All posts tagged: martial arts

Success and Sponsorship

Now that the first three episodes of Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate have been published to YouTube I can happily say that the feedback I’m getting has been really positive, and its popularity on YouTube is growing with each video! The first video had 5000 views in its first month, the second video had 62,000 views in its first month, and the third video has had 86,000 views in its first two weeks! I’m in the final stages of the edit of the fourth video with Sensei Takeshi Tamaki, and hope it will be released on May 22nd. This endeavour is possible because of sponsorship and support by the international karate community. If you see the value of undertaking this project, please consider become a main series sponsor, series sponsor, or supporter. More details here. Sponsors and supporters are listed in all subsequent episodes of the series. If you’d like to help, and get in touch before May 21st, I can add you to the credits for Episode 4 before the final file creation and …

Kenichi Yamashiro 9th dan Matayoshi Kobudo

On Friday evening we travelled down to the very south of the main island of Okinawa to the dojo of Kenichi Yamashiro. He is the 83rd sensei to be photographed for the project, and it was fascinating to meet him. Kobudo is the weapons system of Okinawan martial arts and is often studied alongside karate. Arguably kobudo is an intrinsic part of traditional karate, or perhaps traditional karate is an intrinsic part of kobudo. Yamashiro sensei trains with a wide range of weapons, including some which I’d never seen before such as the spinning bo staff. Hopefully in the future we’ll be back again to interview him for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate documentary series. All images captured using the Pentax 645Z and 90mm lens. Lighting using the Profoto B1 and softlight reflector. A big thank you to Gary Hughes for assisting with lighting, Yuki Willson and James East for interpreting, and Mike Clayton for help setting up the shoot. A huge thank you to Kenichi Yamashiro for inviting us into his dojo and …

Sensei – Masters of Okinawan Karate #1 Arakaki Toshimitsu

This video is the first in a possible series of interviews with Okinawan karate masters. The sensei discuss their lives and share advice on training. The first master is Toshimitsu Arakaki, Hanshi 10th-dan, Matsubayashi-ryu Karate (Shorin-ryu). 新垣 敏光 範士十段 松林流空手 (小林流)He is the teacher of my good friend James Pankiewicz who arranged for the interview to take place. (James runs the famous Dojo Bar in Naha City, and the Asato Dojo across the street. Check them out when in Okinawa!) This pilot video is an opportunity to see if there is much interest in making this a series of videos rather than just a one off. Potentially interviews could take place with several karate masters and include more footage of them training or their everyday lives. Will all the videos be on YouTube? Yes! The idea is for the videos to be available for free on YouTube to anyone who wants to watch. Hopefully individuals, dojos, or karate organizations would be willing to help sponsor the project to make it viable, but this would only …

Yoshitsune Senaga 10th dan Uechi Ryu Karate Do Kenseikai

On November 30th, I had the honor to photograph and shoot some video of Yoshitsune Senaga, 10th dan Uechi ryu karate at his dojo in Tomigusku, Okinawa. He is the 82nd sensei to be photographed for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. 81 year old Senaga sensei also studies kobudo, and was willing to show us his techniques with the sai.   Interestingly he showed how the pair of sai that he used would ring like tuning forks when hit.  He explained that this was because these sai were made from metal that was once used in a temple bell in Nara. After taking portraits for the project, I recorded a quick interview with Senaga sensei, then finally we got some selfies of the group, and little Jasmine once again stole the show.  The video, the second in the series we are working on, will be translated and hopefully appear online in the coming weeks.  This is an exciting new addition to the project, and we are currently thinking about how we can take this video …

100 Kata for Karate Day 2017

October 25th is Karate Day in Okinawa! Yesterday was the 100 kata event at the new Karate Kaikan in Okinawa. I was busy shooting some video so I passed the Pentax K-1 camera over to Yuki so she could take the photos. All the participants did really well undertaking the challenge, a huge thanks to James Pankiewicz for organizing, and great job Yuki with the pics!

Karate Masters Archive Project

The Karate Masters Portrait Project began on March 11, 2012 with a photo session of Yoshitaka Taira sensei and Toshimitsu Arakaki sensei. Five and a half years later, James and I are starting a parallel project to interview these masters and try to create an archive of their teachings. Once again we began with Toshimitsu Arakaki sensei, and look forward to learning a great deal over the coming years. Video offers a whole new set of challenges both technical and financial. As with the Karate Masters Portrait Project we’re striving for quality, as hopefully the content we produce will be of interest both now and in the future. The basic look of the interview is similar to the portraits with a simple black background. For portraits we used a single strobe with a beauty dish, for video we’re using a CAME-TV C700D Daylight LED Edge Light as the keylight on the face and a CAME-TV Boltzen as a rim light on the subject’s right. Here’s a test shot with me looking sleepy. The lights are …

Guinness World Record Breaking Kata

On October 23rd 2016 the Okinawan karate community attempted to break the record for the most people performing a kata. The record had been set in India in 2013 with 809 people. The Okinawan attempt on the record was a resounding success with 3793 confirmed participants. There was also a one of the biggest congregations of karate masters. I have photographed most of them for the Karate Masters Portrait Project so it was great to be able to say hello to so many of them. 2017 will have the opening of the Okinawa Karate Kaikan (training center), and with karate a demonstration sport at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, I expect that a mass kata performance may even become an annual event. If so, hopefully next year will be even bigger!  

100 Kata for Karate Day 2016

100 Kata for Karate Day is an endurance event created by James Pankiewicz of the Dojo Bar in Naha. Participants complete 100 kata (set forms) over a period of around 2 hours. This year the event took place at Churasun Beach, and was opened by the Mayor of Tomigusku. Arakaki Toshimitsu , 10th dan master of Matsubayashiryu karate (and James’ sensei)  gave a welcome speech and watched over the event. Participants performed 80 kata on the grass before moving down to the sand. Although it’s October, Okinawa is still hot and humid. A cool breeze provided a little relief, but it was still a real test of grit and determination. Congratulations to all who took part.

Isao Yagi 9th dan Motobu-ryu Ryukyu Bujutsu Moudi

Motobu udundi is the ancient martial art of the Ryukyu palace guards. Its techniques were kept secret, and reserved for those who would risk their lives for the royal family. On September 15th 2016 we visited the beautiful dojo of Seihan Shiroma  in Sashiki Town.  Sadly, Shiroma-sensei passed away in 2012 at the age of  71. We were never able to photograph Seihan Shiroma, so it was touching to meet his widow and be introduced to his top student Isao Yagi. Yagi-sensei now imparts the knowledge taught to him by his master to students at the Shiroma dojo. It was an honor to be able to photograph him as part of the Karate Masters Portrait Project. Motobu udundi blends te (the precursor of karate) kobudo (weapons) and Ryukyu dance.  In other dojos I had seen nunchaku, bo, sai and other weapons, but this was the first time to see a master demonstrating the use of various swords. I’d read that the movements in Okinawan dance could be used to hide fighting techniques, and Yagi-sensei deftly demonstrated. He …

Shintoku Takara 10th dan Okinawa Uechi-ryu

On Monday evening I photographed Shintoku Takara, 10th dan Okinawa Uechi-ryu Karatedo Kyokai. At 86 years old Takara sensei is one of the elder statesmen of Okinawa karate. We met at the family dojo in Kitanakagusku, but on finding out we live in Motobu he was excited to tell us how their family was from Bise Village just a couple of kilometers from our home. One interesting bit of trivia about Takara sensei is that he was one of the Uechi-ryu masters who taught F1 champion Nigel Mansell in Okinawa . Mansell received his shodan certificate in 1994 (1st dan black belt). We photographed Takara sensei along with his son Kazuya Shintoku, and his grandson Uechi Takenori. This is the first time for us to photograph three generations of karateka together.