A Travellerspoint blog

Reflections on Okinawa

All good things must end Off to Tokyo

21 °C
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The first night Miles and I pushed our way through the crowds of pimps and hookers blocking every sidewalk, talking on their phones, sizing us up. The shouts and commotion kept us up all night. I thought, my god, a month of this. What am I going to do? The pimps turned out to be 'catchers'. In Japan apparently, an honest job, where you get to dress up in long pointy shoes and dye your hair blond. The 'hookers' aren't. They are the modern day derivative of the Geisha, young girls who really dress up, ball gowns, big hair, wobbly heels. There is a store around the corner where they go to buy their outfits. The mannequins look like six inch PVC pipe. You have to be a size minus three. Anyway the 'talking' girls only talk. The mainland tourist will pay 7000yen for an hour in the bar with a girl, plus drinks. Call it a hundred to two hundred bucks an hour to sit and talk! I hope this never takes off in Canada! So the noise outside is just partying, the street is vacant except for a few sleepy cab drivers. I moved my room to the back of the hotel, being downwind I know what's on the menu at the restaurant. Things are quiet.
Okinawa can best be described as a safe place. Little old ladies walk can walk around after dark. There may be bars on the windows but the doors aren't locked. I've seen less policemen here in a month than I would in a day in Newmarket. The guys building or teaing down on the street are always playing it safe. Lots of flag men and signs. Safety first partner! I'd have been out of a job.
Yagi Dojo and the Maebukon people exceeded every expectation I could have had. They train extremely hard, like to play and make being courteous a way of life. I don't just mean polite. I mean taking into consideration what the other person thinks and might feel.
Tomorrow I'm off to Tokyo. A big big city. Some things on the mainland will be different I'm sure.
I know now why people keep coming back to Okinawa.

Posted by patgoodeve 19:35 Archived in Japan Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Redemption

Or at least a pass

sunny 25 °C
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Class starts at ten. It is a great honour to have a one on one class. I was there at 9:30 walking up the four flights of stairs. Past the barking door bell dog owned by Sense i's brother Past the damp faux leppoard, I unlocked the door and opened the windows. decades of sweat blew off the hardwood floor. Sense i started me at Sanchin. By Shishoshin we had a ten minute break as my left leg refused to obey me. I'll have to have a talk with it later. Can't let the team down! We sat, thank god and talked while I put myself on the outside of a liter of cold tea. Sense i scattering knowledge from six decades and I the pigeon pecking it up. After break Sense i gave me two presents; Gicksai no sai; the big fork like weapon, and Gicksai no bo. a long quarterstaff pole. In the old days the Bo would be cut from the vertical root of a fig tree. To be taught a new kata is a very big deal.
Class ended. Sense i left. I closed up. I limped back down the concrete stairs, past the stuffed cat, past the yapping doorbell dog. The five minute walk took fifteen. I need a hot bath, a Tylenol, a cheap beer or two. I'm no longer discouraged. The discouragement like a greasy film washed off by a little sweat. I'm still determined to try. Kids put that on my headstone. "At least he tried"
I'm happy. P
Sense i invited me out to dinner. Curried pork cutlet with real potatoes! Then to his favorite kareoke bar; for an hour, which turned out to be six. I'm developing a taste for Awamore! It's late the catchers are in full swing on the main street. Tomorrow is my last full day in Okinawa. P

Posted by patgoodeve 22:33 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Doing Katas in th rain

How I provided morning entertainment for a dozing tour bus driver and the local drunk

rain 18 °C
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I woke up this morning still berating myself for the poor showing at the dojo Saturday night. Had more runny eggs for brekky with cold bean sprouts and spinach. I still can't get a handle on the slurping thing especially if there's a quartet and no melody; the coffee was good. There was a light rain going on as I made my way to the park. There are two pavilions; one occupied by a sleeping tour bus driver and the other by a mostly conscious drunk, he might even have been coherent. Not understanding his jibes or praise I admired his technique of waving his gallon bottle of rice liquor while, swaying from side to side and never actually falling over. The bus driver spoke from time to time, to me or our inebreiated neighbour. We each did our thing. In Okinawa the land of karate you don't create much of a scene jumping around and waving your arms and legs. Unless you're a Gagin, then it's like watching a dancing bear; a mixture of curiosity and sympathy. Well what the hell. Damp I went to my local greasy wok. Blew the order. Wound up with fried spam and rice and a soup with eyes..
Karate class actually went well. Sempei Ota; a small bookish looking man was there before me. Sempei Ota at ninety pounds full of rice, could lick a marine platoon; smiling. It seems the tougher these Goju karate guys are, the nicer they are. Nothing to prove I guess. I took full advantage of the man. Asking questions, needing answers. During class Sense i Yagi asked that I do Saifa. One example Sense i uses; karate is like 'water sliding', skating. It's not too hard to skate around but the points are in the jumps and spins. So it is with Okinawan karate. Saifa involves coming from a very wide low stance called shika dachi; legs wide apart knees bent out to the side and your bum below your knees. Sounds hard? Try it. From this right side forward stance you jump to the left, looking left and land on just your left foot, wait half a sec, kick to the front, wait again on just your left foot and then for fun do the same on the other side. Now in Canada it was; hop, kick, hop, kick and you're done; water sliding! In Okinawa it's the triple lutz, twice. Well thanks to the gods of chance I pulled it off. The only correction was a small one. Sempei Ota told me I was learning the Okinawan style. Very cool! Half way through class Sense i Yagi came up to me, and quietly said, 'Tomorrow morning, ten o'clock. I'm getting another chance!

Posted by patgoodeve 05:28 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Earth Quakes ain't so bad

It's knowing my katas suck .

rain 23 °C
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I'm tired. I'm sore. The Tylenols aren't cutting it any more. If it's not blowing a typhoon then there's earthquakes like the one Friday night that shook the bed so bad it woke me up just after 4:00 in the morning. When i's not raining it's hot enough to melt my $5.00 plastic Croc knock offs. It's not really too bad; not even the laundry piling up in the bathroom sink.
What really burns my caucasian a$$ is messing up yet another kata in front of sense i. I really hate making the same mistakes that I was corrected on just the day before. Where is the little bit of progress I'm supposed to be making in return for all the sweat and aches. The high point for me tonight was after doing Ten Shi; a kata that sense i's father developed from sense i Miagi's favorite moves. Sense i Yagi gave that sigh and said. I won't quote, but something like this: the timing was off, the directions were wrong, incorrect speed, bad eye direction, and as an aside I breath like an animal in a bush. Kinda sums up a crappy kata don't you think. And to make it worse I've been practicing!
The only remotely interesting that happened to me today, apart from looking for quake damage (not much) was a group of mainland shutter bugs taking pictures of the Canadian guy sketching a funky fish pond. They took more pictures of the pond and the fish and the trees and each other than me. I just smiled and held up my book. I think I'll have a beer and some cheap whiskey. Dream of doing good katas and have another crack at it tomorrow.

Posted by patgoodeve 05:34 Archived in Japan Tagged events Comments (1)

Sitting with Sense i

A closed mouth and open ears. The nonphysical side of Karate

sunny 23 °C
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Sense i Yagi was gracious enough to give me a private lesson. Being under such a concentrated spot light is exhausting, not to mention doing the form's movements over and over. We only got to Saifa an indicator of how much remedial work I needed. One little gem he gave me. 'There are three ways to teach; beginner, a child, intermediate, a green to brown belt and advanced, black belt. Each level of teaching has milestones; for the beginner they would be doing the forms movements in the right order, for the intermediate the movements begin to have distinct timing and applications, for the black belt, well you really need to be there. You need to visualize what is happening. Live the kata. I privately think I'm a black belt moron. A least I was getting the advanced ed. After an hour plus of making the same mistakes that I've been making for a month Sense i called for a break. We sat; thank god! This is where the real education began.
Karate to Sense i is more about a way of life, a mind set, rather than how you go about performing the moves of one of the forms. He talks about 'real' karate verses 'sports' karate. In 'sports' karate you expect a tomorrow, an opportunity at a rematch, a chance to do better. In 'real' karate there is no tomorrow, just now. The object is not to win but how not to lose. I hope I'm expressing the idea correctly That's why there aren't any quotes.
I tried to explain to him why I was in Okinawa and when ideas are bigger than words I use a cheap comparison. Mine went like this. In Canada if you have a spring of fresh water coming up from the ground something called watercress will grow in the first few feet of the purest water. When the water has just a hint of pollution or degradation watercress won't grow. I like hundreds of better people before me, I wanted the pure stuff, untreated and unchanged.
Sense i with my not so subtle prompting gave the history of GoJo Karate. How Miagi only taught all his katas to his father and gave only his father permission to open a dojo, and how upon Miagi's untimely death the family gave Miagi's Obi (belt) and Gi to his father. He also explained the importance of not letting someone 'lose face'' or be embarrassed. Relating a story on one champion sent by Funakoshi to show Sense i Yagi his katas. The champion performed his first kata full of pride in front of his Japanese followers. Sense i said his kata was very good not like the Okniawan taught by Miagi but very good. Sense i Yagi glanced at his watch told the champion it was a 'good' kata. The champion left full of pride, missing the fact that the man his teacher sent him to never corrected anything not the slightest detail. The champion was not humble enough to ASK for a correction. He thought he was good, KNEW he was good and in his pride missed the key idea that humility is the first step to learning. P

Posted by patgoodeve 20:45 Archived in Japan Tagged educational Comments (0)

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