Tuesday, December 25, 2007

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.

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