Over the past month or so I have spent time out in Okinawa training under the guidance of Senaha Sensei, Tamaki Sensei and East Sensei. Then on my recent return to England I also got to see Slater Williams Sensei too. Hopefully, I will also get to meet up with Brian Hinchliffe Sensei again soon also. 

All of this makes me realise how fortunate I am as a Karate ka, even though such things haven’t come my way easy or by luck. I am deeply appreciative of each of my Sensei and the guidance that I have received from them over the years. Maintaining a good relationship with each of my Karate Sensei over many years is something that I am personally proud of, as this means way more to me than any grades or recognition received. This is not only out of unwavering respect, but a deep gratitude for the invaluable teachings that I have received from each of them over the years, and may I add, continue to do so. Both maturity in Karate and life stems from respecting your elders and Sensei, listening more than you speak, retaining the beginner’s mindset of a learner who is in study, and most importantly as a student keeping one’s ego in check. 

Back to Okinawa… Karate ka often visit the island with the idea of learning some highly effective training techniques or Bunkai to take back home with them. The Art though is way simpler than this, with the essence of Karate being laid out clearly for those who are willing to look where few choose to see. Being respectful, not ever being late for training, practicing at the Dojo regularly, and always being quiet not loud, are all good places to start both on Okinawa and afar. Here are just a couple of the many important lessons learned from my recent visit…

Whilst out for the Evening celebrating Senaha Sensei’s 83rd Birthday I courteously managed to have a chat with all in attendance, and during conversations I asked a familiar question to a few of the Ryusyokai Honbu Dojo Seniors. 

How long have you been practicing Karate, who have been your Sensei/Teachers over the years, and do you have your own Dojo?

Tamaki Sensei 10th Dan: I have trained for 58 years now, the first 4 years I trained under Seiko Higa Sensei in Itoman, this was up to Shodan. After Higa Sensei died I became a student of Senaha Sensei, as I continue to be to this day. No, I don’t have my own Dojo I practice under the guidance of Senaha Sensei’s at his Dojo, so I have never needed my own Dojo. Also, note that Yogi Sensei is my Sempai at the Dojo.

Yogi Sensei 10th Dan: I have trained in Karate for 60 years; I have taken time out from the Dojo for family and work commitments for a while, but I have always still practiced Karate. The clock that hangs on Sensei’s Dojo wall was a gift from myself when he opened his Dojo. Of course we trained under Yagi Sensei also whilst a part of the Meibukan, but Senaha Sensei has always been the one who has guided me and been my Sensei. No I just train at Sensei’s Dojo. 

Kinjo Sensei 9th Dan: I have practiced Karate for just under 50 years now, a long time. Of which Senaha Sensei has always been my Sensei.  I opened a Shibu (Branch) Dojo just a few years ago, after such a long time the timing seemed right for me to do so. 

Zaiasu San 7th Dan: For 45 years I have been training in Karate under Senaha Sensei’s guidance at his Dojo in Tomishiro. I presently have no wish to run my own Dojo. Do students refer to you as Sensei? No No! Senaha Sensei, Yogi Sensei and Tamaki Sensei are the Dojo Sensei.

I’m sure that you will see that there are many many lessons to be learned within these such simple answers. And as you can clearly see, the thinking on Okinawa is certainly not quite like the Western Shodan who is often keen to open a Dojo and be called Sensei is it!?

I will speak more on Experiences of Okinawa in my next Blog post… Which will be soon!!!