A group of local martial arts enthusiasts from a Ballymena-based clu have recently returned from a trip of a lifetime to Japan.
Chujo Karate Association members Karen Agnew, Liza Scullion, Laura Burns, Connor Doherty, Keith Millar, Dan Redmond, Steven Surgeoner and Jordan Millar embarked on the trip.
They were joined by father and son Michael and David McConville from KUNI, bringing the tour party to 10.
Tour leader Dan Redmond had made two previous visits to the Island home of karate and he was looking forward to meeting Okinawan Karate Master Hanshi Tetsuhiro Hokama from the Okinawan village area of Nishihara.
After a difficult flight, amid the backdrop of Typhoon Chan Hom, which included two aborted attempts to touchdown and the flight having to return to Tokyo, the group finally made it to Okinawa.
Next morning Hanshi Hokama arrived at the Hotel and that day was spent touring the sites of Okinawa, mainly the monuments and shrines dedicated to legendry karate Masters, who had formed styles that are now practised at World level.
Other gravesites and monuments we visited were dedicated to famous karate masters Matsumara, Itosu, Matsomora and Higashionna. They also visited the famous Shurijo Castle.
The group went to the Budokan which is the Okinawan Martial Arts Main Hall. Arrangements were then made for our group to be training at Hokama Dojo and each evening that week was spent training in this traditional Dojo. The style of karate practised was Gojo Ryu and the group were able to experience the effective principles of this old Okinawan karate.
Each morning the group met in a local park near their hotel at 7am to practice kata. Sessions, which normally took place amid showers durig Okinawa’s rainy season, were taken by Dan Redmond 7th Dan, Steven Surgeoner 4th Dan and Michael Mc Conville 3rd Dan.
The group left Okinawa to spend the final week in Tokyo City but before departure Dan Redmond presented an engraved plaque to Hanshi Hokama to mark the visit there and to thank him for his courtesy and training.
The final week of sightseeing in Tokyo saw the group take in the Meiji Shrine, the Imperial Palace and Gardens, the graves of the 47 Ronin, the Tokyo Budokan Martial Arts Training Centre and Museum. The trip was such a success that plans are underway for another visit to the land of the Rising Sun in the future.