The people where I am staying in Okinawa are lovely, they say good morning when they see me head to the dojo and when I am on the return and soaked in sweat they often have a bottle of water for me. I see them walk away sometimes laughing and sometimes they seem to be saying ‘why?’. I have asked myself that very question on many occasions.
My whole office is sport mad, our CEO is an ex-England Rugby captain, and a Lion to boot. (geddit?) They are all pretty mad and are into ultra marathons and the like so it was no surprise that I was going to easily fit in. Those who know me well know that I am in Okinawa and they have seen pictures and some have come along to training so they know what it is about. Others have this idea that I am sitting beside a pool after my training and having £100 an hour massages. Now I did have a sun holiday… once. It was in Sardinia and whilst the weather and environment was lovely, I was bored out of my head after 10 minutes. You can imagine how much fun I was for that week. More to the point, my boyfriend at the time decided it was a good idea to drive… yes drive… not hike around the island. I was distraught.
I love Okinawa, mostly because it is not like mainland Japan. The people are amazing, friendly, interesting and extremely generous. I feel so lucky to have found the karate that I needed, with such a rich heritage and honesty and to tread in the same area as so many names from history, well I don’t have to remind myself of the rarity of the experience.
It is an honour that I do not take lightly. I recognise that every minute in Higaonna Senseis dojo, which is in essence his house, is special. In my own small way, I would like to think that I am adding something to the history of the dojo. That the stories that I tell, the things we have experienced there as a dojo and with my friends from all around the world, that they will become stories that others are inspired to live for themselves.
A long time ago, a very famous and insightful Sensei, who unfortunately has passed, ..said at a gasshuku in Cork (I was about 13) that karate is like a good life, it’s all about getting as many experiences that add to your value to others as possible. That it is for each one of us to drive ourselves to find those gems in life and that we would have a better life experience the more we applied ourselves in this quest. We had had a long gasshuku that weekend, but he inspired me to go home and go out for a huge run, I felt amazing.
That is what I am doing here, training everyday, morning and night is not easy, it is very possible to slack off and to do a few minutes and head home. But I cannot do that. The Sensei who I have quoted above is Sensei Steve Cattle, he is, apart from my Senseis one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.
That is why I do this… hopefully one day, someone will think of me and say… you inspired me. What a lovely thought.