Chief Instructors Gasshuku
By: Sensei Jorge Rivera and Sensei Manuel Easton – IOGKF Chile (Goju Do)
The IOGKF World Chief Instructors Gasshuku was definitely an event to remember and has been documented here for IOGKF members. Check out the FREE IOGKF International Magazine for photos from inside the closed training sessions and a day by day breakdown from Sensei Linda Marchant.
Last year coming back from the 2012 Budosai, we knew that we would participate in the “2013 Chief Instructor Gasshuku” (CIG) in Okinawa. We knew it would be a great opportunity to improve our karate, train daily at the honbu dojo and get acquainted with other Chief Instructors from around the world. What we did not know was that this trip would last a whole month.
We committed for the 2013 CIG with Sensei Higaonna and Sensei Larsen, during the South American Gasshuku (last April in Lima, Perú). Then during the MCF 2013 (in Canada) Sensei Nakamura confirmed that Sensei Higaonna would be in his Naha Dojo for the whole month of October. It was later in August, when Sensei Nakamura visited Chile, that we finished the last details of our trip to Japan.
We left on October 1st, with a long journey ahead of us. We flew west-ward from Chile crossing the date-change line which made us jump 12 hours ahead of our local-time-of-departure. Thirty-six hours later with several stop-overs we finally arrived in Okinawa on October 3rd- The jet lag was terrible the first few days. Those 12 hours of time difference, made our bodies want to go to sleep in broad daylight and stay awake at nights!
Just a day after we arrived, so did Typhoon “Fitow”. Fortunately it missed Okinawa, but left a whole weekend of pouring rain and strong winds. The weather was still very hot and the humidity off the typhoon´s rain, and it made our first days of training at the Dojo even more unforgettable.
Classes at the Dojo were regularly held by Sensei Kuramoto, who was very kind and welcoming with us. Two other karate-ka were also there for regular training: Reena Prasad (England) and Morten Christoffersen (Denmark). We partnered with them for morning sessions when individual training is performed. A lot of the morning hours were spent on supplemental exercises (hojo undo) and practicing Kata. It was during the night sessions when Sensei Higaonna supervised the training. He dedicated long hours to observe and correct our technique (kihon, kata and bunkai), explaining all details.
The first gasshuku participants started arriving the following week. The first ones were Sensei Kokubo (Perú), Sensei Linda Marchant (England) and Torben Svendsen and Jakob Kold (Denmark). Other sensei arrived later from Germany, India, Moldova and Russia and we all trained daily at the Dojo. The energy of that group was incredible and really made a difference in our performance, pushing us to train even harder.
We shared most of our “free time” with Sensei Kokubo. After the morning training we used to have lunch together and after the night sessions we used to go to a small restaurant for gyozas and something to drink. He turned us into fans of “ikasumi some”: a bowl of noodles darkened with squid ink and chunks of pork and fried squid with garlic, that, plus a side of seaweed soup!
When the Gasshuku started on October 16, we had 55 karate-ka. The classes were held at the Budokan from 9 am to 1 pm, led by Sensei Higaonna himself. It’s hard to put into words Sensei´s dedication to teach each one of us and his attention to detail.
Also during the Gasshuku there was a grading for higher yudansha grades. As always the results were given at the Sayonara Party. Sensei Veiga and Moreira (from Portugal, students of sensei Monteiro) were awared 6th Dan. Sensei Linda Marchant (England), Sensei Bobby Smith (Bermuda), Sensei Juichi Kokubo (Peru), Sensei Gene Villa (USA) and Sensei Viktor Panasiuk (Moldova), were all promoted to 7th Dan. Congratulations to everyone!
In addition to the gasshuku, this year Sensei Higaonna had something else prepared for us. Complementing the technical instruction we had classes at the honbu dojo with Sensei Sugimoto Rendo, specialist in Amagi Thermal Therapy. His instruction was aimed at alleviating tension and healing injuries, to improve our performance and physical power. Sensei Sugimoto treated Sensei Monteiro, who had a muscle injury that prevented him from doing high kicks. After a couple of sessions, he experienced a noticeable improvement in is flexibility. He also treated other karate-ka who showed great results. We also attended a lecture from Maeno Hiroyuki, a nutritionist at the Japan Association of Clinical Nutrition, specializing in high performance athletes. He did a presentation on healthy eating habits and how small diet adjustments could dramatically improve performance, quality of life and slowing the natural aging process.
When the Gasshuku was over, we returned to the daily trainings at the honbu. Once again we had the chance to practice under the watchful eye of Higaonna Sensei, sometimes, as the only students in the dojo. What a wonderful and humbling experience!
On October 25th, we attended the celebrations of the International Day of Karate, at the Shuri Castle. The most important karate schools in Okinawa and their grand masters performed demonstrations. The IOGKF presented a team of okinawan karateka: Sensei Uehara, Sensei Kuramoto and Sensei Yamashiro did a great exhibition of kata Shisochin. Later that night, it was time for the grand masters demo. Sensei Higaonna´s presentation was superb. His energy and technical ability was observed by many people, who later, recognizing the red and black kenkon in our jackets, approached us to congratulate us for our master! We lived another memorable experience in the streets of Naha. It was the 2013 Otsunahiki at the Naha Prefecture. It is a traditional tug-of-war competition done yearly, Japanese style. The main rope is massive; over 1 meter in diameter with narrower ropes stemming from it, that competitors can pull along with other people (usually 10 per each smaller rope). In our smaller rope we teamed up with Sensei Roberto Gil (Spain) and Sensei Kokubo (the most enthusiastic and serious competitor). We pulled, huffed and puffed for many minutes and even blistered our palms, but we are happy to report that our side (East) won the competition, moving the opposing team about four meters.
Without a doubt, our trip to Okinawa was a memorable journey that will surely mark our DO. This experience was not exempt from sacrifices (physical, emotional and also financial), but we are grateful for the opportunity and enthusiastic about the feedback we received.
We now have the responsibility and the great mission to transmit our experiences to our own students here in Chile and to do so, we have a team of committed karate-ka that will support that effort.