The Journey here was very long, as with plane changes in Tokyo it took 24 hours, Heathrow to Okinawa arriving at 9pm.
We were pleasantly surprised to be met by Master Meitatsu Yagi at the Airport to welcome us. He also met us at the hotel to go over the plan for the next week.
The plan was to start training tomorrow evening at 7pm till 9 pm so we would have the day to get over the travelling. At 10 pm we all went out into the hot steamy Naha city to find something to eat before collapsing into bed.
Sat 19th July 08
Training at a new club is always an exciting experience, but training at a new club in a different style in a different country is wonderful.
We were met at the hotel by Mary, a Canadian lady living in Okinawa for a year to train with Master Yagi. She directed the 20 of us for the 15 minute walk to the Dojo in the back streets of Naha.
In view of the large numbers we were to train in a hall some minutes from the main dojo. It was 32 degrees outside, and even warmer inside as we changed into our Gi.
Training started with some basics, Yodan Uke, Gedan Bari until our Gi were wet with perspiration. It was hot, very.
Master Yagi paired us up, as far as possible, with one of his instructors to go through a tension drill, followed by an arm conditioning drill. I kept slipping off my partner due to the sweat pouring from us both.
Sanchin Kata was to be the main theme of today's training so in groups of 4, plus an instructor, we worked the kata for about 30 minutes. By now the pools on the floor did not matter.
A second Kata, developed by one of Master Yagi's students was next. This kata involved Shuto Uke, and low Shika Dachi. Very interesting Kata but too short a time to really learn it.
The training session finished with some cool down basics (Cool down probably no correct in this heat) and some stretching before the final Mokuso and Rei.
We all really enjoyed the training and starting to learn the Okinawan way of training. Back tomorrow evening.
Sun 20th July 08
Training this evening was again at the school hall from 7 to 9pm. We were all a lot more relaxed this evening as we knew the format of the class.
Training started as per yesterday with basics, higher grades taking it in turns to call the moves. A great way to start the training and warm up, although the Dojo was extremely hot, something we were getting used to.
Next we formed 2 lines with a partner. Attacker, Yodan, Chudan, Gedan punch, defender stepping back to block.
We split into smaller groups for Kata work some groups covering 3 Kata while Sensei Langbridge, Tattersall and Norman concentrated on Sanchin Kata to a greater depth.
5 of Master Yagi's instructors partnered students in turn for partner training. Yodan punch, Chudan , Gedan and Shuto attacks, all done in Sanchin Dachi.
The 5 instructors then performed tension and arm conditioning drills with most of the students.
It was great to see Sensei Norman meet his match in this tension drill with an extremely powerful Japanese Goju Ryu instructor.
Excellent session and great training atmosphere. Training tomorrow morning outdoors at the Naminoue Shrine.
Mon 21st July 08
Today we were to train in the grounds of the Naminoue Shrine. We got there early in the blazing sun and were met by Master Yagi and taken to a small courtyard where Master Yagi explained he used to train every day for a year while his current apartment / Dojo was being built.
What a fantastic setting with 3 shrines on the sides which we all placed a few coins into the collection boxes before finding some shade to change in.
Master Yagi then individually presented each of us with a personally made sheet of his own calligraphy, each persons with a different saying or phrase which he explained to us in turn. We could not believe that such a Master would make this effort.
We then lined up on the grass for training.
The format was becoming familiar to us with each senior grade calling out a move for us to repeat 6 times.
Partner arm conditioning drills and 3 step sparring drills.
Kata today as every day starts with Sanchin, but training outside in the sun, made it feel special. We then moved on to a longer Kata, I don't remember the name.
The final part of the class was a large circle for on the spot basics, many many times over. The heat did not matter by now.
Master Yagi then took us into the shade to explain in detail the correct details of Sanchin Kata, from correct fist preparation, to foot angles and movements.
After the training Master Yagi took us up to the Temple where we were honoured to go into the small holy garden area around the back of the shrine.
One of the Priests then presented Sensei Norman with a bottle of Sake, Wonderful.
We were then taken by Master Yagi to another temple, a beautiful Chinese Garden and then unbelievably, on to his home. He invited all 20 of us into his first floor apartment where we were given cold drinks. Master Yagi then gave us each an I.M.G.K. association towel.
The top floor, 4th floor of this apartment block is Master Yagi's Dojo, and it was an honour to be able to see this wonderful Dojo. This was where he trains and normally holds his classes.
Today was an unbelievable experience hosted by an amazing man. I felt truly honoured and humbled.
Tue 22nd July 08
This evening we were again training at the school hall, but with a Canadian Gojo Ryu club training with us as well, the 40 Karate Ka made the large hall seem a bit too small.
We started in the normal way in 2 lines along the hall with each senior student calling a basic move for us to perform across the hall before moving on to partner arm conditioning drills. We were really starting to get the flows of these drills but as the power and speed was increasing, so was the pain element.
Back in 2 long lines with partner for and 3 step sparring drills. The idea here was to maintain the short Sanchin Dachi for Yodan / Chudan attacks but drop into Shika dachi for Gedan attacks. Harder than it sounds as we are all used to using our long stances.
Master Yagi invited us to sit while the Gojo Ryu students demonstrated basic drills.
4 Karate Ka surrounding one student for 3 attack drills. Left side, right, front,right,left, back, 3 attacks, 3 defence. As before Yodan / Chudan all in Sanchin dachi, Gedan in Shika Dachi. All very fast and very powerful. Very impressive training.
This same routine was then performed in two rows with a partner, back and forward at speed, continuous but with the attacker able to choose any hight and also low front kick. There was a small 10 year old girl, brown belt, who was also going through the drill with each of the seniors, very impressive.
Sensei Yagi then arranged for his Instructors, and the Canadian Gojo Ryu club to go through their 10 Kata. A truly impressive demonstration of some wonderful Gojo Ryu. Of special note was the superb performance of Sensei Yagi's Son, excellent Kata of the highest level.
We then trained Sanchin and Tensho Kata in small groups, as always this was not for long enough.
Sensei Norman had offered for us to demonstrate some of our Kata. Chris Dockerill performed Kata Enpi and Bassai Dai, Alan Sadler Bassai Dai and Mike Tattersall Annanku, all very well received.
It was wonderful to train with the Canadian group with such friendly students and instructors. A real honour for us to we welcomed into the Gojo Ryu classes.
Wed 23rd July 08
With no formal training planned today Sensei Norman, 5th Dan had arranged a Dan grading session for 5 UKASKO Students.
The chosen venue was the fantastic grounds of the Naminoue Shrine where we trained Monday morning.
It was a hot sunny morning 32 degrees, as we entered the garden, what an atmosphere for a grading.
The students were of course very nervous but excited at the planned grading, and with Sensei Norman grading them this would be no easy grading.
Towards the end of each students session, the heat and intensity of the grading was obviously proving extremely challenging, but each student fought their way through this tough physical and mental challenge.
Congratulations are in order, at the highest level to Barry Boxall- Shodan Chris Dockerill-Shodan James Clark-Shodan Dean Barnett-Nidan Debbie Furnell-Nidan Alan Sadler-Yondan
An event like this will live in the minds of the students, and those present, for a very long time.
Thu 24th July 08
Training this evening was to be our last formal group training this week. We now knew the format and were starting to learn the first 2 Kata well enough to join in.
Basic training across the hall was now starting to happen correctly in either Sanchin Dachi or Shika Dachi as we partnered up for 3 step partner work.
Arm conditioning drills were now faster, but more painful as I kept hitting the already tender spots on my arms.
Next was Sanchin Kata, a daily kata designed to draw energy into the body. A beginners kata to improve body energy , however trained at all levels.
We were again invited to watch the Gojo Ryu students perform their Kata to an excellent standard, with both power and superb control. There was even a 79 your old Brown belt who had been training for 5 years.
Master Yagi then taught us some self defence techniques against punches,wrist grabs and Chudan kicks, great fun as he, and his Son, helped us develop the techniques.
We returned to training their second Kata Tensho (High / Low) until all the lights went out. Now training Kata that you are not sure off in the dark is magic, as suddenly no one can see your mistakes and you feel perfect.
Lighting did come back on for the end of this our last formal training session and the group photos.
Fantastic experience to train at this wonderful Dojo under a wonderful Master.
Fri 25th July 08
Master Yagi had invited 4 of us to his private Dojo to train for 2 hours. Myself - Steve Langbridge, Len Norman, Mike Tattersall, and Alan Sadler.
We had arrived a bit early with Master Yagi already in the Dojo, so he showed us the many photos on the wall of past masters of Gojo Ryu, and early pictures of the old Dojo in Naha, on the same site as the current Dojo.
Master Yagi wanted to see how well we had taken in the principles of his Gojo Ryu, so we started with Sanchin Kata.
At first together we trained together, then each in turn as he corrected us. I personally found it extremely hard as every move was being analysed and then corrected, stance too wide, arms not out enough, back up straight, breathing too noisy etc.
We all had the same unnerving experience and began to to truly understand how little we had mastered this Kata.
Next was Tenchi Kata, an easier Kata in stance terms but with that wonderful low Shika Dachi stance. We had still not learnt all of the Kata but its getting there.
During the water break we were taken onto the balcony surrounding the top floor Dojo where Master Yagi had his Makiwara, and various weight apparatus to improve arm and wrist strength. Lumps of concrete on poles, Pottery pitchers to pick up with each hand etc.
We then returned to the Dojo to start to learn the first Weapons - Sai Kata.
A basic Kata with the directions of Kihon Kata, basic blocks and punches. Over an hour we repeated the Kata many times until we had at least learnt the moves.
A superb training session and an end to a superb week that I would not have missed for anything.