By: David Lambert – IOGKF International Editor

Higaonna Sensei’s latest visit to the Oceania region attracted a mass amount of keen participants in the beauty of New Zealand. Assisted by numerous senior instructors, Higaonna Sensei inspired all with his incredible energy and gentle humility...

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At long last Higaonna Sensei was heading back to the Oceania region for what had been a long overdue Gasshuku. The last time Higaonna Sensei had visited the Australian and New Zealand region was in 2008 when we hosted him in Newcastle, Australia. As always I couldn’t wait to be tested and tried by my Sensei in one of my favourite places in New Zealand, Wellington.

New Zealand is a strange, yet wonderful place – I love it! Wellington in particular feels like a second home for me as I seem to end up there once year for IOGKF events, but like all of New Zealand it welcomes me, as an Aussie, with open arms and a cheeky and charming whit, which we all make sure give back in return. It is a fantastic land of sweeping mountain ranges and incredible beauty.

I arrived with some of the Australian attendees the day before the Gasshuku. I was invited by the instructor of Wellington’s Victoria University Dojo, Sensei Jen Sigley, to take a session at her Dojo. I had done this on my last visit to New Zealand and it was incredibly fulfilling to see not only how enthusiastic and passionate the students were but also how hard they trained. I managed to bring Australian Joint Chief Instructor, Sensei Joe Roses, across to the club with me and we took about half a session each.

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The next day, we gathered early at the Victoria University Recreation Centre for the official start to the Oceania Gasshuku, which began with a Kyu Grade session taken by New Zealand Kambukai member, Sensei Raj Ravi. Sensei Raj broke down Gekisai Dai Ichi Kata and really put the Kyu grades through their paces. It was interesting to see how he worked such a broadly mixed grade session. All enjoyed it.

I suddenly found myself becoming extremely emotional when Higaonna Sensei flew around the corner and into the foyer of the rec centre. He was very pleased to see so many attendees for all over New Zealand, along the 40 odd participants that travelled over from Australia. Bowing to Sensei made me feel like I was back at home with Karate. His big, focused eyes staring at me as I lowered my head brought that instant motivation, as I’m sure most of us have experienced. I was also extremely happy to be reunited with two of my very best Karate friends, Thwhiti Seeds from Honbu Dojo in Okinawa (who was Sensei’s Uchi Deshi for the event) and Reena Prasad who journeyed all the way from England. It was a fantastic and delightful pleasure to be together with these two great people on this Gasshuku.

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The next few days comprised of all Grades and Black Belt sessions under the mind blowing skill of Higaonna Sensei, along with adult split sessions taken by the New Zealand Kambukai & senior instructors and  Australian Chief’s and I also took a few under 16’s sessions. It was a good Gasshuku system that every student took advantage of.

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The ideal that if Sensei see’s you going a 110% really excites and motivates him to try harder is completely true. But it also works the other way. For every Kiai and technique Sensei threw with incredible power and precision, we were inspired to return in the same. Sensei’s eyes would explode as he then unleashed again with a barrage of energy and beauty, which would lift our tired souls to the roof again. You cannot beat training like this.

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I think one of the highlights for me at this event, was when Higaonna Sensei did a demonstration of two man Kata with New Zealand Kambukai chairman, Sensei Brian McGhee. Sensei McGhee is no feather weight and has an extremely strong build, yet Higaonna Sensei’s explosive techniques made him look the opposite. Sensei McGhee also had Shime performed on him by Higaonna Sensei in front of the whole Gasshuku. I also saw a little of an intense Kata session for 4th Dan and above between teaching sessions and while watching the Australian Chiefs and other New Zealand seniors, along with what I saw from Sensei McGhee, made me feel that Oceania region is really in good shape technically.

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The Gasshuku attracted nearly 180 participants which Higaonna Sensei appreciated so much. I want to personally thank the New Zealand Kambukai and organisation for making Higaonna Sensei, Thwhiti and everyone else who attended from overseas very welcome. I would also like to thank the 50 odd kids who made the effort to come and train with me, I am very grateful and you did a great a job!

The Oceania region welcomes all members with open arms and regularly hosts World class instructors like Higaonna Sensei, Bakkies Sensei, Nakamura Sensei and others. I encourage all IOGKF members to come down under and say G’day or Kia Ora to us soon!

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