Karate school returns to Voluntown fire hall

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Voluntown - posted Tue., Sep. 3, 2013
Karate student TJ gets some pointers on positioning from Sensei (teacher) Brian Landry. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Karate student TJ gets some pointers on positioning from Sensei (teacher) Brian Landry. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

After a hiatus of several years, karate has returned to the Voluntown fire hall. Sensei (teacher) Brian Landry of Heiwakan Karate World in Old Saybrook is once again leading students in twice-weekly classes in the traditional Goju Ryu form of karate.

Landry said that the term “goju ryu” is translated as “hard-soft.” It refers to the philosophy behind this martial art: practitioners strive to be “as hard as the world makes you be and as soft as the world will let you be,” he said. The form originated in Okinawa during the Japanese occupation of the island, when weapons were confiscated and island residents resorted to self-defense training without them.

The result is a series of “kata,” sets of dance-like moves that involve both arms and legs in punches, kicks and blocks. “It’s a very traditional art; nothing has been really changed,” said Landry. “It uses very beautiful, graceful movements.”

There is a mental and spiritual component to the practice of goju ryu, as well, he said. Students begin and end each class with a brief period of silent meditation, and with bows to their teacher and their fellow students, thanking them in Japanese for the instruction. The goju precepts which they recite at the end of class say that their aim is “a manifestation within one’s own self of the harmonious accordance of the universe” and “to seek the way of virtue.”

“You’re not really out to be better than somebody else,” Landry said. “It’s about becoming a better person. We don’t really train for tournaments and don’t really compete with one another.” While students from the dojo (karate school) do sometimes take part in a tournament, the focus is on achieving greater knowledge, self-discipline and mastery of the art, he said.

The school in Old Saybrook was founded in 1976 by Imoto Sensei, who trained in the art of karate from his youth in Hawaii until his retirement in his 70s. Landry said the school has been active in this area since 1995, when he led classes in the building that now houses the Griswold Alternative High School.

Landry said he was happy to be teaching in Voluntown again. “For some reason, I’m really drawn to Voluntown. It’s very family-oriented,” he said. “I knew I had people who were really interested in getting back into training here.” He has a core group of longtime former students, some of whom assist in leading beginner classes.

For more information about Heiwakan Dojo, contact Landry at 860-680-9490 or e-mail blandry37@yahoo.com.

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