MANHATTAN – Many people grew up watching martial arts movies with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. These icons inspired many to get into the discipline, but few ever get to learn from such martial arts masters. That changed earlier this month in Montana.
In early September, master martial artist Hidemi Tamayose visited Manhattan from is home in Okinawa, Japan. Referred to by his students as Tamayose Sensei, he takes only one trip to North America every year to teach the style he looks over, Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan, and Manhattan was it.
“To have him come to Manhattan, Montana is huge. This is his trip to North America this year and we get to have him in our small town,” said Aaron Boyd, the owner of Bozeman Karate, who attended the day-long event.
And for Tamayose it’s extremely important to make these trips each year.
“I want to reach the most people. There are a lot of people studying this style and I want to directly be able to reach as many people as possible. To teach the various techniques and basics it’s better to learn directly from a master,” Tamayose said through a translator.
Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan is a style of Okinawan weapons. There are more than 7.5 billion people on this planet and Tamayose is the sole 10th-degree black belt. There’s one master in the style and he’s it.
“He is an amazing teacher, so even though he’s the top of our style he’s a very humble man. So we spent four hours just doing the basics this morning and breaking it down into very small little pieces,” Boyd said.
Boyd, a national champion in short weapons, earned his second-degree black belt that seminar. It took him eight years. To put that in perspective, Tamayose Sensei has been practicing this art for five decades.
The reason behind traveling to North America and all over the world teaching his style is because he needs to maintain it’s uniformity. He needs to make sure that every Sensei across the globe is instructing it correctly so everyone learns the same. Tamayose is in charge of keeping this style, his style, pure and it starts with the first steps.
“I think the basics are the hardest part,” said Tamayose. “Doing it in the simplest possible way, but doing it correctly is the most difficult part of doing the basics.”
Montana is far from a martial arts hub, and it’s a far trip for Hidemi Tamayose, who lives in Okinawa. But he has visited the Treasure State twice and one thing draws him back.
“It’s the nature. I love the nature, the open spaces and the big skies,” laughed Tamayose.
In Japan, Tamayose Sensei was a retired high school metal shop teacher — a regular profession along with being the world’s only master in a martial arts style. And that is a testament to his belief that anyone can learn Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan.
“It’s not so much the age that matters, but having the heart, the spirit of wanting to try is what’s most important to me,” said Tamayose.
In the history of Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan, Tamayose is only the fourth person to ever master the style.