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11) Karate Training with Akamine Sensei - Okinawa 2019

Week 4
Didn't take as many extensive notes this week; most of them are written at night and I've been too exhausted to write much. Since the kids had finished their performance they only came for Tuesday and Friday's sessions, but they've earned the rest. I'm grateful for the festival, as it gave me a chance to train with them nearly every day for three weeks. Who knows if Sensei would have made himself so open and available to me if the kids didn't have this performance to work toward.


Sensei took me to his property up north in Nago, on Wednesday. He has about 10 acres near the dam, a beautiful but rugged jungle landscape. He's carved out a bit of that space for a structure.

Meditation seat, blocking dummy, and hakutsuru stone. Soken sensei's remains? Soken sensei never made it up there, but a monument was carved in his honor, and an altar in the corner of the building oversaw the training that Akamine did.

He's always watching over us, he said, handing me a set of handmade nunchaku lined up on the table "for your practice back home." Gratitude wells up, I really can't believe my good fortune in finding such a genuine man and dedicated karateka to learn from.


In the car, I asked about Soken Sensei. I didn't know how much of biography exists outside what I've read in my own research, and it's possible that there's no one living who was closer to Soken sensei during his life. By Akamine Sensei's account, Hohan Soken Sensei was born in 1891, and moved to Argentina before the war because his brother was already over there. He worked in a photography shop but may have had many other jobs over there. Came back to Okinawa in the late 50's/early 60's? And spent some time on Miyako-jima looking for work before settling in Gaja neighborhood in Nishihara town on Okinawa, near the Gaja kouminkan.


About 7 kilometers south, in Miyahira, Yoshimatsu Akamine was born in 1943 (Showa 18), and has some memories of the post war times, waving to US soldiers that would throw candy for the kids. He started to get interested in karate in his late teens and began to ask around to find a teacher. There wasn't much to do at the time and when the adults got together the topic of karate would usually come up as a good way to toughen up and build a strong body. During hard times, that was especially important. Through word of mouth (what else was there those days?) he found Soken Sensei, and began riding a bike to his house/dojo from Miyahira. Soken Sensei was a bright person who was always smiling. He had a bit of a "foreign face," according to Akamine sensei. Soken Sensei would set the schedule for training, which sometimes would be every day. This continued for nearly a quarter of a century. At 30, Akamine sensei and his wife Ritsuko were married, and an 84/85 year old Soken Sensei was there to celebrate his student's happiness.

南へ約7キロ離れた場所、宮平で赤嶺嘉松は1943年に生まれ、戦争の後の記憶があった。空手の興味は十代後半から先生を探し始めた。 あの頃は、人から紹介してもらうのが普通だった。祖堅先生の話を聞いて、自転車に乗って道場まで走った。明るい表情でちょっと外人っぽい顔をしていた。祖堅先生の師事でトレーニングを22年間続けた。30歳で結婚して、披露宴での祖堅先生の写真を見せてくれた。

On the way home, over lunch at the michi no eki (highway rest area), I asked about Soken Sensei's kata. "I've been doing karate a long time, 60 years... And I've seen a lot of different styles and kata. None have been as deep or impressive as Sensei's."



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nice gaijin
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