On Sunday 15th January sensei Derek Ridgway sensei Peter Collins and sensei Mick Bayliss left a very cold Heathrow airport in London on route to Okinawa Japan. We were to travel via Taiwan with an overnight stay in Taipei, then an early flight next morning over to Okinawa. All went well and we arrived in Okinawa on time. In Taipei we met up with sensei Mike Scales chief instructor for Kazokukai Canada he too was to join us for the training in Okinawa.
Upon our arrival at our hotel we contacted our host for the 2 weeks of our stay master Isamu Arakaki 10th Dan master of Shorin Ryu karate. Master Arakaki has been teaching us now for 3 years we feel very honoured that he has taken us as his students and we were ready for 2 weeks of hard but brilliant training. Before long we had the call from reception that master Arakaki was there to meet us and welcome us to Okinawa. That evening we met up with master Arakaki to catch up what we had been doing and to chat with him over a meal.
Next morning the training started in earnest Okinawa is the home of the punch and we certainly knew that as many thousands were to be performed by us over our stay. He explained to us that this trip he was to deeper into the principles of his brand of Shorin Ryu karate known as Kodokan. We were going to work on all the basic kihon and the kata of his system. Kata we studied this time were fukyu ichi & ni. Pinans 5 plus naihanchin shodan/nidan and passai sho & kusanku sho. Training consisted of 2 sessions a day usually around 6 hours in total per day. As you can imagine this became very demanding 6 hours a day for 2 weeks is tough but very worthwhile.
The first few days were very tough lots of punching and kihon work but as the 1st week went on we started to feel stronger and our body’s started to adapt to all the hard work. Master Arakaki would not let anything slip everything had to be correct and exactly how he wanted it before we moved on to the next task.
During the 1st week be were taken to stay in a very fine beach resort and were interviewed and filmed by Okinawa BBtv. Master Arakaki put us through our paces on the beach we were then all interviewed along with our teacher master Arakaki.
As the training went on we were more and more training in kata its practice and its meaning. Okinawa kata are different to mainland Japan kata and we spent many hours trying to perfect our kata in front of our teacher. The most important kata for the Kodokan system is the kata naihanchi shodan. It contains all the principles of the style and works on many levels. To master it is to master karate but it is so difficult to perform to the level of master Arakaki. The priciples learnt in this kata go through all the other kata in the system none of them are right if you don’t understand naihanchin shodan. One of the highlights of our first week was being invited to the Rengokai annual dinner. This is where all the top masters from Okinawa get together to enjoy dinner and disscuss the next year. We felt very honoured to be allowed to attend such a prestigious event which was attended by non other than the governor of Okinawa.
By the end of the second week body’s were becoming weary but we had learnt so much in such a short time that it was worth it all the sweat was certainly not in vane.
The last night we went out with master Arakaki for a meal and to drink his favourite tipple Okinawa sake. We thanked him very much for all the training and for looking after us so well. He really is a true old style master who trains his students really hard but cares and looks after them at the same time. Some days after morning training he would cook for us, some evening he would take us out with him to local restaurants etc. so we feel very honoured that we have such a good teacher he is a fine example to us.
Saying goodbye is never easy in Okinawa we really miss our teacher master Arakaki and we really miss the island and the friendship and warmth of the people. We had a plane to catch though next morning and if we know we have to go home to our families and of course to save up for the next visit in August this year.
Special thank you from Derek Ridgway 7th Dan Kodokan
On behalf of myself Peter, Mike and Mick I would like to thank all the people of Okinawa who were so kind to us, thanks goes to the staff of the station hotel in Naha, James from the dojo bar. To all the different sensei we met at the Rengokai dinner who were so polite and friendly to us. Lastly the biggest thanks of all goes to our teacher master Arakaki 10th Dan. He is a true inspiration to us, his patience his knowledge and his love of karate never cease to amaze us. We know we are very lucky to have a true Okinawan master to teach us and sometimes we have to pinch ourselves to make sure we are not dreaming. We thank you sensei from the bottom of our hearts.