Sunday, December 28, 2008

Team Gaijin NiJiKai

Carl here...

After the Shiramizu Bonnenkai, Team Gaijin (Richard, Carl, Amy, Lawrence) headed to a Karaoke place in Kasukabe for a continuation of the end of year celebrations - Japanese style!

Team Gaijin NiJiKai – Karaoke Baby!
This was the first time that I’ve ever done karaoke, with an audience anyway!

But Richard started us off with a bit of U2,

...and then Amy took over and sang along to every song after that.

...and this was before we started the music!

I think this is the full playlist, though I’m not sure about the order:

U2 – With or Without You – (Richard)
Queen – Don’t stop me now – (Lawrence)
Maroon 5 – Sunday Morning – (Carl)
Savage Garden – I want you – (Amy)
Radiohead – Creep – (Richard)
Savage Garden – Truly Madly Deeply – (Lawrence & Amy)
Robbie Williams – Rock DJ – (Carl)
Blur – Charmless Man – (Amy)
Cheap Trick – I want you to want me - (Richard)
Rhianna – Umbrella – (Lawrence & Richard)
Meat Loaf – Two out of Three Ain’t Bad – (Carl)
Destiny’s Child – Independent Woman – (Amy)
Destiny’s Child – Say my Name – (Amy)
Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a prayer – (Richard, Lawrence, Amy, Carl)
Diana Ross– I will Survive – (Lawrence, Richard, Amy)
Simon & Garfunkel – Sound of Silence – (Carl)
Smash Mouth – All star – (Amy & Carl)
Blondie – Heart of Glass – (Amy)
Green Day – American Idiot – Finale!! – (Everyone)

I’d like to apologise to the singers and songwriters on behalf of Team Gaijin, for murdering perfectly good songs! I’m blaming the sake!!!

In summary I must say that I am something of a karaoke legend...

This is me, not forgetting the words...

I have the ability to forget the words to songs (even though they are on the TV screen in front of me!) and I can’t keep rhythm...

...but as you can see from the photos, we all had a great time regardless!

Shiramizu Bonnenkai

Carl here...

Shiramizu Bonnenkai
The end of year party was held at Manya restaurant in Kasukabe. This party was also held in celebration of Mr. Hirai’s recent wedding. Approximately 50 people turned up for this all you can drink meal. After everyone settled in, mingled a bit and sampled some of the delicious food on offer, Ueno-san started off the game of bingo. Everyone at the party was asked to bring a prize worth 1000yen or less, so that no one would leave empty handed.

Ueno, assisted by Mori drew out all the numbers and kindly shouted out the numbers in Japanese and English.

Kikuchi Sensei thought that the purple make-up bag that he won contained something special, so he kept rummaging through all the packaging until he finally realised that the bag was the prize!

This is my bingo card. I was obviously doing very well! I ended up winning a box of gravel. I was told that you have to put them in the bath, rather like a mini spa, but it was still gravel!

After everyone had won a prize we carried on with the general drinking and merriment until the start of the speeches. Apparently the bingo game slightly over ran the schedule so the speeches were to be short and to the point. Even so, the speech was still to be a reflection of the past year and also what you would like to achieve in 2009 (hansei and hofu).

I challenge you...!

Suzuki Sensei’ speech was very good, with lots of energy and thankfully we had Richard Sensei translating it for us. He basically said that he’s 50-odd years old, but he’s still entering the Wadokai Karate Kanto Area Taikai (Kanto Championships - March 2009), and he challenges all the other Shiramizu instructors to follow his lead. I’m not sure about the others, but I know that both Yamazaki Sensei and Yoshihara Sensei have risen admirably to the challenge and will be entering both kata and kumite divisions despite both ladies being kata players!

Me and Yoshihara Sensei

During the party Yoshihara sensei asked me to help her with her kumite since I’ve started coaching** her daughter Kana when we have the time, she’s already improved significantly!

**This translates as me trying to beat up Kana at every opportunity!

My speech went something like this (only in Japanese):

Good evening!
Arakawa Sensei and Ueno-san, thank you very much for changing the venue for the party.

((The party was originally going to be at the same place as Arakawa Sensei’s masters party!))

The food at the last place wasn’t very nice.
Ueno-san, thank you for the English instructions for the party.

((Ueno took the trouble of translating all the information about the party into English for the Shiramizu English speakers!))

This year has been very busy because I handed over control of my dojo in England to a committee, and now I’m worried about it!
It’s great that we came to Japan this year.
We’re very lucky to be training in karate at the Shiramizu dojo, Thank you Arakawa sensei.
I always do my best in karate, but I still have to work on Junzuki, chinto kata and seishan kata. I hope the instructors will keep teaching me.
In 2009:
I’ll continue to do my best in karate.
I’ll do my best in Japanese karate competitions and do my best with my English dojo.
...oh and visit Kyoto!
Thank you and goodnight!*

The speech seemed to go down well, with a few laughs. Only the gaijin got the ‘thank you and goodnight’ skit but I thought it was a nice touch anyway! Obviously Amy and I had worked on our speeches beforehand, we read them rather than spoke them but everyone seemed to like the effort that we’d put in all the same.

After all the speeches were done we all got together for the group photo and then everyone went their own ways in smaller groups.

The party after the main party is apparently called a ‘Niji-Kai’, so Team Gaijin (Richard / Lawrence / Carl / Amy) went to a local karaoke joint for a Gaijin NiJiKai.

Shiramizu English Class Christmas Party

Carl here...

Shiramizu English Class Christmas Party
The Christmas party for the Shiramizu English class took place on 23rd December. The great thing about this party was that I didn’t have to dress up as Santa Claus that duty and that of magician fell to Arakawa sensei.

I started off the proceedings with a few English games and then Santa Claus came out with presents for everyone.

Santa Claus trying to make an escape...!

Then snacks were brought out for everyone and after this Santa Claus disappeared and was replaced with a very smart looking magician.

Pick a card, any card... no... not that one!

The magician insisted that he wasn’t Arakawa Sensei though the resemblance was uncanny! He kept saying ‘I am not Arakawa, I am a magician!’. Anyway, the kids and parents enjoyed the magic show and Arakawa Sensei was clearly having a great time too.

After the customary group photo everyone disbanded and I had to hurry home to pick up Amy so that we could get to Kasukabe for the Shiramizu Bonnenkai (Year-End Party).

Shiramizu End of Year Training Course

Carl here...

Sunday 14th December was the end of year training course for the Shiramizu dojo. (Training at the dojo didn’t actually finish for the year until the 21st).

300+ Shiramizu members, out of the 450 total.

The course took place at the Asukaru sports centre in Satte City. This is the venue for the Shiramizu branch dojo on Monday nights.

Kindergarten training
The Shiramizu kindergarten kids were up first and with so many tiny students (maybe 70!) I thought Arakawa Sensei was right in doing a roll call to line up each student. In order of branch dojo, he called up each student by name and then they were marshalled into line by one of the many assistants. It’s certainly a better system than letting them try and line themselves up, we’d have been waiting all day!

This session was very short; Arakawa Sensei led the kids through a warm up. Then we bowed in and the students went through some basics and kata.

Being the official intern, I was informed beforehand that I would be Santa Claus at the time Amy was still ‘tag along intern’ so she had to make do with being a reindeer. Yoshiba-san, a student from the Wednesday morning adult class (who wants to be a Shiramizu instructor) was the 2nd Santa Claus.

During the kata, Amy, Yoshiba-san and I were taken away to get changed into our costumes and when we got back, all the kindergarten kids were sitting in seiza meditating. As we walked to the front of the hall, only a few sneaked a peak! Amy, Yoshiba and I then gave all the kindergarten kids a small present from Shiramizu. After posing for a group photo everyone disbanded and we quickly went and got changed again.

Kids and Adult training
Straight after the kindergarten class was everyone else, at a rough count I would say maybe 250 – 300 students, mostly kids and cadets but with approximately 20 adults.

The hall was jam packed so we were pretty limited in what we could do. We started off with a short warm up and some basics. Then we moved onto kata, at this point the students were split in two. All the Dan grades trained first. We went through a number of kata a few times slowly and each one at full speed. It was like a massive performance of teem kata with everyone synchronised in their movement.

Next up was the kyu grades, which followed a similar program to us, though they did different kata.

After a short break we started on the year-end tradition of 1000 punches, which was relatively easy to keep count. Each row had ten people in, and each person gave a count of ten. Two of the parents had microphones and they overlapped each other to keep a continuous count. This system worked really well until they got to the end of a row, where they weren’t quick enough to get to the next person so all the students just continued to punch without a count. The adults at the back of the hall gave louder ‘kiai’s’ to keep the rhythm. The punches were finished in less than 15 minutes and I think we actually done maybe 1250!

After the training we all got together for the customary group photo, me being one of the tallest got the job along with Ueno-san to hold the Shiramizu banner in the background.

It was really fun and everyone had a great time. The fact that everyone, students and instructors do the 1000 punches side by side makes it a great team build for the dojo.

I’ve borrowed this idea for my own dojo Hartlepool Wadokai. In January, my dojo will gather at our local training venue for a special start of year training course. I’ve dubbed it a ‘Hartlepool Wadokai Technical Seminar’ because the course will cover all the basics, all the pinan kata and a bit of kumite. The finale for the course will be, yes, you’ve guessed it 1000 punches! As a special present from me I’ve also insisted that they perform 1000 kicks too! (Richard here - at my own dojo and at Toshiaki Maeda Sensei's dojo we do 1000 kicks to at the year-end practice, but with so many kids at the Shiramizu club, it might take too long to cycle everyone through.)

I think this will be a great way to kick start the new year and get rid of the excess Christmas poundage!

36th Japan Karate-do Cup (Japan Karate National Championships)

Carl here...

Lawrence (Intern V3) kindly gave us some free tickets (via Richard) to the 36th Japan Karate-do-Cup (this is the name for the Japan National Karate Championships) which was held on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th December. This was the same weekend as the Shiramizu end of year training.

It was decided that Amy and I would watch the team kumite divisions on the Saturday and attend the Shiramizu training on the Sunday. The only downside to this is that I would miss all the individual kumite bouts.

The Komazawa Olympic Parl sports arena was the venue for Saturday’s events. This complex was used for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

We met up with Richard Sensei on the way, with him managing to get on exactly the same train carriage as Amy and I!

(Richard here - former Shiramizu student Rie Hirai was competing on the Tochigi Prefecture Women's Kumite Team as the 4th member - 3 fight and one is the spare. This Tochigi team placed 3rd (!) although Rie still only a 2nd year high school student at Utsunomiya Bunsei Girl's School, so she was the youngest member of the team, which is a great experience for her.

Here are the final results:

Women's Individual Kata (joshi kata kojin sen)
Winner: Nao Morooka, Corporate Karate Association (yuushou : morooka nao, jitsugyou dan)

Men's Individual Kata Division (danshi kata kojin sen)
Winner: Takahashi Katada, Kanto Chiku Association (yuushou : katada takashi, kantou chiku )

Women's Individual Kumite Division (joshi kumite kojin sen)
Winner: Ayaka Arai, Gunma Prefecture Association (yuushou : arai aya ka, gunma ken)

Men's Individual Kumite Division (danshi kumite kojin sen)
Winner: Ko Matsukyu, Corporate Association (yuushou : matsukyuu kou, jitsugyou dan)

He is the JKF Wadokai member who won last year as well, plus taught a kumite seminar for Shiramizu in June 2007.

Women's Team Kumite Division (joshi kumite dantai sen)
Winner: Tokyo District Team (yuushou : toukyou to)

Men's Team Kumite Division (danshi kumite dantai sen)
Winner: Kyoto Area Team (yuushou : kyouto fu)
(Tokyo was second...)

There was no team kata.

We got to the competition very early and I was definitely suffering the effects of sleep deprivation from such an early start.

The competition had six matted areas running all day, with high school kids managing huge double sided score boards so that the spectators could follow each mat.

There were some interesting matches and some good fighters. On the whole most of the fights followed a typically Japanese style, with both fighters bouncing towards each other until they were close enough to strike. At this point both fighters would throw techniques together and the referee would have to decide who scored first. After watching a few fights, it all becomes a little predictable.

What I did find interesting was watching the body language of the fighters before the fight. Amy and I had some fun deciding who would win each fight based on how they acted off the mat. Those who were confident off the mat always went on to win the match. Personally I think that the referee’s pick up on a fighter’s confidence and subconsciously favour them!

We didn’t stay at the competition because it was one of the few days that Amy and I had off together and we had to do some Christmas shopping. So we made our escape and headed off to Shibuya Starbucks for a legendary white hot chocolate!

Kanazawa Sensei Book review and course

Carl here...

At the recent WKF World Championships in Tokyo, I picked up a copy of ‘Karate My Life’ by Kanazawa Hirokazu sensei.

I’m not going to give a full book review since Lawrence (intern V3) has already done that on this blog, but I will say that it’s an interesting read and it should be in every karate student’s library. It was certainly different to what I was expecting.

The other book is ‘ A life in Aikido’ which is the biography of the Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba sensei. I haven’t started reading this one yet but I’ll keep you posted...

It may interest some of the readers to know that there is a Kanazawa Sensei seminar planned in the UK in March 2009.

Sugito Shirayuri Music & Dance Festival

Carl here...

Every Monday and Tuesday morning I work at a very prestigious local kindergarten, where Amy also has two private English classes every Friday too. The kindergarten is only about five minutes walk from our house so it’s very convenient. Anyway, a few weeks ago Amy and I hitched a ride with Yoshihara Sensei (from Shiramizu) to Kasukabe, a large town about 15 minutes drive or 9 minutes train ride (express!) from Sugito to watch the ‘Sugito Siayuri Music and Dance Festival’.

I must admit that I was looking forward to it; I’d been watching some of the kids practise and it looked great.

The show was taking place in a large theatre close to Robinson’s department store (sorry I don’t know the name of the theatre).

The show started with a lot of the younger kids (3-4 yrs) playing along to a piano.

Then another group of classes came onstage to play ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ with the keyboard.

After the group activities, all the individual classes took their turn performing their set piece. Which varied greatly...

...from the very cute...

...too funny...

Air guitar is totally underrated! a little strange...

...and to really cool...!


...a bit of a wedding...

Each class put together a great show, with some classes having up to three costume changes in one set!

The whole show was professionally produced, with a TV crew and everything! A lot of the parents had worked endlessly for an entire month making the fantastic costumes too.

The choreography, lighting and music was also great and the whole thing was great fun!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

19th WKF World Karate Championships 2008 Full Results

Lawrence again (no, they haven't shipped me home.... yet...).

I took the liberty of scanning the complete results from all the divisions from the recent WKF World Karate Championships here in Tokyo, Japan.

***After you click on one selection below, then click on the button on the bottom right hand corner to expand***


Monday, December 15, 2008

New interns! Louise & Erica!

Richard here with some great news!

We are proud to announce our next two interns from June 15, 2009 to June 15, 2010 will be Louise Fisk from New Zealand and Erica Ip from Canada!

Louise Fisk (top) & Erica Ip (bottom)

First, I want to thank all the people who expressed an interest in the internship. While it is wonderful that we are able to offer the internship to two (!) people this time, mainly due to current intern Amy's hard work to create a second position, it gives me a heavy heart not to be able to bring over more people to Japan. But those people who are interested must please get back in touch with us again next year as there is always another chance then too!

Louise comes to us from Robbie Smith's Yoshin Wadokan dojo in Hamilton, New Zealand. She has a 2nd dan in the Wadokai and she won an individual women's bronze medal at the Wadokai World Cup in 2005 here in Tokyo. She graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science (Technology) at the University of Waikato, majoring in both Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences.

As an assistant instructor at Robbie Sensei's club, she hopes to have a great experience in Japan and then take back what she learns to further help other Kiwis in the growing New Zealand Wadokai association.

Erica comes to us from Marta Adamovich's Pacific Spirit Wadokai dojo in Vancouver, BC, Canada. This is the same dojo former intern Lawrence came from and we most recently ran into Erica as she was working hard as a volunteer at the Wadokai World Championships in Canada last August. She is a 1st kyu and she'll be going for her Wadokai shodan test in the Spring of 2009 prior to coming to Japan. Erica is also graduating from the University of British Columbia with a major in food, nutrition and health in May 2009.

Erica hopes to learn as much as she can in Japan and then return home to help other Canucks through the Pacific Spirit dojo, which is a member of the official Canada Wadokai CZ association.

Louise will be intern 5.0 taking over Carl's duties while Erica will be intern 5.1 taking over Amy's duties. These internships are equal in value and both new interns will have the same amount of opportunities and experiences while here in Japan.

Tune in with us again soon as I will be posting pre-arrival interviews with our new interns sometime in the coming weeks.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Amy, 4.1!

Richard here;

Before I make the announcement next week regarding the new intern who will come to Japan on June 15, 2009, Arakawa Sensei and I have decided to give Amy Coulson (the fiancee of the current intern Carl), internship status for the next 7 months while Carl is still here. Since Carl is Intern 4.0, then Amy can be Intern 4.1.

Amy came over from England with Carl last June and she herself is doing really well in the dojo and at work. Everyone is impressed with her work ethic, her desire to mix it up with everyone and her new abilities with the Japanese language.

Congratulations Amy! Keep up the great work!
Again, the announcement for the new intern from next year will be made soon, with a new twist to the internship added, stay tuned!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nukina Sensei

Carl here;

Photo taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

Last Wednesday (3rd December) we had a special guest at Shiramizu, Nukina Sensei who is the Chief Instructor for the Romanian Wadokai. He’s been visiting Japan since the WKF world championships last month and he came to Shiramizu for a night of European style kumite training.

I had an English class during his first session, but I did catch some of the unusual training drills he was teaching the kids. Like continuous mawashigeri’s (round house kick) all the way up the dojo and back again, without putting the foot down.

My English class finished in time for me to train in the second session. After the bow, Nukina Sensei put us through a thorough warm up and gave a talk about the importance of dropping the weight when punching and keeping grounded during kicking. It’s very difficult to explain techniques or drills without an enormous amount of photos so I’m not even going to try.

Photo taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

A lot of the things he taught were similar to what we do in England, but for the Shiramizu students it was completely new. Some of the drills were pretty intense but I was pleased to see all of the instructors, including Arakawa sensei sweating alongside the students throughout the whole session.

The session was only 90 minutes long being a normal training night, but it was very good and really well attended. I think everyone who trained learned something new to put into their fighting.

Photo taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

After training I had a good chat with Nukina Sensei in English, I explained that I’d trained with him previously in England where he taught at the master’s seminar which was part of the FEW European Championships program in 2006. He was very modest saying that he only led the warm up session. Which is entirely true, I still remember it because he had our body’s stretching and moving in ways that would make a yoga master proud. The main course back then was taken by the legend that is Toru Arakawa Sensei (no relation to Takamasa Arakawa Sensei of Shiramizu).

Needless to say that I’m looking forward to meeting Nukina Sensei again in Europe sometime.

Tokyo Disney

Carl here.


After working flat out for what feels like the last two months, Amy and I decided to have some well deserved R and R, so we headed off to Tokyo Disney to satisfy our inner child.

We obviously wanted to make the most of the day out, so we set off ridiculously early to get there for opening time at 8:00am. The plan was to have a marathon Disneyland fest and stay there all day.

After buying our tickets we walked in through the main entrance and we’re greeted by the biggest Christmas tree I’ve ever seen! We both gave in to our inner child, smiled and ran up to take a picture in front of it.

We skipped by all the shops and had a bit of a wonder around; we stopped at a food place for a huge hot dog. We looked at our map of the place but in typical fashion we decided to just wander around and wing it. After eating we went for a walk and we ended up in ‘Tomorrowland’ and were faced with a life size Buzz Lightyear, only the coolest cartoon character ever!

Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
We grabbed a ‘fastpass’ for space mountain and made our next move. I must say that the next thing we did was a very British thing to do, we joined the biggest queue in the place – the funny thing is that we weren’t entirely sure what the ride was that we were lining up for, I just knew the name was ‘Buzz lightyear’s Astro Blasters’ which I must say was enough to convince me. After nearly 3 hours waiting (no really!) we got inside.

The ride was really really cool, you sit in a little car that you can spin as it goes along a track, they also give you laser guns too! You have to shoot all of Zurg’s (The super villain from Toy Story aka Buzz Lightyear’s nemesis and dad!) minions and then you finally take on Zurg himself. Both people in each car have a digital display of their score; I’ve laid the gauntlet down to all future intern’s to beat my score on this ride 90,400 which nearly put me on level 3! Amy managed to get about 20,000 which she put down to me constantly spinning the car.

Anyway, after we finally got on the ride we missed our allocated fastpass slot for Space Mountain but the really nice lady let us in anyway. This ride was really good too, but I’m not going to spoil it for you... I was just pleased that we didn’t have to queue up for another 3 hours.

After ‘Space Mountain’ we watched the Jubilation parade, which celebrates Tokyo Disney Resorts 25th birthday. We spent the rest of the day buying souvenirs, going on nearly every ride in the place and generally having a great time. I almost got a Sheriff badge at the ‘Shootin’ Gallery’ but I wasn’t quite good enough.

We ended up leaving the resort at 22:30 but the adventure didn’t finish there! We ended up missing our stop for the private train direct to Wado station which meant that we had to take the JR (Japan rail) train to Kuki and transfer. Easy enough however we got back to Kuki very late and therefore missed the last train. A short taxi ride later and we could pass out in bed, a very long day but really fun!

Next year we’ll try Disney Sea, which is the second resort at the Tokyo Disney complex. I can’t wait!!!

You'll notice that there aren't any photo's of Amy on this post, she said that all the photo's of her were terrible!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Amy goes travelling...

Hello, Amy here, (the tag along intern)!

As I have been in Japan for five months now and I have never wrote a blog post I thought I should give it a go.

On Sunday the 23rd of November, I as invited by Arakawa Sensei to go along to an exclusive female only, training session. The session was to be held in Utsunomiya Bunsei Girl's High School which is in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture, north of Saitama prefecture.

The session was to train with one of Japan's best female high school teams. I knew the karate-ka from reputation. And I had once had the pleasure of watching one of the students train for the Wadokai Worlds that was held in Canada earlier in the year (Rie Hirai, Gold in both Girl's 16-17 Kata and Kumite, plus Women's Team Kata Gold, at the Wadokai Worlds '08).

Rie then was training in kata for part of the female team event. Having seen how dedicated they were in kata, with decisive techniques and a no holds barred attitude, I knew it was going to be fun, even if I was a little bit wary.

As it was about a two hour drive it meant an early start. So at six a clock in the morning the alarm rang. I woke with a chilly start, (I later learnt that it was 2 degrees). At seven-ish Sensei pulled up in the car with two other students from his dojo, Misaki and Kana.

Misaki, Amy, Kana at a recent competition...

I was sat in the front seat so Sensei could practise his English. I asked Sensei ‘What time does the training course start?’ He then informed me that it started at 7:00am. AGHHHHHHHHH I thought. It seems that the students from this dojo train in the morning before lessons, then in the evening, every week day and then on Saturday morning and then again on Sunday 7:00 till late afternoon. Pure dedication!

We arrived at about 9:30am at a huge complex. We walk into the dojo and the first thing we see is a monster of a heater. Though it didn’t take the chill off anything more than a metre away from it, but that was fine for the spectators who were grouped around it sitting in chairs. We changed straight away and did a quick warm up, (the warm up lasted less than two minutes, the Japanese karate-ka do not seem to have the need to spend time warning up, even in sub-zero conditions).

Picture taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

This was a very special training session and two other dojos were invited to take part. I should point out at this part that the students invited were all cadets and I was probably the oldest one there for training. But I do not mind this as I have the mental age of about twelve and I'm also only ‘about’ five foot tall, so I fitted in well.

The first part of the lesson was fighting stance, which is much shorter than that of a European fighter, also both heels are up with a much greater gap from the floor, almost as if you were wearing high heels. This produced a sharp pain running up my right leg until I got use to the stance. One of the main advantages of this stance is the push off power; the muscles in your legs are so tight that they are bursting with explosive energy. This gives these fighters great speed when attacking.

We then went on to the bread and butter of fighting, tobikomizuki and gyakuzuki. After watching the WKF World Championships, it was clear to see that the Japanese techniques were more formed, almost the image of a perfect technique as seen in books or more correctly in kata. The punches we were taught in this course were almost ‘kata-ised’ as they would have the look of the perfect punch. You punch, the opposite arm comes back, on the pull back, the opposite arm blocks inwards, then you return to fighting stance and move in. If I had not seen this work in real life I would have doubted the effectiveness of this style.

Picture taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

We continued in this manner until a halt was called for at about 11:00. We then had a short break were we were presented with a very yummy cake and a drink of ‘Pocari sweat’, (an energy drink).

We then started on kicks. There was a very painful warm up before this however. It was partner stretching on a whole new level. Matsumoto Sensei demonstrated how we were to do the stretches. On one of them I was demonstrated on. You lie on your front with your arms on your head as if you had been arrested, your partner then takes hold of your arms and pulls you back so your back arches.......nothing new there until the stretch keeps going and I was almost bent back on to myself, needless to say my back went crack crack crack very loudly and all I could do was laugh. (My back had need cracking off for about a month and he had just saved me from having to see a specialist!)

I was surprised to see that the kicks were more of a European style, than that of the traditional Japanese style. We paired off and started various types of kicks. Sensei decided that my partner should be changed and I was paired off with one of the Karate-ka from the University. She was about a foot taller than me, but I still managed to kick jodan. The only problem I have is my ura-mawashigeri (hook kick), finishes too far from the target, but this is mainly due to the fact that I know I can't control it properly and having once seen someone almost KO'd by it (from Carl), it makes me wary of inflicting that on my willing partner.

On a very short break while keeping my legs warm, the university students noticed a strange technique that I was doing, mainly while you throw a kick that is out of distance part way through you do a little hop and suddenly you're in distance. They studied the technique a few times and suddenly reproduced a replica kick only better. I was very impressed. Also European kicks have a fancy flick pull back, where as the Japanese kick cuts through, they also copied this and yet again it was far more superior than mine. I thought to myself, ‘I need to train with these students again!!’

We then finished the session with some fighting drills. The session came to a close at 14:30, we were then presented with a Japanese style feast. The food was lovely and I even managed to eat sushi. This was a great experience and I loved every minute of it. It was great to be around dedicated students all eager to learn from one another.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

English Shiramizu website live...

Hi, Carl here...

Over the last few weeks I've been working on a simple English language website for the Shiramizu dojo. I'll add more information as and when I have the time, but the 'bare bones' of the site is now finished, it is online and ready for visitors.

If you have any ideas, comments or suggestions then please feel free to let us know.

Monday, November 24, 2008



After another early start, we arrived at the Budokan and secured the same great seats as yesterday.

Our great view... with action replay :-)

The final day would be the mighty kumite weight divisions, so I was very interested to see my competition division, if I’m to get to this level in my own tournament career, I need to know what I’ll be facing!

Male Kumite -70kg
This category had more entries than any category so far (about 70!), and since this isn’t my weight division, I didn’t start watching properly until I had finished my delicious Starbucks white hot chocolate drink and the first round was over with.

Rafael Aghayev
One of the first fighters on the mat today was Rafael Aghayev, the guy who easily won the men’s open division yesterday. Obviously he was the favourite to win this division too and the Japanese home crowd still loved him! He beat either Ireland or Sweden in his first round (I’m not sure which) and then smoked Tunisia 5-0 in the next round. He then dispatched Qatar and the USA (4-0) to meet Japan’s Nagaki for a place in the final.

...everyone else

Canada in action (Xavier Fournier)

Canada’s Saeed Baghbani got through two rounds, against Bosnia and Herzegovina (1-0) and the Syrian Arab Republic (1-0). He then met Egypt and lost 1-0. Egypt’s T Moussa went onto beat England (0-0 Referee‘s decision) and Scotland (4-2) to meet Aghayev in the finals.

Jason Ledgister in action

England’s Jason Ledgister was on good form, he was biding his time in all his matches, just doing enough to win each fight. He beat Indonesia (1-0) in his first round and then the Netherlands (1-0) and Wales (1-0).

England vs Wales

Watching him fight, I thought he was being too cautious and bouncing too much time away. In fact in his match against Egypt, the score was 0-0 right through extra time and it eventually went to a referee’s decision. Obviously I’m a little biased, but I thought Jason should have got the decision but he didn’t.

Japan’s Shinji Nagaki did well, he dispatched Norway easily, then his next match against China was very good. I think everyone in the stadium was watching, even all the officials! Nagaki won 7-1, his next round saw him beating Venezuela (3-1) and then Belgium (4-1) to meet Aghayev for a place in the finals.

Aghayev vs Nagaki

The crowd had loved Aghayev all the way through the tournament, the Japanese affection cooled somewhat after he beat Nagaki 4-1. The fight was really good, the crowd really got into it but it was always going to be won by Azerbaijan! By the time the finals came around at the end of the day the crowd had forgiven Aghayev and were cheering for him again.

Male Kumite -70kg Final
This was probably the most anticipated fight, the crowd wanted to see if Aghayev could get the double gold. After all the pomp and ceremony the match started. Both fighters bounced around for a while measuring, Aghayev quickly scored two body punches. The referee then charitably scored a weak body kick to Moussa which equalised the score.

Go Aghayev

Aghayev took the lead again with another body punch. Egypt’s Moussa threw a very good hook kick to the head which landed, however Aghayev showing his experience moved in at the same time dropping Moussa to the floor. The match ended 3-2 to Aghayev. He had won 2 gold medals at the World Championships, a great achievement!

Male Kumite -75kg
When I started competing this was my weight division, at my last FEW European Championships I only made the weigh-in by dehydrating myself and staying away from breakfast! After that competition, I decided the time was right to move up to the next weight division. Anyway, I was still interested in this division as it’s usually the most interesting with a reasonable amount of contact being allowed.

England’s hopes rested with Alton Brown, he beat Israel 4-0 in round one but then crashed out to Canada’s X. Fournier in round two (1-0).

Richard and Lawrence working hard...

By this point I was wondering if I would ever be able to look at Richard and Lawrence again because of the embarrassment I was feeling. Canada had beaten England far too many times for my liking!

Canada's Saeed!

Canada’s X. Fournier went onto beat Bosnia and Herzegovina (3-1) but lost in extra time to Kazakhstan (1-0).

Canada vs Kazakhstan (I think)

Kazakhstan went onto face Japan’s Ko Matsuhisa who had already beaten Germany (3-1), Ireland (3-0) and the USA. Kazakhstan got disqualified in the match against Japan for excessive contact. I think Matsushisa was still feeling the effects of this fight in his next round when he faced off to Chile’s D. Dubo and ended up losing 7-3.

Chile went onto the final against Turkey’s M. Basturk. Basturk had some good fights on his was to the final, round one he beat Venezuela 1-0, he then dispatched a very strong Italian fighter. His next fight against Azerbaijan was good and he won comfortably (7-2), his next fight was an easy 10-1 win against France.

Male Kumite -75kg Final
Chile (D. Dubo) vs. Turkey (M. Basturk), as with yesterday, all the final events were held at the end of the day. This fight was pretty much one sided, I thought it was only a matter of time before Turkey took the prize. I have the feeling that this same thought passed through Dubo’s head too. Dubo moved in for a body punch but left his head completely open at the same time, Basturk felt compelled to tag his face with a punch. In response to being 'tagged' Dubo took a dive that was worthy of England’s Premiership Football League! I thought that he milked this a lot, the referee even called on the match doctor. Two of the flag officials wanted to give a warning to Dubo for ‘self endangerment’ but the referee decided that the contact was too heavy and penalised Basturk.

Chile vs Turkey

The match was a stalemate at 0-0 when it went into extra time. Neither fighter could gain the initiative until Dubo dived in yet again for an unprotected attack and promptly got hit in the face, and took an even more spectacular dive to the mat spitting out his gum shield for extra effect. The referee’s decision was very controversial and had the crowd up in arms. He again penalised Turkey, and since this was the second such penalty, he gave the point and the match to Chile.

I thought it was a very sneaky way to win a World Championship title and I thought it cheapened the whole competition. I had hoped that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen at this level because it’s little more than cheating. On the other hand, Dubo showed a great understanding of the situation, knowing that he was outmatched by his opponent, he used the rules to his advantage and Basturk should have realised what Dubo was doing and not got sucked into it. Still, I don’t think it’s an honourable way to win such a prestigious prize!

Male Kumite -80kg
This is my category, so it stands to reason that I may come across some of these fighters in the future. I therefore started to watch a lot of the fights very carefully leaving Amy to fill in the program and take pictures (which is why the photos are sparce for this division!).
England’s Loxley Simmons lost in his first round to Egypt’s H. Keshta with an embarrassing 11-1 score. Keshta then went on to beat Turkey (2-1) and Mexico (4-3), he lost to Japan in the next round.

Japan’s Satoshi Ibuchi was on good form, he beat the Congo in his first round (1-0) and Armenia (4-3) in the second. He then beat Norway (5-1), Egypt and someone else (sorry I’m not sure who!) to get to the final against Russia‘s I. Eldaruchev.

I watched a lot of fights intently in this division but I was often disappointed, the standard wasn’t great in a lot of fights and they often degenerated into a scrap or worse, they bounced most of the time away and stole a point with a few seconds to go. They weren’t great to watch.

Japan vs Russia - Final

The final was very much of the same mould, Ibuchi (Japan) and Eldaruchev (Russia) bounced most of the time away, they through a few techniques but nothing scored until the dying seconds when Ibuchi connected with a lunge punch to the face. He got the point. Eldaruchev tried to take the win with a head kick, but was forced to the floor and the match ended. The result was a unimpressive 1-0 win and the Japanese spectators erupted with cheers and applause.

Competitor Warm Up Area

After watching the full category, and not wanting to endure the reperchage we (Amy and I) decided to escape outside for some fresh air. We had a look at some of the souvenir stalls outside the Budokan and headed to Starbucks again for a pick me up.

When we got back to the Budokan, we bumped into Arakawa Sensei in the corridor. He was taking a well earned break from marshalling the competitors in the warm up area. He then decided that we should go with him and have a look at where the fighters were warming up. I was surprised to see that it was such a small area, it certainly made for a lively atmosphere. I was even more surprised when sensei showed us the gym that he teaches at every Thursday with Takagi Sensei. Apparently the Japanese team were using that as their ‘secret’ warm up area. Arakawa Sensei said he didn’t like this, and that all the athletes should have been warming up together, but I think any country hosting such a tournament would have done the same for their own national team.

Female Kumite +60kg
I can’t claim to have watched these categories very much, especially after England’s Katie Hurry and Japan’s Ayaka Arai both crashed out in their first rounds. Amy was obviously watching them intently so I decided to go wandering around the stadium. On the way I bumped into the England squad and said hello to a few of them.

USA vs France

The USA’s Elisa Fonseca Au and France’s T. Fanjat ended up getting to the finals of the Female Kumite +60kg. Fanjat completely outclassed the USA fighter and won convincingly with 2 body punches and a head kick to 1 body punch making the final score 5-1 to France.

Male Kumite +80kg

Japan working hard

England’s Davin Pack fought well in the first round against Germany’s J. Horne, the score was 3-1 just before the buzzer when Davin threw a head kick which connected but didn’t get scored by the referee’s.

The French team watching the fight closely

Italy’s S. Maniscalco met France’s I. Gary in the final which was a close fight. France scored first with a body punch, which was quickly followed by the same technique from Italy. France scored another, and Italy again equalised.

Italy vs France

Then, with a little time left Italy scored another point and France was unable to equalise. Italy won 3-2.


Mens Kumite -70kg

1st - r.aghayev(aze)
2nd - t.moussa(egy)
3rd - s.baghbani(can) and s.nagaki(jpn)

Mens Kumite -75kg

1st - d.dubo(chi)
2nd - m.basturk(tur)
3rd - m.mohamed(egy) and k.matsuhisa(jpn)

Mens Kumite -80kg

1st - s.ibuchi(jpn)
2nd - i.eldaruchev(rus)
3rd - h.keshta(egy) and a.prenov(kaz)

Female Kumite +60kg

1st - t.fanjat(fra)
2nd - e.fonseca au(usa)
3rd - e.podborodnikova(rus) and c.feo gomez(esp)

Male Kumite +80kg

1st - s.maniscalco(ita)
2nd - i.gary(fra)
3rd - c.robb(sco) and j.horne(ger)

I think it was great to be able to watch the best fighters from around the world fight it out for the number one spot. The fact that the World Championships was held in Japan, the birthplace of the Sport/Martial Art made the competition that bit more special.

I was surprised at the fighting style that tended to be successful, the techniques were very flamboyant compared to what I’m accustomed to. The most popular technique was still reverse punch, but it was performed in a very embellished way and then the finish was very important. Like Richard has already said, if the fighter didn’t recover well or get into a dominant position after the technique then they didn’t get the score. Again like Richard has already mentioned, it was great to have benefited from Oliva Sensei’ experience the week before watching this tournament because you could see his theories in action.

Throws and head kicks were very popular but these tended to be in the earlier rounds, a lot of the fighters became cagey in the last few rounds, obviously they didn’t want to mess up.

The European fighters faired very well in the tournament as a whole, though I didn’t like their way of moving. A lot of them were bouncing too much and actually becoming airborne on every bounce. I find that this makes you vulnerable to attack whilst you’re ‘in the air’. Also, most of the Europeans tended to bounce the majority of the time away, and then make a sudden dash for a single point just before the end. England seemed to be using this strategy in a lot of fights, however the match occasionally went to a referee’s decision which didn’t always go well for England. I’ve always preferred to get points early and hold them rather than having to ’chase’ the game for 3 minutes.

I was surprised at how many bouts went to encho-sen or extra time, where the first to score would win. I was even more surprised at the amount of play-acting there was with regards to injuries, in fact some bouts were won purely on a fighters acting ability. I thought, or rather hoped that at this level of competition, there would be no place for that sort of thing.

On the whole it was a great competition, and the crowd really got into some of the matches making the atmosphere electric. I was obviously disappointed with England’s performance but this was the first major challenge for the newly formed English Karate Federation (EKF), so the only way is up for us.

Hero Worshipped - Kids would follow the Japanese team around to get their autographs...

The full tournament results can be viewed here: