Sensei John Lambert Memorial Festival with Higaonna Sensei

By: Sensei David Lambert – IOGKF Australia

I arrived into Scotland after a 32 hour trip from Australia via Singapore and London, where I was met by my cousin and Sensei John Lambert’s son, Iain. The two of us are very close and after not having seen each other in about 4 years we had some catching up to do.

That evening after catching up with the rest of Sensei’s John’s family, we organised our plans for the following day which included both Iain and I and Sensei Callum Dick from Scotland to meet Higaonna Sensei at Edinburgh airport.

Like many other exhausted others at the festival, Higaonna Sensei had travelled directly from the Portugal European Gasshuku to attend the event. It was fantastic to see Sensei and we all laughed how with Iain and I in our official IOGKF tie and shirt behind Sensei, people cleared out of the way as we both looked like the Masters personal security!

The next day would be one of extreme success and emotion. It began with a black belt session at the spirit gym in Glenrothes, which is the city Sensei John Lambert lived and taught in. As Higaonna Sensei reminisced about Sensei John’s contributions to the IOGKF, he also mentioned that the Scotland organisation was co-founded with Sensei Jim Flannagin and he was so delighted to find Sensei Jim had donned his Gi again for this special occasion.

Training covered Sanchin, Gekisai Dai Ichi, Gekisai Dai Ni and Saifa Kata. It was definitely a spirit session with Higaonna Sensei going into detail but with countless repetitions of many moves.

Following this both Higaonna Sensei and I took a children’s training session for one hour – the way Sensei was throwing me around and pushing me through basics, I struggled to tell which was harder, the kids or the black belt session! Sensei had a fantastic repour with all the young Scottish members who were kind of mesmerized by the session.

We finished the training day with a fantastic basics session combining uke waza with joint locks and chokes. Higaonna Sensei flew around the floor in fine form correcting and instructing and it was great to see Sensei Ernie Molyneux and Sensei Nigel Thomas at the front training harder than anyone.

After a short break, Iain and I collected Higaonna Sensei from his hotel and brought him to see Sensei John’s wife, Sandra and his daughter, Pauline. Sensei Jim Flannagin, Sensei Gary Adams and Sensei Kenny Morrison also joined us. We drank tea and Sensei John presented gifts to Sandra and Pauline with a deep warmth and sincerity. Sensei John and Sandra build an extremely beautiful house a few year back and Higaonna Sensei really enjoyed relaxing there and loved the fact it was build from sandstone.

We then moved out and drove 30 mins to Lochgelly where Sensei John and my own father, Sensei David snr had be born. When my father passed away, who ended up being an Australian resident, the people of Lochgelly planted a tree at the local church so his many friends and family could remember him. Higaonna Sensei wished to visit Sensei John’s grave, but since he was cremated, the tree seemed a fitting place to spread his ashes.

It was Sensei John’s wish that I spread his ashes, but I wanted to share the honour with Higaonna Sensei and I am sure my uncle would have been deeply moved by this. Higaonna Sensei and I both prayed for Sensei John’s soul and spread the ashes at the base of the tree.

The custom was something Higaonna Sensei had never come across before, however he liked the idea that Sensei John’s remains would be absorbed into the roots of the tree and that the tree itself would last far longer than we ever would.

We laughed and really celebrated Sensei John’s life at a family dinner back at the house and Sensei really seemed to enjoy himself. Sensei also entered Sensei John’s makeshift home dojo in his tiny garage. Sensei translated a few certificates for the family, including Sensei John’s chief instructor certificate from 1979! He was also very happy and impressed to see Sensei John still had the stone on a stick chishi Higaonna Sensei had given him years ago in San Diego.

The next day followed a similar pattern. The Dan grade session in the morning covered Seiyunchin and again we sweated out every single movement again and again. It was a fantastic session – the atmosphere was electric and the spirit of Karate could definitely be felt.

After another heavy workout from Higaonna Sensei in the kids session we finished off with all grades training with a big spirit session of basics. The hall was jam packed and there was a fantastic energy about the place. Following this we did Kakie. Sensei demonstrated and then he, Sensei Ernie, Sensei Nigel and I walked around to assist people with their training. To finish Sensei wished Scotland all the best and said he was excited about returning in 2014 for the European Gasshuku.

As he spoke about his beliefs of training and death and his love of Sensei John, I found a little tear in my eye, but I was even more moved when I noticed I was not the only one.

That night IOGKF Scotland held the Sensei John Lambert memorial dinner. Sensei John’s family attended and Sensei organised for all the proceedings from the event to go to the Lambert family. They were overwhelmed and pledged they would contribute it back to the organisation in some way. I in turn presented Higaonna Sensei with a Sgian Dubh (a traditional Scottish kilt knife). Sensei loved the gift and when he pulled it from its case, I embarrassingly jumped in front of everyone.

As Higaonna Sensei retired for the night, many stayed on in the bar area and drank as one big family until the wee hours of the morning. The festival was a fantastic success and I really appreciate Sensei making the long journey to Scotland and leaving us all feeling recharged in Karate and in motivation after what has been an emotionally draining period. Once again the support my family has received in our time of need amazes me and I can never thank Higaonna Sensei and the IOGKF enough for its support and compassion. I would also like to thank the Scottish Kambukai for their efforts in making this event possible. They did a great job and I hope they can continue to work together to pull of future events like this.

Mark your calendars for Scotland in 2014, it is going to be one brilliant Gasshuku!