First full day in Okinawa. That said, it seems like I have been here for ages already, to be fair, yesterday we landed about 4 and it’s been all go since then. By the time I made it to the dojo last night I could have doubled for a cast member from the walking dead… I of course refer to the zombies and not Rick Grimes and his lot!
But a good snooze later and it was time to go again. I won’t say the jet lag has been survived but fair to say I felt pretty good and it was lovely to be back in in Okinawa surrounded by friends from all over! So once the alarm went I decided to go for a wee run to Naminoue to see the sun come up but also to see the rope that was in place for the great tug of war later. I had more or less lost track of the days and didn’t realise that it was in fact Sunday morning so as I went up Kokusai dori the few people I met were clearly on the way home and I can only imagine what they thought of this red faced Irish woman running towards them in their inebriated state!
‘Cause yes, it’s certainly a lot hotter here than in the UK, once we started training we were shedding water at a rate that no amount of towel dabbing could cope with. Some have even resorted to a two t-shirt regime to find some brief relief. I’m reminded that it is still October and not the lofty heights of summer so albeit it warm, it’s not at least not August!
Once the morning acknowledgements were completed everyone started to get on with their training and that sense of familiarity and yet constant awe at how special it is to train in the dojo started to really land with me. That never ceases to amaze me.
The plan for the day was to train and then go en group to the Tug of War, which meant a fast turn around and back out the door to follow the noises that reached my apartment from the centre of town. It’s a huge thing over here and the festival was in full swing from early morning with parades that emanated drumming, chanting and bells. Flags were carried from all over and came together at the meeting of the ropes in a huge display.
I had never seen the ropes as they were put together, there is a ‘male’ and ‘female’ side and getting them lined up and the huge wooden pin in place is no easy feat.
This year I decided to get as close to this part as I could and the initial bringing of the ropes together and ‘mating’ was incredible. For this part hundreds were involved using guide ropes and poles to feed one through the other. In the ‘mosh pit’ of pulling even for this part, shoes were lost, arms and legs were mashed together in a common task and yet everyone smiled!
It took almost an hour to get set up and then we waited for the bells to signal the start. Now the straw ropes that came of the big rope were fed to the crowd and our Rope Sensei started to get the wave of pulling going. There were people from everywhere in the crowd, two spritely Octogenarians beside me had travelled from Malaysia to see the Island told me they had timed their journey specifically for this event!
They had even brought gloves with them! The winner is the one who moves the centre point by 5 feet and it seemed that our Rope Senseis process was working judging by where I had started and the progress made. Still the ‘mosh pit’ continued, it really was that, there was no where to fall down there were so many people! It was mental! I loved every second of it! It felt that I was a very small part of history, a really small part as I think they said 200k people were there!?
Once we had celebrated the win and gathered our piece of the rope, which is said to bring good luck, (clearly some people had really bad years as they headed home with many feed of rope tied around their torsos…) we started to realise that we had only 40 minutes or so to make it back, shower (the TOW is a huge work out) and get to the dojo for evening training!
Class was a lovely mix of different Senseis with a mix of grades and locals and travellers! I won’t lie, I think the jet lag was starting take hold so a physical and mental battle began well underway during the class! A red faced Ciara left the dojo, tired but so so happy. I had menial things to do for the evening, like shopping etc. before falling into bed and finding sleep so quickly!! ( This is very unusual for me as I generally struggle to sleep )
Final thought, bugger, forgot to get washing powder! Doh!