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).