Okinawa consists of 160 islands and only 48 are inhabited. The capital city of Okinawa Prefecture is Naha, which is located in the southern part of the Okinawa Islands. In the past, Naha was the commercial center of the Ryukyu Kingdom. However, the city was completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. With its rich history and subtropical climate, Naha remains one of my favorite tourist attractions.
US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is home to approximately 3,000 US Marines, and it was established after the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The training facility is not a typical BJJ gym as it is located within the military base. The facility was designed to train US Marines, and BJJ is one of their fitness programs.
Classes were led by Joseph Davis who is a BJJ purple belt and a Judo black belt. The class attendees were US marines except me who is a civilian. Although a few color belts were present in the class, it seems that the majority students were new as they started to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu while being deployed in Okinawa, Japan. However, I can guarantee you that every US Marine I trained with was physically and mentally fit, which made the rolling session challenging.
The class structures were fairly standard. Classes started with basic warm-ups, and the instructor demonstrated 3–4 techniques from a certain position. During my visit, we focused on various sweeps and submissions from closed guard. Then, intense sparring session began with US Marines. I felt like I did not have a moment to take a breather during rolling, but I thoroughly enjoyed the intensity of the session.
Instead of training at a typical BJJ gym environment, training with US Marines at their home ground was definitely a notable experience. As mentioned previously, be sure to drink a lot of water beforehand. Okinawa’s tropical weather will challenge your training to the next level.
The training at MCAS Futenma is open to everyone including non-military personnel and foreigners. However, there are a few countries that may not be allowed on the base. Prior to training, please contact Coach Joseph Davis via [email protected] or their Facebook page (My BJJ Team Okinawa), and one of the team members will sponsor and escort the individual on the military installation.
MCAS Futenma is located 12km Northeast of Naha. I had a luxury of hitching a ride with Jon, but I believe there are no other way to reach the camp beside driving. I would highly recommend renting a car while traveling in Okinawa or you will end up walking everywhere like I did (Google Map: Link)
The facility had a spacious open mat located next to a fully equipped weight training gym with showers. As the gym is designed for US Marines, the facility was well equipped for any type of fitness training. Unfortunately, I was not able to take pictures of the facility as MCAS Futenma is a military base.
See below for the training schedule at MCAS Futenma:
- Monday — BJJ Gi — 18:00–20:00
- Wednesday — BJJ Gi — 18:00–20:00
- Friday — BJJ No-gi — 18:00–20:00
As a guest of Jon, I was not charged for training at MCAS Futenma. Please contact Coach Joseph Davis prior to training for more detail.
- Shuri Castle — The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which served as a residence for Ryukyu kings until Okinawa became a Japanese Prefecture in 1879. The top of the castle overlooks Naha. I would recommend Shuri Castle’s traditional Okinawan tea and snacks while touring the castle.
- Sunset beach (Chatan) — Chatan is located 17km north of Naha. Sunset beach is located near the Mihama American Village. The beach is pleasant and serene since it was not crowded.
- Fukushūen — A traditional Chinese garden with a beautiful scenery. The garden was established as a symbol of the sister city relationship between Naha and the Chinese city, Fuzhou.
- Makishi Public Market — The most popular market district in Naha trades all sorts of Okinawan food and souvenirs. The surrounding area of the market is filled with restaurants as well. I would recommend rewarding yourself with delicious local cuisines after enjoying Okinawa’s humid tropical weather.
- The Mihama American Village — The entertainment complex is surrounded by American military bases and it provides nostalgic pleasure to American soldiers. The complex has restaurants and shops selling American brand clothes and food. The most notable feature of the American village is its Ferris Wheel.