IOGKF 2010 Miyagi Chojun Festival

By: Sensei Gene Villa – IOGKF USA Chief Instructor

Spokane was host to the 2010 IOGKF Miyagi Chojun Festival an event that was headed by Higaonna Morio Sensei. This event featured a number a special events included a large scale Gasshuku, Master’s demonstration and friendship tournament...


Hosting the Miyagi Chojun Festival is like going into battle, but less fun. At least in battle I would get to kill someone. I’m joking, I’m joking. But it is a lot of hard work. It takes months of planning and a staff of helpers that you can totally rely on. As the event gets closer, you go over your battle plan looking for any areas of weakness as you gather your forces and resources. Then, on the day of the event, you attack. Of course there will be casualties, but if your plan is sound, you will rise up victorious.

I am glad to say that victory was won.

Higaonna Sensei arrived on the afternoon of Sunday, May 30th. I would like to say that the sky was sunny and that upon the arrival of Sensei, the heavens open up and choirs of angels sang. Well, the heavens definitely opened up, but with a downpour of cats and dogs instead of choirs of angels. The one thing you can’t plan for is the weather and the forecast for the week called for rain. Of course, after an entire day of travel and being harassed at customs, Sensei didn’t really care about the weather, he just needed a little rest. That I did plan for and the Mirabeau Park Hotel, the site of our week of events, put Sensei in the executive suite - It was larger than my first apartment.


Monday morning, Sensei was refreshed and raring to hit something. Fortunately, I got him to the dojo in time before he started seeing me as a walking Makiwara. Once at the dojo, he wanted to just stretch and do some light exercise and, of course, Sanchin. I was relieved that he finally noticed the Makiwara in my dojo and stopped looking at me with that evil little gleam in his eye that he gets. You know the one I’m talking about. Anyway, after training for about an hour and a half, we went to lunch and I took Sensei back to the hotel.

While Sensei rested, I picked up Nakamura Sensei at the airport and got him and I checked into the hotel. The Mirabeau Park was to be my home for the next week too. I thought it would be more convenient, and probably easier to get to bed earlier at night than having to drive back home every day. I would soon learn the error of my thinking.

Anyway, Sensei had agreed to teach a special short class for juniors and adults at my dojo that evening. Additionally, Jim Lewis, one of the long time parents at my dojo, had arranged for a local TV station to interview Sensei. The interviewer

did a wonderful job talking to Sensei and then filmed him teaching the kids class. I am always amazed at the energy Sensei has with kids, he is, as you all know, truly inspirational.

While Nakamura Sensei started the adult class, I took Sensei across the parking lot to Applebee’s restaurant to get a salad. When we got back he was fired up and led the class for another hour, giving my students a special understanding of the term “mo ichi do”. Many of them had never met Sensei before and were now super charged and motivated for the coming week.

Tuesday was a day of rest and recreation; well for some anyway. Sensei wanted to be taken shopping and sight-seeing in the downtown area, which worked out well for me, because I had a lot of last minute things to take care of before the MCF got under way the next day. So, I arranged for a tour guide/taxi driver from the dojo and off they went. I hooked up with them later for dinner and eventually settled down for the night. It would be the last good night’s sleep I would get for the rest of the week.

Wednesday. F-Day (the F is for festival, what were you thinking?). Over 200 participants from Canada, Bermuda and the United States, would be gathering to test the Spokane dojo’s ability to put on a good event. My battle plan was sound, I had gone over it many times, what could possibly go wrong? Let’s about cancelled registrations, late registrations, changes in what day people wanted to train, adding days that they wanted to train, merchandise that wasn’t ready yet, trying to get the credit card machine to work, mix ups in the packets, oh, and the restaurant for the Welcome Party changed owners and no longer had a liquor license. No problem. That’s why the general has officers and sergeants in the field, to handle the actual skirmishes. Sometimes the hand-to-hand was bloody, but my troops overcame all obstacles and won the day.

Registrants were handled politely, calls were made about merchandise, equipment set up and running, and a lone private saved the evening by getting a banquet license, purchasing profuse amounts of beer and wine and becoming a hero. That lone warrior’s name: Sheldon. Not as heroic sounding as Hercules, but a hero none the less.


The training started with black belts taught by Higaonna Sensei and was followed by a referee seminar by Nakamura Sensei. Training with Sensei is always both inspirational and humbling and Nakamura Sensei helped everyone to understand the  complexities of refereeing.

The Kyu grades were split up and taught by Sensei Herbert Allen and Sensei Michael Han. The feedback I got was what incredible instructors these two gentlemen are. I of course being the general already knew the competency of my field officers and had total faith in their ability to perform. (Sensei Michael, Sensei Herbert, I am just kidding. Please do not hurt me.)

After training concluded everyone met at Winger’s, a local restaurant/sports bar. Winger’s agreed to shut down the restaurant to the public and it was all ours from 8:00 pm until we were done. The biggest plus, we never ran out of food. Everyone could definitely say they got their money’s worth. And because we had to provide the beer and wine, we included it with the dinner at no extra charge. The Welcome Party was a success and the first day of battle was definitely won!

Thursday went off without any major snafus, as did the rest of the week. Training was conducted by the instructors with the level of skill, knowledge and enthusiasm that have become the standard of any Gasshuku I have ever attended. Higaonna Sensei over the four days of training would cover almost every Kata with the kind of depth of knowledge and understanding that only he possesses.

As usual, this results in brain overload. I am sure I am not the only one who appreciates how truly lucky we are to have his guidance.

I also enlisted the aid of Sensei Mirko Buchwald and Sensei Chris de Wet to teach iri kumi seminars. Their instruction was fantastic and everyone who attended definitely improved their knowledge of iri kumi. In fact, the comments I received praised the inclusion of this area of our training.  We very seldom get to work on our fighting skills in regard to iri kumi. Chris and Mirko, well done.

As part of the Gasshuku, I had two guest instructors: Mr. Roy Harrington, who taught Filipino Knife Fighting and Mr. Chris Charnos, who shared his philosophies and knowledge of mixed martial arts.

Both of these seminars were well received and the participants really enjoyed training outside the Goju-ryu box.

Sensei finished Saturday’s session with “spirit training”. This consisted of 45 minutes of leg swings. OMG! I still haven’t recovered. But what struck me to the core was how Sensei said that no matter how hard the training, or how tired you get, do not show emotion in your face. Do not let yourself give in to fatigue. But show strength and commitment even when you have nothing else to give.


As his example to us, he never complained about his knee or let it slow him down or show less enthusiasm. He probably wouldn’t like me to even write about it. But every time I whine about some little ache or being tired, I will remember Sensei’s words and actions. That’s why they call him ‘Sensei’.

Saturday afternoon was the master’s demonstrations. We started with a demonstration of Hojo Undo, followed by Sensei Michael Han performing Sanchin, while Sensei conducted Shime. It was clear some of the audience had never seen Shime, judging by the sounds of shock when they saw Sensei Michael’s shoulders.

See Higaonna Sensei & Sensei Han’s Sanchin Demonstration below:

See Higaonna Sensei and Nakamura Sensei’s explanation of Shime afterwards:

The rest of the demonstrations were of senior instructors performing, as well as special guests. Sensei Herbert Allen did Kururunfa and a Yamani ryu bo kata. Sensei Chris de Wet did Saifa with applications,

Sensei Mirko Buchwald demonstrated irikumi with Alex Kovalenko.

See Sensei Buchwald’s Iri Kumi demonstration below:

Sensei Nakamura did Sesan with applications. Our guests: Sean Grant did chi-sao, Steve Atlas did pencak silat, Chris Charnos did self defense applications and Roy Harrington did Filipino stick and knife applications.

But the big finish was of course Higaonna Sensei. He began by pounding on a rock that we provided and finished with Suparinpei. The crowd rose for a standing ovation. It was spectacular.

Watch Higaonna Sensei’s hand conditioning demonstration below:


See Higaonna Sensei perform Suparimpei Kata:

At the Sayonara Party, we had a silent auction to benefit the US Team who will go to South Africa in October. Of the many items the standouts were: a makiwara stand donated by Sensei Herbert Allen that went for $210. A handcrafted long bow made and donated by Sensei Dennis Morris that went for $400.

But the show stopper was the rock Sensei had been training on all week. He autographed it and it was bid on by the Calgary dojo, headed by Sensei David Ching and that went for $565. All total, we raised about $1500 for the US Team.

Finally, Sunday we had a tournament where we tested out the South African rules that would be used at the World Championships this October. The level of competition was quite good and the winners of the Miyagi An’ichi Memorial Cup were: for the women, Jessica Childress of the Kobukan Karate Club, 2nd place Kelli Crawford, 3rd place Mariah Kalstad.

For the men, Scott Lawson of The Family Karate Center, 2nd place Chris de Wet, 3rd place Sam Lewis. Congratulations to all the competitors at every age.

In closing, an event like the MCF takes a tremendous amount of work, all of it freely volunteered. I want to personally thank Linda, Paul, Sheldon, Jim, Belinda, Lita, Kristy, Melanie, Tien, Kelli, Hadley, Mariah, Mindy, John, Mark, Levi, and anyone else I might have left out.

I also want to thank all the instructors who came from all over Canada, the United States and to Sensei Bob Smith of Bermuda. Thank you again to Nakamura Sensei for all of his help through the week. And lastly, to Higaonna Sensei for all that he gives to this great organization, that we are all so privileged to be a part of, domo arigato gozaimashita!!!