Martial Arts tour of Japan 2007 By Merv Oakley
This Karate, Kobudo and Meditation tour of Japan starts in May 2007 in Kyushu the main southern island of Japan. Training began in the Oita prefecture with Kesakatsu Kiyohara Sensei. Kiyohara Sensei is JKF Gojukai Hachidan (8th Dan), a director of the JKF Gojukai and a member of the JKF council. I first met Kiyohara Sensei when he came to Australia in 1990 as an official at the Goju-kai International tournament that i ran in Sydney that year. It has been 17 years since I had last trained with Kiyohara Sensei, it was good to see him again. During training we concentrated on the finer points of Kururunfa, Sanchin kata and the application of the kata techniques.
During our stay in the Oita prefecture we took a day tour, first stop the Usa shrine known as the "Warrior Shrine", it is one of the very few that is both a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple. There is a huge Torri gate at the entrance, the traditional entrance to a shrine; this was an eye opener for my students. The tour took us into the mountains where the seemingly endless steps up to the Buddhist temples were a physical as well as a mental awaking for my students. Many of the temples visited were over 900 years old and located in quiet and serene surroundings; it certainly put everyone in a contemplative mood.
Then we proceeded to Katsumi Murakami Sensei's dojo in the Fukuoka prefecture for the highlight of our trip. Murakami Sensei is one of the last of the old masters of Kobudo and Karate he holds Shihan rank in three referent Karate styles as well as Kobudo. He has trained in jujutsu, kempo, karatedo, Ryukyu kobudo, and Chinese quanfa, and holds the rank of Hanshi, 9th dan in Shorinryu Karatedo, as well as instructors licenses in quanfa.
I have been learning from him since 1972. The knowledge in this mans head is amazing and at 80 years of age he is still poetry in motion, my self and my students stood in wonder at the knowledge and abilities of this master. We all consider ourselves fortunate to have the opportunity to train with Murakami Sensei he is a real gentleman. I have often said Murakami Sensei is what all martial artists should be, but few are.
Our first day of Kobudo training was both fighting and kata with the Bo, my favorite weapon. Murakami Sensei is a master of more different weapons than you could imagine, and with each weapon there is 15 to 20 kata and over 30 different weapons, it is a wonder that he can remember them all. In the days that we were there we also trained with Sai, Nunchaku, Tonfa and Kama.
On the final day with Murakami Sensei we started with an early morning session to try and squeeze in as much time with him as possible. We ran through all of the new material we had learnt over the last few days training to make sure it had stuck in our heads to bring back to Sydney. Then we were off to Hiroshima, my wife's home town for some site seeing after the hard training. We spent a day at Miyajima a famous god island, it is famed for Itsukushima Shrine and its floating Torii. It has been considered a holy place for most of Japanese history
We then traveled up to Tokyo to take part in the Saitama Prefecture Karate Tournament. Saitama prefecture has a population bigger than New South Wales and Queensland put together. The tournament is hosted by Katsuyuki Fukatoshi Sensei, with which one of our students, Akira Okado 3rd Dan, began his career with over 20 years ago.
Fukatoshi Sensei received his position as head of Goju Karate in Saitama prefecture directly from Gogen Yamaguchi in 1971. After time training he acquired a profound knowledge of the martial arts. His impressive resume includes recipient of Goju-Kai Kyoshi statue 1971, All Japan Karate Federation 8th Dan received in 1993, All Okinawa Karate-Do 10th Dan (Grand Master) received in 2000. He is an All Japan Karate Federation Chief referee and an official Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of that organization in which capacity he presented an award to the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At the tournament one of our students, Andrew Liddell, in his class won a Gold medal in Kumite and Bronze medal in Kata.
Tristian Harris in his class won a Bronze medal in Kumite.
Akira Miyamoto, a high school boy from our Roseville Dojo won a silver medal in the High School section. I am very proud of Akira, it was his first tournament.
After the tournament Fukatoshi Sensei invited Sensei Oakley and his students to dinner with himself and a number of instructors from the Saitama region. Fukatoshi Sensei is a very gracious host and the dinner was one of the highlights of the tour.
The day after the tournament the group split up to make their own way. Some of us stayed to train more on Kata at Fukatoshi's Dojo, others went to visit family in Japan, a few took sightseeing tours and some went up to Hokkaido, the main northern island of Japan, for further meditation and waterfall training.
This trip has taken the full length of Japan from a maximum of 30 degrees south to 8 degrees in the north.