Saturday, 21 December 2013

One Day - Two Great Conversations...

Meitetsu Yagi sensei of the Meibukan
I have visited the Meibukan dojo in Kume many times before, but until this trip it was always to meet with Meitatsu Yagi sensei, the older son of the Meibukan founder the late Meitoku Yagi. This time I was keen to talk with Yagi sensei's second son, Meitetsu, for he too is a karate sensei of note. Without an introduction it's often impossible to arrange an interview with Okinawan sensei, but during my research I discovered Meitetsu sensei is fine with receiving direct enquiries.....so two weeks before leaving home for Okinawa I took a chance and called him.

Yagi sensei demonstrating with sai 
Our initial conversation went well and I was subsequently invited to call on him when I was in Okinawa. Arriving at his home, just below the Meibukan dojo, I was greeted warmly at the front door and ushered into a small back room where introductions were made and I offered Yagi sensei a few small gifts; this set the scene for what was to follow, two hours of very convivial conversation.

As a retired English language teacher, Yagi sensei had no trouble expressing himself  or getting his thoughts across. He's not exactly shy either, and a number of times I was asked to turn my recorder off so he could share something he felt might be "controversial". A lot of our conversation will be published in the April 2014 edition of Blitz magazine, but significant parts of it I'm saving for a future book.

Makoto Gibu sensei - also demonstrating with sai
After a very enjoyable morning spent with Yagi sensei in Kume, in the afternoon I met with Miguel da Luz of the okkb and made the drive north to Urasoe to meet with Makoto Gibu sensei at the Butokukan dojo. I had meet Gibu sensei a number of times before, twice already on this trip alone, but this was my first visit to the Butokukan dojo, and, having seen photos of it many times I was excited about experiencing the dojo first hand.

It was a hot day, but the Butokukan offered a cool oasis from the heat as well as the noise of the ever-present busy traffic. Gibu sensei welcomed Miguel and me to the dojo and we sat down to sip ice tea and chat. I like Gibu sensei a lot, he's younger than me, by about ten years, but he is a very sincere and dedicated karateka, and he reminds me of how senior (if not all) karateka should conduct themselves.

Our conversation ranged across a number of topics to do with karate and kobudo. Gibu sensei never speaks without first giving his words some thought, a trait I first observed in his father, Seikichi Gibu, when I interviewed him back in 2011. The afternoon was passing quickly and I would have liked to have stayed longer, but unfortunately all three of us had other appointments that evening; so I took a number of photographs to go with the article before Miguel and I said our good-byes and joined the early evening traffic heading back into Naha.

Makoto Gibu sensei - Butokukan kancho
Because of the extra demands on my time this trip I didn't arrange as much magazine work as I normally would, but I was very happy to have spent a day in the company of two very interesting and accomplished karateka. That one came from the Nahate tradition and the other from Shurite, made no difference at all, and only served to endorse my feeling that the idea of styles within karate has well and truly passed it's "sell-by" date. It was always dumb idea to begin with in my opinion, a foreign import that really has no place in Okinawan karate.