At a special evening class at Okikukai Headquarters, most of the current high ranking Shohei Uechi Ryu Senseis including the current Okikukai President Nakahodo Sensei was in attendance.
The class was a traditional class with junbi undo and hojo undo at the beginning of class. Then came the kotae, a regular body conditioning exercise phase that is heavily emphasized in the Uechi Ryu style of karate. Every student was asked to take off their gi tops, and then was asked to break up into three groups to be tested in sanchin. Sanchin testing is very helpful in not just body conditioning, but allows the practitioner to have full one on one guidance from the instructor.
The person on the left is Yoshi Arakaki Sensei the President of the World Association of Uechi Ryu Shobukan and Kobudo Master on Hamahiga Island. The person on the right is a worker at Yoshi Arakaki Sensei’s Hamahiga Sea Salt factory.
My Sensei from Okikukai brought me here on a very special trip. Yoshi Arakaki Sensei gave us a exclusive tour of his sea salt factory and the bay where he pumps the water from the sea. Then he gave us a tour of his village, which is not very far from his factory. The village is small, but is rich with history and culture. The people on Hamahiga island live a simple life in a country setting and can easily travel to Okinawa by way of a bridge that links the two islands together.
I was interestingly surprised when Arakaki Sensei told me that the people of Hamahiga Island are mostly descendents of Samurai clans. Arakaki Sensei said that even his great grandfather was a Samurai. We were given exclusive entrance to a shrine which was built to preserve their family’s’ history. In that shrine Arakaki Sensei showed us pictures of his family on a wall, which included his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. At the foot of the wall below the pictures on display is a dark wooden staff. Arakaki Sensei said the staff originated from China and has been in the family since his great grandfather.
This is a picture of my first Karate class at Okikukai Headquarters. I did not participate in class, but I had the honor to sit and talk with Okikukai vice president Arakaki Sensei as we watched the class.
Yamashiro Sensei lead the first class to a group of mostly European students that just arrived on the island earlier that day. It was a very interesting sight for me at the time, because I had never seen a traditional Okinawan karate class being conducted. All of my karate class experiences has been from America and I only wondered how different the classes may be conducted in Okinawa. To my delight, many of the school (dojo) etiquette and beginning class formalities are very similar to what I had been taught in America. I did find that Yamashiro Sensei did have a different teaching style and different way of implementing basic exercises.
As I sat with Arakaki Sensei watching the class, sensei was very helpful in communicating what was happening during the class.
I finally made it!
I landed on the island of Okinawa, Japan, the birth place of karate. I am on a mission to find the teachers of my teachers in karate. My journey begins here.