Sensei Alan Reflects On His Trip To Okinawa 1


Sensei Alan (left) training in Okinawa.

A COUPLE OF AUSSIES IN OKKERS…

Hello.

I just wanted to tell you about my trip to Okinawa from the 12th May to 18th May,2013. This trip had been planned for quite a few months prior to that date and it finally come together for myself, my brother in law, Robert MALONEY and Paul VELDMAN. All three of us are black belts and Paul operates his own dojo, KANDO martial arts in Oakleigh.

The trip was organised by the Okinawa Karate liaison Bureau operated by my good friend, Miguel DA LUZ.

We arrived in Naha, Okinawa, on Sunday the 12th, where we were met by Miguel who has been practicing karate for over twenty years .He can write and speak Japanese fluently.

We were then taken to a hotel which was our accommodation for the next week. Our rooms were tiny but comfortable and breakfast was thrown in (I chose misso soup and plain rice) .

Our first training session started the next day with Maeshiro Sensei of Shidokan Musei Juku. Shidokan is Shorin –Ryu based and it has not changed since the invention of karate. It is karate in its purest state. By that I mean it has not been altered in any form.

This is the karate that Matsumura taught Ituso who taught Funokoshi and others. It is powerful and devastating when applied.

On the Monday you can only imagine what was going through our minds as we were being driven to Maeshiro Senseis dojo for our first session ,but our concerns were eased as soon as we met him.

There are people in life you will always remember and Maeshiro Sensei is one of them. Maeshiro Sensei is in his late 60s and has been practicing karate since he was 13 years old. He is everything you would like to see in a person, quiet, honourable and humble.

Maeshiro Sensei is a Hanshi (9th dan) and wears a red belt. In Shidokan there are three Hanshi in Okinawa.

Maeshiro Sensei’s dojo is opposite his home in a laneway and it is never locked . Okinawa has a dense population and everything appears to be in or off laneways. Maeshiro’s dojo is small as is most karate dojos in Okinawa.

You train on a wooden floor that is ordained by photographs and memorabilia. When you enter the dojo you place your shoes neatly facing away from the dojo floor so you later can slip them quietly on and respectfully leave. Around the dojo is training and conditioning equipment which includes the makiwara.

The makiwara is essential in the dojo and through it you develop power and strength in your punches and blocks. The makiwara is a thing you respect as you cannot hit it without it giving you something back.

I trained on the makiwara until my knuckles were skinned and bleeding. I blocked on the makiwara until my forearms bled through my gi. Maeshiro Sensei later told me that I had to learn to accepted the makiwara.

When Maeshiro Sensei hit the makiwara, the force of it rang throughout the dojo and reminded me a person hitting a tree with an axe.

In Okinawa, when you tell someone you practice karate the first thing they do is look down at your hands.

We trained hard daily for four hours. Normally two hours in the morning and two in the evening. Each time we left exhausted but elated. An experience never to forget.

On two of these occasions we trained in the Shidokan Honbu (headquarters) with all the high ranking karateka. On the last night in the Honbu we trained and were taught by Takara (9th dan) and Maeshiro Senseis.

Takara Sensei is in his early 70s and is an inspiration. He walks around the dojo and watches you like a tiger.

In between training we experienced a karate related tour of Okinawa and visited the graves and memorials of past karate masters. That in itself was quite humbling. We also went to the Budokan and watched martial arts masters practice their sword and bo techniques.

On Wednesday evening we visited an Uechi-Ryu dojo operated by Shimabukuro Sensei. That was an experience in itself watching the hard form of Uechi Ryu and the conditioning and punishment they go through.

On the Friday after training at the Honbu we were taken by Miguel to a traditional Okinawan restaurant owned and operated by Eiko Sensei. At the time he was in Canada doing seminars on kubudo. However his black belts performed with weapons and play drums with tonfu. Fantastic night that ended up with us singing The Beach Boys songs in a karaoke bar until 6 a.m.

There was a lot that I learned in Okinawa about karate, the way I train, the person that I am and the person that I would like to be. A life experience that I will always cherish and a pilgrimage that I intend to do yearly.

In the spirit of the martial arts.

Sensei Alan HILL


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One thought on “Sensei Alan Reflects On His Trip To Okinawa

  • Mario

    Sensei Alan,
    That’s a great account of your trip. Training with you since your return has seen a difference in your approach which inspires us all. Look forward to hearing more about the training techniques you learned overseas.