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Hiroshi Takamiyagi, Hanshi 10th dan Goshukan Ryu Karatedo

Today I received the sad news that Takamiyagi sensei has passed away. We spent a lovely day with him in December 2015 taking portraits in his dojo and next to the ocean in Sunabe, Okinawa.

A few months later, Takamiyagi met James and I at the Dojo Bar to give us copies of a book he’d made with the images as a thank you gift. He was a lovely gentleman and so encouraging about the project we were undertaking.

Our thoughts go out to Takamiyagi’s family and friends and to his students such as Garry Parker who will continue the legacy of Goshukan Ryu Karatedo.

Highlights of 2019

In 2019, photography and video has been completely dominated by Okinawan martial arts.

The crowd-funded YouTube video series is proving to be popular, and we’ve released the first six of twelve interviews with Okinawan masters, and three bonus episodes with international masters.

On occassions I’ve been able to photograph some of Okinawa’s less combative side, with smiles and flowers.

The real highlight of the year has been watching this little one grow. Now nearly 2, she’s has adopted all the traits of our chocolate labrador (a bundle of crazed energy who loves to play in the dirt, scavenge for snacks, and then curl up in front of the TV).

A huge thank you to all those who’ve helped this year. Thank you to the students who’ve taken my workshops, clients who’ve hired me for projects, the international karate community for supporting and sponsoring the video series, and to my family both in Okinawa and around the world during this challenging year.

Looking forward to 2020, should be an exciting year.

All the best from Okinawa,

Chris

Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate – International Episode – Neil Stolsmark

A huge thank you to all the sponsors and supporters of the video series. 

Main Sponsors: 

Fusei Kise, Isao Kise and the OSMKKF-USA 

Jerry Figgiani – Shorin Ryu Karate Do International 

Beikoku Shidokan Karatedo Association

Grant Campbell – USA Karate Federation

Series Sponsors:

Cezar Borkowski – Northern Karate Schools

Marguerite “Peggy” Hess – Jensen Beach Uechi Ryu Karate Do Dojo

Reece Cummings – Cummings Karate Dojo

Michael Quinn – Okinawa Shogen-Ryu Karate-Do Europe

Martin Pinto – Essex Goju Ryu Karate

Mark Spear – Black Bear Dojo

Series Supporters:

Tim Herlihy

Robin Ross

Joshua Simmers 

Jeff Perkins

Paul Punshon  

John J. Strangeway

Gerry Campbell

Shelley Cormier

K V Manoharan 

Phil Butler      

Danny Smith   

Justin Rathert

Adam Carter 

Mike Powers

Miguel Da Luz 

Robert Roberto Curtis

Josh Ryer

Belgi Serin

Igor Vakos

Lisken Dus

Andrew Pearce

Christopher Ford

Cos Vona

Steve Ouslis

Sandro Simonetta

Axel Heinrich

Jiří Matouš

Jose Planas

Click this link to learn more and help:

https://travel67.com/the-karate-masters-portrait-project/sensei-documentary/

We are getting closer to completion of Episodes 7 and 8 with Iha sensei and Sakumoto sensei. 

We’ll be shooting Episode 9 on January 2nd, and a special project on January 3rd, then we’ve got several exciting option for episodes 10, 11 and 12. 

Why are the episodes with the Okinawan masters taking longer to release?

Short answer: subtitles. Long answer: all the video footage first needs to be transcribed which if they are talking standard Japanese is slow if they mix in the Okinawa language is even slower. The Japanese / Okinawan can then be translated. This is a laborious processes, but is further complicated by using terminology in both Japanese and Okinawan specific to martial arts. Once the initial translation is completed each sentence or fraction of a sentence needs to be inserted as a subtitle that can be read by the viewer, and still get across the meaning of what is being said. This is where the next challenge lies, over simplify or get the meaning wrong, and we are attributing incorrect statements to the karate master. If they were talking about their favorite food, it wouldn’t be an issue, but if they are giving the heartfelt thoughts on reasons for karate, or life itself, we need to do our best to get it right. Which means the subtitles are checked, edited, checked and reedited. The popularity of the series, and the fact that the subtitles are being read by thousands of that sensei’s students, is even more pressure. The first video with Arakaki sensei was only 8 minutes long. This was the original plan, and deemed feasible. Recent interviews with Chinen sensei, Iha sensei, and Sakumoto sensei have been between 30 minutes and an hour in length vastly increasing the amount of work.

Cezar Borkowski – Okinawa Karate & Ryukyu Kobudo

A new episode in the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series is now online! Cezar Borkowski  sensei talks about Okinawan karate, Ryukyu kobudo, and his life studying the martial arts.

Cezar Borkowski photographed November 12th 2019, Naha City, Okinawa, Japan. Chris Willson Photography

Cezar Borkowski has been influential in promoting Okinawan martial arts in North America, acting as a vital bridge between the island’s sensei and Canadian dojos.  

Cezar Borkowski photographed November 12th 2019, Naha City, Okinawa, Japan. Chris Willson Photography
Cezar Borkowski photographed November 12th 2019, Naha City, Okinawa, Japan. Chris Willson Photography

A huge thank you to all the sponsors and supporters of the video series.

Main Sponsors: 

Fusei Kise, Isao Kise and the OSMKKF-USA 

Jerry Figgiani – Shorin Ryu Karate Do International 

Beikoku Shidokan Karatedo Association

Grant Campbell – USA Karate Federation

Series Sponsors:

Cezar Borkowski – Northern Karate Schools

Marguerite “Peggy” Hess – Jensen Beach Uechi Ryu Karate Do Dojo

Reece Cummings – Cummings Karate Dojo

Michael Quinn – Okinawa Shogen-Ryu Karate-Do Europe

Martin Pinto – Essex Goju Ryu Karate

Mark Spear – Black Bear Dojo

Series Supporters:

Tim Herlihy

Robin Ross

Joshua Simmers 

Jeff Perkins

Paul Punshon  

John J. Strangeway

Gerry Campbell

Shelley Cormier

K V Manoharan 

Phil Butler      

Danny Smith   

Justin Rathert

Adam Carter 

Mike Powers

Miguel Da Luz 

Robert Roberto Curtis

Josh Ryer

Belgi Serin

Igor Vakos

Lisken Dus

Andrew Pearce

Christopher Ford

Cos Vona

Steve Ouslis

Sandro Simonetta

Axel Heinrich

Jiří Matouš

Click this link to learn more and help:

https://travel67.com/the-karate-masters-portrait-project/sensei-documentary/

Another International Episode is coming in the next few days, and we are getting closer to completion of Episodes 7 and 8 with Iha sensei and Sakumoto sensei.

We’ll be shooting Episode 9 on January 2nd, and a special project on January 3rd, then we’ve got several exciting option for episodes 10, 11 and 12.

Why are the episodes with the Okinawan masters taking longer to release?

Short answer: subtitles. Long answer: all the video footage first needs to be transcribed which if they are talking standard Japanese is slow if they mix in the Okinawa language is even slower. The Japanese / Okinawan can then be translated. This is a laborious processes, but is further complicated by using terminology in both Japanese and Okinawan specific to martial arts. Once the initial translation is completed each sentence or fraction of a sentence needs to be inserted as a subtitle that can be read by the viewer, and still get across the meaning of what is being said. This is where the next challenge lies, over simplify or get the meaning wrong, and we are attributing incorrect statements to the karate master. If they were talking about their favorite food, it wouldn’t be an issue, but if they are giving the heartfelt thoughts on reasons for karate, or life itself, we need to do our best to get it right. Which means the subtitles are checked, edited, checked and reedited. The popularity of the series, and the fact that the subtitles are being read by thousands of that sensei’s students, is even more pressure. The first video with Arakaki sensei was only 8 minutes long. This was the original plan, and deemed feasible. Recent interviews with Chinen sensei, Iha sensei, and Sakumoto sensei have been between 30 minutes and an hour in length vastly increasing the amount of work.

Naonobu Ahagon receives Okinawa Prefecture Cultural Merit Award

Naonobu Ahagon, Hanshi 10th Dan, Okinawa Karate & Kobudo Shorinryu at his dojo in Naha City, Okinawa.
Naonobu Ahagon, Hanshi 10th Dan, Okinawa Karate & Kobudo Shorinryu at his dojo in Naha City, Okinawa.
Naonobu Ahagon, Hanshi 10th Dan, Okinawa Karate & Kobudo Shorinryu at his dojo in Naha City, Okinawa.
Naonobu Ahagon, Hanshi 10th Dan, Okinawa Karate & Kobudo Shorinryu at his dojo in Naha City, Okinawa.

Today, Naonobu Ahagon, Hanshi 10th Dan, Okinawa Karate & Kobudo Shorinryu, received the Okinawa Prefecture Cultural Merit Award.

I photographed him on April 25th 2014 for the Karate Masters Portrait Project at his dojo in Naha City.

Kadena Gift Corner Print Sale

On Saturday 30th November I will be holding a special print sale at the Kadena Gift Corner. I’ll be selling a wide range of photographs from Okinawa and mainland Japan, all printed on archival cotton rag paper with archival pigment inks. Prints range in size from A4 (8″x11″) to A2 (16″x23″) and in price from $60 to $240.

I’ll be at the Kadena Gift Corner from 10AM to 3PM only on the 30th November 2019, but a smaller selection of prints are available to purchase from the Kadena Gift Shop when I am not there.

Stop by for a chat, and maybe grab something for your wall!

2020 Workshops

Last weekend was the final photography workshop of 2019. It’s a real pleasure to share my passion with others and a delight that Jasmine gets to join us on our adventures.

There are going to be a limited number of workshops in 2020 due to competing work on the Karate Masters Portrait Project, the karate video series, the 2020 Olympics, and a trip to the UK.  There will be two Fundamentals Workshops at the start of the year, and another couple yet to be scheduled in the fall.

Come join the fun in 2020. Click on the links below to the Facebook event pages.

January 11th & 12th Photography Fundamentals with Chris Willson

February 8th & 9th Photography Fundamentals with Chris Willson

Sensei Kenyu Chinen at the Yomitan Dojo

Last Monday I had the opportunity to take some pics of Chinen Sensei in his organization’s Yomitan Dojo which is located inside Murasaki Mura. A beautiful location to get a few new portraits of an Okinawan master.

Kenyu Chinen 9th-dan World Oshukai Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Do Kobudo Federation Photographed at the Yomitan Dojo 4th November 2019
Kenyu Chinen 9th-dan World Oshukai Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Do Kobudo Federation with his student Kohei Oshiro. Photographed at the Yomitan Dojo 4th November 2019

Images shot with the Pentax 645Z and the 55mm lens. A Profoto B1 strobe with a OCF softbox was used for off camera flash to balance the interior of the dojo with the outdoors.

Video shot with the Sony FS5, Atomos Shogun and Rokinon cine lenses.

Shuri Castle Destroyed by Fire

 At approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursday 31st October 2019 a fire started inside Okinawa’s Shuri Castle which destroyed the main hall and several adjoining buildings.

Now, one week later, the Governor of Okinawa and the Prime Minister of Japan have both promised that it shall be rebuilt. The challenges of doing so, and the timeline are not yet clear, but I look forward to it rising once again from the ashes of destruction.

Below are a few pics of Shuri Castle taken over the last 19 years. Most were taken at the New Year Festival or the Shuri Castle Festival which they were preparing for when the fire broke out.

The highlight of October’s Shuri Castle Festival is a lavish recreation of the 1800 Sappou Coronation, which formalized the Chinese Emperor’s recognition of the Ryukyu King. This was particularly important for the islanders as it gave them both protection and the right to trade with China.
Stone Dragon Head Pillar at Shuri Castle, Okinawa, japan
Shuri Castle, Okinawa, Japan
On each of the first three days of the year, a New Year Ceremony is held in the courtyard followed by performances of Ryukyu Dance. The most popular of these classical dances is Yotsudake where the women dress in bright bingata costumes of yellow and red, and don the hanagasa head-dress.
Traditional Okinawan kimonos in the courtyard
A local woman and man are chosen to play the parts of the Ryukyu King and Queen at the ceremony.
Shuri Castle New Year Ceremony
Stone Shisa at Shuri Castle Okinawa
Shuri Castle, Okinawa, japan
October 25th, Karate Day 2013 at Shuri Castle. 
Meitetsu Yagi, Zenpo Shimabukuro, Koei Teruya, Minoru Higa
Seikichi Iha Sensei’s students assemble in August 2019
Shuri Castle August 2019
New Year Festival

100 Kata for Karate Day 2019

October 25th is Karate Day in Okinawa. There was a ceremony at the Karate Kaikan in the morning where 6 masters performed a kata, and in the evening there was the 100 Kata for Karate Day event organized by James Pankiewicz of the Asato Dojo and the Dojo Bar.

100 Kata for Karate Day 2019

This year the event took place in Matsuyama Park, one of the key spots for Okinawa karate. The kids started at 5pm and were joined by the adults at 6pm. Great job everyone. Here are some pics of the awesome kids going for their century.

100 Kata for Karate Day 2019
100 Kata for Karate Day 2019
100 Kata for Karate Day 2019

Video of the festivities on Karate Day and on Kokusai Street on the following Sunday coming soon….