First Impressions of the Jundokan

When you think 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, may come to mind. But, 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” (Hisao Sunagawa, 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 done 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. There really is nothing else like it, and no better way to learn the art of Goju Ryu.

Blake Turnbull

July 2012, Naha, Okinawa.