Monday 4 August 2008

Okinawa trip

My wife Mizuho and I just returned from a wonderful holiday in Okinawa where we spent the best part of a week. We stayed at the beautiful Okinawa Harborview Crowne Plaza in Naha and enjoyed a luxurious room and superb hotel service. I say this here not to brag but rather to recommend this excellent hotel to anyone if they are going to Okinawa to do karate. On this trip to Okinawa we only visited one private island opting to stay on the mainland, this allowed us to accomplish more.

By complete coincidence I visited the Gichin Funakoshi Monument, which was literally located right next to the rental car company we were taken to. It was so unusual because the location of the monument was on such a tiny street, and hidden from the majority of passerby’s, except for those cued up at the small traffic light beside it. Regardless, it was nice to finally see a monument for Funakoshi Sensei in Okinawa.

All in all I really enjoy visiting such areas as Shuri, Motobu and Tomari as they are such important locations in the history of karate. Shotokan practitioners should not forget the links we have to the traditional karate of Okinawa. Whilst Shotokan’s technique has advanced via science, we must never forget the origins of our art, especially in regards to functional application. The present-day lack of street effectiveness, I believe, has come from the increased emphasis on ‘playing karate’ (sports karate). This problem is also in Okinawa, however, more dojo in Okinawa have retained and practice the effective applications of the kata.

It is my belief that Shotokan karateka, do not need to change style, but rather understand the ‘pre-competition karate’ of Okinawa. Understanding the karate of Okinawa can help us more effectively dissect our kata for practical application (bunkai-jutsu/oyo-jutsu). Doing this means that Shotokan practitioners can have the best of both worlds.


© André Bertel, Japan 2008

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