Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Okinawa Trip 2007 - Part 4

Thursday, 5 April

Thursday morning found me a little short on yen, so I did a lot of footwork around Naha looking for an ATM that would accept my gaijin debit card. After a good deal of hunger-inducing walking, I ended up at Sensei’s hotel empty-handed (and empty-stomached). Sensei and I walked around a bit and found a 24/7 diner that had a pretty decent Japanese breakfast for only 500 yen. We went shopping for a little while, as Goodin Sensei had to pick up some Shiseido products for his wife and I still had to find some way of getting some yen. I later found a machine at the end of Kokusaidoori (not the one that everyone told me about, but the one at the post office). Feeling a little less naked now that I had some more money, I met up with Sensei and Sensei Goodin. We ate at another local restaurant and had a reminder that Okinawa still is in the island of karate, regardless of if it strictly sticks to the old ways or not. As we paid for our meal, we noted that the humble restaurant owner had a karate menjo on his wall, being an instructor in Goju Ryu.

After making our way back to the hotel, Sensei and I swung by Shureido once more and had coffee again with Nakasone-san. At this point, I think I can say that I’ve had more coffee at Shureido than I’ve had in my entire life. I accidentally left my historian hat at the hotel because I somehow got absorbed in looking for T-shirts and didn’t catch most of what Sensei and Nakasone-san were talking about. They then discussed a little about our plans for the day and we mentioned that we were going to visit Oshiro Nobuko, wife of Uechi Ryu’s Yonamine Kosuke and teacher of Higa Yuchoku style Shorin Ryu. They provided us with directions to the dojo and after a little more talking, we went on our way.

We took a cab out to Urasoe City, where Oshiro Sensei had her dojo. We ended up coming a little before her 2nd class and watched for the duration of that one and some of the 3rd. It appears that she has 4 classes a night, with the 4th one being the adults class, although we did have the opportunity to watch an adult independently practicing in the background. I do have to say I was impressed with the discipline and focus of many of the kids. They were doing quite a lot of exercise without complaint and hitting the bags with a lot of power and focus (for their age). She was no slouch herself, being quite active and very fit despite being 59 years of age. Like some other Chibana lineage schools on Okinawa, there seemed to be a lot of personal interpretation which had taken place in the kata. After some time, we excused ourselves and found a taxi.

We made our way to Chatan to visit the dojo of Shimabukuro Zenpo Sensei, of Seibukan. We talked for a while in his dojo and I was very impressed by his fluent English. My instructor has apparently met him on occasion, and his father, Zenryo, would always visit Chibana Sensei very frequently and that the only other person who visited more often (when Chibana Sensei was in good health) was Nakama Chozo Sensei. In some ways, it seemed like my instructor and Shimabukuro Sensei were kindred spirits of a sort, both being similar in age and both trying to preserve what they learned from the last of the old masters in a world embracing modern karate. As it was, he was someone that we could ask direct questions to and get direct answers.

We talked both at his dojo as well as at McDonald’s (a late night place to get coffee). Not having had food in a while, I unashamedly ordered a cheeseburger in lieu of the coffee, although it wasn’t quite filling especially after I tossed the bun. Shimabukuro Sensei mentioned that Nakama Sensei taught him a version of Patsai called Patsai Gua, but he was unsure where Nakama Sensei learned it from. He said that while Nakama Sensei would stay with the Shimabukuro family during the week when he had a job working at the nearby military base messhall and would visit his family on the weekends. A lot of his training from Nakama Sensei occurred during this period. The other main source of karate training was Kyan-style karate from his father. Chibana Sensei would remark that Shimabukuro Zenryo Sensei’s karate was “true Kyan” karate. Chibana Sensei would also always say that karate should be learned with the body, so it was nice to hear Shimabukuro Sensei say the exact same thing. He also stated the kata should keep their original meaning; something Chibana Sensei would always say. Adding credence to the notion that Chibana Sensei never called his style “Kobayashi”, he mentioned that one time Nakazato Shugoro Sensei got upset when he accidentally referred to it as Kobayashi Shorin Ryu. It seems likes the closer a student was to Chibana Sensei, the more likely that student is to call their karate Shorin Ryu as opposed to Kobayashi Ryu or Kobayashi Shorin Ryu.

When speaking about Chibana Sensei, Shimabukuro Sensei echoed the sentiments that I have heard others say: his fighting was very strong and his kata was very clean. By “clean” (he used the Japanese term “kirei”… not to be confused with “pretty”), he meant that it was efficient and devoid of any extraneous movements. It always amazes me that with as much respect that everyone on Okinawa speaks about Chibana Sensei and as much as they acknowledge his seniority in karate and fighting prowess on Okinawa during his lifetime, such little is written or known about him in the wider English or Japanese circles. And sadly, even much of what is written in English tends to be incorrect… but I digress.

After we all talked for quite a good while, Shimabukuro Sensei kindly drove us all the way to our hotel and dropped us off. After Sensei and I chowed down on some big macs (minus the buns) I bought earlier (I made some lame excuse about buying breakfast for the next day), we turned in for the night.

To be continued in Part 5


blackbeltmama said...

Wow! You're in Okinawa! I'm jealous! You're having coffee in the Shureido store! Really jealous! I am a 2nd kyu in Okinawa Kenpo and Kobudo, and just found your blog. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Bujutsu Blogger said...

Thank you. I'm actually back already, as I am writing these things post-trip.

You may find interesting what I have to say in my Overall Impressions entry (in a few days) about karate on Okinawa.