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Rediscover Okinawa through a Traditional Karate Experience at ASATO DOJO (in Naha)
post : 2019.01.17 19:00
Karate is once again in the spotlight with the announcement of its inclusion as part of the Olympic Games. It is just as well-known as other martial arts like Judo and Kendo, but it seems that many people in Japan aren’t aware that the birthplace of karate is actually Okinawa. However, in Naha, a city known as the center of karate, we see many Karateka that arrive here from all over the world, almost like a pilgrimage to the holy land of karate.
In the basic teachings of traditional karate, there are key phrases that describe the concepts of training, which some may be familiar with. One is “Karate Ni Sente Nashi” which can be loosely translated as “there is no first attack in karate.” Another is “Tatakawazu Shite Katsu” or “win without fighting”, and lastly, “Rei Ni Hajimari Rei Ni Owaru”, meaning “begin and end with etiquette”. These teachings are believed to be rooted in the history of Okinawa, in its wisdom gained as an independent kingdom surrounded by bigger and stronger countries, yet managing to maintain its independence for centuries despite challenges.
It is this spirit of karate that has garnered love and respect in its pupils around the world. What was once a practical martial art is now a Bujitsu, or the spirit of martial arts that cultivates our hearts and minds. The background of karate is the reason why I highly recommend the visitors to Okinawa to make the time to experience traditional karate while here.
That said, there really is a lot to do and see on Okinawa; the beaches with the waters glistening under the subtropical sun, the lush green forests, the Sanshin music and Eisa dance, traditional performance arts including Ryukyu Buyo, Yachimun pottery and Ryukyu Glass, Bashofu and other traditional textiles, and much, much more. So in this article, I want to introduce ASATO DOJO where you can learn the teachings of traditional karate and actually experience it firsthand to really understand it in the limited time during your visit here.
The master of this dojo is James Pankiewicz who moved to Okinawa together with an Okinawan lady he met in England. He looks very tough but is actually very kind and friendly and is attentive to those around him. His partner is in fact the proprietress of Jahana Kippan, the long established confectionary shop that specializes in special sweets that were made for the courts during the period of the Ryukyu dynasty. Kippan and Toganzuke are very rare and are only produced by Jahana Kippan. As you can imagine, they make excellent gifts.
Now, let’s go back to Asato Dojo. The special traditional karate lessons for beginners and the experienced are available from 11AM to 4PM. Whether you want to focus on learning about karate from lectures by the Sensei, or more through physical learning, or a balance of both, the lessons are tailored to meet your requests as much as possible. This is one of the reasons why this dojo is so popular. Let them know beforehand what kind of lesson you’re looking for. They offer great learning opportunities.
In the lectures, you will have a deeper understanding of Okinawan culture that introduced karate to the world through the Shima Kutuba (the Okinawan language) used in karate. You will learn the historical backgrounds of karate and how it came to be, the different Ryu-ha or the schools of karate, their differences, characteristics, and the differences between competitive karate and full-contact karate.
In the hands-on programs, your body will be thoroughly loosened through stretching and other warm-up exercises in order to experience traditional karate safely. You will also learn the basics in foot/leg, lower back, upper body, and arm movements and how to use them. The program will introduce some self-defense moves that will be useful to know.
The program offers a great experience in getting close to traditional karate and Okinawa’s culture, and will be a great memory of your trip to Okinawa. You can participate in the program with your family and friends, so rest assured and have fun. If you are experienced in karate, you can participate in the training for the well-known Kata of traditional karate, or practical Kata with a partner through analysis based on hypothetical situations, or learn Bojitsu or other Kobujitsu that are unique to Okinawa.
Through your experience in the program, you might feel that karate is right for you and you may want to pursue it furhter. If so, when you go back home, be sure to look for a dojo near you. Karate has become very popular, so looking for a dojo shouldn’t be too hard, as there are 130 million enthusiasts around the globe. It was also added to the program in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, encouraged by the enthusiasts not just within Japan, but in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, Central and South Americas.
The attraction of ASATO DOJO is more than the variation of lesson-types they offer in their programs. You can also choose the length of your lessons. You can choose from their basic 90-minute lesson, one-day lesson from morning into the afternoon, one-week or even over a month. However long you’re going to be Okinawa, you can receive traditional karate lessons here! Of course, you can also choose to pay a monthly tuition and join the general classes, too. Asato Dojo offers lesson plans that’s just right for you, depending on what area of karate you’re interested in, and how much you want to learn. They also hold seminars and events irregularly, inviting Karateka from overseas, and learning about Aikido and other martial arts to have a broader understanding.
This type of dojo is very rare in Okinawa, as most dojos are operated by Sensei who work a different job during the weekdays and only teach karate in the evenings or weekends. So when you’re in Okinawa, check out Asato Dojo. Whether you’re into physical activity or not, you’ll learn a lot through traditional karate, and you’ll love Okinawa even more.
ASATO DOJO International Martial Arts Exchange Center
Address: #101 Arakaki Apt. 1-8-18 Asato, Naha City, Okinawa
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda