Okinawa trip Dec 2009 by HC12100323107

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									Okinawa Trip December 2009

I was really looking forward to this trip, just to be able to enjoy the training and
Okinawa at an even more relaxed pace than usual because there was no
gasshuku, so it would just be Maroulla and I on holiday!

As always Higaonna Sensei, Yamashiro Sensei, Kuramoto sensei and the
students of the Higaonna dojo all extended such a warm welcome.
When I arrived I was honoured that Higaonna Sensei took time out of his day
to show me around his museum. One item of particular interest was his
treasured collection of old manuscripts written by a Samurai some 300 years
ago when the ship he travelling was blown off course to Okinawa and he
carefully documented peoples belongings, supplies and conversations. One of
note were his comments on the Okinawa people as quite small but strong and
their punching and kicking was impressive. This is evidence of a very early
account that Karate was practised at this time.

Higaonna Sensei is also researching the history of Karate and Goju-ryu very
carefully as there are names of instructors that are very similar that have been
confused in the lineage, Kanryo Higaonna and Kanyo Higaonna. So Sensei is
retracing events and the timelines to ensure that they are accurate. This very
painstaking and time consuming work, particularly reading all the articles from
newspaper clippings, old manuscripts as well as trips to China to piece the
puzzle together. When I read history books, I get a sense that sometimes I
have not appreciated the amount of effort that goes into writing them, it has to
be a labour of love!

For me, training is my passion and I love my first day when I arrive at the
Higaonna dojo with the wonderful smell of the wood of the floor, (which has
now had the holes repaired!) reminding me of great training sessions and the
intimacy of training that you experience here.

It is a good feeling just to train for yourself and to enjoy exploring the kata and
hoju undo that I don’t get time to do so intensely at home. As the temperature
was a very pleasant 25 degrees Celsius, there was no real acclimatisation
other than jet lag to get over. From the evening trainings with Higaonna
Sensei, I would always have some pointers that I could practise the next
morning, which is an ideal way to train so as not to forget the details. I was
also delighted to have an impromptu 1 to 1 kata session with Sensei as he
was passing by the dojo on my last day!

I was also able to include some Zazen meditation at the Zendo temple this
time. The Zendo temple is situated next to Shuri castle and on the way is the
high school that Miyagi Chojun Sensei attended and used to run to in the
morning. It was an early rise to meet Higaonna sensei at 05:00 at the dojo but
only a short taxi ride. We went with Kuramoto sensei and Raphael on the first
visit and it was their very first time (my third time at the zendo and 4 th practise
in total). Higaonna Sensei kindly took some time before the session to show
us the correct etiquette and posture so that when we started we would be
ready. The session starts at 06:00 but you are usually sitting about 10 mins
beforehand to get into your posture. Then the sound of the blocks starts a 20
min session, followed by the sound again, then you can adjust your position
and stretch your legs ready for the next one of 15 mins. Unfortunately for my
legs on this occasion we ran quite a lot over in the first session at which point
my left foot was completely numb! Afterwards we experienced a formal
breakfast with the Roshi of a cake and green tea and then a 20 min lecture.
Although all in Japansese so I couldn’t understand but got the gist afterwards
from Raphael and Kuramoto sensei that he talked about the road to peace.
I attended the Zendo another two times with Higaonna Sensei and on all
occasions I got a different experience. It is hard to sit still both physically and
mentally but I did get a feeling of being more ‘centred’ after all the sessions.

I also had time for some sightseeing with Maroulla around Naha and we
walked the length and breadth to visit markets, pottery shops and the town
beach! Whilst I was training in the morning Maroulla would go exploring the
markets, particularly the food, (as cooking is her passion), where she would
find and taste some quite extraordinary delicacies and we would then go there
together so that I could experience these as well! We also revisited the
Aquarium which is about a 2 hour drive from Naha that Kuramoto sensei very
kindly hosted. We were also joined by Uehara sensei who trained with
Higaonna Sensei in the Yoyogi dojo in the early seventies and who have
known each other for 40 years! Uehara sensei was also in some of the early
books and videos that I have copies of and so it was wonderful to meet him
and share such a nice trip together. We rounded off that day in a local
Awamori house for a traditional Okinawan meal, including sushi and seaweed!
Other socialising we fitted into the trip was spent visiting Mama san’s (an old
Awamori house across the road from our hotel), having a very late dinner with
Kuramoto sensei at his Boxer friend’s bar with his ‘walking’ friends (one of
which has just taken up goju ryu at the age of 70!) and going out for a
sayonara party curry with Higaonna sensei, Yamashiro sensei and Kuramoto
sensei, Brent and Phitty – it felt like being in Tooting (the area that I live in
which has a vibrant South Indian and Sri Lankan community, particularly the
restaurants and food stores!!)

Coming home this time I felt more calm, rested and energised, motivated and
inspired. Maybe it was the stillness of Zazen and the movement of Goju-Ryu
that are a complete balance that I am now starting to appreciate, or maybe it
was the friendliness of the Okinawan people and their relaxed way of life
meaning that you have to slow down to their pace. It might have been that
both ends of the day are for living in harmony with yourself and with others.
Maybe this was the peace that the Roshi was talking about?

I now look forward to practising this all again very soon. I will be in Okinawa in
February for the Chief Instructors Gasshuku and I cant wait!

								
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