Well what can I say except that it was a wonderful Gasshuku. Thanks to the all the excellent staff and their patience and care in helping people sort out their problems and to help them achieve their ambitions. With temperatures hovering around 35 degrees C and a humidity of 85%, the way they coped with all the requests and problems of 700 people from 40 countries was magnificent. Thanks are also due to the 18 OTGKA participants and families who made the trip of a lifetime to support this Budosai and to increase their knowledge.
From the Hyper Hotel it is about a 25 minute walk to the famous Budokan, as you leave the hotel lobby with its wonderful air conditioning, the doors open to a heat which makes you think am I doing the right thing. Slowly but surely I make my way to the Budokan, just in sight in front of me is this magnificent building reminiscent of a Samurai's helmet, the roof covered in burnished steel with red pipe work outlining the roofs contours. By now my body is perspiring in the stifling heat, and a sense of emotion overcomes me as I enter the door, I am greeted by many familiar smiling faces that have made the same pilgrimage as me.
As we wait for the Master to give the command to line up, the adrenalin is beginning to flow and everyone is excited and enthusiastic. After the introductions from Higaonna Sensei and his assistant Nakamura Sensei we start with the traditional bow.
The first two days training is given over to Chief Instructors and 5th Dan and above. Higaonna Sensei would explain the traditional junbi undo (warming up exercise) and Sanchin Kata technique, the fine details of breathing, and zanshin (continued awareness) this must be practiced as much as you can, given your life style and family commitments.
Next it was the turn of all grades; every Gasshuku starts with everybody training in kihon (basics) with 700 people in one place at the same time the temperature soared. This serves as a great icebreaker and instills a spirit with you for the remainder of the gasshuku. Karate dogi's were saturated after many repetitions of punching and striking combinations. After we bowed and thanked Higaonna Sensei he said "Welcome to Okinawa" with a smiling face, which led to spontaneous applause from all.
Every day we would practice kata over and over again, Higaonna Sensei would explain the finer details of each moment from beginning to the end, to help us go some way in our pursuit of precision of technique.
In the evening after a cool shower, countries would come together to sample some of the local dishes that were on offer. We often made our way to a local typical noodle house where our appetite and thirst were quenched over talk of the days training and what tomorrow would bring.
As to sightseeing there was not much time, given all the sessions, extra seminars and lectures that were available for all. However, I did manage to visit the War Memorial park near Naha. Gravestones with thousands of names inscribed from the Second World War in kanji, also names in roman characters from the U.S.A, England and Ireland. As I stood there I read each one out to myself as a mark of respect. I sat down thinking about the War and how many people died, such a waste of life and it set me thinking about what a great thing gasshuku's are. All those nations training and sweating together with one common goal, the betterment of self.
Some students of mine took advantage of a break in their schedule to visit a beach near Chinen Village and spent a very pleasant day bathing in the crystal clear waters of the South China Sea, so it wasn't all hard work!
At the end of the Gasshuku there was a grading examination and it compulsory that all 6th- 8th Dan examinations must be taken at the Honbu Dojo on Okinawa. My good friend and respected Sensei Bakkies Laubcher achieved his 8th Dan. Many other people were successful in their attempts, congratulations to you.
All too soon it was time for the sayonara party which was held at a very 'posh' hotel near Tomari Port. The food was second to none but for those who had enough of noodles and rice there was even roast beef, roast potatoes, etc but no Yorkshire puddings! Each country was invited onto the stage to perform a song relevant to their country. Some time ago the OTGKA were invited by Nakamura Sensei to accompany Canada in a rendition of an Okinawan Folk Song with Okinawan Goju Ryu lyrics in Japanese. Some OTGKA members managed to learn the song off by heart but I just tried my best and hoped the others who knew the song would drown out my attempts.
One of the highlights of the party for me was my meeting with An'Ichi Miyagi Sensei who took time out to talk with me. This was a great honour and privilege to speak with a direct student of our founder Miyagi Chojun Sensei.
The other was the presentation of a special certificate of recognition from Higaonna Sensei to Sensei Linda Marchant of the OTGKA. This was a moving moment to see Linda awarded for all her diligent training and efforts.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Master Miyagi, Master Aragaki, and Sensei Higaonna for their guidance and teaching.