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Okinawan Weapons - a Flood of Memories

I attended my first weapon seminar on Sunday March 21, 2010 seven months after I was promoted to Ni-Kyu and I must say the seminar triggered a flood of memories of my early teens growing up in Sierra Leone, West Africa and helping out in my grand pa and uncle's farm during school holidays. Those were days of hard work because subsistent faming was done the peasant way, by hand, using tools very similar to the ones the Okinawans used. We had no electricity and no machine equipment to help make the work easy. All we had were the tools, our physical self and our will. The stronger you are the bigger your farm and the more food you will have. I noticed there are some similarities and differences in tools but one thing is clear, at least from my perspective, that the skill, flexibility, strength and endurance needed to accomplish the farm job is the same. The Okinawans used these farming implements to work very hard in their farms to feed their families and to defend themselves against aggression. Sierra Leoneans used them for similar reasons but mostly for farming, to hunt and to defend themselves from wild animals. The sweat and toil in these farms made these Okinawan and African farmers stronger than I will ever dream of becoming.

The other similarity I have noticed as I study karate has to do with the brutal war the Okinawans had to endure in the past. The world is very aware of the brutal civil war Sierra Leoneans had to endure from rebels who used farming implements as weapons to chop off the limbs of innocent farmers. It took one of the largest UN forces ever assembled in one country to end that war……The story of the Okinawans and that of my people is personal for me…….. I can never train enough.

During the seminar someone said play with your weapon, get familiar with it, hold it every day. I must tell you from what I remember about my African parents, they wake up with their tools and go to bed with them; they never let them out of their sight. They were very passionate about their farm implements. I have not worked in a farm for many years and have become very lazy but I am glad I now have an opportunity to start using a farm implement again - this time to defend myself against imaginary 'wild animals'. There is a popular Sierra Leonean saying, "Keep a stick behind your door because you do not know when your neighbor will go crazy [and attack you]". Now I will not only have the bo behind my door but with the help of Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu karate I will be better able to use it skillfully should the need arise.

Please click on the link below and read the story of a Sierra Leonean farmer whose father was shot dead because he refused to part with his farm implement. The implement, which looks like a short sword and made by our very own black smiths, is shown in the picture. It is used to clear the bush to prepare the farm. I included this link just so you can see what one of the farm implements look like and what a day in the life of a Sierra Leonean farmer is like. Hopefully, that will help you understand why the weapons seminar triggered a flood of memories for me.

Arigato Kyoshi, Sensei, Sempai and Deshi for passing down such a sacred art handed down to us by Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro under the guidance of Hanshi Robert Scaglione.

Ibrahima Jalloh, March 22, 2010


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