Women's Friendship Tour Journal

Thursday Morning - Sightseeing

Postby Dana Sheets » Tue May 18, 2004 12:58 am

Sights Sights let's go see the Sights.

Our first sight was the tour bus. And about a one hour drive up to the north end of the island. Our destination was the Churaumi Aquarium


A truly remarkable place. You could easily spend a day or two trying to take in all the creatures and environements and exhibits. Three things really stand out in my mind. One was the HUGE tank with almost every single fish from "Finding Nemo". The second were the garden eels. These little guys poked up from the sand like pencils and if they didn't like their neighbor they'd his at him until he went back down in his hole. My third favorite memory was the deep sea tank. The crabs in that tank were monsters. Their bodies were the size of the hood of my car and their legs were just about as long. Very impressive.

And a way too short time later we had to be back on the bus. The next stop was the recreation of an historical Ryukyuan Village.

On the way to the village we passed once very wonderfully cheesy tourist spot that I really wish we'd had time to visit. The Nago Pineapple Park:


But alas...there wasn't enough time.

So on to the village...


At the village you could see Okinawan crafts, dance, sugar making, pottery, buy a fortune and tie it to the roof of a house (I'm still not quite sure what that was about) and generally see little slices of a way of life that is completely different from your own.

Back on the bus and off to Miyagi's the Potter.

Mr. Miyagi is a famous potter on the island and specializes in Shisa Dogs. Have I talked about those yet? Shisa Dogs are the Okinawan version of Japanese ShiShi dogs and Chinese foo dogs. They protect gates and passageways. Walking up to the shop and the workshop was pretty amusing. The entire roof of the workshop was covered in dogs. Covered. Mr. Miyagi made a pair of very large dogs for President Clinton when he visited the island a few years back. Inside the store itself were wonderful examples of his work. Not only dogs, but pots, plates, vases, and other creatures - fish, pigs, horses, and a beautiful mermaid.

As an extremely generous gift, Mr. Miyagi created a specially designed mold for the Women's Friendship Tour. He would cast and personally sign 30 pairs of dogs and then retire the mold. We were presented with our dogs on the next day. They are truly beautiful beasts.

The bus dropped us back off at the hotel and we had enough time for a snack and a nap before it was time to head off to Shinjo's.
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Da Dogs

Postby Dana Sheets » Tue May 18, 2004 1:20 am

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Workout #13 - Thursday Evening - Kadena Dojo

Postby Dana Sheets » Wed May 19, 2004 11:39 pm

The Kadena dojo headed by Mr. Shinjo, the elder. One of his other brothers was at the training that night who demonstrated an impressive Sanchin kata that I'll describe later. A third brother hosted us at his restaurant in grand style. What a wonderfully welcoming family.

So we got off the buses and lined up outside the door. There was a kids class still in progress and we didn't want to interrupt. However we were immediately invited in. I'd known that Mr. Shinjo had a reputation for hard training and for being a very serious man about training. This held true for our workout.

Mr. Shinjo's dojo was one of the largest dojo I have been in outside of the Okikukai HQ. Beautiful wood floors, and a wonderful portait of Mr. Shinjo's father made up part of the shomen.

For those of you who don't know - when I say shomen I mean the front area of the dojo where there are often pictures of the Uechi Masters, pictures of the current head sensei of a dojo, a little shrine where incense can be offered, and other artifacts of significance are placed. These artifacts can include ancient weapons, old training jars, posters from special events, long scrolls covered in Japanese caligraphy (usually a poem), and sometimes the descriptions of junbi-undo and hojo-undo. Each shomen is unique and represents the style and tradition of the school. Many shomen have little doors over the shrine part that can be closed after the space is no longer being used for training.

Now I'm not perfect on my history of Okinawan teachers, but I believe Master Shinjo was the 11 time all Okinawan fighting Chamption. A record that's yet to be broken.

After the kids class bowed out we were told to line up.

Mr. Shinjo welcomed us and told us that while we only had one hour together, he hoped we would work hard and that we would all sweat together. And boy did we.

We opened with junbi undo and hojo undo. Then we did punches from horse stance, stepping and kicking, and something else I don't remember. Then I think we did sanchin as a group.

At some point Mr. Shinjo got out several sets of jars and placed them among the first two rows. He then showed us that we were to hold one jar between our two hands in front of our chest with the elbows in sanchin. Then we started sanchin kata with the jars. When we got to the step-offs -he had us pump the jars out, slowly and strongly five times. Reaching forward until the arms were extended (but not locked out) and then bringing them back to sanchin. We did this in each direction.

I have done two jar training, but this was the first time I had done single jar training. At some other dojo I had seen a single, larger, rounder jar but hadn't known what it was used for. It is an excellent way to train upper body strength, balance, and in particular your pecs.

We were invited to sit off to the side and Mr. Shinjo asked his brother to come up. I belive I heard Mr. Shinjo say "his sanchin is perfect" - before his brother started.

Nobohiro Shinjo did sanchin with two jars. But first he rippled every muscle on his frame into steel. Then he grabbed the jars and proceeded through the form - and I never saw anything on him relax. When he finished his three step offs he then stepped backwards into a Uechi low stance and brought each jar up to chest height one at a time. He took a second step back (still in Uechi low stance) and did it again, then he took a final step forward and raised each jar a third time. Then he came to neutral stance. Before he set the jar down Mr. Shinjo came up and pushed his fingers into his brother's neck. Nobohiro found a way to tighten them further. His entire performance of the kata was accented by what I think was a grinding of his teeth.

I tell you what - I've rarely seen someone with that level of control of their muscles and the ability to keep them flexed that hard for that long. However - what was more impressive was that there wasn't anything mechanical or unnatural to his step or his arm movements when he raised the jars. He was able to keep lots of things tight - and then relax and use what he needed to use to move.

Then we were called up in groups to do seisan kata. Then a few did sanseiryu.

One of the last things that happened was that he called up a bunch of his young male students and had them demo sparring. Very fluid, very fast, very explosive. They were doing point sparring. Their body movements when they were dancing around each other looked like a perfect cross between a python and a cat. Everything looked strong, but nothing looked tight. It was fun to watch.

I'm not quite sure how it finished up - but we were back in the buses and on our way to the restaurant.

That was a fun meal. Mr. Shinjo gave a very nice speech, a gentleman from the Kenyukai association gave a nice speech, Peggy gave a nice speech. And then we were all surprised when Mr. Shinjo asked each of us to go around the room and give a short speech about the trip so far. As you can imagine it took quite a while for the speeches to be given in English and then translated into Japanese. But we were well plied with food, beer, and awamori - so we were more than happy to sit and listen.

At the end, Mr. Shinjo wanted to give another short speech. He stood up and said that in Okinawa it was common practice to crown a woman Awamori Queen each spring. Well it turned out that the woman who was sitting next to him had been pouring him Awamori in the Japanese style. (The etiquette is that you always pour for your neighbor and your neighbor will pour for you.). He said that this woman had been drinking Awamori with him all night. And he now wanted to crown her the "Awamori Queen".

Boy - I hope somebody's got a picture of Heather's face. (Heather is "uechiwoman" on these forums.) He really caught her off guard with that one. The brother that owned the restaurent brought out a GIANT bottle of awamori, the folks next to me made her a crown out of chopsticks and tinfoil, and Heather and Shinjo posed like royalty for the photos. Every single person in the restaurant was smilling, and none larger than Shinjo.

We ended as a group by singing the song that Kim had written for us for the tour. I don't yet have an audio file to post up, but here are the lyrics to the song:

It's all in Sanchin. That's what they say.
It will take many years to master even if you practice every day.
Your body mind and spririt will grown stronger year by year.
You'll learn to conquer obstacles and face your fears.

Because we're, students of Uechi, Sisters of Shohei-Ryu, part of an extended family with roots in Pwaingainoon.

A tiny little island just south of the rising sun.
Home of a, peace loving people with an iron will and a sense of fun.
Birthplace of Kanbun Uechi, founder of this unique style.
Those ten years with the Shaolin monks were, well worth while.


We've come to meet the masters who've agreed to share with us,
Some of their vast stores of knowledge of this wondrous martial art.
We share some common values, the main one is respect.
Courage, stength, and honor, goodwill and frienship.


It's all in Sanchin. That's what they say. It will take many years to master even if you practice every day. Your body mind and spririt will grown stronger year by year. You'll learn to conquer obstacles and face your fears.

Because we're, students of Uechi, Sisters of Shohei-Ryu, part of an extended family here to train and make friends too.

What a great night!
Tomorrow morning would be our last workout at the Okikukai HQ, followed by the Dan Test.
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Kadena Dojo - gone but not forgotten

Postby Dana Sheets » Fri May 21, 2004 7:00 pm

A side news note:

The historic Kadena Dojo (established around 1962) will be demolished next month to make way for a road. As some folks may know, land on Okinawa is not owned, it is leased by families for a period of 99 years.

Master Shinjo will relocate his family and the dojo to the Yomitan peninsula.

The Women's Friendship Tour may have been one of the last groups invited to train at the dojo before it's demolition. And what amazing memories were made.
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Postby HALFORD E. JONES » Mon May 24, 2004 4:27 pm

one's martial art(s) origins in order to really understand the martial art(s) and to see the larger cultural implications, as you have done! Although, you can attain high ranks, degrees, etc. and master many martial arts at home and so forth, receive great acclaim for your accomplishments,whether in teaching, tournies, or writings,etc. if you have not gone to the country where your art(s) originated, then you do not have something that others who have gone there possess,whatever that is. I know many will argue otherwise but that dimension will always be missing somehow no matter how much you try to prove otherwise. You'd be surprised how many, many instructors and experts,even masters,etc. proclaim that in 'such and such a country' it is done this way,etc.,etc. but how do they know if they have not been there? I have run across such persons and they are not exactly rare. It is good that many, if not most, Uech-ryu practitioners go to Okinawa or Japan if only once during their lives. :wink:
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Workout #14 - Friday AM Okikukai HQ

Postby Dana Sheets » Tue Jun 01, 2004 8:29 pm

The dan test, the dan test, it's almost time for the dan test!

This last workout was a bit of a blur even while I was training. I was so tired by this point, my brain was full of so many new things, my joints and mucles and feet were generally just aching.

I was told again to keep my movements large, that as I teacher I needed to always consider the students when demonstrating. That there was a difference between demonstration and application. Application would be smaller but demonstration should be larger.

Jack Summers again reminded me to keep my hips tucked and to tuck them on the movements to help with the explosion.

And off to one side the folks about to test were being pushed one last time and being encouraged that they were doing things better and the correct way for the test.

At the end of the workout we were presented with "Certificates of Intensive Training". I'll take a photo when I get home and post it up for you to see. The illustrations were a suprising and beatiful purple color. My dan certificates are in blue and my shidoin certificate is a wonderful rusty red/brown. They are signed by Mr. Inada and Mr. Yonamine and Mr. Takara. It is a momento to truly be treasured.

After a very nice set of closing speeches, we broke for lunch before the dan test scheduled to start at 2pm.

I enjoyed another fine bowl of soba. I do miss the food from Okinawa. Japanese food is close...but not quite the same.

Back at the dojo the people testing didn't really take much of a break. You see they'd spend hours and hours on kata and mostly had to train their kumite and bunkai outside of the regular training. The women who tested all have my complete respect. This tour took tons of energy, and to have a dan test on top of all of it......whew. Six women went up for rank. Three for shodan, one for Nidan, one for Yondan and one for Godan.

more soon...
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Intensive Training Certificate

Postby Dana Sheets » Wed Jun 02, 2004 2:40 am

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Postby Bill Glasheen » Wed Jun 02, 2004 4:29 am

This is wonderful work, Dana. It's a real treat to read. Boy did you folks get a broad sampler!

So many thoughts...but not now. We have much to talk about.

BTW, all you women ROCK! We're proud of you, and I'm sure the Okinawans felt the same way.

- Bill
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Postby Van Canna » Wed Jun 02, 2004 11:54 am

Simply an experience beyond compare. Congratulations. :)
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Postby RACastanet » Wed Jun 02, 2004 12:53 pm


Member of the world's premier gun club, the USMC!
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Very interesting reading about your intensive training

Postby LenTesta » Wed Jun 02, 2004 2:52 pm

in Okinawa Dana.

I remember studying many of the same training tips, that were told by the Seniors in Okinawa, by Bob Bethoney when he returned from his trips there.

Great job in keeping your journal.

Thanks for sharing with us.
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Postby Bill Glasheen » Wed Jun 02, 2004 3:58 pm


Is the Friendship Tour still accepting donations for support? Are they out of the red yet? If someone wanted to do so (or to add a few extra bucks on their original donation), how would they at this point?

- Bill
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Postby Dana Sheets » Wed Jun 02, 2004 4:18 pm

Thanks everyone. Still a few more topics to write - the dan test, our great dinner out together, the huge demonstration at the Convention Center - but I'm glad that our experiences are bringing back good memories for many and helping others see what an amazing journey we were able to take.

And in answer to your question Bill - no, we're not out of the red yet. We're still able to accept donations through the paypal link on the website in my signature or via mail. Most of our donations were in the $25-$100 range - and when you add them all up they really make a difference.

By the way - I still need to get you your receipt for your donation Bill. Thanks again.

Additional donations may also be mailed to:
Women’s Friendship Tour Association, Inc.
Marguerite Hess 
3576 N.E.Skyline Drive, 
Jensen Beach, Florida 34957  
(772) 334- 7731

When I get home tonight I'll write up the exciting dan test.

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Dan Test - Friday Afternoon

Postby Dana Sheets » Thu Jun 03, 2004 3:44 pm

Such a board. I tell you what - that was the highest ranked board I've ever seen for a Dan test in my life. Inada, Takara, Nakahodo, Yonamine, Higa, Onamine, Yomashiro, Yamashiro, Tamayose, Uechi Sakei, Kyuna, Tobaru, Summers, and Banchick, and I know I'm missing some because I haven't looked at the video recently. And they were all in suit and tie. A very imposing precense in the room.

To show support for the women testing we donned our ceremonial gi, everyone came to watch the test. The candidates were:

Shodan - Renee Leblanc
Shodan - Karen Beck
Shodan - Karen Yuro
Nidan - Karen Gonzales-Thomas
Yondan - Donna Wieting
Godan - Susan Dunningan

Now I have to tell you that there were a couple of moments confusion trying to sort out the identities of the three Karens and with our western ears learning how Renee Leblanc sounded in an Okinawan accent. ("rinny leu bleu" - but you have put the strongest accent on the "bleu" part and say it as fast as you can.) :D

Anyway - I'm sure that's much more entertaining when I tell it in person.

After we figured out who was who for the scoring it was time to begin. The first three candidates were brought up. I think it was Mr. Yamashiro who got up to lead them.

He smiled, told the candidates to relax and shook out his arms and legs so the candidates would do the same. Which they did. Then, in a heartbeat, he stood ramrod straight, got a glare in his eye and shouted "KIYOSKE" in a voice that echoed through the hall. You never saw three women snap to attention faster. This was repeated for each new event.

The candidates showed the fruits of their labor of their training. Not only their years at home but also the last two weeks of intensive one-on-one teaching. Every single candidate had improved during the two weeks and every single candidate gave it their all. It was fun to watch.

All candidates were promoted and below is a photo of the triumphant group!


Other images from the tour can be found here:
http://www.womenskaratetour.org/Tour%20 ... tation.htm

Next up - a wonderful group dinner and an historical demonstration in the Okinawan City convention center.
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The International Women's Martial Arts Festival

Postby Dana Sheets » Sat Jun 05, 2004 4:28 pm


This was, by far, the largest single martial arts demonstration I'd ever participated in. We got there early, around 1pm to start practicing. There would be time for each group to run through their portion of the demonstration and tweak spacing issues, and after a short break and a very yummy dinner of Japanese curry, we'd do the entire program for the audience at 7:00 pm sharp.


The order of presentation was:

1. Opening address - Janice Bass (5 Dan)

2. Ryukyuan Classic Dance <<Kagiyadefu>> - From the Uchima Katsumi Ryukyuan Dance School. This was a traditional dance that is often performed at the beginning of a festival. It involved brightly colored costumes and beatiful fans. The pace of the dance was quite regal.

3. Karate - Sanchin and Kanshiwa by all memebers of the Women's Friendship Tour. YEAH - we pulled it off. After hours and hours and hours and hours of practice we did these two kata together as group, as a team, as a unit.

4. Ryukyu Kobudo - Sakaguawa No Kon (Dai) Performed by Loretta Bryant (4 dan), Rochelle M Young (4 Dan), Teresa McClary (5 Dan), Katherine Keither (4 Dan), Kimberlee Voigt (1 Dan). This group of women were from Michigan and what they performed was a wonderful bo kata.

5. Karate - Seisan Bunkai - Demonstrated by Donna Emschweiler (4 dan) with Technical analysis by Heather Lipin (3 Dan) and Dana Sheets (3 dan)

6. Self Defense Dance <<Goshin No Mai>> - performed by Katsumi Uchima, dance school Shihan. (the title Shihan - means that she is a master teacher and considered to be good enough to be a teacher of other teachers). This was a treat to watch. Two dances were performed. Both contained fighting movements couched in the form of a dance. This style of dancing developed when the Japanese first occupied the Ryu Kyu Kingdom at the end of the 18th century. The Japanese forbid the practice of martial arts (not wanting the young men to become strong enough to rise up and overthrow the occupying government). So the Okinawans put their weapon and empty handed fighting principles in their dances. Flags were used instead of sai, Fans instead of short swords, and empty handed movements were sometimes embellished and done in a stylized fashion. However - if you became proficient at the dance, it would be very easy to then teach you how to use the same movements in application.

7. Karate - Yakusoku Kumite - performed by Sue Ling Rekas (2 Dan), Maria Toronsian (3 dan), Denise Laiosa (3 dan), Marian Bushey (3 dan), Renee Leblanc (1 Dan), Tonia Lagasse (1 kyu)

8. Karate - Fukyugata & Kanshiwa kata performed by Ageda Female Dojo. The Ageda Female Dojo is the first all-women Uechi dojo in Okinawan. Sensei Hatsuko Machida (5 Dan) directs the school.

9. Address of Thanks - Hiroshi Inada - President of the Okikukai (9 Dan) and Peggy Hess - Women's Friendship Tour representative (6th Dan)

10. Congratulatory Address - Masakazu Nakasone (Koza City Mayor)

11. U.S. Marine Corps Martial Arts Demonstration - Rebecca Gould (2nd Lieut.), Anatasia Moreno (Sgt), Jasmine David (Sgt), Danita Ferands (L. Cpl) These women performed some of the MCMAP partner training. The first part included gun, knife, and stick defenses and disarms. The second part were empty handed grappling, throws, and submission techniques, and the third was the bayonette partner form that was first demonstrated to us when we did the joint demo with the MCMAP Far East program on Camp Courtney. This time the women used blunted bayonettes. My understanding is that only the black belt instructors actually use live blades for this exercise because of the risk and skill.

12. Karate - Sanseiryu - Teresa McClary (5 Dan), Donna Emschweiler (4 Dan), Denise Laiosa (3 dan), Dana Sheets (3 Dan)

13. Ryukyu Kobudo - Maezato No Tekko - the Ryukyuan Kobudo Hozon Shinko Kai. The Tekko are a traditional weapon that is fashioned after a stirrup. One Tekko is held in each hand. This is a professional kubdo demonstration team. So they were a real treat to watch.

14. Ryukyo Kobudo - 1) Nicho Sai (Kata and Training). The women performed the sai kata as a group, and then some of the women stepped out, another woman stepped forward with a bow and proceeded to attack the women during the kata with the bo. If the women were in the proper form, the sai deflected the bo. If they weren't, they got hit. 2) Choun No Kon (I don't remember what this was...I'll have to go watch the tape)

15. Ryukuan Classical Dance <<Hatomabushi>> - Nakada Yaeko Ryukuan Dnace School -- Another regal and beautiful performance of tradition Okinawan dancing.

16. Karate - Passai Kata - performed by the Ryukyu Kobudo Ryukon Kai

17. Master Instructor's Special Demonstration 1) Seisan - by Teresa McClary (5 Dan) 2) Ryuko by Katsuko Machida (5 Dan) {The kata Ryuko is new kata developed by the Okikukai} 3) Sanseiryu - by Peggy Hess (6th Dan)

18. Kachashi - Guests and Participants. Kachashi is the dance everyone body does together at the end of a festival or party. We all got to get out on stage one more time and dance together. The marine women event got permission to come out in uniform and dance with us. It was just an absolutely wonderful feeling to be onstage with so many women from all around the world who share in the comraderie and partnership of training in the martial arts.

19. Closing Address - Katsuko Machida (5 Dan)


I can't even begin to describe how much fun we had that day. We were so near the end of our journey, we had all spent so many hours together in training and travel and fun, we were still meeting new people and making new friends and we had the support of the local community. I will carry these memories in my heart for my lifetime - and I'm just thrilled to have been able to share this experience with so many other incredible women.

Thank you to Peggy for making it happen. Thank you to Steve who did so much and asked for nothing in return. Thank you to all the women who had the courage to sign up and come. Thank you to the teachers of Uechi, who taught us all as if we were your own students. Thank you to the people of Okinawa who welcomed us with open arms and open hearts. Thank you to everyone who supported us on this journey by giving your work, your time, your ideas, your fiscal support, your good thoughts and good wishes for our journey.
Thank you all from the very bottom of my heart.
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