This week I drove up to Nago to photograph a master of Okinawan Kobudo, Yoshiaki Gakiya. Kobudo is the weapons system of Okinawan martial arts. As well as being experts in unarmed combat, kobudo masters learned how to use farming tools as weapons. In Matayoshi Kobudo, students study a wider range of weapons than most kobudo practitioners.Along with the familiar bo staff, sai, nunchaku and tonfa, they also use tools such as the kuwa (hoe) and surujin.
Gakiya-sensei recently suffered from a major stroke so he can no longer practice kobudo, but it was an honor to see him put on his dogi jacket for a portrait. Gakiya’s top student, Neil Stolsmark, joined the shoot with his teacher. It was touching to see the level of mutual respect between these two men. Neil is immensely proud of his teacher, and Gakiya-sensei broke into a smile as he watched his friend and student stand before the camera.