Written by Shihan Lipman, 2008
From August 19th until September 1st was to be yet another memorable trip to Okinawa….the home of martial arts in Japan. Shihan Cunningham and I spent this time training again with Sensei Hokama, and it was indeed a great pleasure to reacquaint ourselves with him and his students.
On our arrival in Naha we contacted Sensei, picked him up from his dojo, and proceeded to his favourite sushi restaurant for dinner together and to discuss our program for the next days. These next ten days were to be spent with just the two of us training with Sensei, which proved to be most interesting as the temperature was 32 degrees and the humidity was 88-90%.
After dinner with Sensei we were to return to our hotel, but as usual Rick had his homing beacon on, and somehow managed to find our favourite yaki tori bar where we enjoyed a little more food and had to reassess the local Orion beer for which we had both developed a taste.
The next day’s training started and progressed day by day with kata, bunkai, joint locks, bo and sai training, and over this period we discovered how hot it really was in Okinawa in summer. However the training and guidance by Sensei was excellent, his patience and persistence is something to be admired.
As well as the training, as before, Sensei was most interested for us to learn about and appreciate the people, customs, and history of Okinawa, and set about making sure we did.
We saw a private family shrine, Nakagusuku castle, which is now classified as a national treasure, and in its day must have been most impressive as it has a commanding view of the pacific ocean on one side and the east china sea on the other. We also saw “the Nakamura house“ which dates back to the early 17th century and is a major cultural asset. Sensei took us to a martial arts shop in Okinawa City, and we had lunch at the Legion Club which was initially established as an officers’ club post World War II and remains very much the same to this day!
Sensei took us to a very famous spa resort to help recover our bodies one afternoon, then that evening it was of to a local festival in Nishihara where his students were doing a demonstration. Everywhere we went we were constantly amazed by the friendliness and open hearted attitude of the Okinawan people.
Another afternoon after training we were taken to the royal mausoleum built in 1501 to re-entomb the remains of the famous king, Sho-en, then off to Shuri-jo castle, world heritage site which was the centre of politics, economy and culture of the Ryuku Kingdom where we were to see a presentation of classical Okinawan dance, which was quite amazing.
To many of you who read this it will probably seem that we were just sight seeing…I can assure you this was not the case, it was all part of the balance that sensei wanted us to achieve.
In training we learnt some of the Okinawan Goju-Ryu katas, bo exercises, kata, and applications, and also exercises for the sai and sai kata, and applications of sai against the bo.
Sensei repeats these drills over and over and by the time training was finished we had no doubt that we would remember these kata, and with Sensei saying that after 100 times if you work long enough and hard enough your body will remember….both Rick and I had to agree with this principle.
On our final day we trained in the morning, had lunch with Sensei, said our goodbyes, and told him as we had arranged with him we would return again on October 30th for more instruction.
Rick and I both agreed that we had increased the depth of our knowledge with this trip and look forward to the next chapter in this new book…..for us a new door has been opened and it can only be to our benefit and the benefit of our students.