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A Spinning Back Kick

When I started to learn Shorin-Ryu from Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro, I was already a black belt in Kenpo Karate and taught my own classes on Hickam Air Force Base. This was in 1976. I thought I was pretty fast (silly me).

My brother-in-law took me to the dojo at Our Lady of the Mount Church in Kalihi. He had been referred to Sensei Tommy Morita who in turn referred us to Shimabukuro Sensei.

After a few training sessions, Shimabukuro Sensei showed us a spinning back kick (ushiro geri). Standing in a relaxed left front stance (zenkutsu dachi), he would spin clockwise and execute the kick with his heel. I think I commented that the kick looked to slow to be used in kumite. Shimabukuro Sensei offered to demonstrate. I took the same stance in front of him and readied myself. My brother-in-law stood on the side a few feet away.

Now you have to remember that I was just out of high school and had my own dojo. I thought I was pretty fast.

I waited for the kick. Nothing happened. Shimabukuro Sensei just stood there. I waited some more. Nothing. Then I glanced over at my brother-in-law. His mouth was open and his eyes were staring in disbelief.

I said, "What?"

Shimabukuro Sensei stepped back and relaxed. My brother-in-law explained to me that Shimabukuro Sensei had delivered the kick and placed his heel right under my nose. I had missed it by blinking. He kicked me during a single blink!

I swear that I did not see or feel a thing.

You would have to know Shimabukuro Sensei to believe this, I know. He was in great shape at that time and excelled at kumite. He had started practicing Karate during Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose's visit to Hawaii in 1961 or 1962 and basically lived and breathed Karate.

That kick made me realize that I was not that fast or skilled and that there was something special about this "Shorin-Ryu" Shimabukuro Sensei was teaching and something extraordinary about him. That was 30 years ago.

Thank goodness that Shimabukuro Sensei took pity on a foolish student who thought he knew something. Had he not shown such kindness, I wonder where I would be in my Karate life today? I believe that I am his only student still practicing and teaching today. How ironic.

If I had a time machine, I would certainly like to go back and see that kick!


Charles C. Goodin