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.