Information provided by: Mr. Miguel Da Luz – www.okinawakaratenews.com
Photographs provided by: Mr. Okihiro Medoruma – Higaonna Dojo
Article by: David Lambert
Being extremely successful in multiple fields is a feat achieved by few. However for martial artists hoping to make it big on the world stage a few have been able to use their talents to forge careers in Hollywood, both in front and behind the camera. Bruce Lee exploded onto movie screens in the 1970’s and he introduced us to Chuck Norris. Jackie Chan continued on in the same tradition the decade after, before American born Aikido practitioner Steven Seagal became a house hold name in the late 1980’s.
Seagal’s obvious talent as a martial artist made him attractive to Hollywood as the next big action hero. Seagal went on to star in some of the early 1990’s greatest action hits. His performances, including his portrayal as navy seal Chief Kasey Ryback in the Under Siege films, saw him develop a cult following that still exists to this day.
Steven Seagal is one of those few people who have managed to have a successful career in many avenues, however his martial arts career is just as impressive as his film achievements. He currently holds black belt rankings in Karate, Judo and Kendo, along with being awarded a 7th Dan and Shihan status in the art of Aikido. It is also widely believed that Shihan Seagal was the first foreigner to ever operate an Aikido Dojo in Japan. An impressive martial artist to say the least, Steven Seagal continues his research into the martial arts to this day and this lead him the birthplace of Karate – Okinawa.
Shihan Seagal had organised a private trip to the Okinawa in April of 2017. His goal? To visit Okinawa, experience it’s unique culture and to visit a traditional Karate master in their Dojo.
On April 7th, Mr. Miguel Da Luz, editior of Okinawan Karate News (www.okinawakaratenews.com) and a well know friend of hundreds of martial artists in Okinawa, was brought in to assist Shihan Seagal in his endeavour. Mr. Da Luz was able to meet with Shihan Seagal during an arranged visit to the famous Kenshikai Dojo of Master Tetsuhiro Hokoma, a 10th Dan in Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do.
Shihan Seagal, his wife, two assistants and Mr. Da Luz were treated to a demonstration of Karate and Kobudo by Master Hokoma. They were very impressed with what they witnessed and following the visit Shihan Seagal asked Mr. Da Luz if it would be possible to visit any other high level local masters. With Mr. Seagal and his team flying out the following day, Mr. Da Luz had to work quite quickly to arrange more visits.
Later that same day, after a quick stop at the Shureido martial arts shop, Mr. Da Luz took Shihan Seagal and his wife to the famous Kyudokan Dojo of Master Minoru Higa. Master Higa’s Shorin-ryu Karate is world renowned and members of the Kyudokan performed Kihon techniques and also individual Kata demonstrations for their guests.
The last meeting of Shihan Seagal’s visit was a journey into the back streets of the Makishi district and to the home and dojo of the legendary IOGKF founder & Saiko Shihan, Master Morio Higaonna. Mr. Da Luz once again arranged all the introductions and Shihan Seagal entered the world famous Higaonna Dojo. Master Higaonna was present, along with IOGKF senior instructors Sensei Kazuo Terauchi, Sensei Yonekazu Uehara, Sensei Masukazu Kuramoto and other members of the Higaonna Dojo.
Kuramoto Sensei and Mr. Seagal had previously met two years prior while Kuramoto Sensei was teaching a Gasshuku in Mongolia. Mr. Seagal remembered Kuramoto Sensei well and he felt very comfortable in the surrounds of the Higaonna Dojo.
Due to Shihan Seagal’s very busy schedule he only had a short time to spend at the Dojo, so Master Higaonna agreed to organise a demonstration of Goju-ryu for him to see.
All those present for training at Higaonna Dojo that evening were lead in Sanchin Kata by Kuramoto Sensei. Following this, all the members at the Dojo performed Gekisai Dai Ichi and Shisochin Kata’s.
A demonstration and explanation of Goju-ryu Hojo Undo training was then given. Master Higaonna demonstrated Chishi exercises directly for Shihan Seagal, who was very humble as willing to listen and learn to as much as was offered. To finish, Higaonna Sensei used Uehara Sensei to demonstrate Kakie and its techniques.
Although time restrictions meant the visit had to be cut short, Shihan Seagal was more than willing to take photos with Dojo members and expressed his appreciation Master Higaonna and Mr. Da Luz for organising his visit to Higaonna Dojo.
Many Higaonna Dojo members commented that they were impressed with the humility and respect shown by Shihan Seagal towards Master Higaonna. They said Mr. Seagal was deeply engaged, asked numerous questions and also spoke very good Japanese. To hear that a person who is so very successful in multiple careers is still so very humble, is still willing to learn and epitomizes the goal of a true martial artists was very refreshing to all those present. It also seemed that Mr. Seagal’s visit with Master Higaonna and also Master Hokoma and Master Higa were as equally refreshing for him and his personal martial arts training also.