Murakami Katsumi

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On Thursday I was back in Fukuoka to meet my friend Quint; a long time resident of Japan and Goju-ryu student under Kanari sensei and Shorin-ryu student under Murakami sensei. I met him at the Starbucks in front of Hakkata station were we chatted for a bit before heading out for some lunch.

A short drive later we were at an Indian curry restaurant seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We ordered the lunch special, chicken masala with salad and naan. It probably comes as no surprise that the majority of conversation was about Budo. LOL.

Quint had arranged for me to meet with Murakami sensei later in the afternoon. I’ve known Murakami sensei since the late 1990s when I was introduced to him by Joe Swift. To say that the man is a walking encyclopedia of Karatedo and Kobudo doesn’t do him justice having studied with Kyoda Juhatsu, Chibana Choshin, Inoue Motokatsu and Sato Kinbei. At 87 years of age he shows no signs of slowing down.

When we arrived at Murakami sensei’s home we were greeted by him at the door and were escorted to his living room. His wife soon appeared to greet us and serve tea and some snacks. We chatted for close to an hour about Karate and Kobudo history, famous teachers and kata. One that stood out was that of Tawada Meganto who taught his version of Passai to Chibana who referred to it as Passai Dai in his school of Shorin. Murakami sensei explained that Meganto was not his real name but his childhood name and referred to his hairstyle which stayed unchanged into adulthood. It was a pretty amusing story.

At 6:30 we headed to his dojo next to his home. It is a large dojo with a beautiful floor and high ceilings. Tonight I was going to participate in his Yang style Taiji class. I have only studied Taiji as a supplement to my Karate training for a few years but I am a just raw beginner. Murakami sensei in contrast had learned his Taiji from Sato Kinbei and has been doing Taiji longer than I’ve been alive.

The class started with the 24 form which was similar to what I had studied but when the class later transitioned into the 108 form it was very different to what I knew so it was quite hard to keep up. It didn’t matter though as I still enjoyed the class. Afterwards Murakami sensei demonstrated some applications of techniques on one of his students. I am absolutely amazed at how strong his technique is and how well he moves at the age of 87. I only hope I move as well as he does when I am his age.

After class we returned to his home to chat a little more with more food and tea being served by his wife. They are extremely generous and gracious hosts.

At the end of the evening when Quint and were in the doorway putting on our shoes to leave, Murakami sensei and his wife sat in seiza and thanked us for our visit. Yes you read that right. They knelt in seiza, bowed to us and thanked us for our visit. This man is a ku-dan in Shorin-ryu and a life-long practitioner of the Okinawa and Chinese fighting arts. Quint and I in comparison are ‘no bodies’ (sorry Quint 🙂 ) and yet Murakami sensei and his wife greeted us as deeply honoured guests. It made me think about the nonsensical and ego gratifying behaviour of some Western Kurodee teachers. They could learn a little something about the essence of Budo from Murakami sensei’s example.