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.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to photograph karate master Naonobu Ahagon at his dojo in Naha City. It was a great experience to meet another Okinawan icon. In October 2013 he was one of 7 karate masters to be given special recognition by the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper for his contributions to traditional Okinawan karate. Ahagon-sensei is a master of both karate and kobudo (using traditional weapons). These include the kama (sickles) and sai. I took a few extra shots of Ahagon-sensei surrounded by some of this weapons inside the dojo. Starting from the far left you can see the eku (oars) then nunchaku, a pair of tonfa, and bo staffs. A big thank you to Sensei Mark Spear of the Black Bear Traditional Martial Arts Center in Connecticut for helping set up the shoot.
Satoshi and Kenta Kinjo, sons of master Masakazu Kinjo, and already highly respected karate experts.
These are the first images in the Karate Masters Portrait Project. The idea is to document the hanshi (grand masters) of karate. I wish I had started this project several years earlier before some of the hanshi passed away. Hanshi 10th dan Yoshitaka Taira Images are shot with the 645D which means I have fantastic detail, important for an archival project. I used a portable black velvet screen to have clean background and then used a single studio light with a beauty dish for illumination. I plan to shoot all portraits with the same setup.