European Gasshuku with Higaonna Sensei

By: Alessandro Romagnoli – IOGKF Italy 

IOGKF Italy put on a Gasshuku to remember in Sicily for this years European training camp. Although Higaonna Sensei became unwell during the trip, the IOGKF’s best instructors stood up to the mark and proved that IOGKF is in good hands. For event photographs and improved layout check out the FREE December IOGKF Magazine available now!

The European Gasshuku 2013 was hosted in Italy, in the beautiful and picturesque city of Catania, Sicily. For IOGKF Italy it has been an honor and a joy to be able to organize this important event. Under the guidance of Paolo Taigō Spongia Sensei, our entire community has been able to participate and share the many responsibilities that constitute the Gasshuku.

A special merit we owe, no doubt, to Beppe Manzari Sensei, the real director of the organizational machine: from the reception of the many guests who came from different parts of the world  to the extraordinary sensitivity with which he has been able to find solutions for any kind of trouble any similar event entails - as you can imagine. For all of us a good example of patience, dedication and efficiency.

For me, who could follow from the "inside" the administrative aspects of the reception and registration of the numerous students and teachers arrived in Italy for the meeting of the great IOGKF family, it is also important to emphasize the big commitment exerted by the young people from our federation who responded enthusiastically whenever asked to perform important duties, so that everything could be efficient and in order.

Finally, thanks to all guests for being so kind to understand and excuse some of our difficulties or unintentional mishap, and for helping us to overcome unexpected troubles: this, I think, is an essential element of the spirit that animates the whole IOGKF community, from north to south, from east to west .

Many people among those who, like me, usually participate in international gasshukus, have often been wondering and discussing with each other, what is the special ingredient, or even the "secret", that makes this international meetings such a formidable moment.

Over the years, my perception of this “something” has changed within myself  and I think it is the same for many other practitioners.

There is undoubtedly a social and emotional element that emerges from meeting with other practitioners. The pleasure of working-out hard and together, under the kind gaze of so many experienced teachers, gives participants new invigorating energy and, of course, provides many ideas and insights to work on for a full year. And this already would be enough. In addition, the possibility of sharing moments of pleasant informality is not to be underestimated – indeed, the rest of our life is also made ​​up of convivial moments, a day at the beach, a nice meal together and a good pint of beer. But the fact that this happens at the end of a day spent working-out together, punctuated by the same rhythms, gives these simple moments a special aura. A new focus and a necessary bath in humility.

A separate mention is to be given to the study that each one of us has the opportunity to carry out through the careful observation of a "giant" such as Higaonna Sensei. Indeed, this topic deserves the writing of a book in itself. I do not want to refer to the technical aspects, stubborn, of an inspirational father, who clearly shows to have an enviable physical and mental shape and a "heart" that even the best young athletes struggle to achieve.

At the height of optimal or adverse conditions, this man seems to tap into something that is not of this world. I hope that with this statement I do not seem exaggerated or insane. I'm not talking about magic. Nor is adulation moving my fingers on the keyboard as I write.

I allude to that part of our experience that cannot be reported by words, by a thought that observes from the "outside”. It is therefore hard for me to find adequate words. We are in the presence of a testimony. A concrete body that has made himself available to be forged by an extraordinary practice over time. And time is the practice itself. We’re no longer dealing with a person with a name and surname. Here is where I find the very heart of this practice. Seeking to grasp, through his example, what this man sees, and trying to put myself in that position in order to see something that won’t be the same but will, given my own experience, provide the key to my practice. I would even go as far as to say that this clearly indicates to me that beyond the experience of each individual karateka karate does not exist.

There’s no doubt that the organisation can and must protect even the smallest aspects of this treasure, but the gust of wind that moves our karategi is the “something” whose presence can be perceived even though its form cannot be touched. Sensei Higaonna is a true master in this sense, because to my eyes he is capable of disappearing into the sweat of his exertion, without leaving a trace. This is also an enormous act of love towards his students, by ensuring that they can’t fall into the illusion of assuming that it is enough to be able to call oneself a student of a great master. Because at that precise moment, nothing would remain but the dust of a “great master that wasn’t there”.