Around the World in 3 weeks

Sensei MarrableBy Sensei John Marrable - IOGKF New Zealand

IOGKF New Zealand Kambukai member and 5th Dan, Sensei John Marrable, has recently returned from an around the World trip where he taught in Canada, had a long over due visit with family in England and trained and demonstrated at the 2009 Swedish European Gasshuku with great success...

2009 Sweden

Early in 2009 I said something to my wife Nickola like :

“Think I will go to UK and catch up with Mark (my brother) and see if I can catch up with my Uncle Roy and Aunt Win.  (Haven’t seen my Aunt and Uncle  for over 35 years since we emigrated from England to the New Zealand).  Think I will stop over on the way and catch up with Ray (my other brother) in Vancouver”

“You should see if there is a Gasshuku on and combine the trip” was her reply.

Well my chair was a blur as I rushed to the computer to check where and when the European Gasshuku was on. Next it was on the phone to Mark and Ray, then of course a talk to my boss.

I could only get three weeks off, so started planning my trip.

From the time I started planning to the 10th July, my departure date from NZ, time seemed to fly past -  Planning included getting my self fitter.

Three years ago while competing in Alpine skiing I crashed and ripped the tendons off my left shoulder.  Two operations later and it is better but due to the damage the surgeon could not repair it 100%.  Due to the shoulder being weaker than my right, I am continually working on it to maintain condition.

In March Sensei Pervez from India put me on to a great piece of exercise equipment, the

TRX suspension training system.  Have a look at the website

This I found really works the stabalising muscles in my shoulders.  From being in the wheelchair for 42 years my shoulders need to be looked after and adding to it the injury from the crash, I have to make sure I keep in good shape.

Thanks to Sensei Pervez’s suggestion I started working on a program so that I would be in good shape to travel and train.


I left Auckland New Zealand on Friday 10th July and flew direct to Vancouver.  I was met by Ray and his wife Gail and we took the ferry to Vancouver Island.  What a beautiful place.

When he learnt I was coming to Canada, Ray had spoken to a Goju Ryu club training at Comax Air force Base who, although they are not affiliated to IOGKF (they are affiliated to Okinawan Karate-Do Academy Meibukan Goju-Ryu), they invited me to come along and train with them

The following day, Saturday, saw us head to the Air Force base and train with Sensei Patrick Penley, Senpai’s Mike Long and Jeff Brett and their club.  A big thank you to Patrick - Club Sensei, Mike and Jeff  and the other members who made me very welcome.  Also a big thank you again to Mike who gladly let me demonstrate techniques on him. Attached is the web site from their style.

I had made contact with Rainer and Eileen Hanuse who live and train on the Island.  The weekend before I arrived they had hosted a Gasshuku with Sensei Nakamura. But unfortunately I was unable to catch up with on this trip - Definitely next time!

My time in Canada went too quick and I was soon on my way flying to London.  It had been 5 years since I had seen Mark and his family and this trip was going to be extra special as we were going to catch up with relatives we had lost contact with,.  Also Mark was going to travel with me to Sweden.

During my time in UK not only did I catch up with my Uncle, Aunt and cousins but Mark, Aaron (Mark’s grandson) and I headed up to Dunbar Scotland where I had my accident.  I fell off a cliff there in May 1967.  “Don’t go near the cliffs!” our mother had said so we thought we would try and climb it.  It gave way when I was coming down.

Was a special moment for the three of us.


All too quick the time came for Mark and me to fly to Stockholm.  We got to the Gasshuku venue on the Sunday where I met a group of guys in wheelchairs.  I asked if they were at the sports complex for training but they told me that they were tutors for a rehabilitation type course for disabled.  They were there to teach life skills, wheelchair skills and introduce the participants to the various sports available.  It was a nice surprise when they told me that they had heard about me.

Sunday night we had the Welcome party.  Was great meeting a lot of the guys that I had met in Okinawa and introducing my brother Mark to old and new friends.

Mark was most impressed by Higaonna Sensei’s humility.  Mark had heard so much about Sensei over the years from me and he said it was such an honour to finally meet Sensei.  Mark does not train but came to watch most of the sessions. 

The format for training each day was a 9am session for Dan grades with Sensei Higaonna.  Group training for about 1 ½ hours then split into groups according to your rank.  We all then would finish the day’s training with a group session.  Training finished each day 2pm or slightly later.

Training started on Monday 27th July with 2nd Dan and above training at 9am with Sensei Higaonna.  This was followed by group training just after 10am doing basics again with Sensei Higaonna.

After a break I was in the 4th Dan and above group.  We had Sensei Luis Nunes take us over Sepai and bunkai with variations.

Tuesday started at 9am for 3rd Dan and above with Sensei Higaonna taking us over Kanryo Higaonna’s Sanchin.

Group session till 12pm with Sensei going over basics.

We were then divided into our groups with the 4th Dans and above going through Kurarunfa with Sensei Bakkies.

At 1pm we then had Sensei Jonge Monteiro taking us through Shisochin and application drills.

Wednesday started at 9am for the 4th Dan and above with Sensei Higaonna taking us through tai sabaki and suri ashi.  Sensei also talked about his recent trip to China.

The group session was taken by Sensei Bakkies.

Following the group session we separated into our groups and we had Sensei Higaonna take us through conditioning and Kakie.

For the next session we had Sensei Bernard Cousin take us through counters to street fighters.

Straight after training finished, Sensei Nigel Thomas and I gave a demonstration to the group of disabled attending the rehabilitation course.  A big thank you again Sensei Nigel for being my partner.

We obviously made a good impression as I was asked by the organiser if I would do a demo on Thursday for the children.  Also if possible would I have time to take a group through some self defence?


Thursday started at 9am with the 5th Dans being taken through Suparimpei by Sensei Higaonna.  The session finished with Sensei giving us a talk on the three versions of Suparimpei.

The group session was taken by Sensei George Andrews who took us through variations to warm ups.

Splitting into our groups saw the 4th Dans and above being taken through various drills with Sensei George Andrews, followed by Sesan kata.

The following session was with Sensei Ernie Molyneux, using bunkai as the basis for self defence type kumite / randori etc. - Working in pairs, then in groups of 5.

At the end of training Sensei Nigel Thomas and myself did the demo for the kids in wheelchairs. I followed this by taking a group of adults in wheelchairs and some able to walk, through various self defence moves.  One woman was concerned about being attacked and being on the floor or bed.  She felt that she would not be able to defend herself.

I got out of my chair and had one of the groups able bodied helpers pin me down.  After I demonstrated a couple of techniques, I had her get on the floor and practice. It was really nice to hear her tell my brother that she now felt that she had confidence that she could look after herself.  It was after 5pm when I finally got back to my room. 

Friday’s 9am session was for 6th Dan and above.

The group session was junbi undo with Sensei Ernie Molyneux.

We then divided into our groups and sensei Yamashiro took the 4th dan and above through Sesan.

Our next session was with Sensei Nakamura who took us through Sanseru.

The final training session of the Gasshuku was with Sensei Higaonna taking us through various two man exercises.  Then of course the compulsory punches.  Did we do 10 times 100? 

Friday night finished with the Sayonara party.  This was both a happy and sad occasion saying farewell to all my friends.  Again my brother Mark was humbled by Sensei coming over to him and talking.  Mark is now really keen to do Karate and hopes that a dojo will open in Essex.

Saturday saw Mark and I head away at 8.30am.  From Stockholm we flew to London.  Mark stayed with me till 6pm when Carol, his wife, and Aaron came to pick him up.

I flew out of London that night, had 2 hours stop over in Hong Kong, and arrived in Auckland, NZ, on Monday morning. I finally got home to Dunedin at 4pm that afternoon and back to work the following day.

What a great, wonderful and emotional trip!  It was great training with my overseas friends again and making new friends. 

One thing that has come of the trip was meeting the guys in wheelchairs in Stockholm.  They asked if I could come back next year and who knows what the future will bring.  I do know that the NZ equivalent organisation is looking at trying to replicate the Swedish programme and I have been asked if I would do a self defence course for them.

A big thank you to Sensei Higaonna for again making me feel what no words could ever describe.  Also a big thank you to all my Goju Ryu family.  

John Marrable

New Zealand