Feedback from the 2019 Yuimaru Hakken seminar in Okinawa

At the end of 2019 we welcomed 9 participants to the first Yuimaru Hakken karate seminar in Okinawa.

Over the next 12 days of intensive study they experienced an often challenging but very rewarding introduction to 3 different traditional Okinawan styles PLUS lots of extra learning opportunities (see below). Many participants said they would return for the seminar this year in 2020 even before they had left. They all felt that it was an excellent way to get to know the Okinawan teachers and the arts they pass on.

Several participants very kindly shared their feedback on the seminar experience with us, which we would like to share with you here below.

To find out more about upcoming seminars just follow the links on this page. Yuimaru Hakken seminars in 2020 – click here

Seiji Takahashi , USA.

I’ve arrived safely back in the Bay Area, and have finally gotten around to sending my thoughts on the Yuimaru Hakken Seminar, as per your request; I’m sorry for the delay, and I hope that the following is useful – please find my thoughts below:

       The cultural/historical tours including at castle ruins, kayaking areas, the aquarium, and distilleries were interesting, and it was a fun way to spend time with the other participants, and to get to know the social backdrop in which Okinawan martial arts were shaped

–       I enjoyed the variety of styles represented by the three senseis, and I enjoyed how James Sensei connected the dots between the lessons – e.g., overlapping principles of softness, of tai sabaki/moving/pivoting off of the centre line, attacking high and low – and also how James Sensei contrasted the different interpretations/strategies – e.g., not using uke at all/using kawashi and then countering and moving on to the next opponent vs. using different kinds of uke (redirecting and/or grabbing) and following up with different kinds of techniques

–       I enjoyed working with different members of the cohort, and experiencing the various perspectives that each partner brought to the table given our respective backgrounds

–       With three days and multiple classes with each sensei, we were able to not only learn about concepts, but also to practice/drill them; the class sizes, ratio of instructors and students, and length of time spent together also seemed to allow the instructors and students to give/receive tailored guidance, and to get to know each other on a more individual level

–       The pace/amount of training and learning was intense and great, and the rest days after every three days seemed to work well in terms of providing recovery time

–       The sunrise training sessions with James Sensei were a great way to start off the day – and as mentioned in the second bullet point, it was interesting to experience the overlaps, as well as the different interpretations/strategies, between the concepts in the Long Fist Praying Mantis Kung Fu sessions and the concepts covered later during the day

–       Conversations and discussions (both inside and outside of training) with senseis and other participants were insightful, including, but not limited to:

  • With James Sensei, about acknowledging the small victories (getting out of bed in the morning, going to karate practice after work, etc.)
  • With James Sensei at the farewell dinner with Nakasone Sensei, regarding karate as a force for peace
  • With Nakasone Sensei at the farewell dinner, regarding his visit to the US in search of his rival, and how karate fits into the rest of his career/life trajectory
  • With Nakasone Sensei, regarding the advantages of exploring different styles and improving one’s skills
  • With Yagi Sensei at the farewell dinner, when he told us that he hopes the three days of training with him serves as encouragement as we continue our respective martial arts journeys, regardless of style
  • With Gaja Sensei, regarding Shin, Shin, Shin, Gi, Tai, and karate as a way for character development, for becoming a more tolerant, more forgiving, and more compassionate person
  • Learning about what martial arts practice means to different individuals who were involved in the seminar, and hearing about how they got to the point they were at in their martial arts/life journeys

–       Having the opportunity to connect with multiple senseis and karateka, through the social capital that James Sensei has cultivated over the years in Okinawa – and getting a glimpse into what it might be like, on the ground, to live and train in Okinawa

–       The photographs and film footage (including via drone) were awesome, and it was so nice to have the trainings and outings documented whilst the participants got to focus on the lessons at hand – many thanks again to Chris and his assistants, Elly, Eric, and Kunki for that

–       Between organizing, teaching, interpreting, and driving, James Sensei seemed to have much to do, which he certainly accomplished – thank you, James Sensei, for both facilitating and leading the seminar sessions

Again, I hope that my feedback is useful. Thank you again, James Sensei, for the insightful lessons and for a wonderful experience! It was a pleasure to connect with you and with other community members in Okinawa and from around the world. Wishing everyone all the best as we continue our journeys, and I hope that we cross paths again in the future.


Linda Lane, USA

Unless you have your own Sensei in Okinawa, it would be very difficult to individually arrange for the degree of education the Yuimaru Hakken event offers.

All aspects of the journey are led by Dojo Bar and Asato Dojo owner James Pankiewicz; a unique individual who has the connections, communication skills and flair for event organization that is second to none in Okinawa . A very accomplished Martial Artist and teacher himself, James is also the caring kind of Sensei who is able to immediately read the needs of his clients. The sessions he offered between trainings with the Karate Masters were exactly what our group needed to process what we learned and to make our lessons relevant within our own arts.

Seminars typically offer a small taste of what an instructor offers but these training sessions are longer and more intense, allowing for true connections between students and teacher. Many in our group have made plans to revist some of the Sensei to continue learning.

It doesn’t matter what style you train; be it very traditional, eclectic or otherwise. Rank is no issue either. Students with an open mind and passion to train are welcome. Our group had an age range of 20-59 with both kyu and master rank. Everyone wears a white belt. Everyone gets the experience of a lifetime. If you have always wanted to have a special training within your martial arts journey, this is it.

To find out more about upcoming seminars just follow the links on this page. Yuimaru Hakken seminars in 2020 – click here

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