Israel Gasshuku with Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura

By: Sensei Sara-Rivka Yekutiel – IOGKF Israel

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On February 28th honored guest Sensei Nakamura and more than one hundred students and family members gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Sensei Leon Pantanowitz’s Israeli dojo, which would later become the headquarters for IOGKF Israel, and to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Sensei Leon’s passing. 

This special event was organized by Yondan Boaz Heilig, and was held at Netanya’s Cultural Center.  The evening began with a wine toast, light refreshments and socializing with old friends. 

A commemorative booklet was distributed, including a letter written by Sensei Higaonna (included in the articles section of this newsletter), an autobiographical section, photographs, and stories and memories written by students.

Kambukai member Moshe Halevi, Godan, and organizer Boaz Helig spoke about the importance of continuing Sensei Leon’s legacy.  Indeed, IOGKF Israel is thriving, with an increasing number of students and new instructors.  They conveyed the feeling that Sensei Leon would be pleased by this continuation, and that they were honored to be able to serve the organization. 

Avroni Seinfeld, Sensei Leon and Norma’s youngest daughter, represented the Pantanowitz family.  She expressed her gratitude to the organizers, participants and Sensei Nakamura.   “My father was a loving, wise family man.  You all are also part of our family in the full sense of the word, and we are grateful for your support.”

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Sensei Nakamura, honored guest, spoke from his heart about meeting Sensei Leon when he was a young instructor living in California.  “You must remain true to your tradition,’ Sensei Leon told me.  ‘I didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but now that I’m older I understand.  This was a very important message he gave me.”  Sensei Nakamura said that he loved Sensei Leon very much and was pleased to be in Israel for this occasion and to be teaching at the Gasshuku which would begin the following morning.

The highlight of the evening was a movie edited by Boaz Heilig, containing previously unreleased footage of an interview which Sensei Leon gave to his student, Michael Ben Gan, for a university project, several years before he passed away.

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Seeing Sensei on the screen, smiling and joking, speaking seriously about Karate and just being himself, larger than life, brought many of us to tears.  The movie closed with a photo montage of Sensei with his teacher, colleagues and students, with Frank Sinatra singing, “I Did It My Way.” 

Sensei Leon loved jazz music, and the evening ended with a musical performance of a local jazz group. 

The Gasshuku

IOGKF Israel was honored to host Sensei Nakamura for a special Gasshuku held in conjunction with the celebration of the 40th year of our organization.  From February 29th - March 2nd more than 120 students of all ranks gathered in Netanya, Israel for sweat, knowledge and improvement. 

If I had to sum up the Gasshuku in one word it would be: The shoulder blade.  (Okay, that’s three words, but who’s counting?)  The shoulder blade; it is used in punches, in sanchin, in tenski, in furisute, how to move it backward, how to move it forward, how to move it up and how to move it down.  

We learned about the theory of the shoulder blade and of course we practiced using it.  The beautiful thing about a three-day Gasshuku is that you have plenty of time to get sore – and get sore we did – which in turn helps you understand which muscles are used in which movements.  On the first day we did about 500 tenski.  On the second day, we knew exactly which muscles were involved – they were the ones that hurt when we moved them!

In addition to focusing on the shoulder blades, Sensei Nakamura also talked about the spine: How to move it, why flexibility is important, and how to learn from the animal world about human movement. 

Twenty-nine year old green belt Dikla Aranos said it was the best gasshuku she ever attended.  I asked her why.  “For one thing, we learned a lot,” she said.  “For another, it was really fun watching all the black belts wiggle around on the floor pretending to be alligators.”

We practiced tai sabaki and kumite techniques utilizing tai sabaki.  We practiced many kata, with special emphasis on kururunfa.  There were many questions about kata and Sensei Nakamura was very patient in answering all of them.  

The Gasshuku ended the way it began – with a lot of sweat.  We did 40 gekisai dai ichi – one for each year we were celebrating..  One of the students pointed out that last year we ended with 30 gekisai dai ichi.  Does that mean that next year we do 41 – or 50?  We better train hard to get ready!