CONTRIBUTED BY CYNTHIA WALKER
After years of studying karate, it finally occurred to me that I should share my experience with others. I was teaching English at a local community center and I heard these loud shouts, “Osu! Osu!” I asked my Okinawan friend what was going on next door, and she told me it was just some karate group practicing. My eyes lit up and I immediately grabbed my son and headed over. My son was a very active 4-year-old and could put all that energy to good use. I, in turn, could use some stress relief! I was always interested in martial arts but didn’t know where to begin and just didn’t get the opportunity.
As I peeked in, a small Okinawan man dressed in a Gi with his frayed and worn black belt welcomed us in. Although we were in street clothes, we were told to join in. Everyone was so eager to teach us and help us learn. My son was and is able to speak Japanese so he fit right in. The group used a lot of hand signs and facial expressions to communicate with me, which worked rather well.
Well, that was 12 years ago, and my son and I are still studying karate. I love the group of people that make up our dojo. My husband even joined a few years ago.
We are led by Kiyan-Sensei. He has more than 30 years of experience. Although he is bilingual, he does the majority of the class in Japanese. Our class is made up of a mix of Okinawans and Americans; all of us coming from different backgrounds. Focus is aimed towards self-defense, kata, and kumite.
We have one or two tournaments a year, promotion tests are held twice a year and we often get together with the other dojos to practice as a unified group. It is a great experience for anyone. It is important to find a dojo that fits for you and/or your family. Test out a few and see if it is what you are looking for. Learn about the Sensei’s background, his/her experience and what their main goal is.
We practice twice a week; Mondays near Futenma and Fridays just outside of Kadena Gate 3.
Website: Okinawa Kenpo Kenyukai Karate
Cost: 5,000 yen per month for Adults/3,000 yen per month for kids
Class Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Monday & Friday