Unlike all my other trips, this one started with a lot of uncertainty. Osensei was injured in a house fire about two weeks before we were to leave. The information we were able to obtain from Okinawa prior to leaving was both sketchy and sometimes contradictory, but we knew that he had been in the hospital and that his home was damaged. Although we didn't know were we where going to stay and what kind of training we were going to receive, we all agreed that we should go anyway. O'Sensei has done so much for all of us that we felt it was our turn to give back, and even if we were unable to train with him, we could assist him in some way.
As it turned out, we were able to stay in his dojo (which is the second floor of his home in Ginoza) and O'Sensei's son Eiko (also a 10th Dan) trained us. O'Sensei's injuries were not as bad as we first expected, and as I write this he is back teaching and in good health! We are all very thankful and happy.
Traveling with me was Robert Weinberg Sensei (Ninth dan) and Felix Sanes (Seventh dan) from the New York Rendokan Dojo, and John Houchin from Florida who was making his first trip. Upon arrival, Eiko Sensei greeted us at the airport and brought us to O'Sensei's house. It was a great joy and a relief to actually see O'Sensei with my own eyes! It was the first of many great things to happen on this trip. From the start, I found Eiko Sensei to be very knowledgeable, engaging and eager to share his great karate experience and his knowledge of the island with us. It was terrific having him take us on short site seeing trips, and his wife's cooking was awesome!
Our training with Eiko Sensei was split between his dojo in Okinawa City and O'Sensei's dojo. We trained between two and four hours almost everyday. I found him to be very similar to his father in that he was very strong, quick and knew his stuff. Beside traditional martial arts, he is well versed in the competition aspect of karate and is willing to teach both. We were able to meet some of his best students and observe their truly awesome form. It was important to us to maintain what we have learned from O'Sensei and Eiko Sensei made a point to make sure we "keep his father's karate".
For our main site seeing we spent more time exploring the southern end of the island. Then we went to Matsumura and Itosu's monuments and tombs, Chinto's cave, Naminoue, Shuri Castle and the former kings' tombs, the Karate Museum, Nakijin Castle ruins, Cape Kyan, Konpaku No To, Peace Park & Himeyuri Museum as well as other smaller sites along the way. The Himeyuri Museum, which memorializes the death of so many young people during the war on Okinawa, was extremely emotional for all of us.
It was great having John on the trip with us. It didn't take him long to fit right in and fall in love with Okinawa. It is always great to take someone there and see them embrace it the way I do. John is a former Air Force pilot and was able to get us onto the Camp Hansen Marine Corp Base in Kin Village. It was my first time on the base and I really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to training and traveling with John again.
My favorite part of the trip was watching O'Sensei and Eiko Sensei together. It was my first opportunity to spend a lot of time with Eiko Sensei and to see them smiling, laughing and having a good time together was awesome. I am looking forward to training with both of them again.