Kazoku Kai trip to Okinawa August 2011
Kazokukai trip to Okinawa August 2011
Following the recent Okinawa trip in January 2011, a small Kazokukai Group of 8 students, from the Wolverhampton and Leicester dojos, got together and travelled to Okinawa again in August.
Having taken different routes to Okinawa, on the first day possible, Arakaki Sensei invited us all to his restaurant where we had the opportunity to greet each other and say our "Hello's". After a great meal, and with training agreed for the next day, we went our separate ways bound for Arakaki Sensei's hotel to snatch some much needed sleep.
The trip this time involved much more than just training.
On the first day of training, Sensei Wilkins presented Arakaki with a proposal for our membership to his Kodokan group. Arakaki happily accepted and we now have a small amount of official members, here in the UK, who are now part of the Kodokan group in OKinawa!
As official members of his Kodokan group, Arakaki Sensei was very open about his plan for our ongoing Okinawan training - he will continue to teach us everything he knows about Shorin-Ryu karate, in return we must spread this knowledge in what he calls "The Lecture of Karate", which is synonymous with the Kodokan name.
Soon after we were declared members of the Kodokan group, we were asked to attend a very special meeting; many of the Rengokai Senior Okinawan instructors were present to welcome our Group into the Okinawan fold and discuss our intentions to bring more people to train in Okinawa and also to spread Okinawan Karate here in the UK. We ate, drank and spoke with the seniors and we expressed our love of Okinawa and gratitude for their willingness to welcome us to their culture and teachings.
Arakaki Sensei was keen to see how we had progressed since our last visit, our individual skill levels had noticeably increased and Arakaki Sensei mentioned straight away that he was pleased with our progression. He could see that we'd all trained hard here in the UK and that his Karate was being taught well by the appraised instructors. Each session started with around 1000 punches and Kushinundo (slow squats), followed by kicking, kata and kihon. The lessons were also interspersed with smaller bouts of extra punching and kushinundo to keep the tempo high. The training incorporated many more technical details relating to body positioning and movement and each student picked one Kata to work on in-depth for several sessions, before all being tested on our performance.
The ambient temperature was around 32 degrees each day and the humidity made training very hot and sweaty. Arakaki said that he was often made to train with closed windows and no water but fortunately we were allowed such luxuries and he even turned on a fan which blew a welcome breeze into the dojo for us. Many bottles of 'Pocari Sweat' and 'Aquarius' were purchased by us from the local family mart - so much that the shop and vending-machines en-route to the dojo soon became out-of-stock!
Passai Sho and Naihanchi Shodan were later covered in some depth and it was explained that Naihanchin is the equivalent of Sanchin in other systems where conditioning and testing are concerned. Sensei Mick Bayliss' performance was put through the paces with a personal 'testing session' which involved Arakaki Sensei demonstrating the correct way to probe and test someone's performance of the kata.
Testing is an important element of the kata's performance because even when a Kata looks very good and strong, it will have weaknesses that are only detectable through strict observation and testing from someone who knows what to look and test for. This is another element which we can start to incorporate into our daily training to make us strive for better karate - regardless of which style we practice. He advised at the very least to train regularly with mirrors so that we may correct our own posture to some extent.
Several visits to the local 'Shureido' shop and new 'Dojo Bar' saw us purchasing a huge array of Karate suits, weapons, books, posters and.... beer. The Shureido shop is always particularly welcoming to us, offering free food and drink and occasional discounts and freebies with our purchases. Thanks Yoshi!
Nearing the end of our 2 week Tour, we were introduced to the advanced Kata - 'Passai Dai' (Matsumura Passai), which was taught to us as a group. There were many subtle differences between this version and others we have seen so far but there were many similarities with the Shorin-Ryu Passai Sho. After most of the group had left for the UK, 'Kusaku Sho' was taught to the 3 remaining students. The addition of these Kata to our repertoire has given us nearly a complete system to establish a transition from Beginner to Dan-Grade. The Shorin-Ryu version of Jion is the one important outstanding Kata left to learn from Master Arakaki but we have more than enough to practice now between our next anticipated tour of Okinawa in 2012!
Arakaki Sensei's written syllabus indicated his intention for grading members and outlined the required knowledge for each grade. Our UK dojos can possibly incorporate this as a guide to structure our training and direct the students towards a clear progression in rank for Shorin-Ryu. This may also make the Shorin Ryu more appealing to new students, knowing that they will be able to grade in the future.
With two key groups, in the East and West-Midlands, it is even more important now for us to come together in these early days of Shorin-Ryu Karate, to consolidate what we have learned and figure out the best direction to head in together. We are in a very fortunate position to have such a great Master of Karate willing to share with our group his knowledge and in-depth understanding.
As a collaboration between Sensei Ridgway and Sensei Wilkins, both Senior UK Shorin Ryu instructors are to host a special course in Pontesbury very soon, to teach two of the advanced Shorin-Ryu katas - 'Passai Sho' and 'Jitte'. This will be an important promotion of Shorin-Ryu which is rarely taught in the UK, a fantastic opportunity for all Kazokukai members to start to learn this traditional style to a high standard with a view to possibly becoming Kodokan members.
For those wishing to travel to Okinawa, Japan as part of the large International Tour of 2012, we are now starting to take names so that we can inform Arakaki Sensei of expected numbers. We estimate from initial feedback that there may be as many as 60 people already interested in travelling from our UK and Germany groups. This will be a momentous Tour, one which would definitely be worth attending. Training is hoped to be arranged with many senior Okinawan instructors to re-create a similar "Okinawa Experience" to the first tour of 2009! All current Kazokukai Members are Welcome.
*note from Sensei Derek Ridgway
On behalf of myself and all the students who travelled to Okinawa this time I would like to sincerely thank Master Arakaki for the superb training and for looking after us so well. He is an inspiration to all of us and we feel very privileged to be taught by such an inspiring teacher as Arakaki Sensei.
Anyone interested in learning traditional Shorin Ryu karate can contact Sensei Ridgway via this website for more details.
Travelling to Okinawa this time:
Sensei Derek Ridgway, 7th Dan (Kyoshi)
Sensei David Wilkins, 6th Dan (Renshi)
Sensei Lauren Frearson, 4th Dan
Sensei Mick Bayliss, 4th Dan
Sensei John Walsh, 4th Dan
Sensei Pete Tinsley, 2nd Dan
Ashley Grifiths, 1st Kyu
Bea Smith, 1st Kyu
Report by Pete Tinsley