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American Karate Women in Okinawa for Intensive Training

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 1999-12-17

Five women from North Carolina traveled to Okinawa to learn more about karate, but ended up learning lessons about life. Since 1974, every 2 years, 10th Dan Grand Master Eizo Shimabukuro has invited several students from abroad to visit him for two weeks of intensive training in karate. In the U.S., the 5 students train under the guidance of Carol Ryner, also a student of Shimabukuro.

Shimabukuro has instructed 6 generations of students, and many have gone on to be instructors and have their own Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo branch schools in Washington, California, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and New York. Shimabukuro, who has been instructing since 1953 after serving in the Japanese Navy, has over 30,000 students of his style of karate and jijutsu. Among the group of students recently visiting Okinawa, Mary Margaret Graham, Cathy Surles, and Betsy Barton are already black belts. Lauren Birke and Cathy Rodgers are brown and green belts respectively. They all have full-time careers in diverse fields such as: food services , law, health education, physical therapy, and engineering. While each has a different reason for learning karate, all share the love of the sport.

This is the first trip toJapan for the women and all are completely amazed by Shimabukuro’s mastery of the martial art. "He is so fast and strong, yet very humble about his talent," one of the students said about Shimabukuro-Sensei.

With over 200 movements in jujutsu and 400 in karate, one would think the students do not have enough time to cover all ground. But they said that the most important lessons are told over a meal. In the words of Ms. Graham, " We try and ask as many questions about Okinawa, the history and traditions of karate, and the culture."

"Karate is not just a sport but is a way of life," Shimabukuro prides to tell everyone. "Karate is about discipline, how to be a good person, respect and tradition." Shimabukuro also believes that the discipline, strength, and concentration learned through karate should be used throughout oness life.

For anyone interested in taking karate and jujutsu, contact the Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo Headquarters in Ginoza at (098)968-5520, or the Okinawa city branch at (098)939-7232.

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