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Sensei visits Valley for martial arts camp

November 07, 2003|By TOM RONCO, Special to this newspaper

The Imperial Valley will have a rare opportunity to see a grand master hanshi judan when sensei Shugoro Nakazato visits this weekend to conduct the Cal South International Martial Arts Camp, one of only four trips Nakazato has made to the United States.

Nakazato's title of grand master hanshi judan is the Okinawan term for 10th-degree black belt while his other title of sensei simply means teacher.

The official host of the camp is local sensei kyoshi nanadan, or seventh-degree black belt, Nabil Noujaim of Noujaim's Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo in El Centro.

"They say the measure of a grand master is how long they live, and he is 84 years old," said Noujaim. "This is the first time that the grand master has traveled to the United States with his son, hanshi kyudan (ninth-degree black belt) Minoru Nakazato."

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Noujaim and students from his dojo visit the grand master in Okinawa about twice a year to immerse themselves in Okinawan martial arts and culture.

"I want to thank Nakazato sensei for accepting the invitation to come here," said Noujaim, who will introduce Nakazato at Friday night's martial arts exhibition using the Okinawan language. "It has been a dream of mine for many years to host these events."

The events started with a black belt-only workout with the grand master this morning and the marital arts exhibition at the Southwest Performing Arts Theatre at 6 tonight

The grand master will be accompanied by three of his top students, who will perform during the exhibition, as well local students from both Noujaim's dojo and Art Garcia's Shorin-Ryu Dojo in Brawley.

The event also will feature shorin-ryu karate students from dojos in Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, New York and Rhode Island as well as numerous dojos from throughout California.

"He will be active at all the events," said Noujaim of the grand master. "He is here as an ambassador and to promote the traditional art of Okinawan karate."

The exhibition will be an opportunity for Nakazato to sample the multi-culturalism of the Valley. Among the performers at the exhibition will be Mariachi Mixteco, Folkorico Azteca under the direction of Jesse Flores and the Native American Inter-Tribal Dancers from San Diego under Kalim Smith.

On Saturday, in the Southwest High School gymnasium, Nakazato will oversee a sold-out camp on the techniques and traditions of shorin-ryu karate.

"It's a rare opportunity to learn from the grand master," said Noujaim. "That's why we've attracted people from all over the country. Not many instructors get to go to Okinawa and this camp will be a high honor and will allow us to keep our training as close to the original as possible."

The camp will continue Sunday and the weekend's activities will culminate with an awards dinner and dance at the Barbara Worth Golf Resort near Holtville on Sunday evening.

"It's a promotion ceremony, really, as sensei Nakazato will confer degrees on the students," said Noujaim. "It's the highest honor possible to be elevated by the grand master."

For more information about the events or to purchase tickets, contact Noujaim at his dojo by calling 353-1322.

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