‘You can’t swim without getting wet’ – Our first Gasshuku

By: Yuri Tamashiro and Natatja Bauer

IOGKF England members Yuri Tamashiro and Natatja Bauer attended their first Gasshuku’s recently and chose to monster events in the 2011 European Gasshuku followed by the Sensei John Lambert memorial festival in Scotland…

At the beginning of this year our Sensei, Nigel Thomas asked the club if any members would be going with him to Portugal for the annual European Gasshuku. He explained that we would get a chance to train with other instructors from around the world and meet Sensei Higaonna. Initially most of the club members expressed an interest but due to financial reasons and family commitments, it ended up being just the two of us that would join Sensei Nigel.

We started training more often in order to prepare ourselves for the week in Portugal and the closer July came the more we trained to ensure that we were prepared for the physical challenges that lay ahead. And in addition to the Portuguese Gasshuku it was announced that Sensei Higaonna would be in Scotland following the European Gasshuku, to lead a special training weekend to celebrate the life of the late Sensei John Lambert. As we had already booked our flights back from Portugal late on Sunday night, it was decided that we would hire a car and drive from Gatwick Airport to get to Scotland in time for the Scottish Festival.

The time arrived and we found ourselves in Portugal training with 800 other Europeans in a gymnasium led by Master Higaonna. Training generally lasted from 10.30 – 2pm and was split up into a warm up session, two sessions taken by Chief Instructors and then a cool down at the end. At the start of the week it was a bit daunting going into seiza and to mokuso, within such a vast group of people when before we had only been training in our small club. It felt as though the silence echoed around the hall, yet no-one made a sound.  Each session, taken by a Chief Instructor that our group had was very different. Each group training lasted one hour and we were taught so many different techniques, take downs, self defence strategies, formations in Kata, general breathing guidance, mind awareness and basic advice; that it was such a lot to take in, in such a short time. Thankfully, on advice of Sensei Nigel, we wrote down as much as we could remember from each session so that we could reflect on it at a later date. As the group was so large, we did find the warm up and cool down sessions pretty difficult to follow because of the visibility from being at the back. Although we soon caught onto what was expected by following the senior belts in front of us. The first couple of days were extremely challenging, especially getting used to the amount of people in the dojo and the different groups being trained at the same time but by the end of the week, the group sessions seemed to fly by.  We both have spoken about how exhilarated we felt after each day and the general ‘buzz’ from the brilliant training we received. In addition on our final day Master Higaonna went through Gekisai Dai Ichi with us. Performing the Kata, again and again he showed us how important it is to master the basic movements in order to achieve an overall result. We agreed that this session was a highlight of our Portuguese training.

When training finished in Portugal, we stayed on for the weekend to sample life in Porto and then headed off to our marathon journey by train, plane and automobile to get to Glenrothes in Scotland. The training was to celebrate the life of Sensei John Lambert.

In contrast to Portugal, Scotland was totally different. We thought our week away could not get any better but soon realised it would. Training in Scotland was brilliant. There were only about 80 people at the training sessions, which were all lead by Master Higaonna and if we thought the time went quickly in the last couple of days in Portugal the training sessions in Scotland flew by. The two training sessions consisted of very gruelling warm ups and then partner work doing conditioning drills and different take down techniques. A lot of the Instructors, who had spent time training with Master Higaonna before, stated that the festival in Scotland reflected what training was like in Master Higaonna's dojo in Okinawa. Again being taught by Master Higaonna and seeing the power in his movements and demonstrations were a highlight of Scotland. A highlight shared by most of the other people we spoke to too.  

Also a highlight of our time away was the social side of the Gasshuku. As well as being introduced by Sensei Nigel to a lot of the UK Goju Ryu members we made friends with the Italians, Scottish, South Africans, Austrians and Australian’s. The remembrance dinner in Scotland was a truly humbling experience and we felt privileged to be a part of an organisation that respectfully acknowledges the successes of others in such a way. It was a wonderful experience listening to stories of previous Gasshukus, finding out about the importance of Karate in other people’s lives and primarily getting to know about their experiences in life. We honestly did not think that we would have met and engaged with so many interesting, witty, sometimes crazy but ultimately exceptional characters that we did in the time that we were away.

And so as we headed back to London we spoke about the amazing experiences we had had while we were away and agreed having the opportunity to be trained by Master Higaonna was the highlight but stalking elusive peacocks, watching Portuguese puppet shows and learning to speak ‘South African’ came a close second. So, we can finally say that we’ve dipped our toes in the water that is Goju Ryu, we like the temperature and we are patiently waiting for the next wave.

The Sayonara Party in Portugal

Training with Master Higaonna in Scotland

After Dinner drinks in Scotland