It often surprises me how few people know of Uechi-ryu… In fact, even most people within martial arts circles don’t seem to know it and those who do, seem to know very little. But i consider my style to be a titan nonetheless… One of the original three Naha-Te styles from Okinawa and the one that has guided me through the challenges of life for over three decades. It wasn’t an easy choice to recently choose to start on a new journey with a new style, but Shotokan has treated me well; a fact that was reflected last weekend during a two-day seminar featuring several senior, high-ranking instructors.
The weekend started on Saturday morning. It was a gloomy, cloudy day that threatened to weep its load onto the world. I was a bit nervous, having never attended a “seminar” before. I had no idea what to expect. Would I be tested on what I knew? (which wasn’t much, at this point) Would I be asked to demonstrate my own style to see how I stacked up? (which wouldn’t have been a big deal) The mystery of the unknown caused a certain level of anxiety that I wasn’t enjoying. But I looked forward to it and packed my bag with some fast-acting glucose, water and my karate gi and made my way down the road to where the dojo was located.
I walked in and was greeted by one of the usual instructors I see on a nightly basis and another, whom I didn’t recognize. I was introduced and found out that he was an instructor from Saskatoon. I started to get dressed and realized I had forgotten an integral part of my uniform: the belt. Already, the day had not started on the right foot. I told the instructor I would be back shortly and dashed out the door. I got back just in time to get dressed for class and get lined up. A number of senior instructors had appeared but there was no chance for me to be introduced.
The morning went by in a blur, despite being two-hours long. Starting at 10:30, we went through a series of drills, techniques and concepts that tickled my brain and made me completely forget about the passage of time. By the time the noon hour hit and we broke for lunch, I was exhausted, sore and drenched in sweat. A little voice in the back of my head told me I should stay home in the afternoon and succumb to that fatigue. The next session was set to start at 2:30 in the afternoon. i had some time to contemplate my mortality and how difficult it had been to train all-out for two hours for the first time in years.
Although class was an absolute blast, I spoke to my wife about the prospect of staying home for the afternoon. In her infinite wisdom (she’s often far wiser than I) she explained that I had committed my Saturday to the seminar and that if I was seriously interested in learning Shotokan that i should at the very least finish out the day. I nodded my agreement and had a light lunch, followed by a forty-minute “old man nap” to refresh myself. I made my way back for the afternoon session.
The afternoon was an absolute blast. We did some pairs training and even some 3-on-1 techniques. My previous style never focused much on facing off multiple opponents so this was entirely new for me. Despite the initial vestiges of fatigue I felt, I was suddenly re-energized and hammered through the afternoon with an enthusiasm I haven’t felt since my 20’s. I got home with a grin splitting my face from ear-to-ear and my wife only had to take one look at my face to understand and asked, “You’re going back for tomorrow’s session, aren’t you?” I didn’t need to answer. She already knew.
The following morning’s session started at 9:30 and everyone was pleased and surprised to see me. Knowing my current limits, I had explained that I would only be attending one day’s worth of the seminar. It was nice to be received so well and we started off the morning with a bang, following up on the techniques and training that we had started the previous day. The morning’s session ended with doing one-on-one ju kumite, which is basically free fighting. At one point while sparring with another black belt, I zigged when i should have zagged and took a round punch to the back ribs. The wind fell out of me and I finished the match. But I felt an explosion of pain behind my ribs.
When the session closed up at 11:30 for lunch, I explained to the instructors that I was happy I had made the morning’s session but that I would not be back in the afternoon. By the time I got home, the left side of my back had almost completely seized up. The only saving grace is that I’ve suffered fractured ribs in the past and this didn’t feel like that. I was thinking I had managed to bruise the muscle tissue over the rib cage, which was why I could still breathe clearly but it was quite tender to the touch. A hot bath and a heating blanket later and it started ot feel better by the time I went to bed.
It’s feeling almost completely normal now, after a couple of days for recovery. But it taught me a couple of very important lessons. Or maybe reminders, since it’s stuff I should have already known. I need to guard better; I’m not in my 20’s anymore and I can’t depend on having greater speed than my opponents. And accidents will happen, sure. But when they happen in the dojo, injuries are likely to occur. After all, as I’ve often said, this is karate. You want to take up a hobby where you don’t get injured, go join a knitting circle! ☯️