I have many fond memories of my years studying under my teacher Peter Brandon Hanshi as a junior karateka, but none stand out more than the times Peter Hanshi used to take Frank Shihan and I with him to the township dojo’s where we would train with the students and visit their homes after training. I was amazed at how dedicated they were and how grateful they were to be able to train – even in the appalling conditions that surround them. Seeing what confidence and self belief karate gave these people made me understand what a wonderful art Goju Kai is.
At the age of 9, Peter Hanshi took Frank Shihan and I, along with other students of SA Goju Kai to Japan to train with Kaiso Gogen Yamaguchi and his son Saiko Shihan Goshi Yamaguchi. This was my first visit to Japan, a trip that would be repeated several times in years to come.
In 1991, after finishing school and a year in the army, my father and Peter Hanshi, gave us the opportunity to go and live in Japan to continue our training. It was something Frank Shihan and I had dreamed about doing all our lives, and we were very grateful for being given the opportunity. It was then that we met a man who would change our lives forever.
Peter Hanshi had instructed us to go and train with Masatoshi Yamaguchi Shihan. Masatoshi Shihan met us at the Hombu Dojo in Suginami and gave us directions how to get to his dojo in Kyodo. The next day we got on the train and made our way there. We had heard a lot about this great man and we were excited to be getting the opportunity to train with him. Some people wait years just to be accepted into his class.
We were welcomed straight away as we are students of Peter Hanshi who had a strong bond with Kikuchi Shihan who is Masatoshi Shihan’s teacher. We walked into the Gomeikan Dojo with great anticipation and left glowing, not only from the bumps and bruises, but from the wonderful energy and true budo spirit of the training. That was the start of a bond that will last forever. Peter Hanshi made it possible for us to return as often as we could to Masatoshi Shihan and the Gomeikan students.
In 1999 Peter Hanshi sent us to Japan to do our Yondan test. It was during this stay in Japan that Masatoshi Shihan invited us back for the winter to do Taki Renshu (waterfall training) This was a great honour bestowed upon us, and is a form of training that had only been taught to Masatoshi Shihan by Kaiso Gogen Yamaguchi and now he wanted us to study this training.
In January 2000 we left for Japan. This would be our first winter in Japan and although Peter Hanshi had often told us stories of training in Japan in winter, we did not imagine it would be that cold. Besides the weather it was like returning home to our family. We completed our first 21 days of waterfall training on the 4th of February and were sad to be leaving but vowed to return.
I am very grateful to all the people around me who support and share my passion for this art and it’s development, as well as those people who give us the opportunities to pass on this art in its purest form and make it possible for us to teach this to as many under-privileged communities as possible.