Having now set foot back in England I am reflecting on my recent time and experiences on the island of Okinawa. Even though I already had plans to visit Okinawa again this coming November with some of my students over here in the U.K. Many may wonder then why I made a last minute decision to jump on an aeroplane and make the 12,000 mile round trip. Yes the flight prices and accommodation were cheaper than ever, plus I was owed a vacation. The answer though is a simple one; To spend time with my Sensei…
The true Karate of Okinawa is based on a close teacher to student relationship; a mutual bond that is based on loyalty, honour and respect. This is a lesson that I learned many many years ago, in that to truly understand any art, be it Karate Judo or whatever, this closeness and personal guidance is paramount. My father always used to say to me that if it wasn’t possible to become close to a Teacher/Sensei, then seek out another teacher. Also, that one must seek out teachers with a deep understanding who continually guide by way of correction and firmness. Let’s be honest, being told that we are great and wonderful won’t exactly destroy ones ego or teach us much will it!? Senaha Sensei has more than a few students but the relationship with each is on an individual basis.
Karate Ka often ask me what I learn or get from visiting Okinawa, expecting me to say that I trained on a course alongside 200 other Karate Ka, or that I have learned this new Kata, or maybe some magical training techniques or drills. Yes of course I learn lots, so much that I will always be learning from, but to think the former really is missing the point. True Karate is much deeper than this. To sit around a table with Senaha Sensei, Tamaki Sensei and Kinjo San, listening to them discussing the depths of Karate in fine detail is humbling with their over 150 years of training behind them. The same in watching these Karate men still receiving guidance and correction from their teacher, when in the West how so many after just a few years think that they know it all or are now a Sensei in the art of Karate.
The most valuable lesson that one can get from visiting Okinawa as a Karate Ka is the simplicity of the essence of the Art. But how so many totally miss this altogether, the saying “See what no one else chooses to see”. springs to mind. My mornings were spent in the Dojo training alone or with my accompanying student, but always under the watchful eye of my Sensei. Then we would sit down for a hour or so with a refreshing drink as I intensely listened and discussed everything from Karate to family. Evening training classes were taken by Tamaki Sensei, a student of Senaha Sensei for over 46 years with no need to ever open his own Dojo, this of course being a lesson in itself. To obtain an understanding of how the Art should be truly practised is a shining light, but very few actually open their eyes and see it.
I will post again shortly and speak more of my time on Okinawa. But for now, well I will leave you with words to the effect spoken to me by my Sensei. “To many Karate Ka look for learning more techniques, when they don’t need to, their continued focus should be on understanding what is already there. Karate Ka need to think for themselves more and use their brains, as sometimes it is not good or it just doesn’t make sense”.