Okinawa Group Tour – November 17-28, 2013

A group of KIMAA black belts recently travelled to Okinawa, Japan for training. Most of the training was with Sensei Tetsuhiro Hokama (10th Dan Goju Ryu & Kobudo), and one training session with Shihan Yasuhiro Shichinohe (7th Dan Kyokushin).

The tour group included:

Sensei Hokama & Shihan Lipman, September 2012
Shihan Howard Lipman (8th Dan Kyokushin, 6th Dan Kobudo): This was Shihan Lipman’s twelfth visit to Okinawa to train with Sensei Hokama, and his 67th visit to Japan overall in his martial arts career. Shihan Lipman’s wife, Masumi, also came on the trip, playing ‘mum’ to the group.

Shihan Rick Cunningham (6th Dan Kyokushin, 5th Dan Kobudo): This was also Shihan Cunningham’s twelfth visit to Okinawa to train with Sensei Hokama.

IMG_4638Sensei Mark Shelmerdine (4th Dan Kyokushin, 3rd Dan Kobudo): This was Sensei Mark’s fourth visit to Okinawa to train with Sensei Hokama. Sensei Mark attended previous group trips in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Sensei Mark McFadden
(3rd Dan Kyokushin, 2nd Dan Kobudo): This was Sensei Mark’s second visit to Okinawa to train with Sensei Hokama. Sensei Mark’s first trip was in 2008.

P1100415Sempai Don Cheong (2nd Dan Kyokushin, 8th Kyu Kobudo): This was Sempai Don’s first visit to Okinawa. Sempai Don started training in Kyokushin at the Turramurra Dojo several years ago as a 1st Dan, earning his 2nd Dan in 2011. He began Kobudo recently, applying his technical excellence in Karate to his study of Kobudo.

IMG_2376Sempai Alex Lloyd (1st Dan Kyokushin, 5th Kyu Kobudo): This was also Sempai Alex’s first visit to Okinawa. Sempai Alex began Kyokushin as a Knox student in 2005. He graduated Knox in 2009 and continued his association with the school as an instructor until 2012. He earned his 1st Dan in 2011, when he also started learning Kobudo.

P1100416Sempai James Campbell (1st Dan Kyokushin, 1st Dan Kobudo): This was Sempai James’s second visit to Okinawa. Sempai James’s first trip was in 2010. Sempai James began Kyokushin in 2008, grading to 1st Dan in 2012. He started Kobudo at Sensei Hokama’s 2009 visit to Australia, and was graded to 1st Dan in Sensei’s 2012 visit to Australia.

The group flew out on the morning of Sunday November 17 and checked in at the Nahana Hotel & Spa late that night. They celebrated with a late dinner at a nearby yakitori bar.

The next morning the group went to Sensei’s dojo to meet him for tea and introductions to the students new to Okinawa, namely Sempai Don and Sempai Alex. The group were presented with gifts from Sensei and had a look around his Karate museum, upstairs from the dojo. After this was a quick visit to Shureido Martial Arts shop. The group separated for the afternoon, with some exploring Kokusai Dori for shopping, and others to Shuri-Jo Castle and the King’s Tomb.

Sensei was busy during the day on Tuesday so the group made use of the time to do a lot of sightseeing. The group went to the bunker used by the Japanese Naval Command in the Battle of Okinawa, followed by the Emperor’s Gardens and the Chinese Gardens.

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Howard, Seki and Rick at dinner after training
Howard, Seki and Rick at dinner after training
Bo training
Bo training

The first training session of the trip was on Tuesday night with Sensei Hokama’s students. Training focused on Sanchin, including moving through the stance while holding weighted jars, and the Gekusai Dai kata. Some work was done on Nunchaku and the Bo. The group demonstrated the first Bo exercise and Kihon kata. Sensei’s students were very impressed with the Australian team. After training Shihan Arakawa, Sensei Seki and Sensei Taira went out with the group for dinner. Sensei Hokama had to greet a student coming to train with him from overseas, so he was unable to attend.

Training continued the next morning with more work on Sanchin and self-defence techniques. Sensei ran the group through the Bo, working on the first exercise, Kihon and Ufugusuku. Following this was the Tonfa kata and Tonfa against a Bo, which was very interesting.

That night the group had a Kyokushin training session with Shihan Shichinohe. Shihan Shichinohe was appointed the Okinawan Kyokushin Branch Chief by Sosai Mas Oyama, as Shihan Lipman was for Australia. Shihan Lipman and Shihan Shichinohe have been friends for a long time. Shihan Lipman’s students found training in Shihan Shichinohe’s dojo a fantastic experience; although the class was completely in Japanese, the Australian students were able to fit right in and train. As Shihan Lipman said in his address at the end of the class, ‘Kyokushin is the same everywhere’. The group had dinner with Shihan Shichinohe, his wife Vera, and his students after class.

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Self-defence training
Self-defence training

Training with Sensei Hokama continued on Thursday morning. A lot of work was done with the Bo, including the basic exercises, all parts of the Kihon kata, Ufugusuku and Sushi no kon Sho. Sensei Seki attended the morning session and worked with the group on the Bo, as well as the Eeku kata. Some more work on Sanchin and general self-defence techniques derived from Sanchin were then studied.

After a quick lunch break, the group practiced Sakugawa no Kon before moving onto the Sai katas Chibana and Hame Higa. Following the Sai, Sensei got students to train with the Nunchaku, then to use two at once! Sensei Mark Shelmerdine came up with a few combinations, leading Sensei Hokama to warn us that Sensei Mark was a ‘dangerous man’. More pressure points, joint locks and self-defence work followed.

KIMAA tour group photo with Sensei Hokama
KIMAA tour group photo with Sensei Hokama

Following training with Sensei was another quick visit to Shureido and a trip to the ruins of Sohgenji Temple.

On Friday morning the group demonstrated all the katas, partner work and application for the Bo, Eeku and Tonfa for Sensei. Shihan Cunningham and Sensei Mark Shelmerdine also ran through the Kama.

The group spent the afternoon exploring Kokusai Dori, the seven-storey bookstore Junkudo and the old pottery village Tsuboya. Yoshi, KIMAA’s account manager at Shureido, met up with the group for dinner.

Saturday morning was the final training session with Sensei Hokama. Techniques for disarming someone armed with a Bo were looked at, as well as bunkai from Seipai kata.

Sensei Mark McFadden was promoted to 2nd Dan in Kobudo by Shihan Lipman in March. He was formally awarded his certificate by Sensei Hokama on this trip.

Sensei Hokama also gave participation certificates to Sempai Don and Sempai Alex for coming to train with him in Japan.

Sensei Hokama's dojo, exterior
Sensei Hokama’s dojo, exterior

KIMAA senior instructors Shihan Lipman, Shihan Cunningham and Sensei Mark Shelmerdine have had the privilege of training with Sensei Hokama numerous times, and every trip adds to their knowledge of the martial arts.

For students such as Sensei Mark McFadden and Sempai James, who have already been to Okinawa, the opportunity to go back and expand their understanding of Karate and Kobudo is one they used well and most enjoyed.

For Sempai Don and Sempai Alex, training with seniors in Japan who have such a profound knowledge of the martial arts and ability to perform them was an unbeatable experience.

All were most grateful to Sensei Hokama for his time, Masumi for providing translation when necessary, and to Shihan Lipman and Shihan Cunningham for organising the trip.

On the morning of Sunday November 24, the group flew out to Kyoto for some sightseeing, with the exception of Sensei Mark Shelmerdine, who returned home for a short holiday with his family.

The group checked into the Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa on Sunday afternoon and made the most of their time in the city. On Sunday afternoon the group went to Tozando (a sword shop) and Chion-in Temple. The Autumn colours of the maple trees were in full bloom and a spectacular sight. At night, the group went to Kiyomizudera, which was packed with people but worth wading through the crowd for the wonderful views of the maple trees lit up at night.

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On Monday, the group went to Arashiyama to explore a range of temples, Togetsukyo Bridge and a bamboo forest. On Tuesday, the group split up to visit different areas. Shihan Lipman, Shihan Cunningham, Sensei Mark and Sempai James went to Nijo Castle followed by some shopping. Masumi visited her mother. Sempai Don and Sempai Alex went to the Fushimi Inari shrine. Everyone enjoyed their time and met up for an end of tour group dinner.

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Everyone checked out of the hotel on Wednesday morning and took a bus to Itami airport. From there they flew from Itami to Tokyo, then Tokyo to Sydney, arriving just before 8 am on Thursday morning, November 28. The group warmly thanked Masumi for looking after them all so well with a very nice Japanese silk scarf, and once again extend their sincere gratitude to Shihan Lipman and Shihan Cunningham for a wonderful trip.