Monday, 23 December 2013

Concerning the giving and receiving of gifts...

A great gift - with a great taste
It has always been my custom when I visit Okinawa to bring with me a number of small gifts. These I give to my sensei and to others who I know will 'give' to me while I'm there. The gifts I receive are not always in the form of items, in fact this is rarely the case, but Okinawan people continually give me gifts of great value (to me) nonetheless.

My magazine work often requires me to meet karateka I have never met before, and in Okinawa first impressions are important; get things off to a poor start and you may find your first meeting with a particular sensei is also your last. A good way to make a favourable impression is to offer a small gift just before the initial meeting comes to an end; later, if you meet again, you can present your gift(s) a little sooner.

Like a great many things in Japanese and Okinawan society there is a correct way to do something and countless wrong ways; knowing the 'kata' (yes you read that correctly) for the situation is very helpful, and a big part of this kata is knowing what to give. Nothing too expensive, that's not the point at all; a 'thoughtful' gift will be appreciated far more than anything else.

On this trip, I visited the Jahana Kippan sweet shop in Matsuo several times to buy gifts of traditional Okinawan sweets to give to the sensei I was about to visit. I also purchased sweets for my wonderful hosts, the O'Hama's, as well as a number of sensei I met for lunch during my two weeks on the island. The sweets were a big hit with everybody I gave them to.

"When we take it upon ourselves to display the correct etiquette for the situation we find ourselves in, we are cultivating our humility, and this in turn will act against the negative traits of vanity and arrogance. It is hard to be vain or smug when we are following sincerely the etiquette of karatedo."
                                                                                                         Shin Gi Tai (P25)