Over the weekend I had a chance to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in Fairmount Park outside of Philadelphia, PA. More specifically, I attended “Sakura Sunday”, which was a celebration of various aspects of Japanese culture.
Despite the fact that the cherry blossom trees had bloomed and passed, the event was still full of lively activity and large throngs of Japan enthusiasts.
For those who may not be familiar with it, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a large event that occurs during the brief period when cherry blossom trees are in bloom with lovely white and pink flowers. But, as is the case with many things in Japan, the festival holds a deeper significance than simple flower appreciation. Many samurai clans used the cherry blossom as a symbol of their way of life: beautiful and vibrant, but extremely short lived and able to be snuffed out in a moment.
Of course, on Sakura Sunday, that bittersweet sentiment gives way to Japanese hard rockers and cosplay.
The diversity of events was excellent. The first thing we attended was a sushi making-and-tasting demonstration. The sushi itself was quite good, but it was the other little odds and ends that came with it that made the experience unique. There was a dessert roll called Daifuku that was made of an unusual gelatin that contained bean paste on the inside. The noodles also had a very interesting texture, quite unlike what you get at a normal Chinese restaurant.
I was also pleased to find out that various martial arts demonstrations had been going on throughout the day. Featured were groups that studied Aikido, Iaido, and Shotokan Karate.
For those who might not be familiar, all three arts are based out of Japan. Despite the fact that karate is Okinawan born, Shotokan is the popular style based off of the teachings of Funakoshi Gichin, who was instrumental in bringing karate from Okinawa to Japan.
There were also a few events that I decided not to actively engage in. The “cutest dog in pink” competition, for example. It’s never been a secret that Japanese people are into some weird stuff, and I simply can’t go along with all of it.
Some other highlights from the day included getting to view a Chado tea ceremony. Leading the demo was a very well-composed and artful Japanese woman, with a knowledgeable man narrating for her (allowing her to stay focused).
Also housed in Fairmount Park is an authentic Japanese dwelling known as “Shofuso” built by Junzo Yoshimura in 1953. The house was designed to illustrate some of the most unique and intriguing aspects of classical Japanese design.
It was a fun time. Unfortunately, I was acutely aware of just how brief a sense we were receiving of each Japanese pursuit.
I wondered, could we possibly appreciate the skill and serenity of the Chadoka in that crowded environment, investing only a few minutes of our time and attention with her?
Part of me knew the passing glimpses of each activity was not enough to understand them even on a superficial level, but I tried to forget that and simply enjoy the festival for what it was: a nice gesture of appreciation for a culture that has given us much.
And, as one Japanese rocker put it: “we glad you like Japanese culture. My English pretty good too right?”
I think that sums it up.
Read More / Comment
The kama is a very intriguing weapon. It behaves differently than both bludgeoning and slicing weapons, but contains a little essence of both.
In today’s video I provide a tactic for using the kama properly. Historically speaking the kama were used in pairs, and as such benefited from the ability to cross and uncross in order to cover zones and close distance.
Check it out as I explore a little bit of the weapon’s history, a breakdown of how crossing/uncrossing works, and finish with a little bit a good natured randori to put the weapons into action.
It’s important never to underestimate the role of distance and timing in a combative engagement. When using weapons, even the slightest slip up can result in serious injury. When using a short range weapon, you have to place mobility at the top of your priorities, and utilize techniques that have built in fail-safes. Crossing and uncrossing is very valuable in that regard.
Read More / Comment
I’m very pleased to announce the release of this new ebook entitled “Shigeru Nakamura: A Study of the Man Responsible for Okinawa Kenpo”. This work is a culmination of research and exploration into the roots of both modern karatedo and the life of one of its great progenitors.
Although the terms “Okinawa” and”Kenpo” are both sprinkled throughout many styles, the term “Okinawa Kenpo Karate” is specific to the efforts of one individual – Shigeru Nakamura. Interestingly, Nakamura never chose to name his martial art anything specific like Goju Ryu or Shotokan. Instead, he intentionally left it very broad in the hopes of gathering all the styles of karate together under one banner.
This ebook explores the climate of changed that engulfed Okinawa during the early-mid 1900s and how World War II Japan effected the develop of the Ryukyus in significant ways. It also discusses Nakamura’s life and how he found himself simultaneously entwined with Japan’s assimilation projects and some of the most stalwart protectors of Okinawa’s unique culture.
Even if you aren’t an Okinawa Kenpo practitioner, I believe you’ll find the environment in which Nakamura grew up to be very interesting and telling of how karate has developed into what it is today.
Finding history for this kind of project was a difficult task. Okinawa is renowned for its penchant toward word-of-mouth transmission, so very few significant resources were available for Nakamura Sensei.
In order to create a streamlined story, I tapped Heilman Hanshi (Student of Seikichi Odo) heavily and took the cues he gave more to pursue other avenues more deeply.
The result (hopefully) is a story that has both personal aspects and elements of context.
If you have any information or pictures that you think might enhance this ebook and shed even more light on Nakamura Sensei, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am perpetually open to improving this work.
Read More / Comment