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/
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 🙂
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.
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. 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. Video of the festivities on Karate Day and on Kokusai Street on the following Sunday coming soon….
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.
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.
Things have been so hectic the last month I forgot to post about the release of Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate #5 with Kiyomasa Maeda. A fascinating interview which shows the real love and respect these masters have for their own teachers, and the humility with which they approach their art.
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 …