Karate practice trip to Okinawa by Ms. Lara Chamberlain, 7th dan

I have just returned from my latest training in Okinawa. I stayed in Okinawa for approximately two weeks along with two of my students, visiting four dojos for empty hand training and one for kobudo.  I returned home inspired, which is a familiar feeling over the many years of visiting and training in Okinawa.

While it is always a joy to train in Okinawa and to visit with friends, it is challenging to identify unique experiences from each trip, as I have been a student of Matsubayashi Ryu for 34 years.

I became a direct student of Shoshin Nagamine in 1995, practicing at the Honbu seven hours every day for six months.   During this time, I also became a direct student of Makishi Yasuharu Sensei, which would last for 18 years.  During those years, I had the opportunity to train with Makishi Sensei as well as with Soke Takayoshi Nagamine. I began meaningful relationships with many Senior Sensei in Okinawa that continue through this day.

It is always enlightening to receive teachings from Taira Kaicho, Arakaki Sensei, and Tome Sensei, as these are Sensei that I have known since I started coming to Okinawa.  They always have more to give, while still being reminiscent of the early years at the same time.  We enjoyed intense training, heightened by the more humid, hot climate as compared to California. They each gave their fullest through their teaching of karate do. Their dojos reflected long relationships, the walls being covered with many historical pictures. We also had an opportunity to observe Shinsa (testing), and we attended the celebration party afterwards.  Makishi Yasuharu Sensei always taught me that training does not exist solely in the dojo – it also comes in the social interactions.  We definitely did both during this trip!

During this trip, I also enjoyed sharing my own past with the students I brought along. I initially began bringing students with me over twenty years ago, as I could not contain all the generosity to one being. In the way that the elders had shared Okinawan culture with me, I continued to do the same when my own students came along.

As with each visit, I write extensive notes, recording all the teachings I receive in an effort to ensure accurate preservation.  This has been my practice since I began coming to Okinawa.  Once or twice each year, I have recorded the lessons I receive. In fact, these notes are the back bone of a book I am soon to publish about my experiences in Okinawa and with Matsubayashi Ryu.

We are currently building a new, larger dojo to replace our old dojo. It has taken over twenty years to materialize such a dream dojo, having invested a tremendous amount of financial savings and efforts in planning. We have two teams building it, both American and Okinawan. Last year the Okinawan team, consisting of those that had originally built the Makishi Dojo, visited Santa Cruz to facilitate pre-planning for construction. Construction of our new dojo began in April this year and is still in process. During this visit to Okinawa, we received the wonderful news that Tome Sensei and Arakaki Toshimune Sensei will be coming to the Grand opening of our new dojo (more details to follow).

As for culture, Nakamura Seigi Sensei (former Vice President, WMKA) wished for me to learn the difference of traditional Okinawa food. As such, in 1995 he took me to a restaurant in the Tomari district. To this day, I continue to bring my own students to this restaurant in order to deepen their understanding of Okinawa’s traditions. This trip as well, I took them there, and we all enjoyed the experience.

I also share Okinawa culture with my students through my close friends who are the owners of a tea shop (located in the Kokusaidouri market area). Over 24 years of coming to Okinawa, this is a consistent stop for me.  The owners of the tea shop and their clientele have taught us many interesting cultural facts about Okinawa while talking and enjoying tea.  The tea shop owners’ son studied in the Nagamine Honbu dojo many years ago. There are so many stories from this tea shop and their customers. They have taught my students the very best of Okinawan culture over the years.

These two weeks were full immersion to the practice of karate do in traditional old style dojos. We all wish to give our sincere gratitude to everyone who helped us achieve such important success in the name of Karate-Do.

Posted in Matsubayashi-ryu.