Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tokyo High School Spring Championships!

Tokyo Spring High School Championships was held over two days last week. The Individual Events were held on Sunday, April 27th at Nihon University Tsurugaoka High School, and the Team Events were held at Seiritsu Gakuen High School on Tuesday, April 29th.

Boy's Team Kumite Finals. Setagaya High School (red) beat Tsurugaoka 4-1.

Girl's Team Kumite Finals. Tsurugaoka (red) beat Yakumo High School 5-0.

This tournament was the qualifier for the Kanto Region Summer High School Karate Championships in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, June 6-8. Also, the best 8 for each event are allowed to compete in the Tokyo High School Qualifier on June 22nd for the All-Japan Interhigh Games to be held in Saitama Prefecture in August - only the winner of each division from the Qualifier advances to Interhigh.

Setagaya High School is currently the strongest boy's high school karate club in Japan, having won Individual Boy's Kumite, Boy's Team Kata and Boy's Team Kumite, at the March All-Japan High School Championships. Plus they won 2nd place for Individual Kata.

(From Osaka City, Higashi Osaka Keiai Girl's High School is the strongest girl's high school karate club in Japan, having won team kata, team kumite and individual kumite at the March Nationals as well.)

Team Kumite 5 position names:
1st 先鋒 Senpou (vanguard, speardhead)
2nd 次鋒 Jihoko (next spear)
3rd 中堅 Chuuken (main body)
4th 副将 Fukushou (vice-general)
5th 大将 Daishou (general)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A week in the life of the intern.

Lawrence again. It was brought to my attention that though a lot of people understand what the purpose of the internship is and what some of the things I do are, few people know what I actually do in a day, so here goes.

Monday- One of my two non-training days. I've set up a private lesson in the evening and I teach the adult Shiramizu English class from 8:15-9:15.

Tuesday- Another slow day with the first real bit of work being 3 one-hour Shiramizu English classes from 3:50-4:50, 5:00-6:00, and 6:10-7:10. The adult training at Shiramizu starts at 8pm.

(A few times a month I go to Takagi Sensei's Guseikai Dojo in Tokyo, so Tuesday is normally the night I catch a ride with Arakawa Sensei.)

Wednesday- Shiramizu's "senior" class at 10:30am-12pm, after which many of the Sensei and students go for lunch. Then it's a short break until the 5:30-6:30 and 6:40-7:40 Shiramizu English classes. Lastly, I've put a private lesson from 8-9.

Thursday- Thursdays I head off into Nerima, in Tokyo. I teach at a private education centre there and, between the working hours of 11am-6:30pm, I currently teach 9 students spread out over 6 seperate 50min sessions. Then I head back for training at 8pm (which I'm consistently late for since it takes 1.5hrs to get home from Nerima).

Friday- I usually have a private lesson in the morning around 9am for an hour. Early afternoon I head out to get to a different private English centre for two lessons, 4-5 and 5-6. Then it's back to the dojo for the 7:30 start of the 2hr Shiramizu high performance class.

Saturday- Quite relaxed. The only real set routine I have is training from 7pm-8:30pm. Otherwise, it's left open for tournaments, training camps, private lessons, or simply exploring Tokyo.

Sunday- Whenever possible, I go to Hasuda, which is a city nearby. The community centre there offers a free Japanese class from 10am-12pm so it's a great place to meet some friendly faces and practice the language. Similar to Saturdays, it's left open for karate activities, private lessons, just to run errands, or see sights.

It does, at times, seem like there is quite a bit of free time and in a way, there is. Part of it has to do with the fact that the Working Holiday visa only allows a maximum of 20hrs of work per week. The other part is that there used to be a position for the intern at a nearby kindergarten Monday to Wednesday mornings, but the program changed right before I arrived. I was informed about a similar type of position in another kindergarten but the adminstration there hasn't really acted on it beyond saying they were interested.

Aside from that though, the free time really gives me time to train. The dojo rarely has classes in the morning so it's easy to get in some self-training. As well, there have been opportunities to help out with Shiramizu's kindergarten classes which are great fun.

So there you have it - the weekly me!

Nervous? I am...

(A recent picture of a class at the dojo from Arakawa Sensei's blog.)

It's Lawrence and it's just past midnight. I'm doing some laundry rather late because tonight, we had a visitor from Chiba visit the dojo and I went to dinner with him, Arakawa Sensei, and Kikuchi Sensei. It dawned on me that I haven't written here in a while so I thought I'd throw something out there.

Arakawa Sensei just referred to him as "Y" Sensei.

Our visitor, a 29 year old father of two who looks much younger than his age, runs a sports store in Chiba as well as teaches at his own dojo. He was visiting Shiramizu tonight to get a feel for how the classes are run and how Arakawa Sensei deals with the business aspect of running a full-time dojo.

Over dinner, of course, was much discussion about karate and one topic that came up was competing. Arakawa Sensei said that although he's grown rather comfortable in the kumite ring, he still gets nervous when it comes to kata.

Nerves being such a huge factor in competition performance, I thought about what Arakawa Sensei said and, despite having little competition experience and having competed only a handful of times in Japan, I find I agree with it.

I suppose what it comes down to is that in a kumite match, there are endless number of ways a match can be played out. The entire match is about reacting and adapting to the situation and so there isn't much time to really ponder the small details, let alone ponder anything at all, which reduces the nerves. Thinking back, I do think that the nerves have come down more quickly in terms of kumite than in kata.

With kata, I would practice over and over and be reaching for a specific image of how I want it to look. Any deviation from it in the ring runs the risk of throwing my concentration because it can't be redone. This "point of no return" feeling is what I think keeps my nerves up for kata competition- that I only have one chance at it.

I suppose the solution to both is to practice it all. Which ties very nicely back to what Arakawa Sensei said at the end of tonight's practice.

He was telling the students that it's no good focussing on only one side of karate. Those who excel in kata should strive to improve their kumite and vice versa. However, he said that what one chooses to compete in is a different story. There's no harm in wanting to be a kata champion so long as, during practice, one trains equally hard at both.

Arakawa Sensei said that choosing kata competition over kumite competition because one is afraid of kumite is not a valid reason to be just a kata-only player. But, choosing kata over kumite because you aspire to be an excellent kata player is a fine reason.

We'll see how my nerves play out in my next match I guess... til then.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A better poll for all styles!

Richard here...

I realized we're getting visitors who train in different karate styles, and even different martial arts, so for everyone there is a new poll (already). We'll let both run for this month.

This internship is open to all style practioners, so I think it's important to recognize that fact. Since we're still getting use to having the blog, and finding out who comes to visit, we'll try to tailor this space for everyone.

April Wado poll!

Richard here...

Visitors to this internship blog are increasing all the time so we thought adding a poll related to something about Wado would be a fun way for everyone to interact a little. To the right you can see a new poll we've put up. Please take a second and add your answer.

We'll throw up another poll next month related to something else about Wado. If there is a poll question you think people might find interesting, just let us know by email.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Shiramizu's new class schedule April 2008-March 2009

Above is the new schedule for the new school year running April 2008-March 2009.
All karate clubs run on the same year calendar as schools.
Below is the schedule in English.

Class codes:
L = elementary grades 1 - 3
M = elementary grades 3 - 5
H = elementary grades 4 - 6
J = elementary grade 6 & all junior high grades 1 -3
A = adult (junior high & up)
SA = elementary grades 5 & 6 to high school, 3rd kyu up
SB = elementary grades 1 -4, 6th kyu and up

Note that many of the kindergarten classes have no teacher's names attached because they vary from time to time.

Monday Main Dojo:
4-5:15pm L (Arakawa Sensei)
5:20-6:50pm MH (Suzuki Sensei)
7-8:30 J (Suzuki Sensei & Yoshihara Sensei)

Monday branch location classes:
Satte City East Kindergarten 2-3pm (Arakawa Sensei)
Satte Asukaru Community Center 5-6:30pm (Arakawa Sensei & Yoshihara Sensei)
Satte Asukaru Community Center 6:30-8pm (Arakawa Sensei & Kikuchi Sensei)

Tuesday Main Dojo:
4-5:15pm L (Arakawa Sensei)
5:20-6:35pm M (Arakawa Sensei)
6:30-7:55 H (Uehara Sensei)
8-9:30pm A (Uehara & Suzuki Sensei)

Tuesday branch location classes:
Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten 2:15-3:15pm
Showa city kindergarten 2:30-3:30pm
Kasukabe branch dojo 4:30-6pm (Yamazaki Sensei)
Saitama Shintoshin Central "With You" Sport's Club 7:30-9pm (Arakawa Sensei & Yamazaki Sensei)

(Japanese website )

Wednesday Main Dojo:
10:30am-12pm A (Arakawa Sensei)
2:50-3:50 Kindergarten-age (Arakawa Sensei)
4-5:15pm L (Yamazaki Sensei)
5:20-6:35pm M (Arakawa Sensei)
6:40-7:55pm H (Arakawa Sensei)
8-9:30pm J high-performance (Arakawa Sensei & Iwasaki Sensei)

Wednesday branch locations:
Sugito Izumi branch dojo 6:15-7:45pm (Yamazaki Sensei)

Thursday Main Dojo:
4-5:15pm L (Yoshihara Sensei)
8-9:30pm A (Suzuki Sensei)

Thursday branch locations:
Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten 2:30-3:30pm
Showa branch dojo 5:45-7:15pm (Uehara Sensei & Yamazaki Sensei)
Showa branch dojo 7:20-9:00pm (Uehara Sensei & Kikuchi Sensei)

Friday Main Dojo:
5-6:30pm MH (Arakawa Sensei)
6:40-8:30pm SB class (Arakawa Sensei)
7:30-9:30pm SA class (Arakawa Sensei)

Friday branch locations:
Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten 2:15-3:30pm
Gokamachi City Kindergarten 2:15-3:15pm (This is in Ibaraki prefecture which is on the border with Saitama. The main dojo in Satte sits on the Saitama side of the border).
Gokamachi branch dojo 4:30-6:00pm (Yoshihara Sensei)

Saturday Main Dojo:
10-11:30am LMH (Arakawa Sensei)
7-8:30pm Adults (Arakawa Sensei)

Saturday branch locations:
Showa branch dojo 4-5:30pm (Iwasaki Sensei)

Sunday: left open because most tournaments are held on Sundays

English Conversation Classes (taught by the Shiramizu Intern):
Monday 8:15-9:15pm junior high to adult
Tuesday 5-6pm elementary grades 1-2, 6-7pm grades 3-4
Wednesday 5-6pm elementary grades 5-6

Monday, April 7, 2008

9th Annual Vancouver Karate Cup May 10, 2008!

Richard here...

The Vancouver Karate Cup is a tournament very close to my heart, so I'm more than happy to promote it here on the internship blog. Plus, most of the interns have also volunteered and/or competed at this event.

The venue is great because University of British Columbia's War Memorial Gym has a 16,000 square foot floor and over two thousand elevated spectator seats.

This year I can't be there due to work, but I'm sure lots of competitors of all ages will compete since the Vancouver Cup has a reputation for being a friendly and fun event for one and all. Some years there have been between 400-500 athletes, with a few coming from as far away as Japan and Britain.

For more information, contact:
Bob Mooney

tel: 604-788-7173


Friday, April 4, 2008

Lawrence’s half-year interview

Lawrence and Hachisuka-Sensei visiting the Sekiyado fort.

Richard here… now that Lawrence has passed the 6 month half-way mark in the internship, it was time to sit him down and find out how his time in Japan has gone so far.

For the benefit of our newer listeners just tuning in, who are you?
My name is Lawrence Liang. I’ve lived most of my life in Vancouver, Canada and now, being 24, I’m the lucky 07-08 Shiramizu Karate Intern.

When did you start karate?
I signed up for my first karate class through the Vancouver School Board’s summer school program taught by my sensei in Vancouver, Ms. Marta Adamovich. I was 13 at the time and just about to enter high school.

Why did you stay in karate?
It’s fun! Although our club Pacific Spirit Wadokai (PSWK) had few connections early on, the members and the atmosphere was always welcoming. Beyond that, I found more and more layers to it as I trained, both physical and mental, that maintained my interest.

When did you start teaching karate?
Around 2001 (when I was 18), I started helping to run some of the classes. Being of legal age certainly helped but the club was going through a few changes that meant busy schedules for Marta Sensei and having more than one person able to lead a class was important.

When did you first think of coming to Japan?
I first thought of coming to Japan back in mid-2006. I had just graduated from university and was heavily considering living abroad for a while. I knew quite a few people who travelled overseas to teach English and thought that’d be a great way to do it.

What was your image of Japan before you first came here?
I always saw Japan as a country quite far ahead in some ways yet quite resolute in other, more traditional ways. I knew about the crowded cities mixed with very deep rooted cultural methods and always wondered how that balance was struck.

How did you find out about this internship?
Richard Sensei and Marta Sensei knew each other from some time ago and around 2004, Richard Sensei stopped by our dojo. PSWK had no affiliations for a long time and we were quite happy to learn about joining the JKF Wadokai through the CZWKA (official Canada Wadokai). Keeping in touch with Richard Sensei led to the fateful email about applying to become the Shiramizu Intern.

What were your first impressions of Japan?
It’s hot! And busy. Really though, it’s a very interesting place simply because the culture is so different from the “West Coast” lifestyle I was used to. More than that, I was, and still am, amazed at how there can be such a balance between the old and the new. A woman in a kimono playing video games on the train? I didn’t know what to think the first time I saw that…

Santa Lawrence at the Shiramizu Elementary Christmas Party/Year-End Practice.

Any strange first non-karate experiences?
It’s never really surprising that many Japanese think I’m also Japanese. But because I identify myself as a Canadian, I feel tourists and other foreigners are my brethren, so to speak. And I forget that many foreigners also see me as Japanese by virtue of simply being in Japan. So it felt a bit odd the first time a tourist asked me something in Japanese and I got this urge to tell the world I’m Canadian. But now, I just take it in my stride and it’s become quite amusing when tourists ask me questions in Japanese…

What was your first impressions of Shiramizu and Arakawa Sensei?
My first impression of Shiramizu was how motivated and involved everyone was. Everyone trains hard and there’s a distinct feeling of connectedness between everyone. I think a lot of it has to do with Arakawa Sensei’s personality that both rubs off and serves as an example for the other members.

Going from that, the atmosphere of Shiramizu is like an extension of Arakawa Sensei; very motivated, always involved, and consistently positive.

What’s your relationship with Arakawa Sensei now?
I feel it’s reached a very healthy friend-yet-teacher/student relationship. Like I mentioned before about Japanese culture, I think I’ve struck a good balance between being formal to my sensei and being easy going to my friend.

Beyond that, I try to help Arakawa Sensei with his English as much as possible, although I’m the first to admit the balance between me helping Arakawa Sensei’s English and Arakawa Sensei teaching me karate is deeply one-sided. I also try my best to be a liaison between Arakawa Sensei and his many guests, the most recent one being Mr. Mike Spain, with things like translating (as best I can) or with other small things.

The internship is supposed to allow the intern the chance to really experience Japan and karate deeply. What have you found to be the most important for you while being the intern?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned being here is that while I do try to fit it in certain ways, I realized I don’t have to sacrifice my Canadian-ness to do so. I’m having a great time in Japan but I’m also proud to be Canadian and once I learned the balance (this is a recurring theme isn’t it??), I found my goal isn’t to become Japanese, but to become a Canadian who understands Japan.

How do you find the activities and atmosphere of the Shiramizu dojo?
They always seem really successful and I think that’s in large part to the members involved. Despite its size, the dojo feels really close-knit and everyone from the youngest to the oldest is always having a good time. Whether it’s a year-end lunch or just regular practice, the atmosphere is light and energetic.

You’ve been to Dr. Hideo Takagi Sensei’s Guseikai practices several times. How are they different from Shiramizu’s practices?
I find Takagi Sensei’s classes hugely informative- I always leave with a huge list of things I can work on as well as insights into body dynamics. The Guseikai classes themselves are also quite different in feel to Shiramizu classes. For starters, the gyms that Guseikai uses are very big and while the classes start together, then soon become more autonomous with different groups practicing different things. Perhaps this is possible only because Guseikai has such large spaces to practice in, but it does lead to a different class feel. However, though people train in small groups by themselves, there is never a feeling of being excluded as, ultimately, everyone there has been friendly and helpful to me.

You’ve also been to many Wadokai seminars and tournaments. What are some things that stick out in your mind about the Wadokai?
It’s really hard for me to choose one word that sums up the feeling I get about the Wadokai, but I suppose there’s a distinctly relaxed feeling about the Wadokai- perhaps “relaxed” isn’t the right word. At any rate, many of the Sensei present at the seminars or tournaments have all been very friendly with a “let’s-all-try-to-improve” attitude to them. It’s always felt quite open to me, as I’ve never attended a tournament or seminar where I felt excluded or ignored.

Do you notice a difference between who you are now and who you were when you first came to Japan?
I think that I’ve developed a clearer and more mature focus on what I want to accomplish and be doing later in life. For instance, every time I learned something new in karate, I get a feeling that I can’t wait to be back in Vancouver to show it to my dojo. And yet, I’ve also developed more of a respect for where I am in my life. I’m thinking ahead yet, being in a foreign country, I’ve realized that I can’t lose sight of just being young and going out and living it up. So I suppose I’ve become more youthful and less youthful at the same time.

What were your goals for the first six months? How have the changed for these next remaining 6 months?
I knew long before I arrived in Japan that I had a lot of catching up to do when I got here, particularly with my karate, and so my goal was just to try and take in as much as I can. Though I still feel I’m a ways from where I want to be, I have learned a bit and from this point on, I’ll be trying to expand my understanding so I can better share what I’m learning when I’m back home. Also, for myself, I’d like to reach some tangible goals as benchmarks for my progress. I practiced hard to pass my nidan grading and I hope to place somewhere respectable in a competition before I return to Canada to prove to myself that I’ve learned something from every experience leading up to that point.

You’re seen karate associations in Canada and now in Japan, so how do you find the political side of karate?
To be honest, my experience with the politics of karate has been quite limited. I’m not surprised that politics exists as it’s hard to avoid in any group or committee, but a lot of what I know has happened or is going on is through hearsay and it’s hard for me to really say anything knowing very little about it.

What other dojo do you go to now in Japan?
I’m still only attending Shiramizu regularly. I have gone to a handful of Guseikai practices and, beyond that, Wadokai training camps twice.

How has karate changed over the years from your perspective?
I don’t really know what to say about this ahha…….. PSWK has never really been that well connected so I can’t really say much aside from what I saw inside.

What’s your own competitive success?
None so far. Up until we joined the Canada Wadokai, my dojo never competed and thus I’ve been trying to get as much experience as I can while I’m in Japan. I’ve entered nearly all the tournaments I could, both kata and kumite, so hopefully I’ll see some progressive results soon.

What’s your belt rank success?
In December of 2006, I passed my Wadokai Shodan in Vancouver. Then, in February 2008, I passed my Wadokai Nidan in Chiba, Japan.

What does it take run a successful dojo?
I think a successful dojo, or a successful anything for that matter, starts with the right atmosphere and the right people. I really think that any place that focuses on the development of abilities, physical or mental, needs to be open and comfortable so that the people will feel motivated to push themselves regardless of how soon their success come. For a karate dojo, I think the members should take their karate seriously without taking themselves too seriously. I really think that success will come if the motivation is there, and so a dojo should be a place where that motivation is cultivated.

Best karate coaches you have experienced through seminars?
Twice, at Wadokai Camps, I’ve had Miyauchi and Okamachi Sensei lead the kata group and I feel they’re quite a pair. Miyauchi Sensei has a larger-than-life air about him while Okamachi Sensei balances that perfectly with his calm attitude and watchful eye. It’s great fun to see them interact as well as interact with them.

What do you see in regards to your personal future in karate?
I really want to help my dojo grow and to help develop some good athletes from it. I've learned (and am learning) a lot that's helped me rediscover my interest in karate and I hope to convey these ideas to spur the same interest in my students. Beyond that, I never had much of a chance to further my abilities outside of my own dojo whilst in Vancouver and I'd like my students to have that kind of opportunity to see how far they can go. For lack of better words, I'm gaining a lot from my experience here and I want my students to gain similar experiences though they're in Vancouver.

On a little more personal note, being Asian and raised in Canada, how do Japanese people react to you?
The pattern is: Familiarity, surprise, shyness. And if the conversation (English or otherwise) goes beyond that, interest. I find it particularly amusing because I’m mistaken for Japanese because of my Chinese heritage, yet I identify myself as a Canadian. I used to feel it was a bit troublesome, but I’ve found it’s a great icebreaker, good for a laugh, and a chance for me to expand my multi-culturalism.

So you plan to go back to Canada?
Eventually, yes. I really think I’ve learned a lot while I’m here and there’s a lot of really great stuff I want to show my friends and my dojo back home. Ultimately, I had wanted to become the intern partly to improve my abilities but mostly to be able to improve the abilities of the people around me, and moving all my friends to Japan isn’t really a viable option…

Any final words of advice for future interns?
Do it. Even if it’s not the Shiramizu Internship or it’s for 6 months instead of a year or it’s not Japan or you’re not even training karate, there’s a lot to learn from seeing some place new, meeting someone different, and trying something you’d never thought you could do.

That’s done, thanks for the half-year interview, Lawrence! You’ve got 6 months to come up with new, snazzy answers for the one-year completion interview in July!