1995 Japan, Okinawa and Hong Kong Dojo Trip Report


1995 Japan, Okinawa & Hong Kong Dojo Trip Report
by Jason Armstrong

sotokawa sensei 8th dan japan tani shukukai mabuni karate
I traveled to Hong Kong and Japan recently, primarily for karate, but also to see the sites. We managed to visit dojos in Hong Kong, Japan Mainland and Okinawa (the birthplace of karate). The first stop was Hong Kong, where my sister now lives (Tracy gained a black belt in Renbukan in 1988). While in Hong Kong we trained at a Goju-kai karate club run by Sensei Shair Wah Kwan. The standard was very impressive. Goju-kai is an Okinawan style of karate and was founded by the late Master Yamaguchi (1909-1989). Goju is one of 4 major branches of Japanese karate, the other 3 are Shito-ryu (Renbukan), Shotokan and Wado-ryu.
The first day in Japan (Nagoya city) began with a trip to sensei Greg story's house to visit with his wife, Ros sensei. It would not be until later in our trip that we would catch up with Greg Story sensei. The following day we headed south on the bullet train for Himeji city, home of Renbukan and Masters Sotokawa  (originally received 3rd Dan with Kenwa Mabuni on his test panel) and Iba.
Himeji is one of our favorite cities in Japan (we stayed 5 nights). It is best known for its famous castle, the largest in Japan. Like much of Japan the city was very cold, low 30's (the dojo floors seem even colder!).   Himeji has 5 Renbukan dojo and one of these is Honbu (headquarters).   Renbukan's   chief instructor, Sotokawa sensei, heads this dojo. Second in charge is Iba sensei. Iba sensei is the man who spread Renbukan to Australia in the 1970's. The dojo he founded in Australia is where I studied karate under Greg Story sensei (now living in Nagoya, Japan). The relationship between Japan Honbu and my original dojo remained tight even when Iba sensei returned to Japan in  1977.  Greg  Story sensei continued to run this dojo while living alternately in Japan and Australia. His periods in Japan allowed him to train under Sotokawa sensei and Iba sensei as well as conduct Ph.D. research in Japanese political history. Until this trip I had not been introduced to Iba sensei and I had not seen Sotokawa sensei for 11 years. Although the sensei were quiet on our arrival their friendliness following the first training session could not have been greater. Masters Sotokawa (right) and Iba (left) wear red and white belts signifying that they have come "full circle".
greg story
Jason Armstrong & Sensei Greg Story in Nagoya

Sotokawa sensei

The first night of training involved a work out with the juniors followed by kumite where I had the opportunity to fight every black belt at Honbu in succession, starting at the lowest Dan rank and working my up. Post training was a solid drinking session on the dojo floor. We had the pleasure of meeting the sensei from the  surrounding Renbukan dojo. It was a pleasure to meet Uetake sensei  for a second time; he had visited my dojo in Australia many years earlier. 

Following Himeji we visited some surrounding cities including Kyoto and Hiroshima. We wrapped up Japan mainland by returning to Nagoya to visit with Greg Story sensei. As always, it was most enjoyable catching up on new and old times as well as being reminded of my many deficiencies during the course of my karate development. Fortunately I have managed to see my sensei a number times since I left his dojo in Australia 5 years ago (he returned to Japan about 3 years ago). I look forward to my next visit.

The final leg of the trip included 3 days in Okinawa, the birthplace of karate. It was nice to thaw our feet out after many days of tramping through snow on mainland Japan. On this sub-tropical island we visited The Jundokan Goju-ryu dojo (run by the famous Miyazato sensei), the prominent karate style in Okinawa.