Karate, Karate Masters Portrait Project, Okinawa, pentax 645Z, Photography, profoto
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Chieko Toma – Goju-ryu Karate & Ryukyu Dance

Chieko Toma is a master of Ryukyu dance. On Sunday I had the chance to photograph her performing in traditional dance costumes.

Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance

The next black and white costume comes from Haebaru Town and I believe is worn for performance of the folk dances, rather than the court dances.

Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance

The next outfit is the karate gi with a hakama-style piece over the lower half. This was worn to perform the go shin no mai dances of self defense.

Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance

As well as a master of Ryukyu dance, Toma Sensei is a master of Goju-ryu karate, and a student under Tetsuhiro Hokama Sensei.

Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Photographing portraits of Toma Sensei at the Hokama dojo and karate museum. (Photo by Hirokazu Narumi)

If you look at the behind the scenes shot, and you’ve been following the Karate Masters Portrait Project since 2012, you’ll notice the change in the number of lights used to create the portrait.

In all the above shots of Toma Sensei I used two lights. James is holding one Profoto B1 strobe with a white softlight reflector (AKA a beauty dish) while Toma Sensei’s granddaughter is holding a second Profoto B1 strobe with a 1×4′ strip softbox which provides a rim light. In all the shots for the Karate Masters Portrait Project I only use the single strobe James is holding. In the Ryukyu dance portraits, the extra light provides separation from the black background, which is particularly useful if the person has dark hair.

Before the very first shoot with Taira Sensei and Arakaki Sensei in 2012, I had decided to use just a black background and a single strobe to keep things simple and easily repeatable. Since then, all portraits for the project have been shot this way. This meant that although I had two lights available, for the final few karate shots with Toma sensei I turned off the second light and shot them solely with the beauty dish.

Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance
Chieko Toma 4th dan Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Kenshikai, Tamagsuku Udui Kanaharu – Master of Ryukyu Dance

A huge thank you to Hokama Sensei for the introduction, to Toma Sensei and Seki Sensei for letting me take their portraits (Seki Sensei’s photos in the next blog post!) to Rumiko Sunagawa for kimono fitting, and Toma’s granddaughter Harune for assisting with the lighting, and Hirokazu Narumi for the BTS shots (and the translations of Hokama Sensei’s upcoming interview).

Another great experience for James Pankiewicz and me. Even after 20 years living in Okinawa, there are so many aspects of its culture to discover.

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