by Rick Kaufman
It’s very difficult to describe the type of experience I had during our recent trip to Okinawa. Of course, the training, sightseeing and traveling were inexpressible, especially the training; but the depth of this particular experience was far greater than any individual portion of it. First and foremost, I want to thank my Sensei, my brother and one of my best and most trusted friends, Jerry Figgiani. Despite having been on four Okinawan trips with him, each one providing a deeper and more meaningful experience than the previous one; somehow, he finds a means of creating opportunities for each of us to discover exactly what we need to move our training forward regardless of our rank or level of practice. The opportunity to establish close relations with our Okinawan family–Takeshi Tamaki Sensei, Masahiko Tokashiki Sensei, Sadahiro Makino Sensei and Tsutomu Daiku San–in addition to receiving individual attention and guidance both in and out of the dojo, to laugh together, dine together and train together, created an amazing experience like no other and brought a dimension of closeness to the trip that words can hardly describe.
Training Bo and Kata at the Okinawa Prefectural Karatedo Kaikan was one of the highpoints of the trip and a truly amazing experience. The facility is an example of the unity between form and function, and even if the history offered by the in-house museum is less than accurate, it is still a wonderful place to train and visit. Previously I had the honor of meeting Zenpo Shimabukuru Hanshi, Judan, both at a seminar here in the United States and more informally at a lunch in Okinawa. During this trip, our group had the honor and privilege of training at the Seibukan Dojo and receiving guidance and correction directly from Shimabukuru Sensei. Words cannot describe the feeling I had standing on that deck receiving instruction. It felt like I was standing in the footsteps of giants, and I still have chills thinking about it!
A visit to the gravesite of Taba Kensei Hanshi, Judan, to pay my respects to this great Okinawan Master doesn’t begin to come close to my sincere appreciation for having had the far too few opportunities to spend time with him. Through all the training, his memory and my appreciation for time with him is kept alive.
I couldn’t write this without thanking Sadahiro Makino Sensei for his endless and tireless efforts every time we are in Okinawa. He seems to have the ability to make our karate dreams come to life in too many ways to describe.
These are the times and experiences that help define and shape the meaning of Karatedo in my life. From my dojo at home to my dojo in Okinawa, from my Sensei at home to my Senseis in Okinawa and from my karate family at home to my karate family in Okinawa, I could not be more appreciative for every minute of it. Finally, at the root of it all is Figgiani Sensei who has created a treasure in Shorin Ryu Karate do International. No political agenda, totally open approach to training and a direct connection to the birthplace of karate, Okinawa, keeping the essence of Okinawan Karatedo alive every day. I am so thankful for that day almost 25 yrs ago I walked into his dojo and changed my life forever! Thank you Sensei for all you do and for everything you give. It’s just been an incredible journey that gets better and better all the time.
To my family in Okinawa, thank you for your friendship, guidance, instruction and care. You make karate a living breathing connection to the past and wonderful journey forward. I look very forward to our next time together. Thank you, humbly and sincerely!