Kiyoko (Miko) Teller handed away late January 2023. She was a revered practitioner of karate and famend for her expertise in odori, Okinawan dance. She might be remembered and missed by many individuals in Okinawa, America, and internationally.
Kiyoko’s Lasting Affect on Okinawan Tradition within the West
Born and raised on Okinawa, Kiyoko Chinen met navy man Robert Teller throughout his Vietnam-era tour of responsibility. After a courtship on the island, Kiyoko agreed to journey again to america with Robert they usually had been married shortly after. She knew little English and had no present kin in Pennsylvania however was a courageous spirit and flourished in her new setting, beginning a household and establishing roots in the neighborhood.
Regardless of the space, Kiyoko retained a love and connection to her house island. She returned usually, generally for prolonged durations, together with her husband and kids. Whereas on Okinawa she continued her diligent research of odori which made her a really uncommon cultural asset and valued occasion demonstrator. She uncovered her kids to quite a lot of great instructors and artists as nicely, producing a love for Okinawa in them as nicely.
Kiyoko-san’s character and energy got here by means of not simply in her artwork, however her on a regular basis way of life. She had no issue making her presence felt (even senior sensei Oyata Seiyu couldn’t assist however get swept up in her enthusiasm):
Seeing Kiyoko’s demonstrations in naginata, kobudo, and dance had been usually the primary time many westerners received a style of outdated Okinawan tradition. It stood in stark distinction with a lot of what had been taught within the early days of martial arts in america. Kiyoko additionally helped facilitate many visits of Okinawan masters to america, working as a cultural bridge, translator, and introduction maker.
Goshin no Mai
I first met Kiyoko-san in 2015 when she was main a seminar on “Goshin no Mai”, an Okinawan dance with deep roots in karate. For generations odori had contained key parts of outdated type “ti” and was a dependable option to protect these methods by hiding them in plain sight. The subtleties of the dance (footwork, physique motion, rhythm and timing) all performed key roles within the correct expression of the artwork. Whereas fundamentals like rhythm and timing may very well be simply eliminated or compromised as karate labored its manner into mainstream faculties, competitors, or navy utilization, they remained fastidiously preserved within the dance, usually by the ladies of the village.
Kiyoko-san knew of this custom and labored diligently to protect kinds from throughout the island.
Goshin no Mai was tough to execute. On the floor it appeared like a serene stroll across the dojo ground, however as soon as diving into the management and stability of the footwork it turned apparent why this dance (and others prefer it) required such diligence to grasp.
After the seminar Kiyoko-san was form sufficient to speak with us at school. She had a manner of being humorous, blunt, and sort on the identical time. That real nature made her simple to love.
Kiyoko-san in Okinawa
In 2016 Robert and Kiyoko Teller had been form sufficient to ask me together with them as they traveled to Okinawa. Having by no means been to the island, it was an honor for me to just accept the invitation.
That Okinawa journey was memorable in some ways, however seeing Kiyoko again within the place of her beginning, surrounded by her vibrant and loving household, was a beautiful expertise.
The “Okinawan Spirit”, which we speak about steadily in karate circles, was obvious the second we arrived. Kiyoko-san’s sisters, Akemi and Rumi, met us on the airport. When first seeing one another, the sisters laughed, hugged, and danced. They rapidly whisked us away to settle in for the night. The following day we attended the Shimabukuro Gyoza Dance Institute New 12 months’s Celebration the place dancing and karate demonstrations commenced.
Kiyoko-san’s sister Akemi had adopted a love for martial arts and dance as nicely, and the 2 steadily conversed about such issues. Nieces, nephews, siblings, prolonged household, and outdated pals flowed out and in to go to Bob and Kiyoko. They shared joyful tales over plentiful meals and caught up on new happenings. It was clear that whereas Kiyoko could have lived far-off, she was by no means removed from the household’s hearts or minds.
A Lifetime of Numerous Endeavors
Kiyoko-san’s inventive vitality prolonged into different pursuits past martial arts. She took nice pleasure in cooking all kinds of conventional and fashionable dishes and was additionally an avid painter, promoting her work at native markets and craft shops.
Attaining excessive ranges of excellence in so many creative pursuits is a uncommon high quality, however Kiyoko-san handled it as a part of on a regular basis life. In-so-doing, she really expressed the Okinawan manner. A love of life, group, household, and private expression.
Her loss might be felt deeply by many, which speaks extremely of her time with us.