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Karate instills spirit and strength

Date Posted: 2005-04-19

There’s no place like Okinawa for someone to learn the ancient arts of karate.

Home to the three primary karate forms which have spread their influence around the world, this island is steeped in karate history, and record holding champions.

Uechi Ryu, Shorin Ryu and Goju Ryu are the best known, and most popular karate forms both here in Okinawa and in virtually every corner of the world. Each year many hundreds-if not thousands-of enthusiasts flock to karate’s home to study with the masters.

The three forms all stem from Chinese origins, but branch off in techniques. Breathing characteristics vary, and each has subtle but essential differences in hand and eye movements. Uechi Ryu focuses on open hand and foot movements, with emphasis on the fingers. Uechi Ryu dates back centuries, with most of the 100 best know sensei (masters of the karate art) having studied in China, or studied with sensei who did.

Kiyoshi Yogi is a sensei well versed in Uechi Ryu karate, and teaches hundreds of students each year from his dojo in Nishihara. He’s a top notch performer, as well as teacher, holding Sai World Champion, Bou World Champion, Atlanta Karatedo Kobudo World Champion and the Okinawa Traditional Karatedo Kobudo World Champion titles.

Kobudo is the armed karate art form, where weapons are employed. Standard karate relies on the hands and feet to do the work. Kobudo has several traditional weapons… the rokushakubo, a stick, the numchaku, the sai, a swordlike instrument with origins in India and China, and the nightstick. They look easy, but are difficult to master.

Hence, the seven stages of student development that begins with earning a white belt, then progressing through blue, yellow, purple, green, brown and then the ultimate black belt rating. Within the sensei ranks there is also a red belt awarded to the best of the best.

The 50-year-old Yogi, who takes students ranging from beginners to those seeking the brown and black belts, youngsters to seniors. He’s one who will also take American students. He began his own karate experiences when a high school freshman, working through the decades to master Uechi Ryu. Yogi’ s been competing for more than 25 years, and teaching for 11. In his spare time he’s an actor.

Yogi sensei has trained his children in the sport as well, with both sons, ages 18 and 22, and his 24-year-old daughter, engaging in demonstration programs together. The sons are both black belts, and swept 1st and 3rd places in the 2003 Okinawa Karatedo and Kubudo Championships.

Children are common in his dojo. Nami Higa, 10, says “I want to be strong,” while her brother Taisei, wants to “be stronger than the girls.” Takuse Uehara likes competition, and idolizes Yogi.

Karate places emphasis on competition, power, speed (both fast and slow), body form (kata) and eye contact. Yogi says anyone can achieve karate skills if they’re willing to work, and he says he’ll work with anyone willing to put forth the effort. He operates the dojo in Nishihara, and has another in Osaka.

He offers karate and kobudo classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and kickboxing on Thursday, Thursdays and Saturdays. Yogi notes the startup costs are minimal, \15,000 for a uniform which includes embroidery, a \5,000 dojo registration fee, and \5,000 a month for classes. Each class runs nearly two hours, and students are welcome to practice in the dojo as often as they want. Students studying both karate and kickboxing pay only \8,000 a month.

For information and a tour of the dojo, contact Kiyoshi Yogi direct in Japanese at 090-8290-8790, or Ms. Aiko Shimajiri for English discussions 090-8291-4161.

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