In 1980 - 82, I was stationed in Okinawa Japan, with the 3rd Recon Battalion Deep Reconnaissance Platoon, at Ona point, (Now known as 5th Force Recon). I was also assigned to the ANGLICO naval gunfire scout observer 2nd Battalion 12th Marines, at Camp Foster, of which you see a picture above. That's your's truly bottom right corner.
This was an opportunity that martial artists mostly only dream of, as I was just about to turn 20 yrs. Old, and as a 4th Dan from Maestro Urban, and mokuroku from my father, was able to travel, study, train in, and experience, all that Okinawa, not to mention mainland Japan, Korea, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, had to offer as far as martial arts and their cognates go.
Seikichi Odo Sensei, of Okinawa Kenpo, was an electrician on Camp Foster, and gave classes on base as well as at his dojo, next to Camp Courtney = "The Brig". I met him at Kadena Air force Base at Fuse Kise's tournament at the USO. Funny, we where next to each other at the urinals, when he leaned over and asked who my teacher was. Anyway, needless to say, I had some interesting experiences with him.
Also on base at Foster, were Kise Sensei of ShoRin Ryu, and Ueizu Angi of IsShin Ryu, who was a Japanese Police Liaison Gate Guard at Foster. Quality time indeed.
Up the hill was Futenma, where Ueichi Sensei's Ueichi Ryu Hombu is, and I was accepted and treated like one of the boys. I also trained in Ueichi and KoBuDo with Yonemeini Sensei not all that far away = had to take the bus. Also in Futenma was Seikichi Arakaki, not the Arakaki, that this story is about, but a fine master of ShoRin Ryu and great guy. He, his son, and dojo deshi, were very receptive of me, and I had a blast.
Ikemiyagi Sensei of MeiBuKan GoJu Ryu was a bike ride away, and through him, I was able to make the GoJu connection, and also train with his teacher, Meitoku Yagi, in Naha.
Also just a bike ride away, was Zenpo Shimabukuro Sensei of Shorinji Ryu. I would have long conversations with him, me to learn more about KaraTe, and he to practice his English. I think I made out on the deal!!!
When I went to the rifle range and Nuclear Biological Chemical Warfare School at Camp Foster, I was able to train across the street in Kin Village with Eizo Shimabuku Sensei of ShoRin Ryu.
Naha was a hub of martial arts action.
Of course, anyone in their right mind goes to Shureido which is THE store for KaraTe supplies, and info.
In another story, I will speak of my meeting with The Miyagi Bust, while conducting official business with the Naha Police Department. (Now that's a story!)
Matayoshi Sensei of KoBuDo, was near by and I took full advantage of that.
Also having met with on numerous occasions, Miyazato, Shinjo, Toguchi, Shimabuku Kichiro, Nakamura, Ueihara, Sensei's to sweat and experience, I made a point to at least meet almost everybody else, that taught or used to teach, on the island.
Yes, I went to mainland Japan, and visited the KoDoKan,. JKA Hombu, AiKiKai Hombu, and trained at the dojos of my teacher's teachers = Yamaguchi Gogen, and Mas Oyama, Sensei's, not to mention KuKiWan in Korea, and of course various HapKiDo and YuSool DoJangs. KunTao headquarters in Olongapo Phillipines, as well as Arnis Kali and Escrima, especially while doing work in Mindanao.
Taiwan which was called Formosa when my Mom and Dad where there, was an opportunity to learn some internal technique, and actually meet and sweat with some people who not only practiced SobuDo, but knew my Dad from Hokkaido.
Hokkaido was interesting, as I traced my fathers JuJitsu lineage, learned about our history, and was able to demonstrate for Tenamura Sensei, so as for him to see my father's work.
Hong Kong was great. A potpourri of hard and soft, as well as a good place to get into a match with overzealous full contact fighters.
In Thailand, I left a piece of myself at a bar that instead of a go go dancing stage had a Muay Thai = (Thai boxing), ring. My buddies talked me into participating in "bet fights". I did well the fist few times, but they threw in a Bankok Ringer one time, and that was the beginning of my meniscus destruction in my knee, later to be further aggravated by 184 jumps and NYC punk rock slam dancing at CBGB's. Oh! We = my home boys from NY and NJ, found the equivalent of CBGB's in Okinawa, replete with the infamous bartender Daijiro, who was a man before his time, and a happy smoke connoisseur to say the least. We also established the slam dancing kata at various rock clubs in Okinawa City, by influencing DJs to play our Sex Pistols and Clash albums, and not call the JPs when we would instigate what would later be referred to as the MOSH PIT.
With all of this, you would think there could be no more to brag about.
But the most interesting of experiences, happened on Okinawa, while I was riding my 15 speed Nishiki racing bike around the area, up and down the winding roads of hill and dale, in search of dojo, and or good looking Okinawan females. Both of which, were everywhere.
I had already met and trained with numerous Sensei's in the area, and scoped out some severe hotties around also, so my marathon bike sojourns being so fruitful, made me relentless in continuing my quest, at every given opportunity.
Being familiar with the Kanji for KaraTe DoJo and also for various Ryu, I had good luck finding dojo that would otherwise be invisible to those "GaiJin", who had no Kanji Savvy. Heck, I found Ikemiyagi Sensei, by hearing the unmistakable sound of a heavy bag being hit by a heavier mawashi geri = Ikemiyagi's kick. (That's no lie).
I found Sikichi Arakaki Sensi, (no relation to the Arakaki that I am about to speak of), by following a guy with REALLY big knuckles dressed in a track suit, to his dojo. I think the guy, who turned out to be one of his san dans, and my sparring partner, thought that we were going to jump him. Good thing I announced us as KaraTeKa, when we turned the corner into the alley that was the entrance to the dojo, (he was waiting for us to catch up with him in, as we turned the corner).
But that's not it.
The most interesting experience of my 3 year stay, was my meeting of Hanso Arakaki Sensei of Naha Te Kempo and KoBuDo.
Now, one must realize that before the term KaraTe came into vogue, the martial arts where either referred to as Te = hand, or as Kempo which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Kanji for Chuan Fa = Fist Law.
The district that the art was spawned from was also used as a moniquor.
There was Naha Te, Shuri Te and Tomari Te.
Ok, back to the story.
I was riding my 15 speed Nishiki racing bike up Snake Hill, as I did frequently, in search of the affore spoken of, when as what had become usual, an old man sitting in front of a house that I passed all the time, spit and cursed in what sounded like Hogan = old Okinawan dialect, at me, as he did each time I had passed before.
This time, I felt that I needed to rectify, what I knew was a misunderstanding between this old man who I had never met, and myself.
Realizing that there was little doubt that he saw my obvious US Marine haircut, and at his age, had bad memories of my particular fraternal organization from WW2, I figured that it was time to change his mind about a few things.
I noticed that whenever I passed, he was drinking Orion beer.
I went to the nearest store, and bought a case of Orion.
I returned to the house were the old man sat, and entered his front yard.
As the old man looked up at me with disgust, I put the case of Orion in front of him, and bowed deeply.
I said "I am very sorry for what happened during WW2. I realize that you probably lost family and friends, but even though I am a Marine, please understand that I was not even born in those days".
To the reader: Don't get me wrong. I am not even trying to insinuate that the Japanese didn't start it, but remember that many Okinawans who had nothing to do with anything, got the shit end of the stick because of what the Japanese military was up to.
After bowing, I turned away, satisfied that AI had done my bit to make peace with the man who spit and cursed at me every time I rode by.
I was surprised by the perfect English response of "Hey! You hate CocoJin don't you? "
Understanding CocoJin as meaning Black folk, I responded that I was from New York City, and that some of my best friends were CocoJin.
The old man said, "Americans have prejudice, so you should know how I think of you!"
I said "ok, I understand, and I am sorry." I bowed again, and turned away again.
The old man said, "Why do you come here all the time? Are you looking for Okinawan girl?"
I said, "Of course, but I am also looking for KaraTe Dojo."
The 0ld man said, "Are you KaraTeKa?"
I said "Yes, but I need to learn more."
The old man said, "Ok! Come back at 7:30 and I will introduce you to KaraTe Sensei, I will show you KaraTe dojo."
I returned to the old man's house, and walked up to him at his stoop.
The old man said, "Where's my beer?????"
Feeling as if I was being "played", I figured that I had nothing to lose, and went up to the store and purchased another case of Orion.
When I returned to the old man's house, he motioned me inside and through his home, into the back yard, and into a barn like building behind his house.
The old man told me to wait, and that KaraTe Sensei would come soon.
I looked around to see that I was standing in what was the picture that one would have in their head of a dojo circa, back when men were men.
15 minutes later the old man entered the dojo, in a black gi with red obi
I remember thinking to myself, "It's the Okinawan URBAN!!!!!!"
This began my relationship with Dai Sensei Hanso Arakaki, the head of Arakaki Naha Te, and Arakaki KoBuDo. He sequestered me for all I knew, both physically and technically = brain knowledge. For the next 3 years, I would train with him, building on what I already knew. He recognized my knowledge instead of the usual tunnel vision of most Okinawan teachers who only recognize their own material. Considering that Naha Te is where GoJu came from, it only made sense.
A particular memory that I would like to share, is when Arakaki Sensei asked that I punch his stomach with gyaku zuki as hard as I could.
At first I hesitated and delivered a semi hard blow.
Arakaki said "Hard! You hit hard! Or is that hard to you?"
I hit him with everything I had, and at the end of my kime, he had succeeded in catching my fist in his stomach, much like a catcher at a baseball game catching a ball with his glove.
I could not retract my fist!
After Arakaki got done laughing, he released my hand and said, "Are you ready to begin?"
NahaTe used only Renshi, Kyoshi and Hanshi grading. Other than that, you were either a white belt = beginner, or an adept = yudansha = black belt.
Knowing that I was YoDan = 4th Dan when I met him, Arakaki Sensei gave me Renshi 3 years later when I left Okinawa, and told me that the equivalent in Dan grade was GoDan.
When I returned to the US, and reported to maestro Urban that I had received this ranking, Maestro Urban recognized it, and was quite proud. I remained GoDan renshi for the next 11 years.