Conversations with Senaha Sensei have recently been featured in the Ryu Kyu Shinbun (Okinawa Newspaper). I’m sharing parts of it here as it may be of historical interest, plus there are many fine words of advice spoken.

Senaha Shigetoshi Sensei (79 Years Old) was a longtime student of the Okinawa Goju Ryu Master Meitoku Yagi Sensei (1912 – 2003) who was an intangible cultural heritage of Okinawa.

“A mans word must be kept to the end” Ikigai means commitment or an oath. I learned this value from Meitoku Yagi Sensei when I was around 19 years old, whereby a verbal promise made by a man should be the same as a formal contract. You should always keep your word and keep your promise!

After training Sensei would seat everyone in a circle in the Dojo and begin discussions. This taught you the rule to not be free flowing with your words, but to always be careful with your choice of words and what you say.

Yagi Sensei taught me about “Tayakan Nanjisomi – The Secret of Nanjiru” This is about always trying to do more than others. He would say to me “Senaha you should train more”. With this spirit and his words embedded in my heart, I tried to train more often than anyone else.

My father told me that once I become a man, I should practice the Martial Arts. So at the age of 17 years I entered the Dojo door of Meitoku Yagi Sensei. Sensei was a kind and gentle person with great knowledge of many things in life. I always enjoyed our conversations as they taught me many lessons.

Everyday I ran 3km to train my legs to become stronger. I also paid a lot of attention to the details in the study of Kata. This together with the many drills and forms developed by my teacher. As in Ippon Kumite, Nihon Kumite, Bunkai Kumite, Renzoku Kumite, Kakie kumite. I learned so much.

When I had to leave to work in Tokyo for a while I received an inspiring letter from my teacher, it said: Senaha-Kun, the darkest time is always before dawn. Remember this and work hard so that no one can ever call you unworthy. When I arrived I hung a picture of my Sensei in my room and each day before training I bowed to him. I continue to practice Karate every day at my ripe old age of 79 knowing that my teacher is always here with me. I have infinite respect for my Sensei, Yagi Meitoku.

When we are training in my Dojo I will teach my students everything that I know. During formal adult classes though we focus more on the details of Kata. After practice, in the same way as my teacher, we happily communicate and have discussions in a circle.

Kata can not be transmitted correctly if you cannot really feel it, or if you cannot touch it with your hands. In other words, if there is no living example, if you don’t touch something yourself then, you will not know what it feels like, so you will never know.

As long as I am healthy and I can lift my hands, I promise that I will continue to practise and teach Karate.