I’m admittedly late in writing this blog entry and regret that it has taken me this long to find the time to write it. On April 2nd I was lucky enough to enjoy a day of training with my first Karate teacher Kinjo sensei who was in town to conduct a seminar. I’ve talked a little bit about Kinjo sensei before, but in case you are not familiar with him he is a long-time student of Gohakukai founder, Tokashiki Iken, and has resided in Canada for the past 30 years.
The day started early at 9:30 am and I made sure to get to the venue early. When I arrived, Kinjo sensei was already there. Naturally it was wonderful to see him, but I was also happy because I got to meet up with some old friends – people I had trained with when I was in high school and all through my university days at Kinjo sensei’s dojo.
The seminar began with a light warm-up followed by some stationary basics and naturally there were corrections and comments made by Kinjo sensei. I’m always appreciative getting feedback from Kinjo sensei as it helps keep your karate honest. I think this is even more important for senior students and teachers who have established dojo themselves as they have fewer opportunities to train regularly with their teachers.
After a short break and some catching up with Kinjo sensei we started into kata practice – running the whole kata curriculum of Goju-ryu. However, when it came to Suparempei I had to excuse myself as I never learned the way Kinjo sensei does this kata. When I did this he asked if I knew Suparempei and I replied that I didn’t know the way he does it, but without missing a beat, Kinjo sensei just told me to follow along. It wasn’t that hard, but there were some noticeable differences that I saw. As an aside I did learn a version of Suparempei while I lived in Japan, actually a couple of versions, and of course Tou’on-ryu Bechurin, but not Kinjo sensei’s version. Ironic in some ways as I had studied with Kinjo sensei right up until I left for Japan in 1994 and had learned up to Kururunfa. Now here I was 17 years later learning Suparempei from him.
Of course there were lots of small and large corrections for each and every kata we did, and again I was appreciative of the corrections and comments. It really does keep you honest – even more so when I see Kinjo sensei performing a kata and I realize that I have such a long way to go. At 59 years of age he is in incredible shape and his kata display a profound understanding of strength (Go) and pliability (Ju) that makes it obvious to me that I still don’t understand. This is not discouraging. On the contrary it’s inspiring, and makes me want to work harder.
By now it was noon so we stopped for lunch. I didn’t pack anything so my students and I ran to a local sandwich shop for a very quick bite to eat. With some much needed calories in me I was good to go for the afternoon session which started out with doing ude tanren with everyone. Ouch. Then a light round of kakie with; surprise, surprise, everyone! After this Kinjo sensei taught some simple and more advanced applications from kata, which we worked through with a partner. These were very interesting and a lot of fun (paired work always is), but the one application that stuck out for me was the two low “x-blocks” from sanseru. Remember a few posts back I related how Murakami sensei had challenged me to think about this specific technique when I was back in Japan over the New Year? Well, I think Kinjo sensei gave me a good piece of that sanseru puzzle. Needless to say I was a so happy.
I noticed that Kinjo sensei is much more open and giving about explaining technique now compared to when I was training with him in high school and university. I suppose it’s only natural. Times change and people change. Kinjo sensei touched on this a little bit when he mentioned training under Fukuchi sensei and Tokashiki sensei on Okinawa in his youth. He said that both of them would explain how to do a technique and had very high standards about how each technique should be performed, but neither of them ever explained what a technique or kata meant. That was for the student to study by himself and it is only from this kind of deep, self-study that you can truly make a technique your own. This seems to be the original mentality of Okinawa Karate and its culture. It has been echoed by so many teachers that I have talked to; especially the older generation – case in point Kanzaki sensei. Its not that these teachers don’t know it’s that they are more concerned with developing the student and challenging the student to find out. In many ways, its all hiding in plain sight.
At the end of the seminar was a short grading for some students which was nice to see. I was especially happy to see my friend Ed grade for sandan and pass. We have known each other since high school and both trained at Kinjo sensei’s dojo. In fact Ed started one year before me in 1983. Congratulations Ed!
All in all it was a great, albeit tiring day and I hope that I will have more opportunities to train with Kinjo sensei in the future. I’d also like to extend my thanks to Rob Ross, friend, and long-time student of Kinjo sensei for organizing the seminar.