KIME
Winter 1985
Volume 11


In this issue:

  1. Article - The Last Days of O-Sensei, by Jean-Noel Blanchette
  2. News - Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Chito-Kai
  3. Article - Impressions of Summer Camp East, 1984 by Beth Mitchell

The Last Days of O-Sensei
by Jean-Noel Blanchette, translated by Jean Massť

Chito-Ryu karateka all over the world felt sadness when they learned of the death of Chitose Sensei, but none more than I since I had been with him during his last days. I was in Japan training on a grant from the Canadian Chito-Kai, so feel it my duty to relate what I know of the master's passing.

I met Chitose Sensei for the first time during my trip on May 3, 1984, after being invited to his room by Waka-Sensei. I entered his room, bowed in the Japanese fashion and as father and son conferred I observed that the master appeared ill. To clear his caked lungs he sometimes breathed a medicinal vapor through a tube connected to a small box. When he became seized by a coughing fit his son made a sign to me and we soon left the room.

The master very seldom left his room. Sometimes, in the morning or at night, he pushed aside the curtains behind the large glass door that separated the dojo and his living room, observing the students at work. Occasionally he opened the door and demonstrated movements with his hands. Students watched in respectful silence at these times, appreciating the strength and courage it took to come forward from his sick bed.

Later in the month, when other Canadians, from B.C. [13 from Prince Rupert], arrived to train, the master increased his vigil at the door and came out even more frequently to demonstrate and give advice. Despite his pain, I feel he was very happy watching the North Americans who had come so far to learn his art.

On the last day of their training, May 24, the B.C. karateka were videotaped as they performed, all under the master's watchful eye. Afterwards he awarded a black belt to one of the members of the group and gave a short demonstration himself. Later that morning he took me aside for some private instruction. He taught me a few movements then spoke about the respect he had for Senseis Higashi and Akutagawa. After a silence, he told me that in Okinawa, at a younger age, he had been "number one." When I replied that he was still number one, he laughed and said no, then began coughing in a way that frightened me.

Towards the end of the month O-Sensei entered the hospital and I heard little news, though knew that Waka-Sensei was hopeful of a recovery. On the evening of June 6 Waka-Sensei was leading the class when the phone rang in the house. He absented himself from the class after asking me to take over. At 9:45 Sakamoto-Sensei came and told me to end the class and close the dojo. The master had died.

His death was not a suprise. Two nights before I had not been able to sleep and it came to me suddenly that the master would soon die. At that moment my heart and my prayers leapt out to him across the void. I am told that he died with his features composed, smiling -- a man at peace with himself.

Flowers and telegrams from all over the world poured in for the master's funeral. He lay in state in the centre of his room and in his coffin there was a small glass aperture through which it was possible to see his face. On the coffin was the master's sword in a golden case.

I entered O-Sensei's room, bowed to his wife and Waka Sensei and made my way to a pillow by the coffin. Kneeling down and bowing again, I prayed, then lit a stick of incense and placed it in a small vase. As I left to join other mourners in the dojo, I was told by Waka-Sensei to have a last look upon the master's face.

After a few days of meditation and a talk with the new Chitose-Sensei, I knew that O-Sensei's death was only a thing of the body and his spirit is to be found in every Chito-Ryu dojo, lending its strength to whoever follows the master's way.

AGM

In September's AGM Dave Smith and Bob Tordiffe were elected president and vice-president of the Canadian Chito-Kai. Board of Directors:

Dr. Chee Ling (B.C.)
Duncan Campbell (Alta.)
Art Bellhouse (Ont.)
Ross Rumbell (Ont.)
Sharon Mason (Ont.)
Beth Mitchell (Ont.)
Jean-Noel Blanchette (Que.)
Paul Gaudet (P.E.I.)
Bob McInnes (N.B.)
Mike Delaney (N.S.)
Dennis Mandville (Nfld.)
Glen Jones (Ont.)

Impressions of Summer Camp East, 1984
by Beth Mitchell

It is July, and while the rest of the world lazes on the beach and indulges in a few beers around the barbeque, a group of dedicated souls, known to the initiated as karateka, heads off for the annual summer camp in Hampton, New Brunswick. Those participating for the first time arrive so full of enthusiasm they want to start working out right away. The old-timers smile and shake their heads ruefully -- they know better.

At 6:30 a.m., Saturday, the first morning, the mist is still lying on the lake and drifting along the country road as 68 karateka gather in their snow-white gis for a half-hour run, which is followed by an hour and a half workout and breakfast. Sensei Higashi and Sensei Sakamoto, sixth dan and instructor from the Hombu Dojo in Japan, are urging us on. The muscles are fresh and it feels good striding in the morning air. The following mornings see a slower moving, far less exuberant group.

After our run Sensei Higashi leads us to a school field for exercises. When our bodies begin to loosen up, we start on basics. This is not merely basics for basic's sake but a test of endurance as well. Each karateka counts 20 as we practice gyakuzuki, performing over 1,000 punches. This is just the right hand; we do the left next. One black belt is heard to say he would have never made it through the first thousand punches if he knew we would do the other hand immediately after. He thought Sensei Higashi would save the left hand for the next day.

After breakfast we are back on the field with Sensei Sakamoto, who takes us through various ukemi and variations on several well-known exercises. Anyone who has ever done cartwheels and walked on their hands directly after a meal of sausages and eggs can appreciate our trepidation as the sensei demonstrates the next technique we must attempt. All the exercises we have been doing make sense as we put the pieces together. Doing cartwheels to escape an opponent whom we had just back kicked is not something many of us have tried before. Frustrated gymnasts among us are in their element, but for those of us who had passed through childhood without ever doing a cartwheel, here is yet another frontier to be crossed.

Work-outs provide a few painfully funny moments. One of these is shuto practice. Sensei Sakamoto, perceiving that we need some work on our knife hand strikes, demonstrates what we must do: he stands with his feet apart, arms held up, knife edge out, then falls to the ground with a kiai, softening the impact with a double shuto. Our kiais as we fall sound more like a collective moan that turns into the real thing upon impact. After we finish attacking the ground, the pain of the exercise is briefly forgotten as someone yells out: "We use shovels for this in Canada."

One of the most memorable moments of the camp, and the most enjoyable for those of us who suffered, may be Sensei Higashi's canoe ride. Sensei has been looking forward to the expedition, to learn a bit more about steering a canoe. As he experiments with his "J" stroke, he and his bowman, Chris, lean out too far while paddling on the same side and Chris is seen falling in slow motion out Of the canoe into the river. Sensei Higashi is soon to follow, holding onto his Expos' baseball cap as the canoe dumps. He saves his cap though dignity and Chris' wallet are lost. Next camp, anyone brave enough to venture forth in a canoe with Sensei Higashi would be wise to inquire whether he has been taking canoeing lessons, or else he should wear a bathing suit as a precautionary measure.

The success of any camp is made of many different elements. A key factor in the 1984 Hampton summer Camp's success was Sensei Bob McInnes's thorough preparations, which included arranging accommodation, meals (with plenty of thirst- quenching liquids) at the local Catholic church and leisure activities for off-hours, such as a brewery tour and the famous canoe trip. But the camp was made very special by Sensei Sakamoto's presence. Watching him do kata, kihon, special exercises and bogu sparring, opened a whole new world of karate for us. His movements were so fluid and bursting with spirit that we were both awed and inspired. I think it is fair to say that the camp was an unqualified success.

Edited by Peter Giffen

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