On December 19th, 2020, James and I visited the dojo of Zenshu Toyama, in Awase, Okinawa. Toyama Sensei is 10th-dan, Goju-ryu Karate, and one of the style’s most senior practitioners. We photographed Toyama Sensei in October 2013, but on this day we returned to interview him for Episode 12 of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate documentary series. As it had been 7 years since our previous visit, we also shot some new portraits. Our goal is that Episode 11 with Oshiro Sensei will be released in February 2020 and then Episode 12 with Toyama Sensei will be released in March or April 2020. Thank you to Toyama Sensei, his daughter Hideko Toyama, Scot Mertz and Andy Sloane for their assistance on the day of the shoot.
Last Saturday, I photographed Toshihiro Oshiro, 9th dan Shima-Ha Shorin-Ryu karate, 8th dan Yamanni Chinen Ryu kobujutsu, for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. We shot the studio style portraits at his dojo in Itoman, and then yesterday photographed him again on his local beach. We also interviewed Oshiro Sensei for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Karate series, and the episode will be available on YouTube and Bujin.tv early next year. It was a real pleasure to hang out with Oshiro Sensei and his students. I got to learn some more fascinating aspects of Okinawan culture (use a light grip on the weapon), and the stormy weather conditions worked in our favor for photographs.
Chieko Toma is a master of Ryukyu dance. On Sunday I had the chance to photograph her performing in traditional dance costumes. 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. 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. As well as a master of Ryukyu dance, Toma Sensei is a master of Goju-ryu karate, and a student under Tetsuhiro Hokama Sensei. 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 …
On May 19th 2020 six Okinawan Karate Masters were recognized by the prefecture as an Intangible Cultural Asset Holder in the Field of Okinawan Karate and Martial Arts with Weaponry. I am honored to have photographed them all for the Karate Masters Portrait Project over the past 8 years. Congratulations to Iha Sensei, Kikugawa Sensei, Maeshiro Sensei, Nakahodo Sensei, Iha Sensei and Takara Sensei! I’m also happy to announce that episode 8 in the YouTube series Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate is now online. I’m really proud of all the work that went into this episode, the team that helped create it, and the sponsors and supporters of the series. Iha Sensei speaks a mix of Japanese, Okinawan (a separate language not a dialect of Japanese), and English. It made transcriptions and translations a challenge, and there were even a few corrections after it went live, after getting some extra feedback from Nakasone Sensei. Please like, comment, and share the videos so that the YouTube algorithm introduces it to others.
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 …
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. 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.
For those of you who are not British, and in their forties or fifties, Mr. Benn is a beloved cartoon about an ordinary man who goes on extraordinary adventures when he visits a fancy dress shop. This weekend Mr. Young came to my studio, and as if by magic a photographer appeared… With each costume change Mr. Young transformed into a new character. The question is, which is the real Mr. Young? Is he the tech entrepreneur who created an encryption protocol making him a millionaire before his 18th birthday? Is he the fisherman who works on the same boat as his grandfather, while dealing with rough seas and dwindling catches? Is he the doctor who pioneered the use of augmented reality for use in both general medicine and surgery? Is he the Marine who’s traveled the world as one of “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”? Or is he the professional wrestler whose athleticism allows him to dominate when down on the mat or flying through the air? Send your answers on a postcard …
Born in 1927 Kiichi Nakamoto 10th-dan Goju-ryu Karate / 10th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu is one of the elder statesmen even among the karate masters. At a young age Nakamoto Sensei studied karate under Chojun Miyagi Sensei then later under Eiichi Miyazato Sensei. Nakamoto Sensei studied kobudo under Shosei Kina Sensei, then Shinei Kyan Sensei. He now hold the rank of 10th-dan. Hopefully in the future I will be able to interview Nakamoto Sensei and receive more information about his life in martial arts.
I’d been hoping to photograph Meitatsu Yagi for the project for several years. In March 2014 I took portraits of his younger brother Meitetsu Yagi, and his nephew Ippei Yagi, but hadn’t been able to coordinate a time with Meitatsu Yagi. Luckily at the Tookachi seminars for Iha sensei’s students I had the opportunity to photograph Yagi sensei and some of the other masters of Okinawa karate. Amazingly Meitatsu Yagi was one of the first karate masters I ever photographed. I shot him with my Pentax 67 film camera in around 2004. I was visiting Murasaki Mura and asked the man in the white uniform with a black belt if I could take his photo. At that time I didn’t know his name, or that 15 years later, I’d still be on Okinawa, and spending most of my time photographing and interviewing karate masters.
Seikichi Iha and hundreds of his Beikoku Shidokan Karatedo Association students from across the world came to Okinawa to celebrate his “Tokachi” 88th birthday celebrations. I was lucky to get to spend some time with the group as they visited Shuri Castle, an evening banquet, training at the Karate Kaikan, and an interview and training at the dojo of the late Miyahira sensei. The interview and footage from his trip will form episode seven of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Series. A huge thank you to the members of the Beikoku Shidokan Karatedo Association for inviting me into your celebrations, and also for becoming one of the main sponsors of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series.