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1) Karate Training with Akamine Sensei - Okinawa 2019

Karate Training with Akamine Sensei - Okinawa 2019
Below are my notes from a month of training with Shihan Yoshimatsu Akamine, a direct student of Sensei Hohan Soken and head of the Shorinryu Matsumura Seito Karate-do Hozon-kai Honbu. September 10 to October 5, 2019. I hope they prove to be of benefit, and inspiration for every karateka interested in the hidden roots of Shorin-ryu.

2019年9月10日から10月5日まで、平日毎日、沖縄で少林流松村正統空手道保存会本部の赤嶺嘉松師範と稽古ができ、以降はこの経験の思い出や印象。自分以外の少林流のルーツに興味を持っている空手家のために書きました。誰かの役に立ちますように。引用が記憶から英訳され、また日本語に翻訳されていますので、不正確のところがある可能性があります。申し訳ございません。

Week 1
September 10, 2019 / Tuesday

Arrived in Okinawa a little earlier than expected, and hoofed my bike bag onto the monorail. Jumped off at Miebashi and reassembled the bike before walking 50m to check in at Sora House. The comfortable lounge is totally worth a few bucks more per night, and overall the place is clean and well-kept with friendly staff. Nailed it on the first swing, after reading the reviews of the ultra-budget hostels (and peeking into their lounge areas as I passed by), I'm glad I splurged for comfort.


ちょっと早めに沖縄に到着し、自転車も荷物もモノレールまで運び込んだ。美栄橋駅に降りて、自転車を組みたてた。もう汗がベタベタで、ゲストハウスは駅から50mしか離れてないので助かったなと思った。空ゲストハウスと言うホステルで、結構綺麗な部屋でいい雰囲気のラウンジもあったから、コンピューターの仕事ができそうなところだった。スタッフも他のお客さんも優しくて友達が増えたようだ。近所の他のホステルに比べるとラッキーだった思う。


Went to the bus stop google suggested but when I asked a passing driver he said the bus I was looking for didn’t stop there. Turns out the inter-city buses don’t come up on google maps. The map said the next bus would arrive in 40 minutes, but the stop was hard to find, so I figured I had the bike so I might as well ride. No sense in being afraid of a little adventure, even though everyone seemed to think that 10 kilometers was really far. I took a pretty direct route to get to the east side but realized that there were a few nasty hills between Naha and Haebaru. I arrived in a sweaty mess with time to spare, and Sensei was waiting on the side of the road, waving me in. “Wow, you biked all the way here!” The dojo is on the second floor of his house, which is set back from the road and difficult to find; his daughter had to send me pinned coordinates because the address didn't bring anything up in Google. How others have dropped in on him unannounced I’ll never know.


道を検索してみたが、グーグルマップに市内のバスしか載っていないのでバス停を間違えて、バス運転手もよく分からなかったけど30番が一時間に一回しかないと教えてくれた。やばいと思って、時間はきつくなっていた。もう一回マップを開いて、赤嶺道場まで直線を書いて自転車に乗った。必死で沖縄の小山を超え、着いた姿の僕を見て「泳いできたのか」と思われてもビックリしないぐらいの汗だった。早めに着いたのに、先生が道に立ってて、僕を迎えてくれた。「ここまで自転車で来たんだ」と半分驚いた声で近道を見せてくれた。道場が自宅の2階にあって、道から見えないし、住所はマップに乗っていないので、先生の娘さんに座標を教えてもらわなければ絶対に見つからないと思った。弟子を希望する人達が予告なしに訪問する話はより不思議になりつつある。

Canal near the dojo

The faded sign is the only outward notice of the dojo's presence. This is all tucked away and hidden from the road

Sensei sat me down and we chatted for a while so he could get a feel for me. I think he relaxed considerably since I speak Japanese, and he and his wife Ritsuko were very welcoming, to the point that at times I was struggling to keep up with the flood of information pouring from them. Especially when someone is being subtle, it can be hard to catch the nuances in Japanese, but I could tell that they were vetting me in a way by telling me about some of their concerns. The children began to arrive, ranging from elementary to middle school age. His adult students had moved to Tokyo for work, so his training was mostly with this core group of kids that he was molding over the years in the style he was taught by Soken Sensei.


先生が道場に連れて行って一緒に座って会話し始めた。日本語ができるからちょっと安心と警戒心が混ざったように歓迎してくれて、興味深い話が早くて溢れないように必死で聞いてた。日本語の一番難しいところはニュアンスの聞き取りにくい時だと思う。でも僕は真面目で信頼できる人かどうか確認したかったことが分かって、弟子が来るまで話を続けていた。大人の弟子が最近東京に引っ越したので、沖縄に残っている弟子が小学生の4人だけで、皆んな5歳の頃から祖堅先生の空手をずっと稽古している。


Photos, articles and certificates dotted the walls. Akamine Sensei was promoted to rokudan (6th degree) by Soken Sensei and awarded the title of Shihan before his master passed away in 1982. Below is a photo of Soken sensei and those final certificates he bestowed to Akamine Sensei, who has never claimed any other rank while continuing his training for almost four decades since Soken Sensei passed away.


壁には写真、証書、記事などがいっぱい貼ってあった。六段と師範までの証書が祖堅先生の写真を囲んだ。祖堅先生が亡くなってから37年経っても赤嶺先生はそのまま6段だと自分を認めている。

Soken Sensei and some of the certificates he awarded Akamine Sensei

Dojo Wall

Karate Kids

I watched as the kids perform kihon drills. "The senseis (I later understood this meant himself and Soken Sensei) got together decades ago and decided on this as the basics, to start every class." The stances are 自然体, natural, not very deep at all, and the hands are relatively close, at times tight but mostly relaxed. The boys were carrying those grip-strengthening devices you squeeze. "Those aren't for squeezing strength, they're for relaxing," Sensei explained. At the moment of impact they squeeze, then right after the strike they release the squeeze and relax. Speed and power come from relaxing, he went on to say. You can’t move when you’re rigid.


まずは基本を見た。「先生達(祖堅先生と赤嶺先生)が何十年前基本を決めて、必ず練習する。」と説明してくれた。スタンスが自然体、深くも浅くもなく、腕も伸ばしすぎないように。先輩の弟子がハンドグリップを持っていて、突く時も蹴る時も締めて放してた。「あれは締めるためじゃなくて、力を抜くためなんだ」と先生が説明してくれた。当たる瞬間は体が一体化して筋肉を使って力を入れるけど、その次は力を抜かないと速い動きが出来なくなるから、抜く稽古も大事なのだと。


He ran the kids through Pinan shodan and nidan, and passai sho and dai, then a bo staff and tonfa kata. "Our stances are the same whether you're holding a weapon or empty-handed," Sensei explained. "Not to diminish other styles, but many of them have altered their stances to the point that you can't swing a weapon, so most weapons forms have been separated into 'kobudo,' their own martial arts. If you're in a deep stance, you can't quickly move in any direction, and you can't wield a staff, so you have to modify your stance. We try to keep 自然体, natural stances, staying square and moving in straight lines quickly and effortlessly, and we move toes-first, on the balls of our feet." Sensei then demonstrated advancing forward and retreating in a shuffle, then quickly changing angles and circling around to show the movement applies at all angles. He’s fast, and not just for his age; his shoulders and head stayed level as he glided around the sweat-stained wooden floor. I copied his movements, and he and his wife both seemed impressed that I could move toes-first as he had. I guess that aspect of my training has been good.


基本の後は型の練習。最初は平安初段、平安二段、パッサイ小、パッサイ大、棒、そしてトンファーの型まで見せてくれた。「松村正統には、手だけでも武器を持っても、立ち方が自然体で変わらない。他の流派には自然体を使わないなら、武器がよく回せないので、棒等を持っていると立ち方も変化してるから古武道も別として考える。私達はできるだけ自然体で、爪先から真っ直ぐ動く。」そう言うと急に先生が部屋の向こう側まですり足ですべさった。速い!若い人に比べても速い、と思った。頭も肩が全然ゆらなくて、目も離さなかった。動きをコピーしてみて、先生達が「外国から来る人にはこの動きが難しい、もう出来ててすごい。」と爪先の動きを褒めてくれた。今までの稽古が全部ダメじゃなくてよかったと思った。


Sensei asked me to perform a kata. Anything? I asked. He nodded. I’m not used to performing kata, and I don't know why but I offered up the Wado Kushanku which I had been practicing with the Wado club in Aichi. I got through it with only a couple obvious goofs. I got some supportive applause at the end, "it's a long one," Sensei said assuringly. I know that compared to his own style, Wado is wide and low, with lots of straight, 90 degree angles in the limbs and raised heels in 真半身, mahanmi stance. In Wado training I was often advised to widen my stance, lower my core keeping my back straight, with the admonishment that it looks kakkoii, cooler to do so. Kata as performance can be beautiful; Sensei says, calling it 美 (bi, beauty), but that beauty is less important than practicality. You can’t move when you're in a low squat. Good for training, but be ready to move at any moment. After appraising my mishmash of styles, Sensei assured me “Don’t worry, we can straighten you out.”
Dojo Corner


「型を見せてくれない?」と聞かれた。何でもいいと言ってくれたから、最近愛知で練習していた和道流のクーサンクーを選んだ。松村正統に比べると和道流の立ち方と動き方がより広くて深い。和道流のクラスでよく「脚を広げて」とか「腰を下げて」と格好良くするために言われたから、松村正統の自然体が確かに「浅い」と思われるに間違いない。後、和道流の真半身や猫足立と言うスタンスが松村正統にはない。踵をあげることないのだ。赤嶺先生が型の「美」の意味を教えてくれた。他の流派の型が綺麗に見えるかもしれないが、足が広すぎるとちゃんと動けなくなるから非現実的になることもある。クーサンクーをやっている間数回バランス崩れたから、やっぱりそうですねと思ってた。「安心して、直せると思います。」と慰めてくれた。よろしくお願いしますと返事しかなかった。

Lastly, Sensei showed me the body dynamics of their blocks. As you defend with the back of the forearm, though you twist slightly you don't attack with the blade of the bone, but rather keep your palms facing inward, like a boxer. The measurements are made using your own body: 8寸 (sun) from shoulder to hand, and half that distance from ribs to elbow. Making a "finger gun," the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your forefinger is 5-sun, and the additional 3-sun are made by curling your index finger and turning it sideways. "it's not an exact science, just a general guideline for a natural position that maximizes your strength based on your own dimensions." This is particularly important because their blocks don't rely on strength, but rather optimal positioning. A short man of somewhat slight build, Sensei still moves with grace and crispness. “You don't show your strength, even in kata. Let them feel it. The kata is for you to remember, not to give away your secrets.”


最後は受けの形が自分の体で決まっていること。他の流派の受けで腕を捻って前腕の骨の一本だけで打つけど、松村正統が違って両方を使うのがとても面白いと思った。自分の体で一番強いポジションが決まる:手首が肩の高さと一緒、8寸離れる。肘と肋骨がその半分。「自然体の基本の原則だけど、自分の体で最も強い立ち方がこうなる。」筋肉とサイズを問わず、体の最適な位置がその力になる。「型の中でも、力は見せないことだ。相手に感じさせることだけ。型は基本と動き方を覚えるためで、空手の秘密を見せるためじゃない。」と教えてくれた。

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nice gaijin
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