Anecdotes with Grand Master Shoshin Nagamine

Personal impressions and anecdotes related to O´Sensei Shoshin Nagamine which obviously are only brush strokes that by no means pretend to describe the real dimension of our Grand Master. (Author: Ricardo G. Fuchs Camani Sensei, Kyoshi, 7th. Dan)

  • Is one of the persons who has most deeply impressed me in my life time.
  • At all times he transmitted a sensation of peace almost impossible to comprehend.
  • He was a very affable person; one always felt very comfortable and close to him. In Okinawa, after performing he used to invite us to drink tea with a few biscuits in a site alongside the “dojo”. Conversations with O´Sensei were very relaxed and he always paid great attention to what we said. It wasn’t a “speak for speaking” but a demonstration of authentic interest in our communication.
  • He had a great sense of equanimity. In my opinion an example could be the following:

During the month of October 1978 O´Sensei visited Argentina. A welcome dinner in his honour was celebrated. In these occasions it was normal to invite some students to say some words. I remember there was an extremely timid sudent, it was a problem form him. We all tried to help this student to overcome his problem. We therefore invited him to express some words. He became very tense. All of us started to pronounce his name as if we belonged to a chorus. He became each time more tense leaving the sensation that he would not be able to overcome the anguished situation. Suddenly O´Sensei Nagamine intervened. An absolute silence invaded the premise. With the greatest calm our Master expressed: “Two opposed forces have been created, on one hand a group of persons want a student to put a certain action into practice and on the other hand a person is feeling very bad as a consequence of this act. These are the facts, please don’t insist. If the student wishes, he will stand up and say something”. Obviously O´Senseis words caused me a very deep impression. It was as if he perceived absolute reality with incredible plainness.

  • In Okinawa (1980) on occasion of theWorld Wide Karate-do Demonstration held in the Naha Theatre a celebration took place during Saturday night. It was a very pleasant meeting. At a given moment at approximately 11.30 pm O´Sensei Nagamine interrupted and said he was very pleased to see that the celebration was very live and that we could continue until we wished. He added: “please enjoy yourselves but I must go to rest”. All so natural and plain.
  • To sit in “Zazen” in specific “Zazen” practice or after Karate-do training, his attitude was so natural that it was almost impossible to be assimilated, at least for me. He sat as if any person would take a seat in a public transport for example. Everything was so natural for O´Sensei.
  • The last time I had the immense fortune to meet O´Sensei was during February 1997. Our Great Master was already 90 years old. The first class (Mondays through Fridays) of “Zazen” started at 6 am. I remember it was pitch dark. O´Sensei started the class with warming up and stretching exercises. He firstly run around the “Dojo”. We (5 or 6 students) ran behind him in a row. Suddenly, without a word, he left us running to pick up what seemed to be a hair or something similar from the floor of the “Dojo”. We kept on running while O´Sensei very meticulously deposited the “hair” in a container which was to one side. We never spoke on the subject, but my personal interpretation is that his respect for the place of practice (Dojo) was so great that he couldn´t overlook a single hair (invisible for us) on its floor surface.
  • O´Sensei permanently received Matsubayashi-Ryu students from different parts of the world. During February 1997 I visited Okinawa and coincided with a student who came from Canada. To O´Senseis eyes we had exactly the same defect as I had: it wasn’t a technical defect (easy to correct) but a general defect related to our body attitude (extremely difficult to overcome). O´Sensei considered it a very important problem (by no means superficial). He insisted so much that he told us to forget power, speed, “kime”, . . . . . . . ., to forget everything. We should only concentrate all our being on correcting our body attitude. Accustomed to perform at full power and energy, it was for me a real torture to perform without abandoning his instructions. To such an extent that the only way I could fully follow his instructions was to perform the techniques at very slow motion. I wasn’t capable of increasing speed without abandoning our Masters instructions. Only then O´Sensei approved my performance. When I left Okinawa, I could only perform at a very slow motion level. I never managed to increase speed without betrayi8ng O´Senseis instructions. I felt as if I started again, as if I put my “gui” for the first time (at that point in time I had 25 years of practice on my back). When I greeted O´Sensei before leaving Okinawa, I was absolutely amazed; he told me I had progressed a lot, I couldn’t believe it.

I kept on practicing fully respecting his instructions. Only after 2 or 3 months I felt I could gradually increase my movement speed without betraying his indications. Obviously, considering that students are a reflected image of their Sensei, all my pupils had to go through the same struggle. I remember that on occasions they left as if they wanted to cry, the same as me: they could not perform the techniques with “kime” without betraying the important deep corrections.

The above mentioned description represented a very important point of inflection in my practice, as if suddenly a flash of light clearly illuminated my path. It also left me a very important teaching: when something fundamental must be corrected in our practice, it must be absolutely corrected, no matter the effort we must put into it; if we look over it, we will never overcome the difficulty and, even if the minimum reminiscence remains alive, it will represent a very heavy stone in our progress within the art.