On Sat March the 17th 2001 the Nippon Kobudo association held its 24th meeting celebrating the old martial arts of Japan.
In all 30 different martial arts were represented at this gathering held at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by; Monbusho, the Nippon Budokan, NHK, the various prefectural Kobudo associations of Japan and The Asahi Shinbun Some of the arts displayed in this smorgasbord of martial traditions, to name a few, included Iai, Jo, Naginata, Ho, Okinawa Kobudo, ken, karate, aiki and Ju Jutsu. Grand Master Seikichi Uehara Sensei who is an incrediably Genki looking 97 years old participated in the Okinawa Kobudo demonstration. Unbelievable!
Amongst all of these national martial treasures was the one I had really come to see, the Okinawa Goju ryu Karate jutsu display. The IOGKF was represented by Higaonna Shihan, Terrauchi Sensei, (Tokyo) Toda Sensei, (Shizuoka) Yamashiro Sensei, (Okinawa) Miyawake Sensei (Tokyo)and Kuramoto Sensei (Okinawa). Everyone had made the effort to exchange demanding work schedules for Budo, and had traveled from near and far to ensure the success of the demonstration.
There was a rehearsal on the Friday afternoon in which positions were determined, and Kata and timing refined. It also included a “soft try” for Yamashiro Sensei, the lucky candidate for Shime, Kakie and ude tanren with Higaonna Shihan. Each Ryuha (school) was limited to 10 minutes, and Yonamine Sensei was instrumental in the time keeping and visual organization of the display to ensure it all went to plan.
On the Saturday, Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate Jutsu was listed 14th in the programme and started as scheduled around 12.20. A brief overview of the history of Goju Ryu was read out as the display began with a demonstration of Sanchin kata. You could hear the sharp cracks echoing off the walls of the Budokan as Higaonna Shihan preformed Shime on Yamashiro Sensei. Next, with a roar from Higaonna Shihan, was ude tanren (thud, smack, smack, thud) and then Kakie. As Sensei tossed Yamashiro Sensei (who is tough, strong, solid, arms like isshi sashi etc etc) about, bending his joints in various directions, I could hear murmurings behind me of “frightening” and “It’s the real thing”. Indeed the insistent (OK frantic) tapping for release and the accompanying grunts of pain left the onlooker in no doubt as to just how awesomely effective the application of these techniques could be. Particular “ohhs” of empathy were to be heard with the execution of a few of the yubi waza. This wasn’t the “soft try” of the day before.
Next up on the card were Terauchi Sensei, Toda Sensei, Miyawake Sensei and Kuramoto Sensei performing Sesan kata. I wasn’t sure who to watch, they were all so impressive. Terrauchi Sensei looked as powerful and frightening as ever. After that it was Higaonna Shihan alone performing Superenpei kata. It always seems to me like the kata is being “painted” with life before my eyes. Powerful, smooth, harmonious. There was a feeling that the entire Budokan was holding its breath and the silence of the audience was interrupted only by the whirring and bleeping of cameras. (These seem to be mandatory for a kata performance from Higaonna Shihan) And that was it. The 10 mins was up; the display team took a deep bow and left the floor (with much applause) to a reward of Obentos (boxed lunches) and tea.
I really felt that the words of the person behind me summed up the whole display- “honma” – “It’s the real thing”. I was proud to be a small part of the tradition that is Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate, and awed, as always, by the skill and efforts of the Sensei’s who are preserving this art and passing it on.
I hope I am lucky enough to be able to attend the 25th Nippon Kobudo celebration when it comes around. The atmosphere was so wonderful; nothing but Budo / jutsu and Bujin no matter where you turned, and all performing their best and brightest to celebrate and maintain the various old martial traditions of Japan. What a way to spend the weekend!
Article contributed by Aondrea Moynihan