Masanobu Shinjo, Lee Gray and the Shobukan – the Other Goju Ryu
The afternoon sun still drifted through opaque windows at the end of the gymnasium and offered a smidgen of hazy twilight to my corner of the stands. Contestants and judges buzzed about the floor in constant activity and watchers came and went through the double doors at the other end of the room.
It was 1974. Tournament karate was young and exciting. Nowadays tournaments often feel like the proverbial hackneyed nag, tired from use and abuse, but, back then, they were fresh and still new, full of undiscovered challenge. No one knew where we were going, but it was a great time to get there.
I endured the hard wooden bench alongside a friend, reviewing the competition and possibly waiting to judge an event or something. Having studied Shotokan karate, (sort of) for a whole 10 years, I was confident of my comprehensive knowledge of karate. My friend, with the same years in Japanese Goju Ryu, seemed even better qualified. We passed the time in random conversation, artificially sophisticated in our martial opinions.
We idly chatted while one competitor followed another. Then, as I turned away for a second from the competition, I heard what sounded something like a corn threshing machine gearing up in the center ring. I looked back the sound in time to see a long, lanky, military-cut black belt stomping, snapping and shouting his way across the floor through Seisan, with enough power to light up a small town electric grid. I watched in amazement, wondering in disbelief if there was possibly something I had missed in karate 101.
“What’s that?” I asked my friend.
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