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.
Toyama Zenshu was born in Awase in 1936, he used to swim in the bay as a kid, and now at age 77, his dojo looks out over the same bay. He is still very strong and demonstrated with James how easily he could throw someone to the floor and dominate an encounter. His favorite kata (set forms) are sepia, suparenpei and saifa. When asked about his favorite kotowaza (idiom / words of wisdom) he said Mikan se no kasei which refers to the imperfection of vision or the inability to see what is right in front of you, like your eyelashes. Fearsome and powerful, but also a lovely friendly grandfather. Toyama-san gave James advice on how to dislocate a man’s jaw. He gave me a can of coffee and a hug.