Trip to Okinawa by Tony Kerz
tkerz (11K) Training in Okinawa with the Grand Master Eizo Shimabukaru, was one of the most fascinating experiences I've ever had in my life.

On various levels it was like being in the past, present and future all at the same time.

When we were in his dojo, I felt like the spirits of his teachers were with us. The dojo was essentially the entire second floor of his cement house. Building houses out of cement is common in Okinawa to withstand the destructive force of their frequent seasonal typhoons. Yes, there were pictures of O'Sensei's teachers on the walls, but I seemed to feel their presence beyond that. I think this feeling was enhanced by the fact that we were also sleeping up there and at night it could get down right eerie with all the lights off. The wind would howl with a strength that just hinted at what a typhoon was capable of. Sometimes the howling wind would be accompanied by rain that almost seemed to move sideways and thunder claps that sounded like dynamite exploding directly overhead. There was a specific time that I recall when I went up there after breakfast alone to get my camera and I turned to leave, but then I paused for a moment with a thought and turned back again towards the dojo and bowed.

tkerz3 (10K) This feeling of moving backwards in time seemed to always hit me when O'Sensei sang the Shorin-Ryu Association song as he did before almost every training session. He had an impressive voice for an 82 year old, but the song and the way he sang it just seemed to capture an ancient past and merge it with the there and then.

As far as the "present" part of "past, present and future", being around O'Sensei created a sense of well being in me, not only because he is a warm and charming gentleman with a good sense of humor, but because he immediately welcomed us in to his home with the same graciousness as he might welcome distant members of his family, and as we spent more time together, I almost felt like he treated us as members of his immediate family. As time progressed, we showed more and more that we were enthusiastic and devoted students of traditional Shorin-Ryu Karate, and in a subtle way, the teacher-student relationship seemed to feel more like a father-child relationship.

tkerz4 (6K) O'Sensei spent a decent amount of time trying to convey some of the more philosophical aspects of Shorin-Ryu Karate. These philosophies were contained in the dojo songs that we sung before our training sessions and in some of the scrolls written in artful kanji calligraphy hung on the dojo walls.

The philosophies talked about being a good person (have good feeling), using the skills that we learned defensively as opposed to offensively, helping your fellow man, respecting your teachers and parents, having a strong resolve (like a mountain) and using only as much force as necessary to defend yourself.

I resonated with these philosophies and every time he discussed them I made a silent promise to myself to try and emulate them as I moved into and forged my own future.

-Tony K