Seminar in Warsaw, Poland – a Success

Seminar in Warsaw, Poland – a Success

Warsaw, Poland – Thoughts of this ancient city bring to mind legions of communist soldiers marching the streets and visions of war. A city literally destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, rebuilt by Stalin in his image of architectural idealism. A nation long known for producing some of the most gallant and fierce warriors over the millennia. With the fall of the communist empire near a decade ago much has changed in this city in the past 10 years. My last visit to Warsaw was in 1997 and free enterprise was just emerging with small businesses springing up, a nation struggling to survive on it’s own. Today much has changed. Free enterprise is flourishing and the infrastructure has vastly improved in the past 5 years and Warsaw is now a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis that rivals any of its European counterparts. Some things have remained the same over the millennia; their people are as warm and friendly as ever, and their warriors are as fierce as they were in ancient times. This was more than apparent at the 3 day karate seminar taught by Soke Kubota, Shihan Rod Kuratomi, and Shihan-Dai David White this past April 12-14th, 2002. The trip was made possible by the good graces of our IKA Poland organization under the guidance of Shihan Tom Piotrkowicz. The trip was such a successful one that Soke felt we should chronicle the events of the trip so that all of the IKA around the world can read about the strengths of our karate brothers and sisters abroad.

Soke, Shihan Rod, and Shihan Dai David departed Los Angeles on Thursday April 11th after meeting at the airport at 6:00 am. The group was to connect to Warsaw via Chicago O’Hare airport. After a 4-hour flight the group arrived in Chicago.

While waiting to board the LOTT (Polish Airlines) the announcer asked that Soke Kubota and Rod Kuratomi report to the counter immediately. We were trying to anticipate what the problem was because the airlines never call unless the news is bad. Low and behold the airport employee said that he had been instructed by his manager to put us in row 1 of the airplane in First Class! Alright! We thank Shihan Tom for making this possible. On long international flights, the extra space and amenities in first class are a godsend. Our seats were adjacent to the doors to the cockpit in the first row of the plane. We found out that Shihan Tom in part was able to secure this upgrade by having Soke and Rod protect the cockpit of the plane. What better way to protect the pilots than by having the top karate master in the front row!

After a 10-hour flight, the group arrived in Warsaw on 9:30 am Friday. The day was started with a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Sports and Education for the country of Poland, Mr. Wieslaw Wilczynski. We also met with the Chairman of the National Ministry of Education and Sport, Dr. Mieczyslaw Bigoszewski. The meeting was to discuss our opinions of martial arts in Poland and our opinions of the quality of karate in Poland and how to improve the instruction. It was discussed as to how training in kata and emphasizing the „art” of karate instead of just fighting or sport could keep the athlete participating in karate for the rest of their lives creating good citizens in the process. Soke emphasized how too much emphasis on fighting or sport makes for a short martial arts career. The chairman said that martial arts were very much supported by the government in order that the young people of Poland can put their energy into something positive instead of getting involved with crime. The group in the end was presented with beautiful picture books about the country of Poland.

That evening began the first of 7 classes that were taught. Friday evening started with a kobudo class in the use of the „jo” (4 foot staff). Attending the seminars were people from several of the cities of Poland and also from the country of Belarus, Ukraine, and France. The class was 80+ people and the group was taught the kata „Ken Shin Ryu”. It was quickly learned by the attendees and we were much impressed by the great enthusiasm of the Polish people and the tremendous effort they put into their training. They demonstrated very strong sprit and showed very good respect. The seminar closed with kata demonstrations by Shihan Rod using the cane and the jo.

The rest of the evening was spent tasting one of Poland’s greatest commodities: its vodka! In Poland, vodka is best when it is freezer temperature and served in a ice-cold miniature stemmed cordial glasses. So smooth….

On Saturday, the schedule was 3 karate waza classes taught from 10 am to 4 pm. The class schedule consisted of one beginner, one intermediate, and one advanced class. Each of the classes was over 100 students and filled one and a half basketball courts with karate students. The sprit of the karate groups was so strong that when they did their kiai the windows rattled. It was an amazing sight to behold. Beginning students were taught the basics of the Gosoku Ryu defense and utilized the block in nihon and sambon waza. Intermediate and advanced classes were taught advanced technique and also some of Soke’s famous Kubojitsu (Kubota Jujitsu) and Gyuku te jitsu (the art of reversal and countering an opponent’s counter attack). Shihan Tom graciously assisted Soke in demonstrating the techniques to the group saving Shihan Rod and Shihan-Dai David (Thanks Shihan Tom! Osu!). Each class closed with a photo session and with the instructors autographing, belts, karate gi, and photographs.

Dinner closed with Shihan Tom taking the instructors to a nice Italian dinner, thanks Shihan!

On Sunday, the schedule was like the previous day except the emphasis was on kata. The beginning class was taught Kihon Yon no Kata. The intermediate class focused on learning Gosoku Yo Dan. The advanced kata class was treated to learning Soke’s latest kata, „Ju San No Tachi Kata”. The final name for the kata is still being decided on by Soke but other ideas are „Kubodachi” or „Kime no Kata”. It was decided to shorten the name to enable non-Japanese speaking countries to be able to say the name easier. The class quickly learned the kata and broke into groups of 3. Due to the strong movements of the kata and the use of kime breathing it is an ideal kata for use in team kata competition. The groups of 3 then demonstrated their kata in front of the group. After only learning the kata in the past hour their performance was excellent! The classes ended with more Kubojitsu and finished up with more photos and autographs.

Shihan Tom organized a special banquet that evening with about 60 people in attendance. Dinner was held at a restaurant in downtown Warsaw known for not only its fine food but also for being a restaurant frequented by famous actors and actresses of Poland. The group was very impressed by the quality of the food and of course the vodka! Shihan Tom presented to Soke a handsome gift of a miniature suit of armor with great Polish historical significance. Soke said he would forever treasure the armor and display it over his fireplace at home. Shihan Rod was presented with a plaque with a symbol of Poland on it and was given very nice complements by Shihan Tom for his training and budo. Thanks Tom! We also received generous gifts from our IKA instructor in Belarus, Verdernikov Andrei Sergevich. Andrei presented Soke with a keg of beer from his country and a bottle of fine vodka. Shihan Rod and Shihan Dai David each received a bottle of brandy. Needless to say, the keg of beer never made it back home! Thanks Andrei!

The next morning ended our trip with a return to Warsaw International Airport. This time it was Shihan Dai David’s turn to guard the cockpit with Soke. He was most appreciative since at well over 6 feet tall (6’4″?) he appreciated the extra legroom in first class. 21 hours later the group was back in Los Angeles. A whirlwind weekend.

We graciously thank Shihan Tom for an excellent job organizing the seminar and for his tremendous hospitality. Everything from the flight, to the hotel and organization of the seminars went flawlessly. The care and attention to detail he put into the planning was very apparent. We thank Shihan Tom for all his work and we all look forward to future trips to Warsaw. Osu Shihan Tom! In addition, we would like to thank all members of the participating organizations and especially those students of IKA Poland whose help made this event possible. We graciously thank you all and look forward to our return to your wonderful country (maybe next week?). Osssu!!!
IKA NEWS – edited by Rod Kuratomi