I don’t know how many messages I’ve had in the last few weeks and months about this years Gishiki! I’m still getting used to calling it that and not Budosai by the way… I think it was in Denmark that people started saying “see you in Okinawa” and it all started to become real. So yes getting very excited now I’m not gonna lie!
I don’t know why Okinawa has such a hold over me. Growing up, well, we all have our life stories, for me, leaving Dublin and moving to Cork when I was 8 or so was not a pleasant experience. I left a place where I had lots of friends around me and ended up isolated in the country with a few kids my age in the area who preferred to take the piss out of my Dublin accent!
The new school was no different really. I was probably seen as odd at best, I was into martial arts and heavy metal (I wore a lot of black) when the rest of them were doing dancing classes etc but I didn’t care.
So when I found the opportunity to get out I was gone. I’m not bitter about those years or people, I was always just different. If anything, I’d like to think it made me much stronger as a person. All that said, there is of course the guilt of not going home as often as I should. Time marches at a pace that leaves us all behind and it’s only when something happens that we realise just how much speed it has! I know I should go home to Cork more often, especially when you hear bad news from there… so I’ve made a commitment to myself to visit soon.
Even moving back to Dublin didn’t really suit me. I was never… happy. I actually remember being really annoyed with life in Dublin at one point. You were either “in” the cool clubs or you were not. If you were not you were ridiculed by those who hung out in the “it” club of the month, honestly I couldn’t have cared less. That was the moment I decided to move to London and I’ve never looked back.
Because of my nomadic nature I struggle to find satisfaction, I’m constantly trying to improve my training, or professional skills, seek out new experiences and visit new places. It’s rare for me to just ‘be’. We had a large piece of land behind our house in Cork and I have fond memories of lying in the tall grass in the heat of the summer sun.
But for some reason, Okinawa is somewhere I gravitate towards. I’ve no idea why. Either on my own or with people strange things happen to me, I relax, dare I say it… but my brain slows… in a good way. I started to incorporate a run to one Naminoe Beach in the morning before training and ideally before the sun would arise. Every morning I saw the same very old men doing their training on the beach and also bringing food for the stray cats in the area. No idea why that landed with me, but it did.
Naturally the training in Okinawa is amazing, but it’s more than that. At the last budosai we didn’t go to the after part and instead went to the market to find a late bar. We ended up in a small awamori bar and the locals started chatting to us. One of the Japanese with whom we spoke was a physical therapist to some of the most senior martial arts in Naha and when they heard that we were Karateka he asked if he could touch me! Those of you who know me will know the struggles I have with my neck and back and all I can say is that this tiny man had vice like hands and after he worked on me for a while, I thought I was going to float home 🙂 Experiences like this are my Okinawa.
So I guess being there is like a spiritual home for me. I can’t wait to see my Goju Family! We joke about it… but I really feel privileged to have so many great people to look forward to seeing again! I’ve had a countdown going now for ages… it’s just starting become manageable now…