My time in Okinawa

[gallery link="file"] Often, if one thinks about the idea of training at the Jundokan Honbu-Dojo in Naha Okinawa, the birthplace of Goju Ryu Karate, thoughts of brutal conditioning, hours of solid press-ups, and a code of conduct so strict that one false move will have you kicked out, come to mind. But what I’m here to tell you is that, in reality, that’s not the case at all. In fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

My first trip to Okinawa in October of 2008 started with unsurprising feelings of anxiety towards such prestigious training at a place as historic and world-renowned as the Jundokan. Of course, I too thought along the same lines as those mentioned above; training with the masters of the art- it had to be tough! However, after just one night's worth of training at the Jundokan dojo, I quickly realised I was wrong to feel that way. In fact, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Contrary to popular western ideology, the teaching style at the Jundokan Dojo is not about beating one another until you feel no more pain. Don’t get me wrong, training is serious and requires 100% of your effort and concentration, but those teaching at the Jundokan are accommodating, teaching age-old techniques and ideologies in a manner which is specific to you. A sense of “equality” is created, one sensei even stating to me that it is best to train as “brothers, rather than as teacher and student” (Sunagawa Sensei, 2012). It is a combination of these factors that make the Jundokan Dojo unique like no other.

Upon returning to the Jundokan now in July of 2012, I have quickly come to realise that things have not changed in the slightest. All of those teaching here are exceptionally friendly and welcoming, one sensei having even invited me out for the day where he bought me a drink afterwards. And of course, training itself is no different. One night saw us working over kata and at a stage where my technique differed to those of others around me, a discussion closely ensured. Within long, we were told that in fact I was not wrong, and that the technique could be dont both ways depending on the bunkai. Such an accommodating style of teaching is what makes the Jundokan unique; always open to the opinions of others, always looking to learn more from others around them. The idea that “this is the one way to do it- your way is wrong”, simply does not exist, but rather, the concept of accommodation and equality prevails.

Okinawa is a great country, and Naha is a beautiful city filled with interesting and unique things to do during the day, and world-class karate to train in at night. The Jundokan Honbu-Dojo is remarkable place where just one night’s training can change your entire perspective on Karate itself. It is a place that unites people from all across the globe for one single purpose: to train in the traditional art of Goju Ryu Karate-Do. There aren’t many places in the world where you can train with the current masters of Goju Ryu as equals, but the Jundokan strives for just that. The really is nothing else like it, and no better way to learn the art of Goju Ryu.

Blake Turnbull

July 2012, Naha, Okinawa.

Budo Karate

Today the techniques of Karate are taken lightly, and most turn to sports karate where both a participants training span and ability to compete are short. The importance of the many years of training is to achieve the unity of heart and technique. This is essential. Sports karate as a means of expanding or promoting karate is questionable. The men of old have stated that making BuDo into a sport will ruin it. The BuDo mentality is a harsh battle with ones self. We have to realize that we are in daily battle with the complex environment that surrounds us.

To win in competition, or obtain a rank, or other things such as "strength", "weakness", "skill", "clumsiness" etc. are only the surface of karate.

The value of BuDo is much greater. It is more important to cultivate the indomitable spirit through many years of training. Emphasis must be placed on ones internal qualities. To love and be loved, to always have a bright heart is very important as human beings.

" Tradition" is a strength possessed that cannot be seen with the eyes but something that is part of our lives. "Remember the old and learn the new" is a proverb that should be incorporated into our lives and all aspects of our daily training.

The uniqueness of karate is that it does not regard place, gender, and strength of body. I want to make a point that the training, therefore, can be done for a long time. Presently in Okinawa, there are many karate practitioners that guard the ancient traditions of karate culture. They have no interest in the "Japanizes" sports karate.

From the book "Okinawa Den Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate-Do". Written by......Eiichi Miyazato Sensei, 1978.

Kyu do mugen

Brushed by Miyazato Eiichi sensei, and hangs on the shomen inside the Jundokan dojo, Okinawa.

Kyu do mugen (There is no end to seeking/learning  the way): there is no end to seeking or learning. Even at advanced levels, there are still higher levels to reach. There is no point at which one's skill or understanding is complete. Learning "the way" is done day by day, minute by minute, second by second, now, to eternity. There is no faster way.

Resolutions for Karate Students for 2012

Here are some Resolutions for Karate Students for 2012:

  1. Practice Karate because you enjoy it. If you do so, your happiness will be attainment of the goal you seek.
  2. Focus on skill and conditioning, rather than rank and titles.
  3. Try to get a little better every day.
  4. Ask your Sensei if there is anything you can do to help him (or her).
  5. Arrive at class early to help set up. Stay late to help put things away.
  6. Try hard to get better at just one thing this year. If you can do that, you can apply what you learn to other aspects of Karate.
  7. If you haven't already done so, begin the serious study of body dynamics.
  8. Pick one junior student at the dojo and make it your mission to help him (or her).
  9. Be a positive influence in the dojo.
  10. Be humble.
  11. Be respectful of and kind to other people (whether they study Karate or not).
  12. There is no end to improvement in Karate. Remember: not yet, not yet. Mada, mada, mada.
  13. Try to win a tournament (just joking, unless you view daily life as a tournament).
  14. Seek to dig deeper rather than climbing higher. The keys are inside you.
  15. Learn something about other styles of Karate. At a certain point, styles become irrelevant.
  16. Try to remain calm and focused the next time you are in a dangerous situation, like an earthquake, a hurricane, or a car accident. Be prepared.
  17. Read a book about Okinawan history and culture.
  18. If you can afford it, plan a vacation or stopover in Okinawa.
  19. Don't forget to spend time with and pay attention to your family.
  20. Apply the principles of Karate in your daily life.
  21. Enjoy Karate in 2012.

Thank you for reading this blog and for your kind words and support. I continue to work on myself.

Respectfully, Charles C. Goodin

Eiichi Miyazato (宮里 栄一 Miyazato Eiichi, July 5, 1922 – December 11, 1999)

Miyazato Sensei was a very simple man. He did not seek out covers of magazines, make huge sums of money, or want the power of running a large karate organization. He truly practiced the teachings of Chojun Miyagi. Simple, Direct, and Uncomplicated. Just have fun training and just do it. That’s what Miyazato Sensei did every day at his dojo in Okinawa until he passed away.