After a grueling thirty-hour journey, Goodlander and Sensei Nick Lemke along with his student Bryant Martinez landed in magical Okinawa, the fifth largest Japanese island in the East China Sea. The purpose of their month-long expedition was to train in karate and kobudo called Seibukan Shorin-Ryu and Matayoshi Shinbukai Kobudo.
Okinawa is an island that sits very close to Taiwan and mainland China, which explains its diverse culture. Okinawa was once part of the Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th to the19th centuries, so it has been under Japanese rule for only 135 years. Nick and Bryant immersed themselves in the unique culture, and were warmly welcomed as they trained and tested for their new black belt ranks.
The trip began with Nick and Bryant participating in the opening ceremony demonstration. Forty-five countries were represented and Bryant’s martial art performance was featured on the local news, and Nick’s performance made the front page of the newspaper. Nick and Bryant would spend an average six hours a day training with local Okinawan instructors. The training was so difficult that after the workouts, they would have to literally wring their belts out to dry. Their “gis,” which is a Japanese term for the uniform worn during practice and competition, would be so sweat-soaked that they were given their own mops to keep the floor dry. Training also was hindered due to the language barrier, the Okinawan instructors spoke only Japanese. In order to teach the correct technique and so as to ensure safety, translators were used.
Testing for new belts was sprung on Nick and Bryant at the last minute, but Nick and Bryant were expertly prepared. Nick and Bryant were tested on basics and on katas, which are choreographed martial art motions. They took park in prescribed attacks where one would choose from seven different weapons, demonstrating how each weapon was used for each application. They had to understand the Japanese language well enough to understand the instructor’s commands. In the end, Nick was successfully promoted to Yon Dan – 4th degree black belt in Karate and San Dan – 3rd degree black belt in Weapons. Bryant was promoted Sho Dan- 1st degree black belt as a fourteen year old, a rariety for someone as young as Bryant. The teacher made an exception since Bryant was so advanced for his age. “In our system, Bryant is the youngest recorded Sho Dan in the world,” Nick explained proudly.
Nick and Bryant managed to sneak in a lot of sightseeing during their stay. They visited the revered Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. This museum honors the 250,000 Okinawans who lost their lives during the horrific Battle of Okinawa, where in 1945, the United States invaded the Ryuku Islands in order to stage the invasion of Japan. “What is so amazing is that karate survived the Battle, where so many lost their lives,” remarked Nick. They dived the “Blue Cave”, hiked local waterfalls, and explored the Churaumi Aquarium, home to a very successful whale shark breeding program. Moreover, they toured the Shurijo Castle, which was almost totally destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa and home to the G8 Summit Meeting in 2000. Additionally, Nick and Bryant purchased and wore traditional colorful, summer-time kimonos to a local festival where Okinawans played Eisa drums while performing traditional dances. They tasted delicious cuisine, such as soba (thin noodles made from buckwheat flour), pork, sushi, and Kobe beef.
“The trip was a trip of a lifetime. I would go back tomorrow if I could,” Nick proclaimed. For more information about the Shima Dojo Karate School (“Shima” meaning “Island” in Japanese) and specifically the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu style of karate and kobudo, contact Nick by telephone at 239-642-4554 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to ask him about his after school program and his classes for all ages!
Stacia was a stay at home mother for the past decade while volunteering as Barron Collier High School’s Lacrosse Team Mom and Swim Team Mom in Naples. Before relocating to Florida, Stacia graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She worked for the Office of State Courts Administrator as a Statistics Analyst and as one of the original Workflow Analysts, creating case.net, the Missouri state courts automated case management system.