Saturday I was at Kagoshima airport, slightly hung-over from the night before (or was it this morning?) waiting for my flight to Amami. I texted Yoshinura sensei that I was on my way and would see him that evening for practice at the dojo. The flight to Amami was uneventful which is a good thing as I hate flying. It also gave me time to relax and reflect on my trip so far. I was halfway through it and though it had been exhausting (I’m still not 100% after this summers misadventure) it had also been rewarding. I was able to reconnect with my teachers, have my technique critiqued, receive corrections and even learn a few new things to boot. I suppose you could say things had gone swimmingly.

About 50 minutes later there was an announcement that we were approaching Amami and would be landing soon. From the plane window I could see it; this beautiful lush green island surrounded in a blue ocean. Even in the winter it is still strikingly beautiful. I can’t believe I was lucky enough in my life to live and practice here for four years. It was an important period in my life that I will forever be grateful for.

As I disembarked the plane I was struck at the number of Japan self-defence force helicopters at the airport. I must have counted a least ten. Amami is a fairly out of the way place compared to Okinawa or the mainland and I wondered why they were here. More on that next post.

After I grabbed my luggage I made my way to the exit only to be greeted by Yoshimura sensei! Of course it was great to see him but I had planned to take the bus to town. Instead he had made the 45 minute drive from Naze city to pick me up. It was very kind of him.

As we drove to Naze we chatted about life in Canada and Amami and of course Kobudo. Before you knew it I was at my hotel. He dropped me off and reminded me that practice started at 6:00. I checked into my hotel, took a quick nap, then jumped in the shower. At 5:30 I was out the door, dogi in hand and off to practice.

The dojo is only about a 10 minute walk from my hotel so I was there in no time. Inside Yoshimura sensei was waiting. I changed into my dogi and soon other students began to arrive for the evening practice. Yoshimura sensei looked over at me and said, “I know you aren’t a Uechi-ryu student but we practice Karate before Kobudo. I hope that’s ok.” “Of course sensei”, I replied. This was a great opportunity to review some of the Uechi-ryu I had learned from Minowa sensei.

We started with junan taiso (柔軟体操) or warming up exercises. These exercises are different from the Goju-ryu version. It interesting none the less. These were followed by hojo undo (補助運動), the basics of Uechi-ryu, and the the modern and classical kata of Uechi-ryu. Even though I don’t teach Uechi-ryu, Yoshimura we sensei kindly corrected my basics and kata. We finished off the Uechi-ryu session with the original two-person sets created by Uechi Kanei sensei. That was fantastic because I haven’t done them in years so it was great to review them. The only bad thing was that I had forgotten how well conditioned Yoshimura sensei is; his arms and legs are like concrete. Being the wimp I am I had to ask him to block a little lighter. In all honesty I think he would break my arm if he blocked with full intent!

After a short break we moved onto Kobudo practice. We started with bo, performing each kata as a group and then individually, with Yoshimura sensei critiquing each students performance. We followed the same pattern for sai and tonfa. By now it was 8:30 pm and the class concluded. As the other students bed each other good night, Yoshimura sensei and I continued to practice.

He had told me earlier that he wanted to teach me Tsuken bo (sho). He explained that this kata was listed in the original curriculum of Taira Shinken but that none of the original students had learned it save Inoue Motokatsu. And Yoshimura sensei wasn’t sure if that was correct as Inoue’s Kobudo, in his opinion, had deviated significantly from the original Okinawan version. Apparently Minowa sensei had sought out a teacher who knew this kata and eventually found Mine Junshin who taught two versions of the kata (dai and sho).

However before I began learning Tsuken bo I got some much needed corrections on Kojo no Sai and Chatanyara no kon. In the end I was only able to learn the opening few moves but I was struck at how complicated this form was. It was now after 10:00 so we concluded practice. We changed and I thanked sensei and headed back to my hotel for a hot shower and some much needed sleep.