Fuzhou Wushu/Karate exchange Event with Higaonna Sensei

Official Report by Sensei Linda Marchant

Sensei Linda Marchant (EGKA) travelled with some of her students and other IOGKF members for around the world to support Higaonna Sensei’s appearance at the Fuzhou Wushu and Karate exchange event in the legendary city where Goju-ryu’s roots are deeply buried…

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I was looking forward to this trip to bring home to Europe more of a link to China, about which our Goju Ryu ancestors felt so passionately, that they courageously travelled by boat to Fuzhou and then dedicated years of their life learning and researching. It changed their lives completely so I was keen to get a glimpse of why.

The 10 day trip was planned in two stages, first training with Higaonna Sensei in ChangleCity (south of Fuzhou) and then the Wushu/Karate Exchange in Fuzhou city, including demonstrations, a competition and seminars.

The history book that Higaonna Sensei has written really brought the then and now together for me. Both Changle and Fuzhou cities are old from the pockets of crammed houses and cobbled or dirt streets and new from the amount of building works that are in the background.  There were also in both tiny fronted shops, eating parlours, and roadside stalls but in Changle, the centre focus was a food market, in Fuzhou it was an ‘Oxford Street’ style parade of shops!

30th October

I arrived with the English team (13 in total), on Sunday afternoon where Andre & Daphne and I left the rest of the team to enjoy Hong Kong for a day, whilst we travelled onto another flight to Fuzhou and Changle City. We were met at Fuzhou airport by My Lin who kindly found a taxi for us all and accompanied us all the way to Changle City. After a hair raising taxi ride where we saw bicycles without lights cycling the wrong way up a dual carriageway, a stop halfway for a change of drivers we did manage to find our hotel. However, we were a bit shocked as we stood and pulled our bags up a ramp covered in building tools to our hotel that looked like it was held up by bamboo scaffolding!!  We were accompanied to our rooms (that were thankfully not in the same state) and met Higaonna Sensei and Mr Li Yi Duan Honorary Chairman of CFKA (Honorary chairman of China Fuzhou Karatedo Association) in the corridor which was a great welcome after the trip!

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Our supper was a visit to the local KFC where we were accompanied by the Hotel manager and Mr Lin. This really helped us with our orientation as we were keen to explore the following day.

Monday 31st October

The time zone is 8 hours ahead of the UK so our body clocks were all over the place, so did not make breakfast in the hotel and had to seek it out. This proved more difficult than we thought so once we had found our way to the KFC we then found a local place for breakfast. This meant just trusting the main chef with providing us with a local start to the day amongst a lot of stares and giggles! It resulted in a bowl of fish stock broth with ribbons of noodle type substance that included a bit of pak choi and deep fried vegetable doughnuts. It was scalding hot and we were very slow eating as an old gentlemen demonstrated after he polished his off in 5 mins flat! It was extremely good value as breakfast for three only cost £1.50! This provided a great base to walk around the length and breadth of the city that took us about 3 hours ending in a tea at KFC.

That evening we caught up with Higaonna Sensei and Nakamura Sensei over dinner and then ventured out to find a local hostelry. This ended up being more of an adventure than we envisaged. Safe to say that when we stopped to ask directions in a tea house we ended up being chaperoned by a young girl named Lin Jing, from the tea house, who translated all evening at a local restaurant where we sampled local Changle red wine and beer and then went back to the tea house for tea!! This was all down to Nakamura Sensei and his written translation skills from Japanese to Chinese and back to English!! We even managed to book the restaurant (with discount) for a welcome party of 25 the next day and a Sayonara Party for 50! Lin Jing accompanied us every night to help with translation and IOGKF reciprocated by attending tea tastings and purchases!

Tuesday 1st November

On the 2nd morning A&D and I went for a walk in the hills for a couple of hours to explore the old house and ‘games’ park where there were giant chessboards, Mahjong and other Chinese board games. We continued our walk into the hills to the summit and although a misty day the viewing platform showed us a panoramic picture of the area.

That afternoon it was then with a lot of amusement as Nakamura Sensei, A&D and I witnessed the arrival of the remainder of the English team. To see their jaws drop and peals of laughter as they stepped out of their taxis was priceless!! The welcome party managed to gather all new arrivals and start their Changle experience at the seafood Restaurant- not a great success on the food front for some (as it was the restaurant’s selection!)  who then tried to sound out the KFC afterwards, so we ensured that we ordered a few more familiar dishes for the sayonara meal!

Wednesday 2nd November

Training with Higaonna sensei was in the Wushu dojo just behind our hotel. There were about 50 attendees from England, Denmark, Spain, Canada, Okinawa, Germany, Italy, Russia, Indonesia and Malaysia, The dojo included a small wooden platform within a concrete prefabricated building. This meant that we could not all fit on the wooden floor so we also trained on the concrete. The additional challenge to our tsuri-ashi was that nails kept popping up in the wooden floor and the boards were not flush. This was countered with the use of a hammer nearby!

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The training was as inspirational as always and I always feel very privileged to be training in such a small group under Higaonna Sensei’s all seeing eyes! Even though we were in a large room, when we were training in kakie on the wooden flooring it felt like being within an intimate dojo. There was great energy and enthusiasm by everyone and we made good friends with both floors.

Thursday 3rd November

The Sayonara Party was held in the seafood restaurant and 6 round tables of 12 were all laid out awaiting our arrival. The food was very varied and included great fish, clams, pork knuckle soup, rice noodle, omelette, prawns, fish head soup, sweet and sour pork, beef in a black bean sauce, washed down with local wine or Tsing Tau beer. The evening ended with 3 rounds of a card game called ‘chase the Ace’ chaired by Sensei’s Paul Nolan and Peter Galer!

Friday 4th November

After training we had time to pack ready to move to Fuzhou by coach. The journey only took 30 minutes but as we were leaving we could not believe that the scaffolding was being dismantled! All those nights of enduring the whistling and booming noises from wind in the bamboo, drilling and hammering that would now come to a stop AFTER we have left! We had also noticed over our stay that there were various additions to our rooms, such as a desk top computer with free Internet, new pillows, bathroom accoutrements including new towels. However, the bed did not get any softer and remained harder than tatami (in my view!!!).

Having checked into our hotel in Fuzhou City (no scaffolding or drills to be seen J) we were scattered about the floors of this 27 floor hotel, were given strict instructions by Mr Lee for dinner and meeting arrangements for the morning, lunch and dinner (there was great emphasis on feeding us every few hours!!) and so we unpacked and had relatively early nights.

Saturday 5th November

The WUSHU/Karate convention was to kick off with demonstrations and as a group we performed Gekasai dai ichi, partnered defence & attack , Shisochen, Seniors performed Sesan, kakie and applications. Then individual performances of Sanchin- Sensei Ernie and shime by Higaonna Sensei, Sepai- Sensei Britt Larson, Kurrarunfa - me, Superempi- Nakamura Sensei. We also watched wonderful performances by some children from Shaolin kug fu style and 100 Ladies dressed in white kung fu satin suits and blood red fans!

Demonstration video:

Afterwards the England team joined the tiger style lesson and learnt a form of Sanchin or Sanjin as was termed. Similar movements in threes and tanden kime with more claw like hand movements – very enjoyable all round and the Sensei became more and more enthusiastic training in his trousers and shirt (we all felt a bit overdressed in gis!!)

White Crane training Session Clip:

After lunch Senseis Ernie, Roy, Henrik ,Nakamura and I changed into referee kit for the karate Kata competition, this also included Senseis Paul, Peter and Steve Hallam to help administer the session. This went ahead in parallel with the Kobudo competition and meant that Andre and Daphne who had entered both had to run between the different areas. There were some marvellous performances and a fine collection of medals from the England team : Andre Leister 2nd plus 4 kobudo, Daphne Leister 1st, plus 4 Kobudo, Phil McClements 1st , Steve Gouldson 3rd, Joost Frehe 2nd Kung Fu.

The evening consisted of a Welcome party for all competitors plus dancing and singing from Okinawa including Higaonna Sensei’s sister who plays the Shamisen) , Mayor of Naha and mayor of Fuzhou. There was some quite strange food at this one including chicken’s feet broth and cow tendons!!!

Sunday 6th November

Today started with the seminars and Senseis Ernie, Roy and I joined in with Higaonna Sensei’s. This was an interesting arrangement as each seminar leader was left to find their own space in the carpark! Eventually we found a really big space that revealed itself to be next to a rubbish tip that was in constant use as evidenced by the staff who walked through the middle of the class to empty their bins! Once we started on sanchin and shime the session drew in much more attention and it was another great 90 minutes spent under Higaonna sensei’s tutelage. Others enjoyed a further session with the tiger master where they reviewed a version of Suparimpei and the white crane master took a group through a similar form to Shisochin that was the closest style to Goju Ryu that Sensei Henrik had ever seen or practised.

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Thus concluded the training formalities and so after lunch we took a guided tour in the town (and the ‘Oxford street’ type shopping centre) where we split up with translators who helped us with making purchases. I understand from Sensei Henrik that when he visited 20 years ago the city was just a single bridge over the river, dirt roads and crammed houses, not many cars and many bicycles. Sensei Henrik remembers the food being very difficult for westerners to appreciate. The area that was being demolished was an example of what it was like prior to the modernisation of this city and gives further insight to where Higaonna Kanryo Sensei must have of lived. I also understand that the Fuzhou district (like many others in China) would have also been split by different dialects (that were not interchangeable!), that would have made it quite difficult for Miyagi Chojun Sensei to track where Higaonna Kanryo Sensei lived with Ryu Ryu Ko sensei, and a seemingly impossible task to find this today.

Monday 6th November

After we had been organised into specific groups again by lining up in country order in the hotel foyer, we visited a 1000 year old Buddhist temple, Yongquan in Drum Mount, East Fuzhou and North of the Min River. This was a real treat and an incredibly peaceful place in which to contemplate. After lunch a smaller party visited the ZexuLin memorial – who is now considered a hero of China who stopped the destructive Opium trade and saved the world from rack and ruin albeit invoked the wrath of the British who waged war on China and took Hong Kong!!. We finished the day with some shopping in three lanes and seven alleys (or we named it Diagon Alley from Harry Potter!!)  and then after dinner an impromptu Sayonara party in a local restaurant with the English team and a Danish guest. Naturally there was the obligatory rounds of ‘chase the ace’ now developed to Jo, Chu and Ge levels !!!

There was also a visit by others of the group to the Liuqiu hall (Liuqiu is an old Chinese name for Japan in the Qing dynasty), This was built in 1667 by Qing Emperor Kangxi  to receive and trade with guests from Japan (including Okinawa). In addition located in the Changsan district of Fuzhou there is an Okinawan cemetery that has been opened where there are 8 tombs of the Okinawans who died in Fuzhou.

Tuesday 7th November

Had a really good trip home, upgraded on the first leg to business class and wind assisted us back to London an hour earlier than planned!!

Conclusion

The trip was a sample of Chinese culture that I can now visualise in modern day. The historical buildings, modern arrangements and the Kung Fu performances at the Wushu/Karate Exchange Convention were all part of the experience.

My learnings, other than deeper training, included bringing a place to life that is designated as a dojo, wherever and whatever the surface, and train in whatever you are wearing; watching a living history lesson with the masters of the Chinese Wushu and seeing the very close link of Goju Ryu techniques with the Tiger and White Crane styles.

The visit to Fuzhou is a pilgrimage that I would suggest other serious karate-ka students experience in their lifetime, to ensure that we all help Higaonna Sensei and IOGKF remember and pass on the history and lineage of Goju-Ryu Karate-do to all future students.

I would like to thank the Wushu Association for their organisation through Mr Li, Mr Lin and all the University students for translations and looking after us all, also Higaonna Sensei for giving us all the opportunity to experience this event and the IOGKF participants who also made this trip so enjoyable.

I look forward to catching up with everyone again at the Budosai, Okinawa 2012.