Reflections on the First Ryukyu Martial Arts Friendship Gasshuku


Me, teaching Tachimura no Naihanchi

Me, teaching Tachimura no Naihanchi during our Gasshuku

This past weekend was our Ryukyu Martial Arts Friendship Gasshuku, which was an event I put together with the intent of getting martial artists together to learn and train in a variety of martial arts from the Ryukyu islands. The idea actually came from the Ryukyu Martial Arts Facebook Groups that were set up by Ryan Parker Sensei. There are some of us who are regulars in those groups, and we’ve discussed the idea of setting up a get-together so we could actually meet and train with each other for years, now. Finally, I decided to just go ahead and do it! We had some people have to cancel along the way, for various reasons, but we still had a pretty good turnout for it being our first one.

Me teaching Tachimura no Naihanchi

Me, teaching Tachimura no Naihanchi

Friday night (10/16), was the first day of our Gasshuku, and I was the first person to teach. I decided to teach KishimotoDi material for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is a very small, rare style that is in danger of dying off if no one spreads it, and I feel that it has too much value to be lost. Second, Ryan Parker Sensei and my own Sensei would both be teaching Shorin-Ryu material, so it didn’t make much sense for me to also teach Shorin-Ryu material. WIth those things in mind, I put together a 3 hour class on KishimotoDi, starting by teaching everyone Tachimura no Naihanchi. Once everyone had it more-or-less memorized, I explained the prinicples of KishimotoDi, and started going through applications. Ryan Parker Sensei was kind enough to be my uke, although I felt bad for forgetting his shoulder injury a few times. I showed several throwing applications, several joint locking applications, and several striking applications. With every technique, I tried to point out the principles being used, and key points. This officially made me the first American to teach KishimotoDi, which is a big honor, and I hope I did it justice. Click here to see photos from Day 1.

Ryan Parker teaching a kakidi drill based on Pinan Godan

Ryan Parker teaching a kakidi drill based on Pinan Godan

On Saturday (10/17), we started the day with Ryan Parker Sensei’s session on Pinan Godan applications, during which I acted at his uke (turnabout being fair play, and all). Rather than trying to cover the entire kata, he focused on just the first sequence, and a wide variety of ways to use it, as well as some supporting partner drills to help develop the skills used in the techniques. He started everyone off with basic parry-pass (key block) drills, and then incorporated a punch, essentially doing the chudan-uke/gyaku-tsuki (middle receiver/reverse thrust) portion of the opening sequence in the kata. After that, he added an elbow lock that used the mawashi-tsuki (turning punch) that finishes the sequence. From there, we used the same motions to deal with multiple punches, from both sides, as well as an opponent who blocks your strikes. It was great stuff, and much of it was similar to what we do in our dojo, but the little differences were very interesting!

Chuck Merriman giving a lecture on the principles of Goju-Ryu

Chuck Merriman giving a lecture on the principles of Goju-Ryu

After taking a break for lunch, we had a session led by Chuck Merriman Sensei (Hanshi, Judan, Goju-Ryu), who is always wonderful to talk with and learn from. He started off by giving a lecture on the principles and history of Goju-Ryu, and Okinawan karate, in general. Based on that lecture, he took us through a variety of basic drills that employed muchimi (stickiness) and tai sabaki (body evasion). Finally, he had us work on kakie (crossing/hooking hands), and made sure to come around and help us as we went. I had a chance to do kakie with Ed Sumner Sensei (Kyoshi, Nanadan, Goju-Ryu), and he helped me with it, as well. We do kakie on occasion, but not nearly as often as Goju-Ryu, and we tend to do a softer type of kakidi drill more, so this was definitely helpful!

Open exchange session

Open exchange session

The last session on Saturday was an open exchange session, where people were free to do kakie or randori, spar, or just discuss and practice techniques amongst themselves. I did some kata randori with Matt Sheridan, a fellow Admin in the Ryukyu Martial Arts Facebook Groups, which was a lot of fun. I know he also did a little body conditioning with Ryan Parker Sensei, using the tetsutaba (iron bundle). Ed Sumner Sensei also took some time to help me with some chi-ishi (stone mallet) exercises. After a while, it seemed there was a lot more discussing than training going on, so my Sensei started teaching a technique. From there, we took turns teaching drills and techniques from our systems. I think that, next year, I will just start the open exchange session that way, rather than letting it go unsupervised. Still, we had a good time! After training, several of us headed over to Hiro Sushi, which is an excellent restaurant run by an Okinawan family who love karateka. Click here to see photos from Day 2.

Raphael Gutierrez teaching Yamane-Ryu Shuji no Kon

Raphael Gutierrez teaching Yamane-Ryu Shuji no Kon

On Sunday (10/18), Raphael Gutierrez Sensei kicked off the morning with Yamane-Ryu bojutsu. Specifically, he taught us their version of Shuji no Kon, and some associated drills. I learned a version of Shuji no Kon when I did Shuri-Ryu, but it’s pretty different. The Kokusai Rengokai version that my Sensei practices is much closer, so he had an easier time picking up the kata. It was very interesting to work with different body mechanics and weapon control methods. Gutierrez Sensei was very adamant that Yamane-Ryu shouldn’t be done the same by everyone, and that we should adapt it to fit our own approach. Even though I’m really not a kobudo guy, I will try to keep up with this kata.

Ed Sumner teaching kumite drills

Ed Sumner teaching kumite drills

The second session of the day was with Ed Sumner Sensei. To start us off, he taught some applications for Sanchin and Seiyunchin that were very cool. There is actually a video online of Hokama Tetsuhiro Sensei demonstrating one of the Seiyunchin applications he taught. With Sumner Sensei’s background in the military, and as security personnel, he discussed a lot about the nature of conflict and the legal aspects of self defense. After that, he had us work on a variety of drills for kihon and kumite, based on some of the drills that Merriman Sensei had us working on the day before. It was exhausting!

Richard Poage teaching Naihanchi applications

Richard Poage teaching Naihanchi applications

Richard Poage Sensei (my instructor), closed out the Gasshuku with a session on Shorin-Ryu. He started off with some hand-speed drills based on kata movements, and blocking/trapping drills, and used those to expand into some applications. After that, we went through applications from a variety of different kata, from Naihanchi to Pinan to Chinto. Finally, he taught the yakusoku kumite drill that Eddie Bethea Sensei (Kyoshi, Hachidan, Shorin-Ryu) created for Naihanchi Shodan. Click here to see photos from Day 3.

(Left to right); Myself, Don Bratton, Ryan Parker, Richard Poage, Matt Sheridan, Ed Dinardo, and Chuck Merrimcan having post-training dinner and drinks at Hiro Sushi

(Left to right); Myself, Don Bratton, Ryan Parker, Richard Poage, Matt Sheridan, Ed Dinardo, and Chuck Merrimcan having post-training dinner and drinks at Hiro Sushi

Overall, I think that the event went very well–especially considering the fact that I have never put together anything like this, before. I had a chance to train with old friends, and meet new ones, while deepening my understanding of karate. I also learned a few things about organizing and running a Gasshuku like this, and I think I can apply those to the next one. Everyone who attended said they had a good time, found value in the material that was shared, and are looking forward to doing it again next year.

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Noah

About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.