Power couple up the ante with ancient skill
Pair achieve new grading in traditional weaponry art
Port Elizabeth couple Adrian and Natalie May wish to spread their knowledge of Traditional Okinawan Weaponry after they passed their grading test in George in September.
Perfecting their skills in the art of Ryukyu Kobudo Shimbukan – in which both hold the title of sensei – the couple graduated to 2nd Dan in the discipline on September 29 and 30.
Ryukyu Kobudo is the practice of the ancient martial art of Okinawa weaponry.
Dating back to 1609, the Satsuma clan invaded the Ryukyu kingdom and subsequently banned the use of weaponry, an action which forced the Okinawan people to develop their own form of weapons, from practical utensils, as well as develop the strong, effective art of Kobudo.
Natalie said the grading was a goal the couple had been working towards for the past five years.
“It is a great achievement for us, as the study of Traditional Okinawan Weaponry is very difficult and requires hours of training and dedication,” she said.
With both having been involved in Goju Ryu karate for almost three decades, Natalie said their Ryukyu Kobudo journey had started in 2013.
Adrian said: “Natalie and I have always had the privilege of grading together for our various levels in both karate and Kobudo.
“Our daughter has also taken up the art of Ryukyu Kobudo and will hopefully carry the tradition forward.”
The name of the international organisation is Ryukyu Kobudo Shimbukan, with its head office situated in Naha, Okinawa, under the leadership of Hiroshi Akemine Sensei, 9th Dan.
The couple belong to the Western Cape Shibu under the leadership of Sensei Jannie le Grange, 5th Dan.
Speaking about their path to the 2nd Dan grading, Natalie said they had been put through their paces, having to display the various elements which make up the art.
“We had to perform all the basic kihon [movements] of the Bo [long staff] as well as having to display various technical aspects of the Sai [steel truncheon], Tungfu [batton/grinding handle] and the Bo,” she said.
“We also had to show various practical applications of these weapons [bunkai].
“We then had to perform the 2nd Dan grading katas for the Bo, the Sai and the Tungfu in front of a grading panel as well as via live video streaming to Hiroshi Akemine Sensei in Okinawa, for him to give his final approval,” she explained.
The husband-and-wife team have run the Ryukyu Kobudo Dokakai Port Elizabeth dojo for the past five years.
They have also headed up the Port Elizabeth Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate Kyokai (OGKK) for almost a decade, reaching 3rd Dan level in the discipline.
Adrian explained that Ryukyu Kobudo is not for children under the age of 12 years, as it involves the use of weapons and requires more maturity to avoid injury.
They currently have 12 students who are learning the art under their instruction.
Their OGKK dojo caters for children aged five years and up, with a total of 40 children learning the art.
“We fell in love with the discipline of martial arts and how it builds self confidence and courage,” Natalie said.
“This was a major draw card for myself, as I was someone who was always shy and lacked a great deal of self confidence.
“To watch our students grow in confidence is the most rewarding achievement,” she said.
Asked about the future, Adrian said this qualification will help them teach their students at a higher level of expertise and technical ability.
“We would like to grow the art of Ryukyu Kobudo not only in Port Elizabeth but also in the surrounding areas.
“This form of traditional weaponry is absolutely beautiful and it certainly keeps the brain active and sharp,” he said.
For more information on how to get started, prospective students can visit the dojo website at www.peogkk.co.za.