Northern Karate Schools, the Ancient Way
There is an ancient Buddhist proverb that says, “When the student is ready, the Master appears.” If such is the case, Northern Karate Schools’ students must be well-prepared, as Hokama Tetsuhiro and Shiroma Kiyonori, both 10th dan Hanshi, graced them with their presence this past September.
“It was a great honour to have men of their stature visit our schools,” says Kyoshi Cos Vona, an instructor and sixth-degree black belt at Northern Karate. “It’s extremely rare to have experts of this calibre visit North America, let alone Canada.”
From the island of Okinawa, Japan, the birthplace of karate, Hokama and Shiroma both hold the rank of “Hanshi,” essentially a senior expert or grand master. Through demonstrations and lectures, these teacher-of-teachers shared their vast knowledge with eager students. They also presided over an advanced level grading for the most senior teachers of Northern Karate. “They used to be school teachers, so they’re very personable with a good sense of humour,” says Vona, who has also trained at Hokama’s dojo in the southern Japanese prefecture. “Hanshi Hokama does not personify your typical Japanese karate practitioner. He is down to earth and very humble in nature.”
Hokama’s dedication to traditional Okinawan karate – a style that wasn’t introduced to mainland Japan until the 1920s – has honed a deep understanding for the ancient art, earning him tremendous respect within the karate community. As Vona explains, “He really showed us what traditional, old-school karate is all about. The students were very impressed.”
Shiroma’s martial art is Motobu Ryu Uden Di, an ancient style of grappling that was traditionally reserved for
royalty. “His lineage stretches back over 1,000 years and his style has never been seen before in North America. For many, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Besides authoring several books, including History and Traditions of Okinawan Karate (Masters Martial Arts Supply, 2000); opening the first Karatedo Museum, the Okinawan Prefecture Karatedo and Kobudo Museum, in 1987, and being named the technical advisor for the All-Japan Karatedo Ken Yu Kai, Hokama is also a master of calligraphy. His steady hand has even inked kanji for many Japanese movie posters. Before departing, Hokama painted several motivational banners encouraging students to stay on the path and to hold fast in the face of adversity. “He really tried to instill traditional martial arts values in our students. It was truly an enlightening experience.”