It has been quite an active and overwhelming time since February when my very good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, passed away. To be honest, it is still hard for me to believe that he is no longer with us. He was such an active and generous person. We ate lunch and dinner together at so many places that I always expect to see him.
I felt the same way about my Aikido Sensei, Sadao Yoshioka. This was especially true when I recently went to a graduation party at the Natsunoya teahouse. That was the place where Yoshioka Sensei has his kanreki (60th birthday) back in the 1980s.
With respect to Karate, I am at a loss without Nakata Sensei's guidance. Whenever I had a question about a style or teacher, I would not look for the information in books -- I would simply call or see him. He was literally a walking encyclopedia of Okinawan Karate. He would either tell me about his personal experiences with the style or teacher, or share Chosin Chibana's recollections. I was always amazed by Nakata Sensei stories. I had the good fortune to hear some of the same stories many times over the years and they never changed. His memory and attention to detail was phenomenal, even during the last two years when his health condition declined.
I also relied on Nakata Sensei whenever I wanted to know what a particular movement meant. He practiced Chibana Shorin-Ryu and I practice Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. Although our kata are not identical, they are similar enough for comparison (same but different).
I have watched a lot of people demonstrate the meaning (or "imi") of kata both live and on various DVDs and videos. Nakata Sensei's explanations were always very down to earth and brutally effective. There was no "fluff" or "puff" or guesswork. Basically, there was just a lot of pain.
Once he told me about Chibana Sensei demonstrating a certain throw to him. He had asked Chibana Sensei how the throw could be done if the attacker was not wearing a gi or strong clothes ("how would you grab?"). Chibana Sensei said "come, come" and demonstrated the answer. I then said, "What did Chibana Sensei do?" Nakata Sensei said, "come, come" with a gesturing motion of his hands. I walked up to Nakata Sensei and he grabbed me by one ear and the side of my neck. With a twist of his hands I was helpless and in a perfect position for him to throw me. Chibana Sensei had demonstrated the same thing on him.
I had practiced Karate for quite a while when this happened, but I have to admit that I was not thinking about a counter at the time -- I was just flailing around and half-screaming. Good thing that Nakata Sensei was my good friend and was only moving lightly. I would hate to see him mad.
I actually did see him a little mad -- just once. During one of our lunches with senior Sensei, I excused myself to go to the rest room so that I could pay for the bill. Nakata Sensei almost always paid the bill and I wanted to pay for this lunch. When the lunch finished and the waiter came, Nakata Sensei asked for the bill and was told that I had already paid it. Nakata Sensei informed me in an especially firm tone that I should not do that again. (I was honestly scared.)
Now I understand that the host pays the bill unless it is addressed in advance. After that, I would offer to pay the bill before we got together and things were fine. But even then, Nakata Sensei was the one who usually hosted and paid for everyone. He was extremely generous, not jsut monetarily but of his time. He would think nothing about driving half way across Oahu to pick up a Sensei so that he could attend a lunch.
Our lunches were really something -- two or three hours of nothing but Karate talk. When other seniors would come, we would talk about their styles and experiences. What an excellent overview of the arts! I almost hated to return to work!
So it has been difficult for me since February.
But... during that time I completed the donation of the third increment of rare Karate and martial arts books, magazines, and multi-media to the University of Hawaii for the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection. This increment was 10 boxes, and included some of the very oldest and rarest materials in the collection.
The third and final part of my article about Shozen Sunabe was published by Classical Fighting Arts and is now available. Sunabe Sensei (a student of Chotoku Kyan) is another person I sorely miss.
I am preparing right now for the Okinawan Festival which will be held on the Labor Day weekend at Kapiolani Park. This year I am giving two exhibits: the first on Okinawan Sumo and the second about the Pacific Mail Company's S. S. China, the steamship that brought the first Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii in January 1900. I received grants for these projects from Hui O Laulima. The exhibits will be in the Cultural Tent. I will also write an article about the S. S. China (I have a ton of great material).
I am also teaching and studying Karate as usual. The other night I told the students to always remember that they are students, and that I am the biggest student in our group because I have been studying the longest and continue to try to improve each day. I will never brag about being a good instructor or about rank and titles. If I ever brag, it will be about never giving up as a student. So when it comes to Karate, I am still working at it.
Thank you very much to several readers who have inquired about my health. I am fine, thank you.
Charles C. Goodin
Posted by Charles C. Goodin on Monday, July 15, 2013