Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Left to right, starting with red sweater, the Shiramizu instructors; Kikuchi-Sensei, Uehara-Sensei, Suzuki-Sensei & agent, Richard-Sensei. Lawrence is behind Richard.

Thanks for a great 2007!

T'is the season, isn't it? And I wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday season where ever you are!

However, as seasonal and festive as the stores in Japan look, Christmas isn't really that big of a deal here. Everyone goes through the motions of getting ready for Christmas and then most go to work like it was any other day. Unless you're 7, it's mostly a commercial occasion.

Luckily, I work with 7 year olds so I do get some time off and I'll be exploring bits of Tokyo during my time off. But another place with lots of kids is the Shiramizu dojo, which is also taking some time off.

But before all of that, the dojo celebrated its "bonenkai", when Japanese get together to celebrate the end of the year. The word is actually made up of a few words. First off, "bo" is derived from the word for "forget". "Nen" is year. And "kai" means meeting/gathering (hence "taikai" for tournament- or "big gathering").

Anyways, this is a chance for everyone to get together to celebrate the end of the year and put any bad events behind them and look towards the new year. The usual inclusion of alcohol at a bonenkai for adults also means the forgetfulness and celebration happens to full effect. At Shiramizu, there are two bonenkai's, essentially divided into one for kids and one for adults.

The first, for the kids, happened the morning of Saturday Dec. 22nd. At 10:00am there was the regular elementary and junior high class. After an hour and a half of training (which ran the gamut of all the ido kihon, yakusoku kumite, all 5 pinan katas, as well as kumite drills), the 40 student strong class invaded a nearby buffet restaurant to celebrate the end of the year. They even had all-you-can-eat cotton candy, much to the pleasure of the younger kids.

I only found out after that it was during this time all the parents met at the dojo to give it a nice cleaning and to have their own mini year-end party.

After eating way too much, it was a short rest until the start of the adult class at 4pm. The class was similar in terms of training except with slightly more complicated yakusoku kumite drills and minus the kumite practice. The class finished at 5:30 and we all had some time to relax and change (I am fortunate to live close enough to run home to shower) before meeting at the nearby kindergarten at 6:30 so a bus could take us to the restaurant for the adult's bonenkai.

2007? What 2007? Have you seen the food!?

And what (another) feast that was. With all the dojo's staff, many of it's of-age students, and some parents, there were about 25 of us there celebrating and laughing. The food (as you can see in the picture) was great and many fully used the "unlimited drinks" feature.

The night was capped off with a short speech made in turns by everyone about how their year went and what they hope 2008 holds in store for them. Filled with laughter and smiles, it's very apt that this is called a "bonenkai" because it really is a time to forget all your troubles, live in the moment, have fun, and reset your perspective to make the next year the best yet.

(ed-For those eager to keep the party going, after the bonenkai called it a night, a nijikai, or second party, soon was established by a smaller group not ready to call it quits who soon camped out at a local karaoke bar...)

And so, I hope everyone has their own mini bonenkai for themselves. I hope everyone is able to make progress towards the goals they've set for themselves, no matter big or small. So, until then, have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Last high performance elementary & junior high class.

Who's going to make 2008 their best ever?! Put your hand up!

Paul's blog interview!

Big guy, big lantern- Paul at the famous Asakusa Temple entrance

Masuda Sensei (SKIF Shotokan), Paul and Arakawa Sensei at Narita Airport on Paul's final day!

Paul Atkin was the second intern at Shiramizu from July 29, 2006 to July 29, 2007. He hails from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada and he likes to kick and punch in the Shotokan system. It is a warm compliment to say Paul could easily be Will Farrel’s stand-in. Here’s a recent email interview;

1. What is your rank & style in karate and what do you do (work/student)?

I'm a second degree shotokan black belt and I'm an instructor at my dojo with my father, as well as the head director for karate in the southern interior (SIKA). My day job is being a foreman for a commercial construction company.

2. To see how your understanding of Japan grew/changed, to start, what was your image of Japan when you were a kid?

Growing up I pictured Japan as a place with lots of nature and few industrial areas. I thought with the essence of karate that it would be at a temple. When I got there I realized how different it was and how industrial Japan is. It’s always been such a mysterious place to me, but a place that I admire for its morals and how respectful the people are to each other and to me.

3. When did you start karate? What got you started?

I started karate when I was 6 years old as my brother and father were deeply involved in training.

4. When was the first time you met and spoke with a Japanese person?

The first time I met a Japanese person was Masami Tsurouka Sensei going to summer camps in Banff, but I had more of a understanding when we had a exchange student, Harou, and he got his Shodan with our dojo and he still keeps in contact.

5. How did you find out about the Shiramizu internship?

I found out about it through the Karate BC website, and then found out that Richard was the person that would be helping me and organizing it with Arakawa Sensei and my family so I had a great deal of relief. Richard was a coach with my father on the BC team and I knew that I would have a great person that was honorable and someone that I could trust with my life in a new country.

6. What was your idea about the internship before you arrived?

It was very clear what my responsibilities were in Japan and about the training schedule, and things were extremely organized at their end before arriving.

7. How was your first 1 week?

My first week seemed overwhelming with the fast pace of life in Japan, with understanding the language, to preparing for job interviews and once meeting the Shiramizu dojo and my house mother Matsuda Sensei. Right away I got a feel of what this year would entail. As well I found the training to be amazing and a lot different in a way that was more interesting and a lot harder.

8. What was your most enjoyable event/moment of your internship?

There was a couple events that made me realize how lucky I was to come to the Shiramizu dojo such as going to the JKF Wadokai National Championships at the Nippon Budokan arena and during the massive opening ceremonies & group warm-up I got to stand at the front on the mats with Arakawa Sensei while all the junior competitors were facing me! He wanted to use me as a guide for the many kids, with several other adults spread out at the front as well, so that everyone would be able to see what to do when walking forward for the ceremonies. Just knowing that all these eyes were focused on me and waiting on my guiding actions was a lot of pressure and I didn't want to do it incorrectly. I felt so privileged to be able to part take in it.

9. What was the most difficult thing?

The hardest thing for me was the climate change in summer as it was 40 degrees and 90 percent humidity. I think it hit me a lot harder as I have asthma so I had to fight through it for about a month and a bit before being able to actual leave the house with out being in pain.

10. When you were leaving, what were your thoughts? Was the internship worth it?

The internship changed me as I felt that my senses were more acute and I learned that I can live my life a different and more respectful way. I learned that I could overcome a lot of things on my own which in return gave me more confidence in everything I do now.

11. How have you used what you learned from the internship in your life in Canada?

I have changed my lifestyle, to building my dojo up by getting greater numbers and also seeing an improvement in my students. This something that has molded me and everything I do or whatever scenario I am in I know that I see things differently. I feel like I have the support of everyone in Japan with me so I’m never alone with my decisions.

12. Do you have any interest to come back to Japan?

I plan on returning and studying every year and a half, also preparing my elite students on getting ready for the internship as most of my students are excited about the idea of going to Shiramizu.

13. Any comments you would like to add for those considering the internship the future?

This internship is a golden ticket on something you could never put a price to. What I learned from this past year in Japan and its culture made me reflect on my life and I found out so much about myself after thinking I knew who I was. Sometimes you have to go to the other side of the world to find out who you really are.

Chinto kata on YouTube!

As YouTube grows with gazillions of more videos, important Wado videos also have popped up on it. There are different versions of Chinto for different karate styles, and within the 3 main Wado groups there are slight differences. The Wadokai version is the official version accepted by all Wado groups for Shitei kata.

For all interns, being able to perform a strong Chinto and Seishan is important since these are the main 2 Wado kata. Even for non-Wado practitioners, since these are also 2 of the 8 Shitei kata, knowing how to perform them well is not bad either.

The founder Otsuka Sensei, filmed I think in the late 1960s when he was in his late 70s.

A very sharp Dr. Hideho Takagi in his 50s performing Chinto in the early 1990s.
Please visit the USA Guseikai website to see more http://www.uswadokai.com/kata.php .

Okumachi Sensei performing Chinto, probably in his early 30s, filmed around 1994. He is a student of Takagi Sensei.

6x Wadokai Japan Nationals Champion and the 2005 Wadokai World Cup Kata Champ, Takuya Furuhashi. Chinto is the 2nd kata in this video 2:05mins.

Hiroji Fukazawa of WIKF performing Chinto. Probably late 1990s. Very nice. Notice the different enbusen, moving off the enbusen line more frequently than the other videos.

As more tournaments come along, I will try to upload more kata videos too. Please see http://youtube.com/profile?user=kenzenjapan for more videos...


Monday, December 24, 2007

Videos of the JKF National's Kata and Kumite Finals!!!

December 9, 2007 35th Annual All-Japan National Karate Championships, aka The Japan Cup.
See previous post for full results

Men's Kumite Final - Winner Ko Matsuhisa (JKF Wadokai member)

Women's Kumite Final - Winner Yuka Sato, red belt

Men's Kata Final - Winner Takashi Kadata, red belt. Suparenpei kata

Women's Kata Final - Winner is Rika Usami, red belt. Kosokundai kata.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

The very first intern speaks about his experiences!

Hanging out in a karaoke bar with Kakiya Sensei from Seiritsu Gakuen High School in Tokyo.
Mark Taylor, the first intern from Aug 2005 to Aug 2006, kindly answered our questions about his experiences in Japan. After really giving it his all for one year and building up many different opportunities in the internship, Mark returned to Canada where he took over as head instructor of the Simon Fraser University Karate Club in Burnaby, British Columbia (part of the Greater Vancouver area).

1. Just to be aware of who you are, where do you live now, and what is your rank & style in karate? What do you do (work/student)?

I’m a 25 year old Canadian both living and working in Vancouver, training in Wado-Ryu Karate (official Canada Wadokai CZWKA member).

2. To see how your understanding of Japan grew/changed, to start, what was you image of Japan when you were a kid?

As a child l lived in Richmond and so knew little of Japan or its people.

3. When did you start karate? What got you started?

I was introduced to Karate by a friend who was taking classes. My friend quit his training and I continued 5 years and running.

4. When was the first time you met and spoke with a Japanese person?

Prior to my trip I spent some time volunteering to teach English to newly arriving Japanese people in Vancouver.

5. When did you think you wanted to travel to Japan?

Actually, I tried not to think about anything really. I wanted to not have any preconceptions about what to expect or experience.

6. How did you find out about the Shiramizu internship?

Sensei Richard introduced me to the internship.

7. What was your idea about the internship before you arrived?

I thought that it was an excellent opportunity to really experience the heart of Japan and to learn karate from the cradle so to speak. I thought it was a great way to truly immerse myself into the culture and its way of thinking.

8. How was your first 1 week?

A little dizzy actually. They drive on the left hand side of the road and the driver is on the right side of the car. I almost got hit a few times. In London you can still read the signs, in Japan not so much, but you work it out soon enough.

9. What was your most enjoyable event/moment of your internship?

The last three months were the most enjoyable. The swing of things, the people, the language (kind of) are together and so many things are happening that you can enjoy. For me, it was the successful completion of my Shodan test while surrounded by those that had helped me for a year to achieve it.

10. What was the most difficult?

Going to Japan you expect culture shock, but I think it hit me more then I expected. The first three months were by far the hardest, but then something just changes and then it’s smooth sailing.

11. When you were leaving, what were your thoughts, was the internship worth it?

Absolutely worth it!

12. Do you have any interest to come back to Japan?

As soon as possible.

13. Any comments you would like to add for those considering the internship the future?

Take lots of pictures!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


"1000 punches" as it were. That's the tradition at Shiramizu's annual year end training.

This year's "end" happened on Dec 16th at the Asukaru Satte community centre's large gym. At 11am was the year end training for all younger students.. They didn't have to do the 1000 punches but they did do 120 squats. They were also subjected to my relentless "ho ho ho"ing as I got to dress up as Santa (with a black belt heh) and handed out treats to all the kids. In fact, there were two Santa's, as Kay, a German work intern who lives in a western part of Saitama that came to train a few times, also dressed up. You can find all the pictures of the hilarity on Arakawa Sensei's blog. I also had the borrow the picture above from Arakawa Sensei's blog because it's not exactly easy taking pictures while kicking.

After a quick lunch, it was time for all the older students to take their turn. The training was quick but thorough, going through some punching and kicking drills, all the ido kihon, pinan nidan, shodan, godan, and seishan.

Then came a demo from some of the dojo's students including wanshu, kushanku, chinto, and finally unsu.

We took a short break and then lined up again to do the senbontsuki. Each person got a chance to count to ten, up until 900 at which point the last row (for high school students and adults) did the last 100. Even with rows of 15 people each, 900 still took half the rows available. Done in naihanchi dachi and with a kiai on every one, I was eager to see how I would turn out.

The first few hundred are pretty easy but from then on, as the autopilot slowly takes over, I realised my legs were hurting and it was starting to be physically straining.

But then I hit 500 and, almost suddenly, my arms became faster and faster. I can only presume that with my muscles fatigued, there was no tension slowing them down anymore and each twist of the hip sent my fists flying. It was a very interesting sensation and Arakawa Sensei simply smiled, nodded, and added that it's around that time when one's technique is at its best.

Til about 800, all I could do was stare in amazement at how much faster my arms were. then I began to feel like I was floating. After "floating" til 950, it was my turn to count to 10 in my hoarse and strained voice.

But finishing the 1000 (which took about 15 minutes- 1 per second almost), I didn't feel particularly worse for wear except for my legs. And it always feels nice to take on something seemingly daunting and get it done.

Then I found out some dojos do senbongeri- 1000 kicks. Hmm........ next year perhaps.......

Friday, December 14, 2007

The second world exclusive interview!

That's right! As Mr. Mike Spain's visit in Japan draws to a close, I rather slyly snuck in some interview style questions to see what his experience was like. Actually, if I'm honest, I wasn't sly at all since he knew full well about the interview... oh well...

L: It's been quite a whirlwind week and a half! What don't you just summarize some of the things you've done aside from train.

MS: Well, I got to visit the Nippon Budokan to see the Japan Cup, I went to Nikko, and just today, Yamazaki Sensei and Yoshihara Sensei (ed- two Shiramizu staff members) took me to see the Sekiyado-Jo (ed- an old fort-cum-museum in Chiba, see its website here).

L: Nice! So how do you feel about the main point of your trip; the karate?

MS: It's definitely been a great experience. There's so many little things I've been frantically writing down after each class, it's hard to keep track of. But as of right now, I plan on coming back in March to keep working on it.

L: How about some more general observations? Maybe some parallels or differences in teaching methods between classes you've taken here and the classes you run in Thailand?

MS: One thing I was extremely impressed with while I was here was the professionalism of Arakawa Sensei. The dojo runs very smoothly and the students were generally hard working and I always felt that Arakawa Sensei tried very hard to make sure that the students clearly understand what he is demonstrating. Even for me, while I didn't understand the language, I still managed to follow the examples given. I've trained with different people and the ability to clearly convey ideas can sometimes be a bit rare.

L: Any opinion on things beyond that? How was the food?

MS: Amazing! All the food I've had from the restaurants to the breakfasts at the guest house have all been delicious. I'm so grateful for how everyone has gone out of their way to make my stay so enjoyable. I mean, Yamazaki Sensei and Yoshihara Sensei took me around to so many shops because I mentioned some things I had on my shopping list I hadn't found yet. Or how I wanted to meet Takagi Sensei and Arakawa Sensei found time to take me to train at Guseikai. (ed- Takagi Sensei is now interested in hosting the next Guseikai camp in Thailand.)

L: It certainly helps that your guest house is near dojo- near all the action, eh?

MS: Yeah. I also tend to be uncomfortable around lots of people and while it was never a problem at the dojo, I'm glad I was in a smaller town where things are a bit quieter. And the small town atmosphere with the open-arms welcome at the dojo makes it much easier to be drawn into the community feeling.

L: So what are your goals now for your karate in Thailand?

MS: Well, I've got the ball rolling with a personal membership to the Wadokai. I'll be studying the differences to learn them and then, eventually, I will take the shodan exam. Afterwards, I want to work on training my students so that they'll be ready to take a dan exam themselves. I also want to look into having the dojo join the Wadokai as that will open doors for my students.

L: Sounds like a plan! I dare say that everyone here was really happy that you came.

MS: I'm really happy I came, although it did go by very quickly. About the only way I can really sum it all up is to say that this experience has been so good, I'm already thinking about how to make sure I can come back in March!

L: Great. So I'll be seeing you then, eh?

MS: That's right! I can't wait...........

Mike re-wetting the hammer during a local mochitsuki ceremony, just like how he is readying himself to come back in March.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anyone may now apply for the 2008 internship (as per the requirements)!

Spread the word!!!

We are now ready to take applications for the next intern at the Shiramizu karate club in Japan for one year starting from July 1, 2008.

The deadline for applications has been extended. Anyone interested should contact us about receiving the application package.

Originally, the internship was only open to Canada Wadokai members in the CZWKA, but we will now accept applications from anyone with some karate experience from any style (who meet the minimum requirements below).

The main determining factor we are looking for is someone who exudes positive enthusiasm and who would like to get involved in as much as possible here in Japan! Plus they must be able to commit to one year for sure!

Teaching English classes is included so the intern can make enough money to cover living expenses. Applicants there for must be native English speakers.

Minimum requirements:

Age: Between 20-30 years old (visa limit is 18-30yrs, but the legal adult age in Japan is from 20yrs old so the internship is set from here).

Education: Minimum English-as-the-main-language high school graduate, but some post-secondary education of any type is preferred. English language teacher training is an asset.

Work experience: Experience working with children in some way. Actual English teaching or tutoring experience a bonus.

Karate experience: Any level of karate experience is ok, but Wadokai members will be given preference (in some previous years, no Wadokai members applied).

Nations included in the working holiday visa program: Since being a native English speaker is a requirement for this internship, applications will be accepted from citizens who are from the English-speaking countries on the Japan Working Holiday Visa list (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the United Kingdom).

Anyone seriously interested in applying can email me for the application explanation package.

Thank you!


karateintern at gmail dot com

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Neato Nikko

I do realise this post is dated within minutes of the Japan Cup post, but it's not all serious karate here all the time. The day after the Japan Cup, Dec 10th, Arakawa Sensei took myself and Mr. Mike Spain to one of the most famous sightseeing towns in Japan - Nikko.

About a 2 hour drive from Sugito, the mountain town of Nikko has multiple temples and shrines. Ensconced within a myriad of greenery, the different religious grounds all combined are a peaceful and beautiful site that justifies its place as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Arakawa Sensei and Mike in front of the Toshogu Shrine entrance.

Although known for many things, the first major shrine to see is Toshogu, where the famous "Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil" monkeys who are carved on the side of one of the buildings. Heading up to the temple behind Arakawa Sensei and Mike in the above picture enters the garden of the main building.

On the right side of the garden is a very steep 200-step staircase that leads to a grave site of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founding Shogun of the Tokugawa feudal period. His site is in stark contrast to the rest of the decorated shrine as it is surprisingly simple.

To the left of the picture is a special building with a dragon painted on the ceiling. The acoustics are such that standing right beneath the dragon's mouth (which is just to the right of centre) is a spot that causes sound to echo throughout the symmetrical rectangular room. Anywhere else only gives a dull thud which, for a symmetrical room to be able to do this, was astonishing to me.

Our morning there ended off with a quick lunch before heading back home to get ready to train some more at night. But what a day it was.......


35th Japan Cup Karatedo & full results!

The sign for the nationals at the entrance grounds.

(All the results & lots of pics taken from Jpn news sites are listed at the bottom of this post!)

The best of the best towering above the rest. That's pretty much how you could sum up the All-Japan Karatedo Federation National Championships, or also known as the Japan Cup. This Dec 9th, athletes from all over Japan met at the Nippon Budokan martial arts arena in Kudanshita in Tokyo to vie for the top spots. Competitors represented their home prefectures, student or business karate federations, so it's only reasonable to say that they qualified previously for a chance to come to compete in the Japan Cup.

I attended this tournament with Arakawa Sensei, his two boys and about 10 people from Shiramizu, plus Mike Spain who is still visiting us.

But that's not the only thing that's different from most tournaments, as the picture above shows. This was an extremely high profile event with multiple camera crews covering two rings in an area that held 6 for the Wado-Kai Nationals in August. You could also see one of the two giant TV's that cover the live action in their respective rings with slow motion replays and everything. Even though there are very few bad seats in the Nippon Budokan, the Japan Cup's set up ensured that even the mediocre seats were good. Except for the seats behind the screens, of course.

The tournament alternated between individual kata and kumite divisions so when one division ran through all the competitors on one round, they would switch so another division could do a round. This did drag the divisions out a bit, but it ensured very tense and exciting semi-final and final matches as all the best were competing back-to-back.

Men's kumite saw Wado-Kai National Champion Matsuhisa Kou rise to the top despite taking some big hits prior to the final and clutching his left side while outside the ring. You can also see a picture of him leading a session of the Shiramizu Kumite Training Camp in one of Richard Sensei's earlier posts.

Men's kata was won for the second time in a row by Takashi Kadata.

Women's kata went to 21 year old Rika Usami.

Women's kumite was won by Yuuka Satou.

This was easily one of the best tournaments I've watched in my 5 months here, partly because the huge production value and the two rings meant it was easy to keep track of the action and watch some big hits replay on the big screen. But it was also good simply because the level of competition was excellent; kata from all different styles and people of all different sizes demonstrated how they made karate effective for their body type.

One of the key things I took away from it was how important pacing is for a competitor. Be it keeping the nerves in check from causing your kata to look all rushed and short to controlling the pace of a kumite match, the Japan Cup offered ample opportunity to see this. Fighters always took their time to feel out their opponent at the start of a match and competitors in kata had their performance rehearsed not only during the kata portion, but from the very moment they step in the ring. I will definitely be keeping all this in mind for my next tournament.


ps. here are the full results for the All-Japan Nat'ls 2007!

Men's Individual Kumite
1. Ko Matsuhisa (Jitsugyoudan-All Japan Business Association)
2. Yusuke Shimizu (Kyoto)
3. Toshihiro Mori (Student Federation)
3. Atsushi Kuge (Student Federation)
松久 功(実業団)
志水 亮介(京都)
森 敏浩(福岡)
久下 敦司(学生連盟)

Women's Individual Kumite
1. Yuuka Satou (Student Federation)
2. Emiko Honma (Shiga Prefecture)
3. Natsuki Fujuwara (Student Federation)
3. Ayaka Arai (Student Federation)
佐藤 祐香(学生連盟)
本間 絵美子(滋賀)
藤原 菜希(学生連盟)
新井 彩可(学生連盟)

Men's Individual Kata
1. Takashi Kadata (Kanto District)
2. Tetsuya Furukawa (Hokushin District)
3. Kaku Ooki (Student Federation)
3. Kazuaki Kurihara (Kanto District)
片田 貴士(関東地区)
古川 哲也(北信越地区)
大木 格(学生連盟)
栗原 一晃(関東地区)

Women's Individual Kata
1. Rika Usami (Student Federation)
2. Yoshie Kadena (Jitsugyoudan-All Japan Business Association)
3. Hiromi Inagaki (Kinki District)
3. Haruhi Wakabayashi (Chuogoku District)
宇佐美 里香(学生連盟)
嘉手納 由絵(実業団)
稲垣 宏実(近畿地区)
若林 春日(中国地区)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The American named Spain who lives in Thailand.

Wednesday morning's senior class at Shiramizu. Mike is in the first row, in the middle.

Yes indeed, this multi-national person in question is Mr. Mike Spain. He arrived in Japan on December 4th and has come to Sugito to train for 12 days under the generousity of Arakawa Sensei.

I had met him at Ueno Station to which he went to from Narita airport after he landed. We took the train back to Sugito together and the hour or so ride as well as spending some time with him for these past two days let me find out more about what makes Mike tick.

So, what we have here is a world exclusive interview with Mike Spain!

L: Why don't you tell us a little about yourself.

MS: Although I was born an American, I spent quite some time out of mainland America. I've lived in Thailand since 2000 and for about 25 years before that, I lived in Hawaii. I'm 57 now and retired although I teach karate to students out of my home as well as at a university three times a week.

L: That sounds quite nice. What did you do before you retired?

MS: I spent two years in the Marine Corps and actually served in Vietnam. So, needless to say, the American government helps me out now that I'm retired.

L: It's the least they can do, eh? How about the karate aspect of your life? How long ago did you start?

MS: I've been training since I was 40 years old. I got started in Hawaii under Kiyohisa Hirano Sensei. When I moved to Thailand, I started teaching a handful of students around 2002. A lot of them are still with me and while I don't have many students, I teach them for free partly to give anyone the opportunity to learn and partly because it gives more reason to keep training.

L: That's awfully nice of you! So what's led you to Japan?

MS: Well, in Thailand, the dominant JKF styles are Shotokan and Goju so finding people to teach me the technical aspects of Wado is difficult. I wanted to come to have some of my technical questions answered and, if possible, somehow start a relationship with the Wado-Kai. Some of my students want to compete and being a part of a larger group will open doors for them.

L: If there aren't many people to ask questions to, how do you deal with them now?

MS: Books. Books, videos, internet; any source I can get my hands on. I try to study those as much as I can but it doesn't fill in all the holes.

L: Well, I'm sure it'll be a karate packed 12 days for you here, that's for sure. How about the people you've met?

MS: They're so nice! I really didn't expect so much hospitality, especially the schedule Arakawa Sensei has made for me. And the guest house is huge!

L: Haha...... well, that's how they do things here. You've done a few classes as well now. Any first thoughts?

MS: This'll help me slim down, that's for sure. I've spent the past two months working on the 9 main Wado kata to prepare for this trip (ed- Pinan kata, Naihanshi, Seishan, Chinto, and Kushanku) but there's still lots of little details that I'm picking up. For instance, the arm positioning and movement during the last two kake uke in Pinan Yondan.

L: Well, everyone's happy to have you here and I think you have a great attitude to get the most out of this trip.

MS: I was so excited, I was packed a week in advance! So thank you to everyone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

There's no 'I' in team.

BumB arena.

And it was at the Wing Cup, held this past December 2nd, that demonstrated this to the fullest. Held at the BumB (boom-bu) Sports Facility, it was essentially a day-long team kumite event.

The BumB was a great facility to hold this event, the very well maintained gym holding 6 rings although, with seating only on two sides of the gym and folded up basketball nets, it took a bit of shifting about to get a good view or picture. A good zoom helped, too.

At least there was no lack of fights though. The Wing Cup, open to elementary and junior high students, determines the winner of each division using a round-robin format. After having fought every other team, the teams with the best record compete again for top honours. What I liked about this was that all the competitors got lots of chances to fight and each match ran the entire roster of 3 or 5 fighters, since win statistics are used in case of a draw. It also made the tournament rather easy to watch as each division took one ring for the entire duration, so it was easy to cheer for your team without losing track of where they went.

As for competitors, there were some rather large dojos represented, so some divisions had up to 5 teams competing. Some were also very strong perhaps because, as some suggested, their training focuses mainly on kumite. Regardless, the competition was fierce and even the inclusion of some obvious ringers on certain teams didn't faze them.

A pic from another dojo website of another team, but this gives a good idea of the event.
Shiramizu fielded 4 teams- Elementary 1st-2nd year, Elementary 3rd-4th year, Elementary 5th-6th year, and a junior high school team. Amidst the tough (and sometimes tear-inducing) fights, the Elementary 1st-2nd year team took home 3rd and the Elementary 3rd-4th year were rewarded 4th place for their effort.
The best part of the day was just the sheer amount of kumite to watch. As I wrote above before, translating what I know in training into the ring is difficult and so being able to watch what works and what doesn't helps me to refine the concepts to train with. That and the fact that team kumite is always exciting to watch.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Making the grade.

Kikuchi Sensei, Suzuki Sensei, Arakawa Sensei & Uehara Sensei judging a grading.

This past November 5th-9th was the second Shiramizu kyu rank tests of the year. I managed to sit through both the elementary school 5th years and the junior high school/adult gradings.

The tested material was standardized across all the gradings and varied only according to the student's kyu. For ido kihon, lower ranking students finished after junzuki, gyaku zuki, and shuto uke. Middle ranking belts moved on to junzuki tsukkomi as well as kette versions of all three zuki variations. Lastly, higher ranking belts ran the gamut of the ido kihon including everything before and gyaku zuki tsukkomi, tobi komi zuki (but no tobi komi nagashi zuki), as well as various kumite renzoku drills such as mae geri, mawashi geri, ushiro geri combinations and nidan geri.

After ido kihon came kata. Students had to perform two kata (provided they knew two) and higher ranking belts were given the chance to pick from a choice of three. Popular choices included godan and seishan, although I distinctly recall not a single student in any of the gradings picked kushanku if the choice came up.

Afterwards, any student 3rd kyu or higher donned kumite gear and sparred. Though the kumite was refereed as per a tournament match, there was no time limit nor was the score kept. Instead, when all the Sensei felt they had seen enough, a buzzer was sounded and the match stopped.

Once finished, all the Sensei retreated to the office whereby they made the final decision about the students' performances. Then everyone was lined up once again and Arakawa Sensei read out the decisions in front of the class for everyone to hear. He would accompany the result with comments on the student's performance which I felt was an excellent way to discuss important issues with the whole class because what one student needs improvement is certainly applicable and useful to other students. The 2 hour grading finished with final comments from any other Sensei that attended the grading.

As Richard Sensei mentioned in the JKFan post before, there is no rubber stamping of belts with this many students and this fact was very much true, especially in the junior high school/adult grading where only a handful of students passed. It's a good thing I didn't wager on who would pass and who wouldn't because I handed out more passes than actually happened, even having readied myself with strict observation.

Which brings me neatly to what I had learned watching the students and listening (as best I could) to the comments made by all the Sensei. Motivation was definitely a key factor as, underneath any level of ability, motivation to improve provides the greatest possibilities for results. Some students only par for the level or even slightly below in certain aspects passed because the Sensei had a sense for whether their work ethic would bring about the required changes.

Beyond that, it was interesting to see which students had passed even with the occasional mistake surfacing. Again, a sense for what is easily fixed and what isn't is important and, as it varies from student to student, is something that comes only with experience and a good understanding of each student's abilities.

But the one aspect I admired the most was that every student was judged upon the same standards and although that means sometimes quite a few students don't make the grade, those that do can be relied upon to be the model for the younger students to strive towards.

One look at (or, rather, one practice with, in my case) the black belt class for the JKFan shoot clearly demonstrates the results.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shiramizu Kumite Training Camp report!

I've been meaning to up load some pictures and put up a small report on the Kumite camp we had June 23 & 24. Arakawa Sensei organized the weekend camp using 2 large dojos at the Kuki City Recreation Centre. Over 200 people participated, mainly from his dojo.

Seiji Nishimura - Pro karate coach many people know, 2x WUKO champion, great seminar instructor with lots of interesting drills. He's very much into the WKF 3-point scoring system, known for his leg skills and take-downs, among other things.

One thing he taught were lots of plyometric drills all contained inside one ring for the kids where they ran different footwork patterns. One drill he did was stick down numerous bits of white tape on the floor in various positions and then ran the different groups (I saw him drill the elementary kids) through various kumite drills where they ran all sorts of routes between the tape.

Another thing was he had them do was run between 2 litre pop bottles filled with water (so they wouldn't topple so easily) doing a new set of patterns.

I didn't see his kumite technique seminar, although I have been lucky to attend many other ones here and in Vancouver when he came several times in the late 90s, but the plyo drills were great and very karate specific.

Ko Matsuhisa - Current Japan National Team member, he took 3rd place at the WKF 2006 Worlds 75-80kg. With amazing leg skills, he fights with a mix of Japanese & European styles. The session of his I took was all about being relaxed and exploding into a technique. He warmed us up by running about 5 metres, jumping, landing in a small athletic crouch, and then rebounding out into a lunging gyaku zuki. Very helpful.

He was extremely quick and light on his feet. If you watch my Seiritsu Karate Club video intro on Youtube, you will see his amazing ushiro mawashi techniques.

Shun Matsumoto - Head coach of the Utsunomiya Bunsei Girl's High School karate team, by far one of the most successful clubs in Japan, having produced JKF and WKF champions. I watched him only for a short while he was really digging into a description of how to launch an attack from a position with the least pre-notice possible - no pre-loading of techniques and using the centre of the body coupled with relaxation in the lead knee to start the motion.

While I couldn't be there for all 3 days (!) one day was more than worth it. And I was glad to see Arakawa sensei had organized such a great event, pulling in very knowledgeable and experienced instuctors from within the Wadokai to teach things that can be of important use both in the association and in general tournaments.


Online video shoot for JKfan karate magazine!

On Sat Oct 27th, a videographer came from JKfan magazine, the most popular karate magazine here, and shot some video of a special black belt only class held at local recreation centre (Satte City Rec Centre) in the centre's large dojo. The main purpose was for taking some footage of kata performed by Mikiya (Wadokai junior high boy's national kata champ) and Kana (Wadokai junior high girl's kata champ).

This footage will be uploaded to the magazine's mobile cell website from which users can pay a fee of about 350yen a month to view many different short videos of major national and international tournaments, plus instructional videos right from the screens on their cells.

Arakawa Sensei gathered together almost all of his 53 black belts that he has trained from the day they first wore their white belts in their first class. Not bad for the dojo only being 12 years old when it started in a little community hall with 3 people! I'm sure many other people know this type of history in their own clubs.

But at 450+ students, there is no rubber stamping belts, as a recent week long grading session didn't see many people pass up to their next kyu ranks. Hence the quality is quite exceptional, especially when one looks at Mikiya and Kana. If I can get my hands on that footage, I will load it onto my Youtube site.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Kita-ku? More like kita-COOL!

Seiritsu High School Team Champions with Head Coach Richard!

One of the many clubs warming up in the morning.

Sat, Nov 3rd was the 41st annual Kita-ku (North Tokyo area) Taikai. It is an open event for any club based in the north part of Tokyo. It is also one of the longest running karate tournaments in Tokyo itself (actually a local township taikai was expanded to cover with the whole district 41yrs ago, so really this event has actually been going for 50yrs as of this year!)

Suffice it to say, it drew quite a few competitors, perhaps 350-400. Due to the event's age, it also meant that it had a rather old-fashioned air to the proceedings, for example how there were no competition mats laid down on the event's Kami-Nakazato area's community centre gym floor, to the occasional barked order from anyone one of the many much older karate instructors during the set-up in the morning.

Despite that, the tournament ran extremely smoothly, with some of the 6 rings finishing all their kata divisions and starting on kumite well before lunch time. Richard Sensei's Seiritsu Gakuen high school entered 4 competitors in 3 divisions- adult men's kata (graduate was entered), high school boys individual kumite, and adult men's team kumite (high school boys entered as the main team). Richard Sensei and myself were also registered on the kumite team as support in case, for instance, both kumite divisions ran in parallel and the team was short of the 3 required.

The coolness of it though was how successful the team was. Seiritsu took the gold in all the divisions as well as the second and fourth place in the individual kumite. The Seiritsu boys happened upon some rather heavy hitters in the men's team kumite division from the numerous clubs that showed up, but held their own in some very exciting matches.

Beyond winning though, there's just something about the momentum the team gained through their matches and it culminated in an awesome 2-0 win against the opposing JKA team in the final. Pictured above are Seiritsu's Sho (aka) and Ryota (ao) squaring off for first and second place in individual boy's kumite.

With much elation, the day ended off with dinner with Richard Sensei and Shun Tanaka, a graduate of Seiritsu and multi-time Japan Paralympic karate champion. One of the places we went to was a standing oden shop in Akabane where you pick your food and eat standing up. They even provided the most eye-wateringly strong mustard to go with your food.

One key thing I learned from that day was you never know what kind of people are out there in the karate world. It's easy to stumble into a little world where some students have been training since they were 5 and are now national champions making you think that you've sort of missed the train. But, at the Kita-ku Taikai, it taught me more than any other taikai that there are people from all walks of life who have approached karate from all different angles. I can't go back in time to start karate earlier, but I can challenge myself to put in more effort, and seeing so many people give it their all further drives my motivation.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sugito City tournament.

It was a slightly chilly Oct 12st morning when dojos from Sugito and its surrounding cities of Miyashiro and Satte all met at the Sugito Takanodai Elementary School for the Sugito Taikai. The gym wasn't very big, but it still held four rings and seating for families and friends. The holding ring, though, had to be put in the hall and that's where most people stayed to warm up.

But with around 400 competitors, 4 rings were quite enough. The morning started off with kata, and in my division my Chinto faced off with Zenshinkan Dojo's Sawai-san's Kankudai. I was beaten and I sort of regret not watching his kata while I waited since the kata he did in his matches afterward were all rather good.

Owing to the smoothness of the matches, lunch time hit well before 12 and it was decided that we would reconvene anyway at 1, giving us nearly an hour and a half to eat, practice, and generally make friends.

The afternoon was all kumite where my adult division's original 5 entrants was down to 4 because one hadn't shown up. I felt a bit more nervousness this time around compared to the Tobu taikai and though I was aware of how I was moving, I really couldn't help myself. I didn't win that match either so more practice is it then.

But results aside, it really was a great tournament because of the fact that it's people from near where Shiramizu is. More families (as well as more Shiramizu competitors) meant more time to meet people. And this closeness means there are people I'm likely to run into during my time here. Indeed, I ran into Sawai-san again just two days ago in a bookstore. So fun all around, but it's back to the grind stone as I only have one week left until the Tokyo Kita-ku (North Area) Taikai on November 3rd.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Karate, their life.

Recently I had the chance to read both Tatsuo Suzuki (WIKF Wado founder) and Hirokazu Kanazawa's (SKIF Shotokan founder) autobiographies. For all their similarities (both had studied under their respective style's founder, both played a role in the global spread of karate, and there is even a subtle reference to each other in both books), these personal stories are very different.

Suzuki Sensei's book reads more like a conversation with him at a coffee shop. It starts rather autobiographically with some details of when and where he was born and about his family, but within 10 pages, he's reached the age of 19 and delves head first into a discussion of karate, including an anecdote of how Ohtsuka Sensei had once forgotten Superimpei.

The book continues as such, following a rough and occasionally chronologically challenged progression of Suzuki Sensei's life. It is also rather short, at just over 150 pages of text and photos, so the action builds rapidly; indeed, exciting run-ins with the yakuza, arrests, and fights at a young age abound before even the first half of the book is over.

But it is also an intriguing look into the life of someone who has experienced Wado-Ryu almost since its inception. His years of international Wado experience also means that anyone within the style will likely be able to tie themselves in with one aspect or another that Suzuki Sensei discusses. Though at times a little difficult to follow, for instance when he is discussing his life in England and then switches to another thought that occurred to him or even when events are only given vague dates, it is still interesting to follow Wado's expansion.

In stark contrast, Kanazawa Sensei's book is a properly structured biography. He accounts very linearly (and with great detail) his life from the earliest point he can remember and spends as much time discussing his childhood experiences as he does his adult life. He relates stories and memories that have shaped his outlook on life and I really began to see how Kanazawa Sensei approached everything he does.

The book is funny too, with many incidents of hilarity. Such as when Kanazawa was given a package of lotus roots as a present and, upon seeing them filled with holes, threw them all out not knowing they are naturally as such. His friend never let him near another lotus flower afterwards without bringing that up. Or his quest for vengeance against an evil "sumo geezer".

Of course, since it has more pages, Kanazawa Sensei also manages to talk more about his training, from the people he met to the hours or techniques he practiced, there is simple more to read about. One difference I noticed was that Suzuki Sensei, though he discusses his training, often seemed to train alone or with one or two students in tow. Kanazawa Sensei, on the other hand, had rather more social training recollections.

It is easy to greatly respect both gentlemen for dedicating their lives to karate and for also having been trained somewhat by their style's founder. Both talk freely about their joys and hardships (such as Suzuki Sensei's one-time damaged reputation or Kanazawa Sensei's expulsion from the JKA Shotokan), and how they faced helping promote karate around the world. Although, in the end, I found Kanazawa Sensei's longer, more linear book to provide more depth.

Suzuki's Book: Fullness of Life in Karate (website states out of stock)

My Life, Hirokazu Kanazawa


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tournment Progress Begins...

Shiramizu's Mikiya Kikuchi (aka) scoring a point in the junior high school boys team kumite

This Tobu Taikai (Tobu meaning East, as in Eastern Saitama) was my first Japanese competition and indeed, first competition in a long time. The heavy rain couldn't keep dojos all over from coming out and there was lots of very good competition. It was a pretty great experience although that's not what I could say about my results.

In kata, my Chinto was trumped by my opponent's Kururunfa and it was, sadly, an early end to that division for me. Oddly, I had envisioned myself being a puddle of nervous sweat, but the nervousness didn't hit til after I had finished.

In kumite, I scored the first two points against my opponent, Takashima-san (who attended the kata classes with me at the camp the week prior; we've since become passing acquaintances), which he responded to with by scoring the next 3 (a jodan tsuki and a chudan geri). We each scored one more point after and at precisely when the buzzer rang, we both tried for that last point. He got the point and the victory (5-3) and went on to win the division. But I was happy with the result, nonetheless, and came away rather excited.

Regardless of result, I was pretty happy with my performance, especially in kumite where final score was close enough that I thought I did better than I expected. I won't go as far as to say I could have won, but I think I could have won, perhaps not the division, but the match. Although results are the only things that count.

The best part was that losing is by no means discouraging. I walked away from the ring unscathed, aside from a really sore left side of my jaw where I took a good punch, and eager to train more and improve my standings next time (on the 21st, for the Sugito City competition). I don't have such grandiose images of winning everything though, as progress is my only goal. There will be lots more opportunities to test my mettle and the results will come on its own.

The dojo on a whole, however, did very well- Shiramizu students placed or won their category often. Particularly exciting were the elementary and high school boys team kumite matches, which Shiramizu took top honours in both.

At night, there was a party to celebrate both the good work done at the competition (Shiramizu Sensei and staff all contributed is some form either as refs, volunteers, managers, competitor support staff, etc.) and, more important, to celebrate Hachizuka Sensei, Iwazaki Sensei, Yamazaki Sensei, and Yoshiwara Sensei's recently attained 3rd degree black belt standing. The night was full of speeches and good times, no doubt partly due to the "all you can drink" feature at the restaurant.

All in all though an excellent first time out I thought, and I can only hope I have better things to say about the results next time, haha.......


Monday, October 8, 2007

Tobu Taikai!

The Tobu Taikai held on Sep 30 went very smoothly. Lawrence competed and I officiated, while some 450 karate athletes did their thing. The venue was the relatively new Kuki City Public Gymnasium, which is a rectangular arena with seats and the floor area for easily 6 courts plus warm-up space.

The tournament is organized by Shiramizu dojo and I thought it was for Tobu City which is just beside Sugito City where the dojo is, which is beside Kuki.

There were 27 divisions, and it was a regular local city event for beginners to advanced students, but with everyone divided up by age and sex, not by rank. So from kindergarten to over 40, for example, divisions were simply listed as 'elementary school grade 4 boys invidual kata'. There were team kumite divisions as well, for boys 5 members and for girls 3 members.

Here are the Shiramizu winners! From kindergarten to high school level, the best 8 for each division received a certificate of achievement and the best 4 received medals. For the adult divisions, just the top 2 got a medal and certificate.

Awards were handed out in typical Japanese tournament fashion, when as soon as a division was done and the certificates were ready, the winners were called over the PA to line up in front of the head table where a line of VIPS holding the medals and certificates would get up from their seats and wait for them. Arakawa Sensei would read out the division name and then the winner's name for the division over the PA, and then all at the same time, Sensei and the VIPs would present the awards to the athlete in front of them, lined up from first to last in a best 8, or for adults top 2.

At every tournament in Japan there is a room reserved off to the side where 2 or even 3 people labor away with filling out all the date, divisions and winners names on the pre-printed form certificates using artful Japanese calligraphy. Each event has hundreds of certificates pre-printed just for that event, so they can be used every year. Only the date, division and winner's names need to be added, but also the current president of whatever organization running the tournament must be added with their big tournament hanko, or stamp.

These shodo people are normally from a shodo club if not shodo teachers, and they may also do karate. One person runs to and from the head table to drop off finished division certificates and get another division's winner's names.

At the high school where I coach, when junior high school students come to take part in club practices, register for school entrance exams or come to the actual exams, parents bring along big folders of all of these tournament certificates their child has collected from their good results at every single tournament they've attended since 1st year elementary school. This is to help impress myself and the club director in the hope we will a) want to have such a dedicated and talented new karate club member next year and b) put in a good word for them to the school's entrance selection department who reviews exam results with each student's school application.

Sometimes parents just bring one certificate if it is something very impressive like winning the junior high school National Championships. If your a national champion, like in other countries, enough said...

The registration deadline for tournaments tends to be one month prior, which different for us from Canada where the standard is one week prior or same day registration. But the reason for this early registration requirement is that big programs are printed listing everyone's name and all the draws for each division, plus sometimes there are a few pages in the back to list prevuous year's winners and many pages of dojo ads and karate equipment supplier ads. No same day registration is allowed because a deadline is a deadline.

The other thing everyone does, me too, is keep every single tournament program we ever get. When I'm coaching, I or one of my students copies down all the results for every division, especially our club's results. Most tournaments have large blown-up poster size division sheets taped to a wall and someone from the head table updates the division results all day along. A small crowd of people almost constantly forms around these posters.

Everyone normally records at least the kata performed by their dojo members and the kumite scores respectively for each round. At the very moment a division is finished with one's dojo members in it, many people at the event send text messages from the cell phones to non-attending dojo members and parents to let them know how the tournament is going. Knowing how the 'drama' of the tournament is progressing is followed closely here, not just for one's own club, but for other clubs, especially the one's with top reputations for producing winners.

The other thing that is common for example is last Saturday when I ran a multi-high school club practice at my school, another club coach brought the program for an important tournament she and her top athlete attended way up north so that I could see the results and reflect on the current quality of the current athletes, plus see how her student did of course. Several times older retired coaches visiting my school have asked to see some of the recent tournament programs, and then off they go to drink a coffee (and have a smoke, some of them) while they ponder on how each club is doing, which are still producing top athletes, which clubs are getting weaker or stronger, etc.

Being a fun city event, this event was no yosen, or eliminations to a higher event. But for sure an enjoyable day for all, and it was finished by 4:30pm!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Camp 2: The "Guut" and the "Paang"

Lunch time at the camp.

Sep 23 was day 1 of the Wado-Kai Higashi Nihon Chiku Senkokai kyoka gashuku (Wado-Kai East Japan Regional Camp) held at the Nihon Koku Koto School in Minowa just inside Tokyo. Using its classrooms and gym, about 120 students descended on the school for two days of training.

The morning started at 10am with about 2 hrs of warm-up and kihon. The warm-up was jogging and line-running exercises, but because of the sheer number of students, we had to take turns. With so many people in a huge space, a few junior high school kids noticed they could skip the supposed tedious task by simply constantly cycling to the back and never be seen. Thankfully, there weren't many of them and they took part again after two or three cycles.

After that were the ido kihon exercises, though only junzuki and gyakuzuki. At noon (which, according to the incorrect clock in the gym, happened at precisely 4pm), we all broke for lunch.

At 1pm, the specific classes began. I decided to do kata for the day and made my way to the 3rd floor for the adult kata class run by Okamachi Sensei and Miyauchi Sensei. We got to work on whatever kata we wanted, 8 people being in the class including me, but we did chinto, seishan, and wanshu mostly.

We started with a short bit of ido kihon just like the morning and then we would go up, two by two and do our chosen kata. After each round, we received individual constructive criticism from the sensei. Okamachi Sensei contributed to the majority of the constructiveness with his calm tone and watchful eyes. Miyauchi Sensei, with his wide grin, explained more of the theory during the ido kihon. Near the end of class, they held a mini-tournament where we would each go up and perform two kata. Such competitions were held in almost all the classes, kata or kumite, and the best performers were announced at the end of the day.

The class went for two hours at which point we were supposed to change rooms. But for some reason, our next room was already being used so the following hour was spent waiting. At 4pm, we went back to our previous room and joined the junior high school kata group to work on bits of kushanku and niseishi.

The day ended at 5pm and those who opted to stay the night in the dorm went off for dinner and 'ofuro' (bath). I thought I could save some money by going home (staying the night cost extra due to the food, etc.) but in hindsight, I regret missing out on the bonding experience that the camps allows, especially after learning first hand how much fun it was at the Shiramizu Summer Camp.

As a foreigner with limited Japanese, in particulary in regard to the theory of human kinetics, I have to rely on my eyes and demonstrations to understand things just for me. But one thing I've come to listen for are the sound effects used to emphasize movements. Both helpful and fun (perhaps interesting only to me), these "guuto" and "paang" sounds help to exaggerate and emphasize movements Arakawa Sensei always shows. For a while, having never trained elsewhere in Japan, I thought it was an Arakawa Sensei-ism. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the other sensei use these sounds at the training camp too.

How these were created ages ago I have no idea. It's very common for Japanese to use onomatopoeia in their daily speech or maybe this is a phenomenon only to me. Or maybe it is a mannerism picked up as teachers and students spend lots of time with a few who use the sounds a lot.

Either way, the "paang" is more or less the same as "bang" in English denoting explosiveness and speed. "Guuto" is used when the body is to stretch the extra bit for better stability or strength. Perhaps the stance needs to be lower ("guuto") or the hips more forward by pushing your back heel down ("guuuuto"). Or stretching your shoulder to gain extra reach in your punches as well as adding support ("guuuuuto").

But interest aside, it helps with conceptualising and I appreciate all the help I can guuto....... I mean....... get.Shiramizu kids playing some make-shift baseball before the start of day 2.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Arakawa Sensei 1, Moose 0...

Last Friday's class ended rather interestingly. Having stopped 10 minutes early, we all sat around as Arakawa Sensei brought out the map of the world he usually keeps hanging on the wall.

He asked the students to find Japan, which was easy enough. Then he asked them to find where he had been from Aug 31 - Sept 6. That wasn't so easy since the answer was Sweden. But for the most part, they knew it was in northern Europe somewhere.

Arakawa Sensei travelled there to take part in karate seminars and training sessions. His was graciously taken care of by Sensei Fred Jarbro, of the Solleftea Karateklubb, who was in Japan a few years ago to take a dan test. During that time, Jarbro Sensei trained at Shiramizu to prepare and so such an international friendship was fostered.

The pictures of Arakawa Sensei's Swedish trip depicted the exciting and, in his words, mildly dangerous activities he got to do outside of training. There was a picture of him holding a rifle, for instance, followed by one of a downed moose. He was quick to point out that he didn't shoot the the moose on their hunt, but he did have to help hold the hind legs apart as they gutted it, much to his visual displeasure.

There was also a picture of Arakawa Sensei getting ready to climb into a hang glider piloted by Jarbro Sensei's son. He certainly looked calm, but his animated retelling revealed that it was all but serene. Always positive, he grinned at me afterwards and said, "I think.... dead!", referring to his 1000m descent. Suffice it to say, considering that Jarbro Sensei's son is a licensed commercial pilot, Arakawa Sensei was in more than capable hands.

This was a great chance for the students to be exposed to such foreign adventures. Many of them may never travel to Sweden, hunt moost, or ride a glider, but to vicariously take in Arakawa Sensei's wide-eyed enthusiasm of the world is encouraging in that some may be intrigued enough to want to try it on their own. And even for those who don't, the sharing of not only the training, but all the other aspects of it, it builds relationships, interest, and improves their image of the world.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

43rd JKF Wadokai Nationals; Shiramizu stats!

Here are the results from the Wadokai Nat'ls. I know for sure former interns Mark and Paul will like to spot the names of those they know, which should be easy since many of the kids are in the Shiramizu English program.

I picked out the Shiramizu results from the main list on the Wadokai's Japanese homepage.

Ele. grade 1 boys: Masatoshi Arakawa (gold)
Ele. grade 4 boys: Deki Noda (best 8), Yusuke Arakawa (best 16)
Ele. grade 6 boys: Rikito Nakano (gold)
Men's over 18: Atsunori Mori (best 8)

Ele. grade 1-2 boys: Inzen Tomizawa (bronze), Masatoshi Arakawa (best 8)
Ele. grade 3-4 boys: Yusuke Arakawa (best 8), Jyu Nishida & Hiroki Yoshida (best 16)
Ele. grade 5 boys & girls: Yutero Sagara (best 16)
Ele. grade 6 boys & girls: Kana Yoshiwara (gold), Takushin Yoshiwara (silver), Yuto Fujinaka (best 16)
Jr high boys: Kanya Sakura (gold)
High school girls: Yuki Nagahori (silver), Chihiro Ogawa (bronze), Aya Hagiwara (best 16)
Women's over 40: Noriko Yoshiwara (gold)

Personally, I found the quality of the kata very strong, especially from the high school level students, easily rivaling the adults. The kumite was all over the map, from so-so to brilliant.

There were men's and women's over 40 kumite and kata divisions, plus men's over 50 kata and kumite divisions. It was nice to see many fine performances from people in these divisions, many whom could have easily given the regular adult's divisions a run for their money.

Arakawa Sensei said from this year he would begin participating in the over 40 divisions, but with so many students to manage (53 karate athletes!), he must have found it just too hard to take time out to compete. He did say he would enter the tournaments just for masters (over 40) from this year too!

Just for some background, this is a picture of Arakawa Sensei winning the men's kata division at the 38th Wadokai Nationals (2002).