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.

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