Goju Heaven!

Wow! I had the best weekend yet…I made new friends, I began training and I stayed out until the morning hours two nights in a row, what a change from my old life.

So where to begin? As many of you know the attraction for me to Okinawa was that this is the birthplace of karate. The idea that I could come here and train where Chogun Miyagi trained, to walk in his steps and learn not just technique, but the culture that birthed it, attracted me greatly.

My decision to walk into Glasco Karate Shoshin Dojo on April 6, 2013 changed my life. After looking at different dojos in the area I selected Glasco Karate because of its tenacious adherence to traditional Okinawan martial arts. I sent an email to Sensei John and Sensei Nancy. Sensei John responded quickly and offered me to come in and observe or take part. I was so anxious about starting this journey just because it was so different for me and it was putting myself out there in a way that I don’t like to do. I was so impressed by the welcoming atmosphere that I knew I had found the right place for me. Training with Sensei Nancy and Sensei John Eccles has helped me to grow not only as a practitioner of karate, but as a person. In training I came to know things about myself, what my expectations were and how I could do things I never thought I could do. Competing in tournaments or just continuing to train, showing up at the dojo after very emotional days at work when I wanted nothing more than the comfort of the couch, taught me that I could risk failure, that I could try my best and some days I still wouldn’t succeed. But the unbroken chain of returning to the dojo, the training, it has been a touch stone for me, a way to root myself to the ground. So I am forever in the debt of my friends and teachers John and Nancy Eccles.

Okay, now you have the background…I have been in Okinawa almost a month and while I am adjusting to a new life I have not had my touch stone of the dojo. I missed the training. So after many email exchanges and Glasco Karate paving the way for me here, I was able to begin my training as of Friday night.

Mattia, Taira Sensei, Cesar and Paul
Mattia, Taira Sensei, Cesar and Paul in Naha City.

I got the address from Glenn McIlvride of Goju Ryu Kenkyukai and he put me in touch with Taira Sensei. I’ll let all of you look him up on youtube, let me say this about him, he is AMAZING…I have never seen or met anyone like him. I arrived at the dojo late because I am still learning to find my way around, and he graciously allowed me to attend. Pictured above are the three martial artists who welcomed me and allowed me to train with them; Mattia Maritan, Cesar Camara Martin and Paul Chandler.  I mostly watched because this was very advanced technique, but Cesar (of course Cesar, everyone knows how I feel about Julius Caesar) took me in hand and began to partner with me. I can’t say enough how profoundly honored and awed I was to be in that room and take instruction from these wonderful gentlemen and Taira Sensei. A dream come true!

I will not go into the after seminar training other than to say it was a wonderful cultural exchange and more food than I’ve had in years. I feel that I made some friends, and that Okinawa became my home in a way that it had not been until then. I never got home until 5 a.m. a full 24 hours from when I left for work the day before!

Well Mattia was saying that they had not had a chance to see some of the sights due to bus schedules. As I  have been exploring the island every weekend I suggested we all go and check out places he wanted to see. We decided on Saturday at 12:30 so we could get back in time for training at 5 p.m.

Taira Sensei with John and Nancy Eccles
Taira Sensei pointing out Sensei John Eccles and Sensei Nancy Eccles name in calligraphy on his wall.
out of focus, funny selfie
we were all a little out of focus at the end of Saturday night, so this photo is fitting!

So I met them at Asatore Station in Naha and we set off for Yomitan. We ended up at Zanpa Beach and then Zakimi Castle ruins. What a fabulous day!

Zanpa Beach
Zanpa Beach
Cesar, Paul, Me and Mattia at Zakimi Castle
Paul and Sensei
Post Seminar education – Paul and Taira Sensei

It was so nice to learn about these three guys and explore the island with fellow Gaijin! We had a nice lunch by American Village and then back to Naha for training. Taira Sensei moves faster than the camera can track, truly I could not track his hands or feet with my eyes. Incredible. I have died and gone to Goju Ryu Heaven!

We spent the rest of the evening around a table filled with all kinds of lovely food and drinks. Sensei’s wife was funny and gracious and kept giving more and more food!  It was just a wonderful evening of friendship and learning.

And now, the training really begins!….