(republished with permission)
Hokama Tetsuhiro Sensei, Hanshi 10th Dan, is not only the current head of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Kenshikai Karate-Do and Kobudo Organization, but is also founder and curator of the first Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Museum.
Regarded as a highly skillful and gifted karateka, Hokama Sensei has earned a reputation of being a living karate legend and many karate enthusiasts from around the world come to Okinawa specifically to receive his invaluable tutelage. Additionally, his work as a karate researcher places him as one of the most renowned and respected historians of Okinawan Karate, and you wouldn’t be wrong in calling him a guardian of it’s ancient traditions and history.
Regardless of being called Goju-Ryu, Hokama Sensei’s karate has a very interesting and unique look to it. I would speculate that this is partly due to the research he has done into the influence that traditional chinese martial arts and medicine had on the original fighting art of Naha-Te. Additionally, as expressed by Hokama Sensei himself, his 73 years of age have had a significant influence on his distinctive approach to karate training and application. This, of course, results in a Goju-Ryu Karate branch that in my humble opinion would be best called, as I personally do, Hokama-Ryu Karate.
What makes Hokama Sensei’s karate so unique is the heavy emphasis he gives to the use of pressure points (Kyushu) and small joint manipulations (Tuidi), combined with proper use of body movement (Tai Sabaki) and speed achieved through relaxed power.
In other words, even though Hokama Sensei believes having a strong body is necessary and strengthening exercises are carried out daily at his Dojo, effective self defense has to rely mainly on technique. Precision and speed are, therefore, paramount for him. Utilizing painful pressure points and joint locking and wrenching techniques require less strength to be effective enough to incapacitate an opponent and deter him from attacking again. This, of course, allows for efficient energy use and avoids excessive expenditure of force permitting one to take control of a violent situation before any lethal damage needs to be dealt to the opponent.
Referred to as the study of human engineering by Hokama Sensei himself, the study of the body’s nerve channels and clusters along with joint limitations has allowed him to see in his Goju-Ryu Kata a plethera of “hidden” techniques that are performed with opened hands and strong fingers to grip, twist and apply pressure to weak spots of the human body, instead of usual use of blocks and raw power closed fist punches. This spots are mainly the exposed soft tissue organs that are the eyes and the male genitalia, the rather delicate joints of the fingers and the large amount of mirrored painful pressure points throughout the head, torso and the four extremities, among others.
Hokama Sensei’s expertise of this so called human engineering make his karate very rich and his teachings very enlightening regardless of the martial art or karate style you practice. For all the reasons expressed above, I can’t stress enough how important it is for any martial artist who wishes to make his martial art more effective for self defense to thoroughly study the principles of Hokama-Ryu Karate. A genuine Okinawan Karate Master, I have found that Hokama Sensei’s reputation is well founded and very well deserved and hopefully his legacy will stay very much alive in the training of those he has instructed. Indeed it was a privilege to have been able to meet and train with him.
This article was originally published on the Koryu Okinawate blog by Nicolas Perez.
Here are a few more of our favourite shots of Hokama sensei in action at a recent seminar in Okinawa.