2008 Okinawa Trip


Friday June 27

Joe Wilson and I left for Richmond and caught our flight to Chicago. We always leave the day before the flight to Japan incase there are any problems with the connecting flights (which has happened before). We checked in at the Sheraton Gateway Ohare, where we stay on all of our Okinawa trips, and had lunch at Harry Carry’s. We met up with some of the others from the trip and had dinner, shot some pool and went to bed.

"The Cast"

John Spence

Joe Wilson

Felix Vlad

Eric Garcia

Ann Ferguson

Cary Ferguson (Anna's Dad)

Wendy Strack

Carol-Sue Fiest (Wendy's Mom)

Mackey McCandish

Saturday June 28

After very little sleep, we got up and took the shuttle bus to Chicago OHare. We had a very easy check-in, my normal metal hip security check and then made it to the gate. After having our traditional Bloody Mary, I sat next to Chris Matthews from MSNBC’s Hardball who was very nice and talked about the upcoming election and his show. He and his wife were taking a well-deserved vacation to Hawaii.

We boarded the plane to discover that Joe and I had great seats with plenty of leg room. I woke up after about 6 hours of sleep and read for the remainder of the 12 hour flight to Narita. The food for the past two trips has been the absolute worst I have ever encountered so Joe and I chose to not to eat and just wait until Narita.

Narita was cloudy and rainy so our plane was in a holding pattern for a little bit until we finally landed. Narita is a very easy airport and we checked everything through customs, got our boarding passes and grabbed a hot dog and some aquarius before leaving for Okinawa.


Sunday June 29

We were greeted in Okinawa by Gibu Sensei and the Butokukai members as we cleared the baggage area and I introduced our group members. After some brief discussion on the week, Izumi Sensei loaded us up on the hotel’s bus and took us to Okinawa City. Our room was great with four beds AND a tatami room. We dropped off our bags in our room and went immediately to the Lemon Grass restaurant for a first night tradition-goya champaru, pigs feet and orion beer. We caught up with Izumi Sensei and talked about the upcoming week and the 2009 Virginia Gassuku. The others went back early and we stayed until about 2 a.m.

Monday June 30

I got up around 6 a.m. and went to the roof to find Felix in typical form. He was jumping rope, doing karate and yoga. I joined him for the yoga in hopes to work out any jet lag and to get the blood moving. Felix is so much fun to be around with his love of life, every minute of every day. He is never not at 100 miles an hour and his enthuisasm makes the trip fun for everyone. I went down to the hotel’s restaurant for some breakfast and a mountain dew and then took Anna and her father to see the roof view.  Joe and I left to pick up the two vans that we rented for our group and Sensei Rob Rivers group. These were very nice with GPS and lots of room for everyone.

We went up to the mall at the hyakyu yen store (dollar store) to buy wrapping paper for gifts that we brought and then went to Mickey’s for lunch. Mickey’s has great Okinawan food and is very inexpensive. It is also one of the few places that accepts US dollars and yen. I left for the Koza dojo with Izumi Sensei where we concentrated on bunkai and kobudo. He surprised me when he presented me with a new kamidana for the dojo for our 10 year anniversary next year. We had raised money to buy another one but in true Izumi kindness, he added his own money in to give us this beautiful gift along with all of the other items to complete the shomen. We finished talking about teaching strategies for kids and curriculum.

After returning, Joe and I walked to the Koza Seidokan dojo (Motobu-Ryu Udun-di) to pay our respects to Taira Sensei and Takamiyagi Sensei and to set up the introduction of Sensei Rob Rivers and his group of students that would be arriving on Tuesday to train with them for the week. It was nice to see them both again and we watched some of the members working on undundi. Joe and I walked back to the hotel and I began to get ready to leave for the Hombu dojo.

I met Gibu Hanshi at 6:00 and caught up with him on the past year. After giving him our dojo report and testing applications, we discussed the 2009 Gasshuku and embu taikai for our dojo’s 10 year anniversary. We talked about the schedule of events for that week and he decided that he and the others would come in August 2009. Aside from the actual embu taikai, there will two full day gasshuku with main sessions covering basics, kata, kobudo and iri kumi(Okinawan/Kyokushin-type fighting).

Joe arrived with our students at 6:30 and everyone presented gifts to Gibu Sensei. After a very quick stretch, we began keiko with kata and waza. We finished the evening practice with daitai tsuki/keri which is a non-stop locomotive of high repetition hand and foot techniques followed by an eternal repetition of techniques in shiko dachi. This is always a test of will and spirit which throws everyone into Okinawa training in the heat. We all crawled out of the dojo and Sensei took us out to dinner at the Izakaiya under the dojo. We returned to hotel and passed out immediately.

Tuesday July 1st

I woke up and did some laundry. We went to the roof and ate our “doggy bag” from last night’s dinner. We are all very tired and jet lagged. I went downstairs to check email and received bad news that my friend Rob Rivers had trouble with his passport and that his students had already left for Okinawa without him. He was in the process of getting his problem fixed in Washington D.C. and wouldn’t be there until the very end of the week. I arranged for the hotel to pick up his group up at the airport and got ready to go with Izumi Sensei to the pre-school.

Izumi Sensei picked us up and drove us to one of the many local pre-schools where he teaches karate in the mornings before going to work. He works also with the local elementary schools and teaches karate as a gym/physical fitness component. After demonstrating karate, we popped popcorn for the kids and got to talk with the enthusiastic tikes. They loved Eric and were intrigued by his shaved head. We finished by singing a song with them and doing a P.E. song and dance.

Izumi Sensei drove us through a hilly area of Awase and we decided to eat lunch again at the Awase port. This is some of the best seafood one can get as it is brought in fresh everyday. Felix was in absolute heaven since he eats sushi and sashimi for every meal while on Okinawa. I came back and headed to the hotel’s onsen for a steam and hot bath. Izumi Sensei soon called and said for Joe and I to meet him in the lobby so that we could go to the store. Izumi wanted to buy candy for the kids in our dojo and then to buy drinks and snacks for Thursday’s boat to Tsuken Island. We returned to the hotel and then got ready to go to the Hombu.
We left for Urasoe and Izumi chose to come with us so that we could train together. Tonight was kumite night so there was lots of excitement as well as hesitation in the van. The Okinawans practice Iri kumi for kumite and there are no points or stopping the matches. A winner is decided either by an ippon which is a knockout or through knocking a person down and having them take longer than 5 seconds to get up. This, of course, is in competition.

In the dojo, there is no scoring, only a time limit. Kicks and punches are delivered to most all parts of the body and it is rough, but not malicious. However, students do not just hit general areas, they concentrate on only a few specific targets and rotate around their accessiblity. (spleen, liver, solar plexus, sciatic nerve, etc.)

After warming up with dantai tsuki/keri, we matched up for kumite. Eric and Felix had a great bout that was fast and furious. Makoto Gibu and I matched up for hand techniques only and had a great time trading body punches. He is like a rock and is an expert in timing who gladly accepts a punch that leaves you open to receive one twice as hard.

Joe and Eric got a chance to do iri kumi with him as well and did well. Felix, Anna and I all got the privilege to fight Naka Sensei, who won the All Okinawa Hard Contact championship many years in a row and is a feared fighter for his spirit, power and blinding speed. He is also a master technician who in the old tradition of Shorin-Ryu, kicks vital areas with his big toe.

After kumite, Gibu Sensei had us all pair up for Kakae (push hands) and the shobu' s continued as everyone did not want to lose to their partner. After swtiching sides and continuing our kakae for another 15 minutes, Sensei demonstrated a tokui waza (favorite or special technique) that he said that has been successful in many situations in his past.  He spent a lot of time demonstrating the atemi points and how to change the angles and techniques when using them on different sized people.
Izumi Sensei drove us back home through Ginowan so that we could see the lights of the town. After I arrived at the hotel , I waited in the lobby to meet the Shin Dojo group and get them checked into their rooms. After getting them settled, we took them to the Lemon Grass for some well-needed food and relax time.  A friend of Izumi Sensei’s sat down to join us who was a juku teacher (cram school) and a kendoka. Speaking perfect English, he sat with Rivers Sensei’s group and talked shop about all things sword. We headed back to hotel and called it a night.

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