Yesterday I landed in Okinawa.
But let’s talk about today.
Because today was amazing.
The story begins at the sidewalk outside of a “Family Mart”, where I was sitting, eating lunch (yes, you sit at the sidewalk, I’m no bum). I was sitting there peacefully eating my shrimp/rice meal when suddenly a car stops right in front of me. The window rolls down “Hey, Jesse-san!” ! My jaw dropped. What a coincidence. Five seconds later I`m in the car, and twenty minutes later I’m at the Okinawan National Theater.
Imagine my surprise when I step out of the car – about fifty of the top Karate/Kobudo masters of Okinawa are standing there, in really expensive suits. They are chatting with each other. But as it happens, this day I am also wearing a suit.
A track suit…
The bunch of old men stare at me. And I know why. I can see the envy in their eyes. And I symphatize with them, because a Karate-man in a fancy suit is like a fish out of water. It`s simply not their right element.
Track suit or fancy suit, I’m going in anyway.
After having been stared down by the ladies of the staff (did I mention I`m wearing sneakers?) I’m finally inside. I still can’t believe I’m here. Twentyfive minutes ago I was sitting on the sidewalk like a bum, eating shrimps. Now I`m about to witness probably the greatest demonstration I’ve ever seen. Just as a reminder, the combined ranks (dan-grades) of the performers alone is probably higher than Einsteins IQ was.
And he came up with e=mc² after all.
It’s really silent in the theater. Everybody are eagerly waiting for the demonstrations to start. We are in fancy theater, it looks really modern and classy it’s not big at all. If someone farts at the other end of the room you are guaranteed to hear it. What am I doing here?! And I don’t mean the fact that I’m lactose intolerant (gas issues…) but the fact that a blonde foreigner in a red tracksuit and sneakers is sitting in the middle of a small theater full of VIP Okinawan masters who are about to witness a demonstration of even more VIP Okinawan masters. These are people I usually just read about.
A big screen silently comes down from the ceiling. A movie starts. It’s interviews with various masters of Karate and Kobudo. I recognize all of them. Some are already deceased, so I figure this project must have taken a long time to make. It`s really professional.
I wish I could understand more Japanese.
Each master is interviewed and then one of his students (I assume) perform a kata, while the master sits in the background of the dojo and watches. This is really great. After some Uechi-ryu masters, Shorin-ryu, Goju-ryu, Ryukyu Kobudo, Matsubayashi-ryu, Kobayashi-ryu and other styles, the movie ends.
The masters seem happy. The art was shown from it’s true side. Good, good.
Now it’s time for speeches. I’ll save you from that part (mainly because I did not comprehend that much…) The masters seem satisfied though. Good speeches.
Now, what I’ve been waiting for a whole fifteen minutes. Demonstrations.
To write down the entire demonstration in detail would kill my back (I’m sitting on some sort of rock hard wooden pillow without back support) so I’ll just give you a list. To some this might say a whole lot, to some it might not say a thing. Too bad, because here it is:
- Oyadomari no Passai by Teruya Masahiro
- Shisochin by Ikehara Hideki
- Seiryu by Nakama Yoshiteru
- Moidi by Shiroma Kiyonori
- Kusanku Sho by Matsujo Tadashi
- Seisan by Kamimura Takeshi
- Seisan no Bunkai by Kamimura Takeshi & Ikehara Hideki
- Gushikuma Passai by Higa Takehiro
- Chatan Yara no Sai by Nagamine Tomoichiro
- Ueku nu Ti by Moromizato Shinsuke
- Chatan Yara no Kusanku by Oyakawa Hitoshi
- Matsumura Passai by Ishikawa Ken
- Sanseiryu by Shinjo Narihiro
- Sanseiryu no Bunkai by Shinjo Kiyohide & Matsuzaki Yoshimitsu
- Jitte (Koryu) by Itokazu Masahiro
- Rohai (Koryu) by Akamine Koki
- Yakusoku Kumite by Matsuzaki Yoshimitsu & Tsukayama Shota
- Eiku Jutsu by Kinjo Masakazu
- Wankan by Shimabukuro Akio
- Chatan Yara nu Kusanku by Uema Yasuhiro
- Bunkai by Uema Yasuhiro & Teruya Masahiro
- Tensho by Chinen Shinzo
- Anan by Sakumoto Tsuguo
- Gojushiho by Tsuha Kiyoshi
- Jion (Koryu) by Miyagi Tokumasa
- Tomari Chinto (Koryu) by Taira Yoshitaka
Whoah, what a list huh? And the coolest thing was that they changed the backdrop color for every kata. Some sort of light effects. Really nice. By the way, for those of you wondering about the spelling in some places in the list, it’s just Okinawan dialect (like nr. 10, 20 and 4 for instance). I wrote just like they spell it in Japanese in the really nice folder we got (more like a magazine).
The folder/magazine also contains transcripts from the interviews in the movie, which I will be able to read someday… For those who are wondering what the featured image shows, it is actually this folder/magazine. Glossy paper! Must have been expensive.
Now, I have given you the list, but it’s still pretty dry if you don’t have good imagination.
So I’ll give you some comments.
Everyone were of course excellent, but my favourite was number 1. Mainly because the kata looks like the one I do, and it happens to be a kata I really like. And he had the most expensive Shureido-gi, which looked sweet. I’m ordering one tomorrow, you bet. Number 4 catches snakes with his bare hands in the mountains, at least when I met him a couple of years ago. Number 7 gave me a new idea for bunkai to Seisan. Number 8 finally showed me what Gusukuma/Gushikuma/Shiroma no Passai looks like. It seems I already knew it, but by another name. Number 9 was good, but since I was sitting next to the best Kobudo technician in the world (who took me there) it was not so exciting after all…
Number 11 showed me an alternative beginning to Chatan Yara no Kusanku. It looked like the one I do, which made me happy. Most versions look different. Number 13 looked like he was performing on ice, because for some strange reason he was sliding on the floor when going to every shiko dachi. And we are talking about meters here! Number 14 tried to break a double board five times with his finger tips (nukite) before he succeeded. I know his fingers can take it, they are unhuman, but why use so hard wood? Oh I remember, we are in Okinawa now, this is real Karate. Number 16 looked like Super Mario and number 18 was wearing a really cool faded black gi. Number 21 gave me another idea for bunkai, this time for Kusanku.
That’s enough. There were more points of interest too, but I’ll save them for myself…
Now wasn’t this a great first day in Okinawa? At least I think so. And it was all because of a coincidence!
Or was it fate?
Too bad there’s only 364 days left!