The 1st Official Sensei Swap – For Real

karateseminar-eng1Okinawa, Japan is Karate’s motherland and this September will mark it as the first ever Sensei swap for Okinawan martial arts. Is it a sign of a new era of Okinawa martial arts?

Karate (and Kobudo) itself is broken into several different styles and those styles are represented by a multitude of associations. Because of time and money, when most of us visit Okinawa to refine our martial arts skills and to learn about Okinawa culture, our exposure is limited to within our own hombu dojo. Yet, like a good foodie or an audiophile of music, we should experience a vast variety of martial arts training styles and knowledge to get a real understanding of the Okinawan martial arts community on a whole. Let’s face it, no matter how much I look at steak in a picture there is no way that I can truly say I like or don’t like it unless I cut open into one and take a bite.

Understandably, there are logistic and practical reasons that would prevent most foreigners like me from achieving mastery in multiple styles. However, the opportunity to expand our knowledge along side peers from other styles makes us better teachers and unites us as community. An important issue if we want to be taken seriously by sporting bodies.  Recognizing this, the Okinawan government and community has mandated a collective voice of its major martial arts associations with creation of the Okinawa Dento Karate Shinko-Kai. To celebrate this, they have organized and sponsored the first ever worldwide seminar for Karate and Kobudo. The symposium is for those wanting to share and grow Okinawan karate as a whole.

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Although flagged as being the first, this is not the first attempt at bringing multiple Karate and Kobudo styles and/or associations under one roof. In the late 1920’s the Karate Kenkyu Club brought together the likes of Chojun Miyagi, Chomo Hanashiro, Choyu Motobe, and Kenwa Mabuni to train in one dojo.  Since 1995, 7 decades later, several seminar symposiums for the international community were offered in conjunction with world tournaments and the Uchinanchu festivals. These have been well attended by foreigners. There are a few things that make this year’s event unique however. Firstly, it is a 5 day learning event without the draw of a tournament or other festivals. One of these days includes a guided tour of Okinawa’s common tourist spots and a first look at the building site of the future Karate and Kobudo Kaikan. A building that is dedicated to the preservation of traditional Okinawan Karate and Kobudo. Secondly, it is the first time that there are actual rules in place to prevent favoritism of one group over another by having all participants train with a multitude of instructors. Goju-Ryu practitioners will have the opportunity to train with various other Goju-Ryu associations and along side Kobudo, Uechi-ryu, and Shorin-Ryu specialists (and vice versa). Barring injury, participants must attend everyday. In addition, a historical lecture of Karate and Kobudo is being delivered so bring your notebooks and video camera.

I have participated in the previous seminars having a truly wonderful time. This year however, I am even further ecstatic with having the opportunity to train along side peers of other styles and participating in the non-training aspects during the week. An event like this is perfect for greenhorns of traditional Okinawan martial arts, as it probably will be the best way to experience a taste of everything. By swapping through the seminars, you get to say that you have trained with some of the more famous teachers of Okinawa martial arts. It will be a real smorgasbord buffet of traditional Okinawan martial arts.

The event is being held at the Budokan in Naha City and will cost 20,000 yen or just over $200 USD. It includes 6 seminars (each 3 hours long), lectures, welcome party, demonstrations, exclusive commemorative photo, and the bus tour. It’s a super great deal.

My Favorite Hotel in Naha

My Favorite Hotel in Naha

Because this is the first of its kind, the Okinawan government organizing the event has been a little slow with its promotion. Although they are working closely with the Okinawa Dento Karate Shinko-kai (ODKS) they are ones making most of the decisions. As a result, individual member associations have filled in some of the information gaps. I have been able to get much of this information through direct correspondence with the Okinawan government, the ODKS, and YAGI Meitetsu of the Meibukan Hombu Dojo. Thus, this has become very much a grass roots venture and organic in its development. Their website (www.karate-otkk.jp) will soon be up with definitive information. In the meantime, this site will be continually providing updates here and on our facebook page.