Ikeda Sensei & a Visit from Higaonna Morio

The following blog entry was written several years ago on an annual visit to Japan.

Wednesday I was back in Beppu to train with Ikeda sensei in Touon-ryu. At 6:00 pm he swung by my hotel and by 6:30 we were at the dojo ready for practice. Compared to Sunday’s practice the Wednesday practice is much more open with each student working on whatever material he wants to focus on. For me that meant practicing kihon gata san (AKA Kowa kata) for most of the evening. From time to time Ikeda sensei would take a break from what he was practicing and comment or make corrections. I struggled with some of the segments but Ikeda sensei would patiently walk me through it.

Practice like this may be a bit challenging for students who come from a dojo that is more structured. There are no students marching in a line or a sensei barking orders at them. It is entirely up to you to train or not. It requires some maturity in your Karate-do, especially a desire to take responsibility for it.

Ikeda sensei also corrected and offered advise on how to improve my Yabu no Jion kata. This kata was taught to Kyoda sensei by Yabu Kentsu while Kyoda was attending the Okinawa Prefecture Teacher’s College. Yabu of course was a student of Itosu Anko and Matsumora Sokon. The Tou’on-ryu version is therefore very similar to the Hanashiro Chomo version published in Karate-do Taikan, as Hanashiro was also a student of Itosu and Matsumura. Ikeda sensei emphasized whole body movement while locking the tanden. Perhaps because of my Gohakukai background during my high school days and because it’s a Shurite kata, I was emphasizing the hips too much. It was great to have it corrected.

To finish class we an through each kata in Tou’on-ryu from the Kihon gata, Shiho Uke, Sanchin, Sesan, Sanseru, Bechurin, and Jion. No Nepai though; I don’t know that one formally. However, after class Ikeda sensei said that the next time I came back to Beppu that he would teach me Nepai. Wow! I was amazed and so happy when he told me that. Now I’m really looking forward to my next trip (Note: which has been delayed for over two years now thanks to the pandemic).

After changing out my dogi we grabbed a bite to eat at a local restaurant and chatted until midnight. One story that stood out was a visit by Higaonna Morio, the world famous Goju-ryu teacher from Naha, Okinawa. He had come to Beppu to see Touon-ryu, talk to Kanzaki sensei, and collect material on the style for a new book to be published on Okinawa Karate-do. Apparently when one of the senior students, Wada san, demonstrated Sanchin kata there was a look of consternation on Higaonna sensei’s face but it quickly faded. Later on in the day, away from Kanzaki sensei, Higaonna commented to Ikeda sensei that their Sanchin kata was “different” – implying that it was wrong. Ikeda sensei, not missing a beat, replied “thank you.” At the end of our meal I thanked him for all his corrections and patience and after dinner he dropped me off at my hotel.