Israel Gasshuku 2010 – With Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura

By: Sara-Rivka Ernstoff – IOGKF Israel

IOGKF Vice Chief Instructor, Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura, recently returned from his first trip to Israel, where he taught a very successful Gasshuku which emphasized the importance of hard training, moral principles and character development…


Every muscle in my body hurts, I’m suffering from mental confusion and I feel a strong sense of warmth and happiness.  Is this a new variety of flu?  No, it’s the afterglow from a wonderful International Gasshuku with Sensei Nakamura.

In the five days Sensei Nakamura was here he spoke in detail about Karate concepts (some of which were new to me – hence the mental confusion), moral principles of the martial arts and character development.  Of course we spent hours training (hence the sore muscles and the big smile) and Sensei Nakamura was also able to squeeze in sightseeing and shopping for souvenirs.

Sensei visited historical Jerusalem, the ancient city holy to Christians, Moslems and Jews.  He traveled North to Daliyatel Carmel, a Druze village where he enjoyed the beautiful scenery and shopping.  Unable to find dried olive leaves at the marketplace (which were on his wife’s wish list), senior students Moshe Halevy and Nitzan Eichenblatt pulled the car over at an olive grove and picked fresh leaves for Sensei to bring home.


Sensei Nakamura also visited the gravesite of Sensei Leon Pantanovitz, his longtime friend and founder of IOGKF Israel.  The classes for Sandan and above were held in Netanya at our honbu dojo, where Sensei Leon taught for over thirty years until his death in 2006. Sensei Nakamura looked with great interest at the photographs on the walls and Sensei Leon’s many diplomas and certificates of recognition.

“Sensei Leon was my friend,” he said, and tears came to his eyes.  All the senior students were comforted and honored to hear about Sensei Nakamura’s relationship with and his high regard for our beloved teacher, whom we miss so much.  We were also pleased that Sensei Nakamura was proud of us for continuing the legacy we inherited from Sensei Leon.

The Gasshuku took place during the week-long Passover holiday in which Jewish people all over the world don’t eat bread and Israeli restaurants also don’t serve rice or beans. So, no sushi (sorry Sensei!) and no baguettes, pasta or croissants – maybe next trip! Sensei was a real sport about it and didn’t complain even once.


Over salad and chicken I asked Sensei Nakamura what he usually eats. “No special diet,” he said, but emphasized that he tries to avoid junk food.  I wanted to know if he feels the same conflict that so many instructors face - How do we balance family life, personal training and teaching?  He admitted that it is a conflict for him, too, and that he tries to begin each day with a couple of hours of training in his dojo in Canada.  Teaching is important, he said.  “I must give back what was given to me.”

I asked if he does any other sports or adjuncts to Goju-Ryu Karate and he said no.  Sensei began his martial arts career at age twelve by studying Judo.  In the past he’s also studied boxing, kick-boxing, ju-jitsu and pilates, but today he concentrates only on his Karate practice.

The Gasshuku opened with over 100 students in a mixed class of children and adults.


We got a glimpse into Sensei’s teaching methods when the adults joined the kids in animal imitations.  We all became ducks, bears (both large and small) and crabs - going backwards and forwards.  Luckily Israeli Kambukai member Danny Meisler was wearing a brand new bright white Shureido uniform, so Sensei spared us the snake belly walk!

Before the children left Sensei fascinated them with a story from the beginning of his training.  He said he went to Okinawa after university to study karate with Sensei Shuichi Aragaki.  Sensei Aragaki met him at the dojo, showed him how to use the chi-shi and makiwara and said he’d come back.  Sensei Nakamura came to the dojo every day and trained hard – by himself.  He waited and waited for his new sensei to return, but to no avail.  But he didn’t give up!  He kept training by himself and after six months he was rewarded for his efforts when Sensei Aragaki returned and his lessons began.

Sensei Nakamura stressed that we are all one big Karate family.  He said we must develop and improve our positive traits such as honesty, loyalty, helping others, not giving up easily, self-respect and respect for others.  He told us not to be afraid of making mistakes; that he makes mistakes all the time and that it is necessary to in order to grow and develop as a martial artist.

We felt the esteem and respect that Sensei Nakamura has for us when he taught concepts that were just slightly beyond our grasp.  It left us with of a sense that, ‘If he thinks we can, we can!  We will!’

Sensei Nakamura showed us how power is developed by tightening and then relaxing the torso muscles.   He explained that when the body drops down and the arm goes up, you don’t really need to use your arm muscles very much; the power will flow naturally from the torso.  When he demonstrated this it looked so easy!  When we tried to do it, it was so hard!

In the 21 hours of training we practiced this principle through hojo-undo, Saifa, Seisan & Seipai Kata and through Kakie and flow drills.  It was very exciting to feel, ‘Hey, I think I did it!’  During the last session with 25 minutes left we managed to do Gekisai Dai Ichi 30 times.  What a great way to end a challenging and stimulating Gasshuku.  Thank you, Sensei!