Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Go Team Canada!!!

From L to R: Richard, Me, and Peter put our game face on.

Lawrence the intern here and the big news this week is, indeed, that Richard, Peter, and I have formed a kata team for the upcoming Wadokai World Championships this August. We're not aware of any other men's kata teams as of yet, but since 3 teams are allowed per country, hopefully we won't be the only team to represent Canada. Regardless, with Peter here in Japan, we're getting together quite often to get on track with our training.

Unsurprisingly, the thing we're focusing on the most while Peter is still in Japan is our performance. As to be expected, there are a lot of details to be worked out as a team that take longer than it would for an individual person, sometimes only because three minds need to agree on one point. Then there are other factors that individual kata athletes don't need to plan for, such as the synchronizing of movements between the members of the team.

It may sound like a lot of work but I'd be lying if I said it isn't fun practicing together. We've had two short practices since we put the team together (last week) and they've all been as productive as they have been hilarious.

Everything from the theory of kata evolution (Was Naihanchi developed in an extremely long yet narrow jail cell?) to what to do if we make a mistake, it's great fun taking the training seriously but having a blast with our time together.

I think the absolute best bit is our contingency plan if one of us messes up during a match. What we intend to do if one person makes a mistake is to immediately switch to an impromptu bunkai wherein Richard will do an Ogami leap (where he runs up and over his opponent, landing behind him; popularized by the Lone Wolf and Cub comic) and then.......... well, it wouldn't be impromptu if we over-planned, would it?

Fortunately, we have also worked out lots of details about how to train while one of us is halfway around the world and we all have similar ideas of what we think a good arrangement looks like, so jokes aside, I think we can get a fair bit accomplished while Peter is here. And certainly enough practice that we won't need our secret Ogami-leap plan.

So make sure to mark Aug 21-23 on your calendars to see us NOT have to perform our impromptu bunkai.

Perhaps the bunkai still needs some work....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Welcome to Japan Peter!

Peter at a recent Shiramizu training. Peter is in the front row, third from the left. In the middle is Richard and Arakawa Sensei is third from the right.

Lawrence the kohai here and, as you may have noticed, here on the Shiramizu Internship blog, we like interviews. We like seeing how people are doing and what kind of experience they're getting out of visiting Japan and, more particularly, what kind of experience they get out of training karate in Japan.

This month, we have Peter Stoddart from Vancouver, Canada visiting. He's a full-time karate instructor and teaches out of Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver, also home to the Wadokai World Championships this August. He's been increasingly involved in the world of karate since an early age and he's here for a month.

And so, in keeping with tradition, let the interview begin...

L: So, who the heck are you?
P: That's an easy one although there seems to be confusion on how to pronounce my name....

Japan - Peeta
Canada/USA - Peeder
Scotland - P..'r

L: I see....... Where are you from Peeder?
P: I grew up in a wee town called Largs near Glasgow and now I live in Vancouver, Canada.

L: And what do you do to pay the rent?
P: My job at Hollyburn Country Club has evolved to the point that I am now its "pro", similar to tennis or hockey professionals. I am quite lucky, considering there aren't many out there who have managed to turn something they started at the age of 9 into a career.

L: Indeed..... about the karate, what style/association do you belong to?
P: Canada JKF Wadokai

L: And current dan ranks?
P: NKA Shotokan 5th dan, CSKA Shotokan 4th dan, JKF Wadokai 3rd dan, and JKA Shotokan 1st dan. All those bits of paper sure brighten up an otherwise sparse apartment!

L: Sure sounds like it! With the basics over, why don't you tell us a bit more about yourself?
P: Well, I was born in Victoria, BC which is a nice place, although I prefer to live somewhere a little busier. When I was 21, eager, and had a passport burning a hole in my pocket, I saved up and moved to Canada. Then I used that as a stepping stone to make the hop to Japan!

L: So, when was the first time to Japan, how long did you stay, and what did you do?
P: I was 25 and was in freezing Hokkaido for just over a year before I moved south to Tokyo where I met Takagi Sensei through Norma Foster, and that pretty much changed everything..... I think they all get a good chuckle with my frequent renditions of Kushankudai.......

L: How about the karate itself? When did you start it and why?
P: I was just a kid and my dad did judo but it wasn't for me so I tried karate........ well, that and there was this girl I liked in the class. Turned out she stopped after 6 months but I was quite liking (the Scottish version of) karate and never looked back.

L: Any interesting stories from your first visit in Japan then?
P: Yes, Takagi Sensei teaching me the nagashi concept............ with a broomstick. I will share the story but only if you buy me a pint first!

L: I'll remember that for next time..... how many times have you been back to Japan since?
P: This is my 4th time in Japan. I just spent some time down in Kumamoto (Kyushu area) visiting Shawna Escher and Kaki Kawano. Memorable moments include Miyamoto Musashi's cave and rolling down a hill in a giant rubber ball. Apparently it's called "zorbing". Quite fun.

L: And what are you doing in Japan this time?
P: Sometimes I arrive in Japan as a coach and other times as a competitor or tour guide. But this time it's for me; I'm here for a month on research.

L: When was the first time you met Takamasa Arakawa Sensei from Shiramizu?
P: I met him when Takagi Sensei ran a gashuku (ed- camp; a training camp in this case) at the International Budo University in Katsuura, Chiba and then seemed to bump into him at events all over the world.

L: And what were your first impressions?
P: Actually I didn't know he was a World Champion because everyone was faster than me anyway. But I liked his dojo style and was impressed by his openness and dedication to karate.

L: When did you first visit his club and what did you think of it?
P: It was in 2005 for the Wadokai World Championships and it was so flippin' hot! But that didn't stop anyone from doing their absolute best; great people, great attitude!

L: Have you seen any changes in Japanese karate over the years?
P: I have met and trained with most of the old school from the KUGB, JKA, and Wadokai. I think it's good to see the new and embrace the old. Tradition is a good thing but it should never constrain evolution.

L: What are the similarities between karate in Canada and Europe compared to Japan?
P: From a tradition point of view, there is great pride in having a firm connection to Japan. And I think that's a good thing as long as there is positive development from individuals dedicated to a group cause.

L: How about differences?
P: Larry Fulton, my instructor in Victoria, said there are usually only splits in karate, and I know he's not just talking about bits of wood. If karate today were a business venture, would it be profitable?

L: That's a good question............ well, what do you see for the future of karate?
P: That's a BIG question but I like the sport aspect of it and I know that if we ever do get off the short list and become a mainstream Olympic event, then that will help us all.

L: What do you see for the future of your own karate?
P: Since I started karate, people around me seem to be "do-as-I-do" leaders. I aim to share my experience in karate and hope my students get as much out of all this as I am.

L: I'm sure they're well on their way. Any extra things you want to mention?
P: Don't eat the natto...... it's a trick!! (ed- *nods head in agreement*)

L: Any websites or events you want us to mention?
P: http://www.hollyburn.org/ - Hollyburn Country Club (click on Programs)
http://www.canadajkfwadokai.org/ - 2008 World Wadokai Championships, Vancouver, Canada

L: Sounds good! We're all really happy to have you here and to see you doing well. Thanks!
P: I'm havin' a blast! Thank you!

Everyone's all smiles after training!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A year at Shiramizu.

While it's easy to get lost in the barrage of posts on this blog, the feeling of constant activity is actually real. Shiramizu's a very active dojo so I thought I'd summarize for you guys all the things that happen. While the dates will sometimes change year in and year out, it'll at least give a good feel for all the big things that happen.


The New Year starts with the "hatsumode" which sees a big portion of the dojo members walk to a temple in nearby Satte City to pray for the New Year followed by the first practice of the year.

(Picture is of Arakawa Sensei's trophy case at the dojo).

January also sees the Nippon Budokan hold their own New Year's opening ceremony, known as the "kagami biraki". It includes a ceremonious ritual, demonstrations from all the styles of martials, and ends with representatives from each form all taking to the floor to have a one hour practice session. The past few years Shiramizu has been invited to go, under Takagi Sensei and his Gusekai Club, to represent the karate world.

Also this past January, I went to a Wadokai training camp at the Tokyo Agricultural University. These camps are held throughout the year at various times and let you pick kata or kumite to focus on during your time there. They're also usually two days, though some don't do both days.


A bit of a slow month, yet equally important- Chiba's dan grading took place this past February.


Hot on the tails of the Chiba dan exam is Tokyo's dan grading.

It's also during this time that Shiramizu holds its kyu gradings.

March 20th is also a national holiday and it during this time Arakawa Sensei holds the Shiramizu Taikai. Held in a large gym in Kuki City next to Sugito, it's part competition, part showcase for all of Shiramizu's students. Everyone enters, everyone competes, everyone demos, and everyone has a good time.

Also in March is the Kanto area Wadokai tournament. This is a huge tournament and is the first big tournament of the year.

Soon after the Wadokai tournament was the Kita-Katsushika-Gun tournament. This is a district wide tournament (Kita-Katsushika is an area that holds a number of smaller towns) open to all styles.


Despite both Western and Japanese New Year's occurring earlier in the year, April is when Japan (all of Japan) starts new things. New work schedules, new school years, new jobs, everything. Everything including a new dojo training schedule. So most of the month is spent getting it all in order and settling down.


May is home to the All-Saitama Prefecture tournament. Aside from being important in and of itself, it also serves to determine which athletes get to represent Saitama in a national tournament later in the year.


So far this year, it seems to be pretty quiet. The monthly Shiramizu schedule does point out a Gojukai tournament and the Shiramizu members book lists a training camp though the dates have yet to be determined (if at all).


Normally Shiramizu either goes abroad with 20-30 members, like New Zealand or Canada, or there is a training camp in another part of Japan.


Shiramizu's "natsu gashuku" (summer camp) is held over three days in August in Chiba, near the International Budo University. However, this year it's being held in July because August is the World Wadokai Championships in Vancouver.

The JKF Wadokai National Championships are held in the Nippon Budokan.


The first Wadokai training camp I attended took place last September. Of course, the dates change all the time (there was one this past March, for example, though I didn't go) but it's safe to say that they happen often enough.

The Tobu City Taikai also takes place late in September. It compromises of many of the cities and towns in the eastern part of Saitama, the tournament is held in Kuki.


Early October is the Sugito City Taikai, a small local tournament for the few dojos in and around Sugito.


Shiramizu holds another kyu grading during this time.


Early in December is the Wing Cup, a tournament where the only event is Team Kumite. It's open to all elementary, junior, and senior high school athletes.

Also in December is the All-Japan Nationals Championships called the Japan Karatedo Cup, which is definitely worth going to watch because it is the most important karate event of the year.

The year's training ends with a year end training session at the Asukaru Community Centre where all the members show up. A 2hr practice followed by "senbontsuki" (1000 punches) is a great way to end the the year of training.

But the real year end get together is the Shiramizu Bonenkai. Eat, drink, and be merry!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

April Poll Results

Thanks to everyone for voting in our two April polls. We're getting lots of hits on the blog, but not so many on the polls so I guess most people are a little shy, which is fine.

Here are the April results. Please throw in your two-bits for the May poll too.

(Poll) What's your style?
Shotokan-ryu 6 (22%)
Goju-ryu 1 (3%)
Shito-ryu 2 (7%)
Wado-ryu 16 (59%)
Kyokushin 0 (0%)
Shorin-ryu 1 (3%)
Uechi-ryu 0 (0%)
Butokukai 0 (0%)
Other karate style 1 (3%)
Other martial art 0 (0%)

(Poll) Which Wado association is your dojo a member of?
JKF Wadokai 11 (64%)
WadoRyu Renmei 3 (17%)
Wado Kokusai 0 (0%)
Other 3 (17%)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New May Poll!

The new May poll is up now on the right. We're interested to know who's been to Japan, so please feel free to make a selection.