April 12, 2010

Wayne's World moment

Goju ryu karate master Morio Higaonna. I'm so not worthy.

One of my favorite parts of the original Wayne's World movie was when Wayne and Garth got back stage passes at an Alice Cooper concert. At first, they waved their passes around, showing them off to one and all. But when they actually made it backstage with Alice, they couldn't handle it and fell to the ground saying "We're not worthy!"

I kind of felt that way Friday, the last official day of the karate seminar in Naha (luckily I didn't hurl). The morning's instructor was traditional Goju master Morio Higaonna Sensei, whose status in the karate world is above rock star and somewhere just below deity.

Now in his 70s (like most of the teachers this week), Higaonna is still extremely powerful and his technique is something to behold. It's hard to take one's eyes off his hands, which have been conditioned by decades of makiwara (striking board) and other training to the point where they are truly lethal weapons.

The good news is that he is actually very gentle, humble and self-effacing. He has an amazing presence and is a truly spiritual person. He also made a few Karate Kid jokes--there really are techniques that look like wax on/wax off.

We were expecting to be drilled to exhaustion, but he took it fairly easy on us, working on body movement or tai sabaki and fighting applications from kata. At the end he spoke about karate as a peaceful discipline, quoting the old Okinawa proverb karate ni sente nashi--in karate there is no first attack.

As an example, he told of the dark post-war days when many people were driven to desperation and attempted to rob others. Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju, made it a point to always carry a little money and always gave it to anyone who demanded it without a fight. Note: he could have whacked them without really trying.

Another sensei put it like this: in other styles of martial art, people train to win. In Okinawa, we train so as not to be conquered.

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