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: - Hollyburn Country Club (click on Programs) - 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!

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