OI Visits the Sunsu Dojo in Puerto Rico

Submitted by: Elkton Dojo

Guayama, Puerto Rico – April 10 – 15, 2014.  Eight members of the Elkton Dojo recently returned from a trip to the Sunsu Dojo, home of Sensei Jesus Jimenez, Nana-dan.  After a week-long training session coupled with sightseeing, the following reflections provide a glimpse of the memories which will surely last a lifetime:

Mr Andrew Bullock (Ik-kyu)

I would like to thank all of the black belts for giving me this opportunity to travel with them to Puerto Rico as a brown belt, let alone a minor. The trip to Puerto Rico was definitely one of the best experiences of my entire life. Even though I was the youngest of the group, I saw and learned so much. 

During the trip, it was coincidentally my birthday.  To my surprise, at a local restaurant, the guys organized the staff to come out and sing happy birthday along with providing the dessert.  Later in the trip, after a workout the Sunsu Dojo lined up and I was walked through the ‘gauntlet’ for arm beating. At the end of the line, my blindfold was taken off and to my surprise Sensei Cimorose was standing there with a big ice cream cake as the whole class began to sing happy birthday. Afterwards, one of Sensei Jimenez’s black belts gave me a hand carved wooden pencil along with a hilarious card. The guys really made my birthday something to remember.

Once arriving in Puerto Rico and surviving the car ride trip to the beach house, we traveled around the island and even through old San Juan. It was only a short walk to the beach outside our house and the view out there was just breathtaking. On the last day we made sure to stay up until almost 3:30 am to observe the lunar eclipse. The whole island of Puerto Rico was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.

Overall this trip was, for sure, something to remember. Thank you to everyone for letting me join in on this wonderful experience.

Mr.Mike Watson (Ni-kyu)

Shortly after the shiai last Fall, Sensei Cimorose approached me and asked if I would be interested in going to Puerto Rico to visit the Sunsu dojo.  The trip would take place in the spring. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.  We spent five days there and as we were leaving each of us commented on how fast the time passed.

Just before we boarded for the flight home Sensei asked each of us to jot down a few of our thoughts on the trip.  I thought to myself:  Piece of cake.  I’ll just hit the highlights on my ‘favorite’ part.  Today is Friday, we’ve been back since Tuesday, and I still can’t pick a favorite part of the trip.

Eight people made the journey.  While eight men, one shower, and two toilets could be a real recipe for disaster, everyone worked together to make the trip one to remember.  If something needed to be cleaned, cooked, or fixed it was taken care of.  If someone needed something, someone shared.

The accommodations were great.  Sleeping arrangements were settled in about 30 seconds and worked out well. 

The scenery on the beach was magnificent.  The countryside and the mountains were beautiful as well.

The people were some of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met.  Sensei Jesus Jimenez not only shared his home, but, his knowledge, guidance and sense of humor.  Tato, who gave unselfishly of his own time to drive us everywhere.   Jorge Leon who made sure everyone had a gift to take home with them.  Julia Laporte who wrote such wonderful things about the Oder of Isshinryu.  The students and black belts of the Sunsu dojo, who welcomed us warmly. Both Luis and Ivan Cuadrado who shared their knowledge and enthusiasm during the Kobudo workout.

Although I couldn’t pick a favorite part of the trip, the pinnacle of the trip for me had to be:  finishing Sunsu kata, in Guayama, Puerto Rico, at 1:30 am, with the help of Sensei Jesus Jimenez, and Tato under an impending solar eclipse…Pretty good memory!!

Sensei Joe Regan (Ni-dan)

The trip to Guayama, Puerto Rico with the OI brothers was a joyful experience in and of itself.  The whole group looked after each other the entire time.  Meeting the Sunsu dojo black belts lifted the OI to a new level for me.  They are great people.  The kyu ranks at the dojo were great to work with even with the language barrier.  Sensei Jimenez and Tato were very helpful in everything we did.  The traditional Kobudo with Luis Cuadrado and his son Ivan was an experience I will not forget.

Sensei Chris Harris (Go-dan)

I’m not sure really where to even begin. I guess if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be AMAZING. Having never been to Puerto Rico, I was equally excited to visit the island, as well as visit my OI family.
It started when we were greeted at the airport by Sensei Jimenez, Tato, and Sensei Ginn who had arrived earlier in the day. Right from that moment you knew it was going to be a special trip. From there we headed to get some food. We all decided we wanted some authentic Puerto Rican food so where do we head, the mall. I was surprised at how it was not really any different than our local malls. Luckily, Sensei Jimenez showed us the correct place to eat and we all sat down to a nice meal and discussion of our plane ride and the days ahead. From there we made the trek to Guayama.
Without going into a ton of details, the next few days were spent training on the beach.  We worked the Bo, learned a new sai kata, worked out in Sensei Jimenez’s dojo, as well as some down time of just exploring the beach, traveling to Old San Juan, and just hanging out with our OI brothers/sisters. While the working out was great, for me the best times were just spending time with everyone and getting to know those that we don’t get to see at the shiai every four months. One of those times was when Sensei Cimorose made everyone dinner at the beach house and we were joined by some of the Sunsu dojo black belts. Those of us visiting received a special gift from Jorge Leon. I had the privilege of visiting Jorge’s house earlier that day, and saw just how much talent he has. He hand makes so many different crafts, I wish I had a quarter of that talent!
All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I have so many fond memories, and the bonding that we all experienced just can’t be topped. I can’t wait until the next time we get to go visit, and hopefully we’ll be able to bring some more people along with us to enjoy it as well.

Sensei Ronnie Cimorose (Nana-dan)

All this began with a picture that Sensei Jimenez sent me last year of him standing next to Sensei Karen Bronson on the beach in Puerto Rico. When I saw the picture it really got me thinking about Sensei Bronson and how hard she worked, and how important it was to her to be an accepted member of the Order of Isshin Ryu family. Sensei Jimenez and I have been very close for over 25 years, so I got to thinking about what a special picture it would be of Sensei Jimenez and I on the same beach where he and Sensei Bronson stood many years ago. I talked to Sensei Jimenez and he said we can do it but you will have to come to Puerto Rico, and we can have a workout on the beach. The offer was extended to the rest of the OI and several months later we were on a plane to Puerto Rico

My 2nd reason for this trip was to establish a bond between the different generations of students in both Sensei Jimenez’s dojo and the Hombu dojo, a bond that will continue and grow and strengthen just like the bond between Sensei Jimenez and myself. Mr. Bullock and Jesus Jimenez Jr. hung out together and communicated as only two young men could from the same generation, speaking a language of video games that those in my generation would be lost. Mr. Bullock had his 14th birthday while on the trip, a birthday I’m sure he will remember when he’s 80. I think everyone of the 8 that traveled not only created bonds with their OI family in Puerto Rico, but created a lifelong relationship that only OI family members could understand.

I had the opportunity to spend a week in Puerto Rico about 15 years ago with Master Cooling and Master Ewing. While we were there we started relationships with a lot of OI family members, what was most amazing on this past trip was that when I saw all these people again we just picked up where we left off as if it was yesterday. Sean McCann made a statement to me many years ago that I’ve never forgotten, “You know you are with true friends, no matter if it’s a month, a year, or 15 years that your are apart from each other, and you just pick up where you left off when you see each other again.”  How true!  Everyone was very kind, very giving, and eager to assure our every need was met. The handmade gifts by Jeorge and the kind words by Julia really touched my heart. Jeorge is a master craftsman and Julia is an established writer.

The weapons workout on the beach with Sensei Cuadrado and his son made me realize that even though I’ve practiced the bo and sai for almost 25 years, I still have a lot to learn.  What a great experience! Sensei Caudrado was almost 70 years old and moved around like he was 25.  His passion, commitment, and experience in Kobudo was an inspiration to us all.

One of the most memorable experiences for me was all of us performing our kata and working the weapons on the beach together, we performed our kata on the beach almost every day. Being together with my OI family on the beach, smelling the ocean, the sand at our feet, feeling the wind coming off the ocean, the palm trees, and the heat from the sun; I couldn’t help but think this is what it was like back in the early days of karate back in Okinawa, it really pumped me up.

When you walk into Sensei Jimenez’s dojo my first impression was “now this is an old school dojo.” A place to sweat and get down with some good karate, the perfect atmosphere for a dojo. Just like on the beach you get the feeling of being in a dojo as it would have been in Okinawa, all open and very hot. We were all accepted as if we had been training there since we started in that dojo, warm greetings and smiles. There was a language barrier, but then again there was no language barrier, because we all spoke the same language:  Order of Isshin Ryu Karate.  The one thing that struck me with Sensei Jimenez’s students was that they all had a passion to learn, they all were hungry for knowledge and couldn’t get enough. Class was over and still, 30 minutes later, bags are being kicked, kata is still being performed, and instructors are still working with students. I was honored that Sensei Popp had trusted me with presenting a scroll painting of Japanese kanji which he painted himself that says:  Sunsu Dojo, or ‘strong man school.’  It was beautiful. I presented the scroll to Sensei Jimenez in front of his class on behalf of Sensei Popp and the entire Order of Isshin Ryu.

We had some time one morning before Sensei Jimenez was coming to pick us up so we decided to go for a long walk along the beach.  Ginn, Harris, Lorden, Waldridge, and myself started our walk and I had no idea what a special event it would turn out to be for me. Walking and talking with each other on a personal level outside the dojo setting, getting to know their inner thoughts, hearing about their family life, and talking about their personal life experiences helped me to realize that even though I’ve known all these gentlemen for a minimum of 15 years, I didn’t really know them. I’ve fought with them, laughed with them, and sometimes even cried with them.  But it wasn’t until this trip to Puerto Rico that I really got to know them on a deep personal level. I really enjoyed that time.

Thank you Sensei Jimenez and the Sunsu Dojo not only for the great workouts, the handmade special gifts, experiencing the Puerto Rican culture, for opening your homes and your heats to us, but for giving us a special memory that we will last with us for a lifetime.

Gracias, a mi familia que siempre estará en nuestras mentes y en nuestros corazones.