and I had a nice conversation and then went back to the dojo were the group was working on the Goju kata and Hobbs Sensei on Tonfa. I was only there for about 30 minutes, before training was over and we were back at the hotel for diner.  At 7:30 we were back at the dojo for training and we worked on Tokashiki No Sai. After training it was of course more awamori and Orion Beer.

I woke up on the 25th and felt better then the day before. After a huge breakfast it was again a day of wondering around Koza. We went for training from 1-3pm and worked on Shushi No Kun, Chuon No Kun, Hama Higa no Tonfa, Nunchaku Buri, and Nunchaku Sogu. We went back to the hotel and I was off again wondering around Koza by myself. We had dinner together and were back at the dojo by 7:30, we worked All of the Gojuryu kata, then Tonfa Buri, Nakamoto No Tonfa and Hama Higa No Tonfa. We had people from America, England, Slovenia, India, Austria, Zambia, New Zealand and Australia. Of course after training you can guess what we did.

On the 26th we woke up and had breakfast, we went to Shuri, we visited Shurijo or Shuri castle, it is a beautiful place. We also visited the Harley Davidson store in Ginowa, on the way back to the hotel. Everyone else stayed at the hotel to rest before training, but I decided to wonder around off the regular paths and see if I could find some other dojos. I actually found quite a few, to my surprise. We went for our evening training and focused on Tonfa and Nunchaku. immediately after class we had tea and drinks with Sensei. And of course after that we went out to the local watering holes.

On the 27th we again wondered around after breakfast. We trained again at 1-3pm and since Typhoon 22 was on it's way for the evening we skipped our training and had rank testing, Nakamoto Sensei birthday party and our syonora party all that evening. The night was both great fun and a bit nerve racking. I was the first one to test and run my kata in front of not only Sensei, but all the other Okinawakan shibucho and the many international groups.  After the testing was over the party started and we went late into the evening before we returned to the hotel and continued the party.

On the 28th Typhoon 22 had reached the island and we were all stuck inside the hotel. Several of us took the time to catch up on sleep or do laundry. The eye of the storm, gave us a few hours to run out and visit some more stores and wonder around a bit. Once the backside of the storm hit, it was stronger then the previous round, It got a bit rocky and the hotel staff thought we were crazy because we kept going outside to watch it, eventually they lowered steel doors over the hotel doors and windows, we were stuck inside, so more Orion and Awamori.

On the 29th we went to Naha to Kokusai Dori and Heiwa Dori to do some more shopping for souvenirs. That night we went for our last meeting with Nakamoto Sensei, he gave us more awamori and gave Roy, Neil and I all a pair of kama as gifts. He also gave me several pieces of shodo. We went back to the hotel and had dinner, packed our bags, and as a group we all went out for on last night together.

We left the next morning for the airport at 7. Our flight to Tokyo was delayed 43 minutes because of hitting birds, this made us miss our connecting flight to Tokyo, after several hours trying to figure out what we were going to do and multiple trips through security to find our bags and re-check them, we finally got a flight on a different airline and flew to San Francisco, it was a horrible flight and again I didn't sleep. Once we made it to San Francisco we had to go through customs, go to another terminal, re-check our bags and go back through security before we separated on different flights to our homes. I got home about 2 am and asleep about 4 am, almost a full 48 hours from when I got up to get ready to leave Okinawa.

Despite two Typhoons, all the delays and issues trying to get home from Tokyo, this was an awesome trip to Okinawa. We trained twice a day almost every day for 2.5-3 hours each session. I spent one on one time with Nakamoto Sensei, I tested for rank at the so-honbu dojo in front of the seniors of the system and all the assembled country groups. We visited some neat places and we drank a crap load. I met some people I have talked to for years on Facebook, so that was nice. I met several of my Dentokan brethren as well. I have a lot of new material to work on and look forward to the next visit, but I am glad to be home with my wife, children and grandchild. I have to thank Nakamoto Sensei for sharing his vast knowledge of Karate and Kobudo with us. Zaha Sensei and Takuma -san for their assistance during our stay. I have to thank Hobbs Sensei for arranging the hotel reservations and knowing his way around the island. I also have to thank Neil Malpas for being such a great tour guide and the rest of the group for just the over all great time we had together.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Seidokan Karate Kobudo

In 2002 Hobbs Sensei and I wrote an article for Traditional Karate Magazine that covered the history of Seidokan Karate. I have continued to research this topic and would like to present some updates here;

Shian Toma the founder of the Seidokan dojo, had many teachers in his lifetime. Among them were Shinzato Sokishi, Uchima Tanmei, Nakamura Shuguro, Shimabukuro Zenryu, Ire Matsutaro and Seikichi Uehara.

In recent years there has been some discussion that he never trained with Shimabukuro Zenryo.
In an effort to research this issue, I spoke with Sensei Walter Dailey. Walter Dailey was among one of the first Black Belts of the Seibukan and a direct student of Shimabukuro Zenryo.

Mr. Dailey assured me that as early as 1962 and as late as 1966 that Toma Shian was present in the Seibukan Dojo learnign directly from Shimabukuro Zenryu. I asked Mr. Dailey if Shimabukuro Zenpo was present for these training sessions and he advised me that Zenpo Sensei was both on and off of the Island during the time. Mr. Daliey assured me that Toma was in fact a student of Shimabukuro Zenryo, he said that other reports of Toma Seki and Maeshiro being the people to teach Toma Shian his kata were incorrect.

Toma Shian is also listed in the lineage of Nakmura Shuguro of Okinawan Kenpo, there seems to be some controversy to this as well, though I am not sure why, as Nakamura himself listed him as his student. There are several pictures of Toma and Nakamura together, additionally Toma and Oyata Seiyu were close friends. In fact after Nakamura Sensei passed away, Oyata and Toma founded the Ryukyu Kenpo Renmei, with Uehara Seikichi as an advisor in 1969.

Aslo in recent years there has been some controversy regarding Toma Shian and his connection to Motobu-Ryu. Toma Shian trained under Uchima Tanmei, who was a student of Motobu Toraju, it has been discovered that Motobu Toraju was a nickname for Motobu Chomo, the son of Motobu Choyu. Motobu Chomo had trained under his father and also under his uncle. He was well versed in the kata of Shuri-Te as well as Udundi. He lived for a period in Wakayama and also trained with his uncle Motobu Choki. It is from Uchima that Toma first learned the Pinan kata and the kata that is called Passai Sho in the Seidokan curriculum.

In 1969, Toma Shian became a direct student of Uehara Seikichi and a member of the All Okinawan Karate Kobudo Rengokai, as well as, the Motobu-Ryu association. Toma was the first person to introduce Motobu -Ryu to North America. He was among one of the first people promoted to 9th Dan in Motobu-Ryu by Uehara Seikichi and was his senior student for several years. Uehara gave Toma permission to name his art containing karate kata as Seidokan Mobobu-Ryu.

Therefore Toma Shian had a dual lineage to booth Motobu Choyu and Motobu Choki.

Another question that has arisen over the years is why are the Pinan kata of Seidokan different from the Pinan kata of the Seibukan? This is really quite simple. Shimabukuro Zenryo did not teach the Pinan kata series, he taught the seven kata - Seisan, Wansu, Passai, Nahanchi, Chinto, Gojushiho and Kusanku that he learned from Kyan Chotoku and the kata Wanchin that he developed.

The Pinan kata of Seidokan are from Motobu Chomo. The Pinan kata of Seibukan were added by Shimabukuro Zenpo from his study under Nakama Chozo of Kobayashi-Ryu. In fact the same question has been asked about why the two dojo share a similar Passai but also have a different Passai. They were added to the respective dojo in the same manner as the Pinan kata were. In fact Shimabukuro Zenpo has added several kata to the Seibukan dojo from Nakama Chozo such as Fukyu 1-2, nahanchi 1-3, Pinan 1-5, Passai Gwa and Jion.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Is it Really Gojuryu?

There are many branches of Gojuryu in the world today. Chojun Miyagi Ryuso left several competent and senior students that all went off and formed their own branches of Gojuryu. Even though there are differences in how they do things, I can safely say that all of these branches are doing Gojuryu, when I say this I am talking about Higa, Yagi, Miyazato, Toguchi, ect.

Lets look at the Gojukai of Yamaguchi, was he doing Gojuryu? I would say yes, even though it differs from what is being done in Okinawa, it sill contains the core kata. It may not use the hojo undo as much as the Okinawan branches and there has been some historical questions but any educated person can view it and see it as Goju.

USA Goju, this will probably start a flame war, but for me it is hard to see this as Gojuryu. Peter Urban made substantial changes to his kata, to me USA Goju looks more like a combination of the karate of Yamaguchi, Rchard Kim and Mas Oyam, along with the things that Urban added and bears little resemblance to Gojuryu.

There are other Gojuryu groups that may teach a few of the goju kata, but then add kata from other styles to round out their curriculum, because they didn't learn all of the goju kata. Yet they use the name gojuryu.

I think this is unfortunate, almost false advertisement if you will. In my opinion if you are going to say that you are doing Gojuryu then you should at least follow Miyagi's blue print: Junbi Undo, Hojo Undo, and the 12 kata. (13 if your in the Miyazato Lineage) The various Kai-ha may have added kata created by their founders, but they let people know that. For exmple Meitoku Yagi Sensei created 5 kata and they classify those kata as Meibuken, not gojuryu proper.

 I think that if your not at least doing the basic curriculum set up by Miyagi, then your doing something different and should call it as such. Kata like Pinan, Passai, Kusanku, and Empi are not Goju kata, if you are teaching these or other non-goju kata and grading people but issuing Gojuryu grades, then I think you are wrong.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Changes

A few times, here lately, and also in the past few years I have had people say to me “You are not the same person”, I even had one say that my mind had been warped because I do not believe the way that they do.

I moved out of my mother’s and in with my father when I was 16, so I am sure my other siblings that stayed with my mother were raised differently and it should have resulted in them being more like her. I am sure that they would say “oh you’re different”, well duh, we have lived separately for almost 30 years, you don’t think there hasn’t been separate growth since then?

Those people that knew me in high school probably wouldn’t recognize me, not just because I cut off all of my hair, but because I am not that person. After high school I became a father and my goal in being a father was to raise good children that would be better prepared for the world then I was. To raise children that would be beneficial to society and not a hindrance.

My beliefs and core values have changed quite a bit over my lifetime. Most people think they are set by the time they graduate college, but I think most people are constantly making small changes throughout their lives. Then sometimes there are major events that alter your thought process or belief system.

I was raised by two parents that had vastly different belief systems and taught me two completely different ways to act. I imagine that this would be confusing to a child, to have conflicting parenting styles.  I am sure that there are parts of my personality that I get from both my parents (good and bad) and I am sure in the beginning my core beliefs were a combination of what I learned from each of them, to a lesser extent I am sure each successive step parent also had some type of influence on me.

One parent believed in hard work and education and one believed in the quick buck, more about how to cheat or scam money if possible.  One parent for lack of a better term had more in common with the criminal element than law abiding citizens. One believed in family values and the other believed that cheating wasn’t wrong unless you got caught and even then you should deny it to the end. I vividly remember his family motto being “Deny, Deny, Deny” and “I do what I want”. I knew after I had children that I did not want to act this way.

By the time I was 20 I was a father to not one but two sons and by the time I was 23 I had three sons. My wife and I were on our own and outside of family holidays we mostly stayed to ourselves, raising three small children is time consuming. After I had children I noticed both my wife and I had to change, we were responsible not only for ourselves but also for the children and each other. Once you are responsible for another life, things change.

While my beliefs and core values had already been changing I think the most significant change in my beliefs system and attitude probably came about when I became a police officer. Many things changed for me then but a lot of the values (if you want to call them that) I was taught when younger no longer held any value, I changed even more as I transitioned into law enforcement and the longer I went in my career, the more I changed. I would venture to guess that the vast majority of those people that become Law Enforcement officers undergo a major change in the way they believe and act.

While I am by no means a perfect person, I do my best to be a good and morally correct person, someone that my children and wife can be proud of. I must have done ok at it because I had a pretty successful career before I retired and my children grew up happy, healthy and work hard at their jobs, they have made some decisions that I don’t agree with but, no one is perfect, all we can hope for is continued progress.


I made some hard decisions not too long ago to distance myself from some people in my life, which has caused some people to try to interject their opinions on the matter. While I can appreciate your opinions on how you feel I should handle such things, I say to you, you don’t know what I lived through. So you do not know the full extent of the matter. Sometimes it is easier to let people run their mouths about you and walk away, sometimes it is easier to let people believe the lies they have been spoon feed rather than tarnish their idols image or expose a truth that is unpleasant. 


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Old Belts

I have always been curious about the belts I see in this picture of Seiko Higa at his dojo. It is obvious that Higa has on a red belt and Fukuchi Seiko has on the standard Kyoshi red/white belt. However I think it is Takamine that has on an odd belt for gojuryu.

Teachers

Glyn Jones Sensei wrote an article called the Karate of Chojun Miyagi, which I enjoyed. In the middle of the article he had a list that I am going to share because it goes along with a previous post that I made.
"Now if you are or were a Sensei of Karate and you practiced, refined and taught your Karate for say over 40 years. What would you actually leave behind as your legacy?
1. Students that trained with you during your initial early years of teaching.
2. Students that trained with you during the later years.
3.Students that were of varying levels of understanding and ability in different areas of Karate training.
4. Students that were of varying ages and maturity.
5. Students that trained with you regularly over many years.
6. Students that trained with you irregularly over many years.
7. Students that go on to teach your teachings to the book exactly.
8. Students that go on to develop and expand on your teaching methods.
9. Students that pass your teachings on at a much lower level of understanding.
10. Students that take your teachings off in to a totally different direction to your ideals and beliefs all together.
11. Students that only trained with you for a few months or years.
12. Students that stayed loyal and trained with you for many many years. In Chojun Miyagi’s case; Higa, Yagi, Miyazato & Toguchi come to mind here.
13. Students that go on to have a large following of Students.
14. Students that go on to have a small following of Students.
15. Students that knew your Karate training methods inside out, who you shared your advanced teachings with.
16. Students that in truth had very little understanding of your personal Karate at all."
I have always heard the saying that a student is only as good as the teacher, but I don't think that is accurate. I have students that have trained with me for years, I have students that come and go. I have students that half ass their training and students that work their butts off and are in the dojo everyday. I say that while it is important to have the right teacher, it is equally important to have the right attitude. It is important to own your karate and take responsibility for your own training. Yes it is important to have a good teacher to guide you, but if the teacher is excellent and the student is poor, despite the teachers efforts, then what to do.....

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Shinsa _ Grading in Karate

The grading system in karate is really not very old. Having been adopted from Judo by Gichin Funakoshi in 1922, see my previous article How the Masters got their Rank for more on this.

From my previous research we can see that the founding master's of the various Kai-ha, received their 8th and 9th dan in their mid thirties to late forties, and 10th Dan in their fifties. This is in contrast to the later model where 10th Dan was moved up to the age of Seventy. It seems that in the beginning of the ranking system that it was skill not age that determined the level of rank.

If you take a look at the standard time in grade requirements and the hardline stance that Shodan could not be issued until the age of 18, here is what you come up with.



Rank
Minimum Time in Grade
Minimum Age
Shodan
N/A
18
Nidan
1 year
19
Sandan
2 years
21
Yondan
3 years
24
Godan
4 years
28
Rokudan
5 years
33
Nanadan
6 years
39
Hachidan
7 years
46
Kudan
8 years
54
Judan
9 years
63

If you go with the newer model that allows adult Shodan at the age of 16, then it changes the whole thing.

This is based of of the commonly accepted time in grade models. So what if you have a 50 year old that has 45 years of training? What rank should he or she be?

It is a conundrum