Report on Embukai 2006

In June, 2006, I traveled to Kasukabe and Tsukuba City, in Japan, to join the Ryusei Embukai, attend a clinic by Sakamoto-Sensei and train with Okashita-Sensei afterwards. I was accompanied by two of my senior students, Warren Tresidder and David Waterman.

On June 24, we were invited to witness a demonstration of technique by Sakamoto-Sensei, which was held as a special occasion the day before the Ryusei Embukai at Kasukabe Budokan. Only a few patrons of the dojo and senior students were invited to attend, and I count myself most fortunate to have been invited to witness this remarkable demonstration.

Before the 2006 Embukai at the Kasukabe Budokan in Japan, Sakamoto-Sensei gave a special demonstration of his technique, displaying his mastery of of todi Gung Fu.

Sakamoto-Sensei dressed in traditional Okinawan martial arts attire for part of the demonstratio, and changed to his karate dogi for his concluding kata. The demonstration of todi lasted for approximately one hour, with Sakamoto-Sensei performing these kata:

Kai no Te

I took this order from the program, and have only identified the names as translated. It was difficult to mark the transition from one kata to the next, as Sakamoto-Sensei appeared to flow immediately into the next form, while at others he retired to change or get a bo.

I was awed as I witnessed the complexity of his footwork, hand motions and breathing. I have seen DVD of a previous and similar demonstration in Canada, and I felt that Sakamoto-Sensei has developed his technique still further, explored new elements of kata and was more intense overall.

If the point of the Embukai it was to offer a testimonial to Sakamoto-Sensei’s development and understanding of todi, then I believe it was highly successful. I have indeed moved towards that format in dan gradings in Australia as a result of witnessing this demonstration. Apart from the performance of the required curriculum, dan grades here are given scope to express in bunkai, Henshuho or their own design, their understandings of Chitokai and its principles at this point in their karate journey.

Australians demonstrated their kobudo technique at the Embukai, including bo versus sai kumite.

With extraordinarily complex hand and foot technique, and breathing, Sakamoto-Sensei demonstrated his Gung Fu, but again as one who has not previously witnessed the kata, I wasn’t sure whether Gung Fu was one kata or a summation of his overall understanding of todi.

Once again I felt privileged to be able to have a training association with Sakamoto-Sensei. His depth of research and rigorous pursuit of O-Sensei’s technique has led to a marked and increasing gulf between what is presented as Chito-Ryu today and the direction that Sakamoto-Sensei is taking.

I also participated in the actual Ryusei Embukai. It was enlightening to be a part of this demonstration. Watching the kata and demonstrations of the senior Ryusei members, I could see more clearly the emphases that Sakamoto-Sensei places on particular aspects of what I had understood to be Chito-Ryu. His senior students had very strong, deeply rooted stances and a very good understanding of breathing technique. Demonstrations of ki development; Henshuho done in pairs, similar to pushing hands; drunken kata; powerful eku and bo demonstrations; and a beautiful demonstration of the animal qualities in conflict drawn from Bassai and Rohai, indicated that his and Okashita’s students have a clear direction in pursuit of todi.

Following the embukai and clinic by Sakamoto-Sensei, we journeyed to Tsukuba by way of Nikko (an immensely enjoyable detour) and trained for one week with Okashita-Sensei. His technique is excellent and he is a patient teacher. Sakamoto-Sensei’s direction is difficult to follow due to the gulf between his level and my own, but through Okashita-Sensei I believe that I have a glimmer of the direction I need to take. One can only train hard daily, enjoy the journey and see where it takes us.

— Brian Hayes, 6th Dan Renshi, Australian Chitokai Karate Association