The 1st annual USA Goju-Ryu Seiwa Kai Instructors' Seminar was held at the USA Hombu Dojo in Santa Monica, CA, May 18 - 20, 2012.
Vassie Naidoo, Shihan (Santa Monica, CA) was the Head Instructor. Desmond Tuck, Shihan (Palo Alto, CA) and James Pounds, Shihan (Austin, TX) were the assistant instructors. Twenty-nine instructors and assistant instructors from the US and Mexico attended. Since the USA Seiwa Kai has recently added new dojos in CA, OH, MI, and NY, it was an opportune time to get everyone together in order to promote quality of instruction.
In addition, the new Board of Directors for the USA Goju-Ryu Seiwa Kai was appointed. The Board consists of Vassie Naidoo, President; Desmond Tuck, Vice-President; James Pounds, Secretary; Brian Burdick, Treasurer; and Board Members Johnpaul Williams, Joe Palminteri, Mark Cramer, Dan Taylor, and Kevin Moske. All Board members are Head Instructors.
Lessons from the History of Goju Ryu
Lesson #1: A cardboard box could be your dojo. Chojun Miyagi was the founder of Goju-Ryu karate. He trained in his garden, althoughhe called it a dojo. Seko Higa, one of Miyagi's first students and one of the three studentscertified to open a dojo, made his living room and hallway his dojo. The cardboard boxstatement may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but needless to say, if a garden and aliving room were good enough places to train for the earliest teachers of Goju-Ryu, then oneneeds only sufficient floor space and a willing mind to train.
Lesson #2: You must accept you will travel no faster than a snail A student of both Miyagi and Higa recalls it took one to two years to learn each kata,and students were not permitted to move forward (within a kata) until given approval byMiyagi. Generally, kumite was not taught until after ten years of training. While our currenttraining does not adhere to such strict standards and timing, the principle of patience shouldstill hold. Moving to a higher kata prior to mastering the foundations will only result inpoor technique and lack of mastery. I am grateful that I did not have to spend one to two years just learning gekisai dai ichi, but I am aware that in moving forward sooner, I mustconstantly return to the foundations and work out each move and sequence until everythingis fully mastered.
Lesson #3 Three steps forward and three steps back isn't quite enough Sanchin as we study it is the same Sanchin as Miyagi taught until after the warwhen his health declined. It is said that he then taught from a chair, and so students were notpermitted to turn their back on him since it was a sign of disrespect. At this point, Sanchinwas modi ed to take three steps forward and then three steps back rather than incorporatethe two 180 degree turns. The modi ed Sanchin is missing the key principle of making aturn, which is a key priniciple of Sanchin as pointed out by Miyagi in an article. In essence, modified Sanchin serves little purpose for advanced training without the turn since many ofthe other katas contain similar turning techniques (Sanseiryu comes to mind as an example).We are fortunate to belong to a dojo that practices Sanchin as it was meant to be practicedso that we receive the full benefits of the kata.
Lesson #4 Names don't matter until someone asks you for them A senior student of Miyagi was giving a demonstration in Japan and was asked the nameof his style. He was unable to respond since Miyagi had not given it a formal name. Thestudent then returned to Miyagi in Okinawa to ask him, and Miyagi decided to call it Goju-Ryu.Unlike the senior student, we have to know the names and meanings of our style and techniques.Within our dojo, perhaps names are unimportant so long as the techniques are correct andfully understood. However, outside our dojo, it is our responsibility to know and understandnames so that we can explain them to others in order to promote Goju-Ryu karate.
Lesson #5 Not everybody wants to know the secret Miyagi understood the importance of making people aware of the benefits of studyingGoju-Ryu. He knew retaining the original kata and their bunkai was important for keepingthe art intact (since so many Goju-Ryu kata contain secret bunkai unrecognizable to theuntrained eye). He created Gekisai dai ichi and Gekisai dai ni in order to help make theart more accessible to the public. One might argue that Tensho also served this purposesince according to Miyagi the focus is on posture, breath, skeletal alignment, and muscular development (in other words, physical and spiritual development) rather than the practiceof clearly defined self-defense. While Tensho clearly has applications, it was named a kihonkata, which generally place focus on developing breathing and internal energy. Hiding theapplications of Tensho may have served to help the general public view Goju-Ryu in lessviolent light and more of a "health benefits" light, but to the practitioner of Goju-Ryu, bothaspects are apparent.
References:  Hopkins, G. \Politics and Karate: Historical Influences on the Practice of Goju-Ryu."Journal of Asian Martial Arts. 16(2007).
 Porta, J. and McCabe, J. \The Karate of Chojun Miyagi." Journal of Asian MartialArts. 3(1994).
As part of our tradition of physical and mental training in karate-do, we require our students, beginning at brown belt (3rd Kyu) level, to submit a paper on a martial arts topic from their reading. These papers are not meant to be academic papers as much as they are conversational in nature about something personal the student has learned, or further investigated, from what they read.
These papers are shared with the dojo so that we all might learn from them.