Dojo Kata

You never know who you will bump into in Shureido. Nakasone san has been at the hub of the Okinawan martial arts community since the 1960s, and at one time or another every karate and kobudo teacher on the island comes through his shop. This time, while I was sitting having coffee with Nakasone san in came Ishiki Hidetada. Ishiki sensei is one of the senior students of Matayoshi Shinpo. I trained with him in the Kodokan in 90’s but had not seen him since Matayoshi sensei passed away. He is a very nice man, and an excellent kobudo (and karate) ka. After a few minutes of talking he remembered me, and he invited me out to his dojo the next day.

Training was great fun! Ishiki sensei not only does karate and kobudo, but he is also a teacher of Okinawan folk dance and Eisa and his kobudo group does a lot of demonstrations. An example of one of his shows is here:  What I particularly liked about training with him was that he has taken complete charge of his dojo, and his training. He has created a “warm up kata” that takes a few minutes to do and includes elements of Shorin, Goju, and Matayoshi tode kata, among other things. It is very mobile, and he sometimes does it to music. Trying to follow him through it left me impressed at his speed and agility, as well as general fitness level- he is in his 60s but moves like a much younger man!

We did some warm ups, including walking through Matayoshi lineage tode forms and his warm up kata, and worked for a while with the sansetsukon. Then we spent some time with the version of Tokumine no kon he does. It is a dojo kata, and I was impressed with both its content and the comfortable way Ishiki sensei has with teaching it. I was only visiting his dojo, and only there two nights, but he made sure we had as much time with it as we wanted. “I want to share it”, he said, “so let’s make sure you have it!”

In Ishiki Hidetada sensei's dojo. Ishiki san, Fred Lohse, Neil Stolsmark sensei, Ishiki sensei, Yakashiro Kenichi sensei, Beruto san (spelled incorrectly- sorry!)

In Ishiki Hidetada sensei’s dojo. Ishiki san, Fred Lohse, Neil Stolsmark sensei, Ishiki sensei, Yamashiro Kenichi sensei, Viet san

Tokumine no kon is not one of the base Matayoshi kata. I have seen in it some kata lists from at least as far back as 1970 and people I know who trained with Matayoshi at the start of the 1960s say that they used to go through 10 or 11 bo kata at times, and it was one. However, along with kata like Ufutun bo and Ufugushiku no Sakugawa no kon, it is not an official kata. The version Ishiki sensei does he calls Tokumine no kon sho. He and Yamashiro Kenichi developed it out of what they now call Tokumine no kon dai, the base Matayoshi version that is very similar to the other Kyan lineage versions around the island. The kata is in that demonstration above, if you are interested in seeing it.

It is quite a bit more elaborate than the standard version, and some people might question its value, as it is not an “old” kata. But that, I think, is where the value of dojo kata lies. They are new. They allow teachers to be creative, to express their own thinking on the system and their practice. They can also simply be fun, something that gets left out of some peoples’ training. Ishiki sensei was not trying to say it was an old form- he immediately introduced it as his own interpretation of the older form. But he teaches it to his students as their first bo kata, and I like that. He is taking responsibility for directing his students in his dojo, and has faith in his knowledge. He has a vision and is working towards it. While dojo kata often fail, in my opinion because the teacher is not actually experienced enough to develop one, when a good teacher puts one together they demonstrate something unique about that person’s experience and shed light on the system as whole. I like the form. I may keep practicing it. And I am really glad I got the chance to see Ishiki sensei again and have the opportunity to see where he has taken his practice. My thanks to him and his students for sharing with us. It was fun, and I was very pleasantly impressed with both the technique and the welcoming atmosphere!

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