Japan is the spiritual home of martial arts and Purple Dragon members got an opportunity to experience some of its most revered venues and meet its greatest exponents earlier this month.
Several students from the Cayman Islands Purple Dragon dojo at the Mirco Centre went on the trip, which proved to be an educational tour as well as an extended master class.
Fifteen members from the Purple Dragon Cayman Islands joined the organization’s founder Professor Don Jacob and other members. There were 31 others and supporters from five other countries who made the 16-hour flight to the Orient.
The group spent 13 days touring and training in different parts of Japan and returned last week.
Starting in Tokyo for three nights, the team narrowly missed a typhoon which caused floods all over the city. There were also visits to Hakone, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara.
“This is one of the cleanest cities I’ve seen, everyone seems to take pride in keeping it that way,” said Dr. Elizabeth McLaughlin, one parent whose three kids are Purple Dragon members.
The team were privileged to participate in a Japanese tea ceremony, as well as visit many of the historical temples and Shinto shrines all over Japan, as well as castles owned by great kings and warriors in Japanese history.
Purple Dragon also became the first school outside of Japan and only the second martial arts school, including Japanese schools, to be allowed to train on the lawn of the Okayama Castle in the Nara prefecture.
A highlight of the tour was when the black belt members got to train at the famous martial arts historical site, the Butoku Kai in Kyoto.
Professor Jacob conducted an intense three hour long training session in the hall that has been home to martial arts warriors for more than 100 years.
There was plenty of blood and tears shed during that special training which will be recorded in the club’s history as the first time a Purple Dragon black belt changing ceremony has taken place on Japanese soil, where the spirit of martial arts is so strong in the culture. Receiving new black belt ranks were Senseis Derick Timothy and Ivan Rodrigues promoted to the rank of shihan (sixth degree or roku dan) and Senpai Dale Campbell to the rank of sensei (forth degree or yon dan).
All of the shihans present also had the honor of having their belts re-tied in the historic hall by Grand Master, Professor Jacob.
Cayman’s own Sensei Floyd Baptiste also had the honor of having his belt re-tied by the professor at this session. He was the only sensei selected for this honor.
The team was also treated to a demonstration of Kyudo, the Japanese art of archery, by senior members of the Butoku Kai association.
“It was amazing to watch the patience, calmness of spirit and demonstration of dedication that came through as we watched the warrior hit her target,” said Zarek Deosaran, a 16-year-old black belt from the Cayman Islands.
Purple Dragon members were also privileged to sit in on a class of women practicing with the traditional Japanese Naginata, which is a type of spear.
“We saw them practice attacks and defense against another person with a Naginata, against someone with a Katana sword and precision striking on a practice dummy wearing armor, and to think the youngest one was 52, there goes my excuse for not training hard,” laughed Sensei Karen Baptiste.
The trip was organized by Professor Jacob and his wife Elizabeth. Two years ago, they organized a Purple Dragon tour of China where members got to train on the Great Wall and the Shaolin Temple and other sites.
The next tour will be in 2016 to Africa, where safaris and visits to traditional villages to experience ancient African martial arts will be on the agenda.
For the time being, the club is gearing up for the Purple Dragon Karate World Championships in Trinidad and Tobago in exactly a year.