I delayed Photo Friday this week so I could take some pictures at the anniversary banquet for Shihan Joseph Walker on Saturday night. The banquet celebrated his 50th year practicing the martial arts, and several of his students from the Academy of Okinawan Karate, including many of the 40 black belts he promoted during the Academy’s 30 years in operation, were in attendance.
I didn’t take near as many pictures as planned because I was running the slideshow and helping with the video presentations, but I made sure to grab a few photos of the Kamiza.
The kamiza is the highest seat in the room, often the north wall. In a martial arts dojo there is often a Kamidana Shinto shrine placed on the kamiza, and it’s the wall we bow to upon entering the dojo. In the Academy of Okinawan Karate dojo, a cross replaces the kamidana and students are encouraged to bow to what they believe in.
When a student is promoted to black belt, the school holds a kamiza ceremony where they formally join the other yudansha in the top spot in the dojo. The new black belt brings a bottle of sake to share with the other members of the ceremony, and Shihan keeps the bottle for use in future ceremonies to represent the other black belts. The bottles were set up at the banquet hall to represent the school’s history, and the legacy Shihan has created so far in promoting 40 black belts in the school’s 40 years of operation.
The weekend went very well, and Peoria’s Journal Star ran a nice article congratulating Shihan on his 50 years in the martial arts. The banquet was followed by a selection of seminars on Sunday afternoon, and by all accounts everyone had a great time.
I feel fortunate to be part of such a great school, and while I intend to celebrate earning my Ikkyu (first degree brown belt) rank very soon, I look forward to the day I’ll earn the right to add my own sake bottle to Shihan’s collection.