Yesterday, October 12th 2020, Tetsunosuke Yasuda passed away. A karate master and a true gentleman. I photographed him in 2014 when he was a sprightly 88 years old and he showed off his incline sit-ups while holding a weight above his head. Our paths crossed several times, as for a decade I rented a house through his Yasuda Jutaku housing company. Each time we met he was such as kind, generous man full of praise and encouragement for our project to document Okinawan karate. When I decided to create a book of the first 58 karate masters I’d photographed, I placed Yasuda Sensei at the center on the front cover . A lovely lovely man, and the international karate community will miss him dearly.
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.
Tsuguo Sakumoto, 7 times consecutive world champion, and coach to 9 world champions including Arata Kinjo, Takuya Uemura and Ryo Kiyuna. He is 9th-dan in Ryuei-ryu karate. Ryo Kiyuna is one of Japan’s best chances to win a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 (2021) Olympics so Sakumoto Sensei is more than ever a very busy man. Luckily he liked the portraits of him I shot in 2014 so we managed to get to interview him last September for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate Series. You can learn more about the series, and even how to support is here: https://travel67.com/the-karate-masters-portrait-project/sensei-documentary/
Before shooting studio portraits of Ishiki Sensei and his son for the Karate Masters Portrait Project we visited Itokazu Castle ruins to get some location shots. Ishiki Sensei studied kobudo with Shinpo Matayoshi alongside students including Gakiya Sensei and Yamashiro Sensei. Studying exclusively with Matayoshi Sensei meant they delved deeper into the different weapons, so along with the more common bo (staff) and sai, they learned weapons such as nunchaku, sansetsukon (3 piece nunchaku) and the mini sansetsukon (which Masakazu Kinjo Sensei once described as the Saturday night special). Always fascinating to have the opportunity to shoot with the karate masters outside the dojo, and I think I came away with some interesting new shots. Images taken with the Pentax 645Z, 35mm, 55mm, 90mm lenses. Profoto B1 strobe with Softlight reflector.
In the latest video in the series I’m making about karate, 83-year-old, 10th-dan Shorin-Ryu, Doug Perry talks about his life in the Marine Corps and martial arts, and his love of Okinawa. Also includes a conversation with his son Colonel Jason Perry. Thank you to all the sponsors and supporters you’ll see listed at the end of the video I couldn’t do it without you! Please get in touch if you’re able to help with this project! https://travel67.com/the-karate-masters-portrait-project/sensei-documentary/ Currently going through the final checks for two more videos. Will release Seikichi Iha Sensei’s interview hopefully in around a week from now, and then Tsuguo Sakumoto’s interview a week later.
Uechi-ryu is one of the main styles of Okinawan karate. Literally translated it means Uechi style, its name coming from its founder Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948). At 19, Kanbun Uechi went to Fuzhou City in China to study martial arts. He studied a style known as Pangai-noon and after 13 years returned to Okinawa. Many years later he began teaching Pangai-noon karate in Japan, and in 1940 the style was renamed as Uechi-ryu karate jutsu. Kanbun Uechi’s son Kanei Uechi (1911-1991) was the second generation of the style. His grandson Kanmei Uechi (1941-2015) was the third generation. And today his great-grandsons Kanji Uechi and Sadanao Uechi continue the Uechi-ryu legacy. Motobu is the hometown of Uechi-ryu’s founder Kanbun Uechi. A couple of years ago a statue of the Kanbun Uechi was built in the Yaedake Sakura no Mori, Cherry Blossom Park, in Motobu Town. Motobu is also where we now live, so Kanbun Uechi often overlooks us as we picnic in the park 🙂
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.
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, …
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 …