Sally Woolston’s Visit to Okinawa in November, 2022

Wow what a trip!!
I haven’t had the chance to return to Okinawa since 2016. Usually every second year is my year to travel there, but in 2018 I forewent my ticket and let my eldest son go in my place so he could have the experience before he set off to University.  Then boom, Covid struck in 2020 and as we all know, life was never to be the same and the delay for my next chance to visit was excruciatingly long. So as you can probably imagine I was both nervous and excited with the trip looming and the prospect of being able to attempt my 5th Dan promotion.  On occasion I was unable to understand why I was putting myself through it and doubting that I knew anything. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to myself as this was a trip over all other trips for me.

Training twice a day was exhausting and exhilarating for me and my companions that visited at the same time.  The enthusiasm that we had between ourselves was immense and just what we all needed to keep us going.  We all worked well together and got to know each other’s training ways and could tweak whilst we were in the different dojos learning from the very best.  The chats on the way back from each session was what you might call intense and we even made an online chat group so we could share and remind each other of any tips.

Being a female in karate I have always felt that I have had to work harder to prove I can do what the men can do because there is no ‘female version’ of karate; we all do it the same.  I am so pleased that no one ever treats me any differently including the fantastic partners I had through the grading assessment.

This trip I had the enormous pleasure of visiting and training under Taira Sensei, Arakaki Sensei, Tome Sensei and Makishi Sensei and boy did they put us through our paces.  I love how there are no false personalities with these WMKA senior Sensei, each having a sense of humor and admittedly laughing at us on occasion with our flexibility (or rather lack of it) compared to them, as well as giving us their full attention, not because they had to but because they wanted to.

The grading was a long day but so worth it. It was an experience in its own right. I was watching and willing that the other karate-ka also testing do their very best and hoping that I wouldn’t forget what I needed to do or fall flat on my face.  Luckily for me neither of these happened and I now proudly hold the rank I never expected to get anywhere near.

Holding this new rank has given me a new energy and pride for myself, but also so for other ladies thinking about making the trip but not sure how they would be received in this male dominated way of life.  It’s exactly that – a way of life – and it holds something different for all of us. However, to take that step as a woman is not at all impossible.  Give it a chance and you will be pleasantly surprised.

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Posted in Matsubayashi-ryu.