The Chito-Ryu World Championship, also known as the Soke Cup, was held in Kumamoto on August 12th and 13th. It is truly remarkable that this tournament was able to be held in Kumamoto just one year after being devastated by a huge earthquake which caused heavy damage throughout the city and surrounding area. The Soke Cup organizing committee must be praised for this accomplishment and it is a testament to their resilience and great spirit.
In the days leading up to the tournament, a tour was arranged to go to Reigando, the cave where are the most famous swordsman of all Japan, Miyamoto Musashi, spent the last few years of his life and wrote the Book of Five Rings. Those of us who took advantage of the tour were also treated to a demonstration by the Soke of the Musashi style.
Next, we proceeded towards Mount Aso to the Meihoudou dojo where we saw a flute demonstration as well as a sword demonstration. A few of us had the unique opportunity to try our hand at Tameshi-giri, cutting straw with the sword. It is not as easy as it looks and out of 30 participants, maybe only 50% were successful. All in all, everyone enjoyed the tour and a big Thank You goes out to the sohonbu for organizing the tour.
Students also had the chance to visit the hombu dojo. This is indeed a very special place where our founder O Sensei himself trained as well as students from all over the world. If I have one regret it is that we did not have enough time for the students, some who were visiting for the first time, to truly soak up the experience of the dojo. We were hurried out because there were students there who were training. It was too bad. Students would have liked to put their gi on and take a few pictures, maybe do a kata or two just to get the full experience.
The tournament itself was run very well. There were enough officials to run 6 tatami. Along with the usual bruises and sprains, we only had a couple of serious injuries. With 500 competitors, that’s not too bad.
The demonstrations this year were awesome. It was good to see the senior people of our style out there doing weapons kata and it was also good to have Naoyuki Chitose Sensei front and center during the demonstrations to highlight our future leader. Soke Sensei’s kata demo and self defense demo were also amazing. I feel that having the demo participants wear the hakama somehow elevated the performance to a slightly higher level.
For me personally this trip was very special. Some of the highlights, in no particular order, include:
1- re-acquainted myself with many Chito-ryu karate-kas and sensei from Japan and around the world.
2- Saw the Japan Inter-high champion sumo wrestling team in training at Buntoku high school.
3- got to wield a sword and perform tameshi-giri (straw cutting)
4- I went for a grading at the hombu dojo in front of Soke Sensei, Sakaguchi Sensei, Taneda Sensei and Tamaki Sensei, and was successful in achieving the title of Renshi
5- I was chosen to referee the finals of the men’s team kumite between Australia and Japan.
6- I witnessed my students achieve personal best performances and become Soke Cup champions.
7- I was able to share the experience with my students and my daughter as well.
8- I visited Kyoto for the first time and saw many temples and shrines.
9- I had the opportunity to train with Soke Sensei.
10- I was fortunate to be able to see Higuchi Sensei’s karate weapons.
11- We visited Yoneida San’s elegant home. He is a friend of Rene St.Laurent.
This description of the Soke Cup experience does not do it justice. The only way you can know what the Soke Cup experience is like is to attend it for yourself. I look forward to seeing everyone once again in Penticton, British Columbia for the 13th Soke Cup. Special thank you goes out to Chris Taneda Sensei, Mitchell German Sensei, Marc Waterfield Sensei and Doug Chetwynd for their efforts to ensure that a fun and memorable time was had by all.