When I began to train at the KenPuKan dojo in Okinawa, there was a marked difference in the sparring I had experienced prior to arriving in Okinawa. As it was first described to me, sparring was done wearing full body protection, men (headgear) and do (body protector). The bogu, as explained, allowed full contact giving the sparring I had experienced before a new dimension. It was not until I donned the gear did I realize its true potential.
My first bout was with one of the Okinawan black belt students, Toku. Unknown to me was that he was a fighting
champion and quite an accomplished fighter. He allowed me to land a few blows that built up my confidence. My
punches didn’t do much to him and I thought it was because of the protection provided by the gear. However, when he threw his first punch, I was knocked to the floor. I felt my head ringing but was otherwise okay and thought I had just walked into the punch, so I got up only to end that way again. Then he decided to show me the power of the famous Oyata side kick and I was propelled through the air across the dojo.
This humbling experience gave me new respect for the art I was beginning to learn. I still wasn’t sure what I gotten
myself into, but I knew this was the place I wanted to be. I was determined to hone my skills so that I could at least mimic those devastating blows I experienced from Toku during my first bout in Okinawa.
The history of bogu in Okinawa began in the 50’s when Shigeru Nakamura formed the Okinawa Kempo League. The Okinawa Kempo League included Oyata, Toma, Kisei, Odo and others. During the 60’s and mid 70’s bogu was used during most of the open tournaments in Okinawa. It was during this time that Taika won the championship in Southern Japan. Bogu is one thing that separates RyuTe from many other systems of karate. During the
formation years of the association in the middle 70’s, we held tournaments instead of seminars and camps. Taika also continued the tradition by holding many tournaments where he donated proceeds to charities in the community.
That first match in Okinawa remains embedded in my memory as if it happened yesterday.; not because of the way it
ended, but what it taught me. It was actually an inspiration giving me the determination to learn and become part of this fascinating art that combines so many ways of training and enhancing technique.
During the 2009 Summer Conference, Taika will bring focus back to bogu as a means to hone our skills in realistic self-defense situations. The format of the bogu will be “Ippon Kumite” – one point sparring. It is a part of our history and a portion of our training that separates RyuTe from other systems of karate. Bogu easily proves the worth of your technique and serves to hone your skills to a new level.