Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sumo and Sightseeing...

Carl here...

Tuesday 23rd September was a national holiday, so Amy and I decided to do some sightseeing. The original plan was to visit Nikko, which is about 1 ½ to 2 hours north of Sugito by train. We agreed to get up very early to make the most of the day, we would be catching the train from Wado station at 7.00am.

7.00am came and went, and I was still in bed! Amy was wide awake and somewhat bemused at my morning of laziness. I dragged myself out of bed at 7.30am but we had missed our train. After breakfast we decided to go with plan B, if only we had one! We quickly decided to just head into Tokyo and see what mischief we could get up to.

Amy and I, in front of the Edo-Tokyo Museum

The day started out as per the plan with some sightseeing in Tokyo, we started with a visit to the Edo-Tokyo open air architectural museum. The building itself is hideous, it looks like a concrete oil rig (see photo), but inside is really cool. After buying your ticket (a very reasonable 600 yen!), you take the elevator up to the sixth floor which is one of two ‘permanent exhibit areas’. What greets you is a full size replica of the northern half of the original Nihonbashi (Literally – Japan Bridge), as you walk over the bridge you can look down to a number of full size replica buildings on the fifth floor. At the other side of the bridge you come across some large scale models of various parts of Tokyo. The details are very good; I liked the contrast between a Lord’s villa and an area of equal size which housed 1000 common folk.

We headed down to the fifth floor which continues from the Edo-period right through the industrial revolution, the great Kanto earthquake and of course, World War 2. There are lots of other exhibits worth seeing and there are lots of ‘hands-on’ things for children (or adults!) but I won’t spoil them for you, I would definitely recommend the museum.

These flags have the names of more famous Sumo guys

After the museum, we decided to go for a bit of a walk whilst we decided where to head next. We hadn’t walked very far when we started to get passed by a number of Sumo guys in full kimono. We walked a little further and realised that we were in the centre of ‘Sumo-town’ and the Edo-Tokyo museum is right next door to the National Sumo Arena (Ryogoku Kokugikan). There was nothing else for it, we quickly bought tickets and headed inside.

I sort of followed what was going on, with the help of our English handbook. Most of the bouts were the same; two guys would get up, bow to each other, throw chalk around and wrestle. The winner is the one who makes the other guy fall or touch the floor with anything other than his feet, or move / get pushed out of the roped off ring.

Opening Ceremony for the Makuuchi (Senior) division

In between each division, all the competitors would have a ceremonial entrance. They all walk in and form a circle in the ring looking towards the crowd, then they all turn 180 degrees lift their hands, do a bit of a clap and then walk off again.

Opening Ceremony for the Makuuchi (Senior) division

Some of the fights were really good, especially as the day wore on. The most enjoyable bout for me was between a huge guy that was three times the size of his opponent. It looked like the little guy was going to get squashed. When the fight started, the little guy shifted to the left as the big guy attacked. The little guy then simply unbalanced his larger opponent and the big guy crashed on his back to the floor. The crowd went wild! There were other good fights but that was the highlight for me.

One of the many fights in action

Today turned out to be day number 10 of this particular tournament and like all sumo tournaments, it lasts all day. We got there for about lunch time so we watched from the middle of the Jonokuchi (lowest rank) – Makushita (junior grade) category. Next came the Juryo (intermediate) and then the Makuuchi (senior division) event. The tournament finished with the yumitori-shiki or bow dance ceremony.

Here's Asashoru up against Ama on day 9 of the tournament

I really enjoyed watching the sumo live, it feels very different from watching it on TV. The crowd really get into it and you can’t help but get sucked in and you really enjoy yourself. I was particularly surprised at the skill of the wrestlers, they actually use techniques! I never saw the fascination with sumo but I think I’m now hooked, and we're already planning our next trip.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Applications for the Internship 2009 now being accepted!

Spread the word!!!

For our fifth year in a row, we are now ready to accept applications for the next intern at the Shiramizu Karate Club in Japan for one year starting from June 15, 2009 to June 15, 2010! Shiramizu is located one hour from central Tokyo.

The application deadline for those wishing to be Intern #5 is December 15, 2008, but applications received earlier will be given preference.

Originally, the internship was only open to Canada Wadokai members in the CZWKA, but we now accept applications from anyone with some karate experience from any style, who meet the minimum requirements below.

The main determining factors we are looking for are someone who exudes positive enthusiasm and someone who would like to get involved in as much as possible here in Japan! Plus they must be able to commit to the one full year, no exceptions!

Teaching English conversation classes are included as part of the internship so that the intern can make enough money to cover living expenses. Applicants therefore must be able to speak English at a native-English level.

Minimum requirements:

Age: Between 20-30 years old (the working holiday visa in Japan is set at the age range of 18-30yrs, but the legal adult age in Japan is 20yrs old therefore the internship is set from age 20).

Education: Minimum English-as-the-main-language high school graduate, but some post-secondary education of any type is preferred. English language teacher training is an asset.

Work experience: Experience working with children in some way. Actual English teaching or tutoring experience a bonus.

Karate experience: Any level of karate experience is ok, but Wadokai members will be given preference (in some previous years, no Wadokai members applied).

Nations included in the working holiday visa program: Since being a native English speaker is a requirement for this internship, applications will be accepted from people who hold passports from the English-speaking countries on the Japan Working Holiday Visa list (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the United Kingdom).

Note to US citizens interested in the internship:
It's unfortunate the US is not included in the working holiday visa program. I do not know why, but one of the reasons I have heard floated about is that there is not enough political interest on the US side to join this visa program because it would have to be reciprocal. Over the past few months we have received emails from Americans interested in the internship and my suggestion to them has been to contact their federal government representative to look into the US joining the working holiday visa program. If enough people do this, maybe there will be a change in federal policy and the US will approach Japan to join.

Anyone seriously interested in applying to be the next intern can email me a request for the application package which explains everything in detail.

We look forward to hearing from interested applicants soon!


karateintern at gmail dot com

Friday, September 26, 2008

European-style kumite seminar with Oliva Sensei!

Richard here!

The Oliva Sensei kumite seminar on Sunday, November 9 is all set to go now! Shiramizu is calling it the 'Second Champion Seminar', the first having taken place last year with other instructors.

ANTONIO OLIVA SEBA, 8th. Dan WKF International Coach
The following is from his bio;

Oliva Sensei created the Sports Karate Coaching System which followed the world over. He has been teaching a total of 57 different countries: 27 in Europe, 8 in Asia, 8 in Africa, 11 in America and 3 in Oceania. In the last two Karate World Championships held in Tampere (Finland) and Istambul (Turkey) most of the medalist countries have competed using his technical and tactical approaches.

For the seminar, 2 European kumite champions will also be assisting Oliva Sensei. They are participating on their national teams in the upcoming WKF World Championships in Tokyo Nov 13-16. (See their names, photos and tournament resumes below.)

The location has been chosen as the Satte City's Cultural Gymnasium, called 'Asukaru Satte', in Satte City, Saitama. This is the same location used for Monday night's Shiramizu branch class, as the budo dojo there is quite large and it can hold over 100 people.

The closest station Satte Eki, on the Tobu Nikko line. It's a 30min walk east from the station, but less than a 10min taxi ride. If several people share a taxi, it's cheap.

Seminar class times:

1500yen for junior high school and younger
2000yen for high school and older

Seminar plans (from Oliva Sensei)
In accordance with my experience, my suggested topics for our seminar would be:

1. Tactics, the intelligent movement, that is to say, tactical behaviours. Japanese Karate is good in technique and weak in tactics (advanced students).

2. Defensive Technical System, how to control and make unsuccessful any attack of your opponents. Japanese are also not very good on that issue (beginners and kids).2)防御技術システム:相手の攻撃を制御し失敗に終わらせる。日本人の空手家はこの点もあまり得意としていません(特に初心者と子供)

3. A brief introduction to "Sports Karate" from the European point of view. Methodology of "Shiai-Kumite" in accordance with the personality of the athletes (only for instructors).


Assistant Seminar Coaches:

Adam Kovacs (Hungry)
アダム コヴァックス (ハンガリー)
Member of the Hungarian National Karate team since 1997
Best Results (-65kg division)
WKF Junior Karate World Championships: Winner - Athens- 2001
WKF University World Championships fourth place - Mexico- 2002
WKF World Karate Championships: fourth place - Madrid- 2002
WKF World Karate Championships: second place - Mexico- 2004

WKF ジュニア世空手世界選手権: 勝者 2001回のアテネ
WKF 大学世界選手権: 4位 2002年のメキシコ
WKF 世界大会空手選手権: 4位 2002年のマドリード
WKF 世界大会空手選手権: 2位 メキシコ2004
Kalvis Kalnins (Latvia)
カラビス カルインズ (ラトビア)

Birthday: February 16th 1991, Jelgava, Latvia
1st dan by WKF
Champion of Latvia 6 times in kata and 7 times in kumite.
Best results:
2007 - 2nd place (-55kg cadet) WKF World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey;
2008 - 3rd place (-60kg cadet) WKF European Championship in Trieste, Italy;
2008 - 3rd place (-60kg senior) Azerbaijan President's Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan.

誕生日: 1991年2月16日出生地: エルガワ、ラトビア

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Arakawa Sensei, Japan Master's Kumite Champion

Carl here;

Arakawa Sensei recently came back from Kochi City in Kochi Prefecture where he was competing in the All Japan Sports Masters Championships, which is a multi-sport event. Sensei competed in the JKF Japan Master's Karate Competition (日本スポーツマスターズ2008空手道競技会). This national event is open to the over 40’s and is an all-style event, with athletes having won their prefectural divisions for their age groups in kata and kumite

Naturally, this is a prestigious event, so competitors have to qualify for it by beating stiff competition from their own prefecture. Arakawa Sensei had previously won his qualifying event so he was going to be representing the Saitama Prefecture. Sensei was representing the Saitama region along with another guy, who just so happens to have won 3rd place in a full contact world championship years ago (sorry, I don’t know which world championship).

The main event
The tournament was held at the Kochi Prefecture Citizen's Arena in Kochi City on Shikoku Island. There were hundreds of competitors across all divisions. Arakawa Sensei’ division had a massive 65 fighters in.

The result
Arakawa Sensei battled his way through 5 rounds to to make the event finals and he came away as champion of his division. He did however pick up an injury to the throat which has led to a trip to the hospital, but he told me that it was nothing too serious.

This is how Arakawa sensei won his event:

Round 1,
The fight went to extra time with Sensei eventually winning 4 points to 3.

Round 2,
Arakawa sensei comfortably won with 8 points to 0. In typical Japanese fashion, the contest was run to six points clear, rather than the WKF eight points. Arakawa sensei was leading the fight 5 – 0 and then finished the match with a good head kick.

Round 3,
Another fight that went to extra time, Sensei won this bout with 6 points to 5.

Round 4,
Again, the match was won by Sensei in extra time, this time with 5 points to 4.

Round 5,
Despite being the semi final round, Arakawa sensei won with 4 points to 0 to gain a place in the final.

Round 6 – final,
Arakawa Sensei faced the famous Shinichi Hasegawa (a former member of Japan's National Men's Kata Team he is a multiple WKF Team Kata champion and he won the 2nd World Games 60kg kumite division) but Sensei managed to win with 4 points to his opponents 3. (Hasegawa Sensei also came 2nd in the 40-44 men's kata.)

I personally wasn’t at the tournament, as Arakawa Sensei flew there from Tokyo's Haneda Domestic Airport, but this tournament was a big deal. The standard was also very good, with many former national team fighters competing. The fact that Arakawa Sensei entered this competition is a great way to show his many students how it should be done. It’s great that he’s still an active competitor at an age when a lot of competitors have already hung up their gloves. The fact that he walked away as champion is just the icing on the cake!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tobu Taikai Competition

CARL here, aka the ENGLISH Intern...

The 5th Tobu Taikai competition, or the ‘Sainokuni east friendship competition’ was held on Monday 15th September at the Asukaru Sports Centre. Apparently the motto for this comp is taken from Dragonball (a really cool, world famous Japanese cartoon series).

Arakawa Sensei even went so far as to warn everyone in his opening speech that ‘even though the comp motto is taken from Dragonball, you can’t use the Kameameah! And the referee’s will give you a warning if you do!’

I’d even made a deal with Lawrence to replace the last junzuki in Chinto for a Kameameah, however I was too nervous to remember! This is probably for the best because my kata was terrible anyway.

Opening ceremony picture from Arakawa Sensei's blog.

After the customary team warm-up, where Shiramizu took up a full quarter of the huge hall, we had the opening ceremony. There were a few speeches, and some of the senior sensei introduced themselves. Then followed the typical roman salute from a young Japanese kid, I laughed to myself at this part because it reminded me of the Gladiator movie with Russell Crow, in particular the part in the coliseum where the gladiators shout to the emperor ‘we who are about to die, salute you!’ It’s the same sort of thing (almost!), the kid made an oath to Arakawa sensei on behalf of all the competitors that they would do their best.

I was well up for my kumite and feeling pretty confident despite this being my first fight wearing a Japanese style head guard (just think storm trooper!), despite this I still lost my first fight and crashed out in round 1.

Lawrence did well, he was seeded to 3rd to start with, and drew up against Ueno-san also from Shiramizu. It was a really good fight, and Lawrence did what any seasoned fighter would do against a taller opponent, he took the fight straight to him. It was very close, and the fight could have easily gone the other way. Ueno was just that bit quicker on the final punch and won at time up with 2points to Lawrence’ 1 point.

Two kids competing, from Sensei's blog.

Ueno went onto the finals against the guy that beat me. The little Japanese guy was too quick and nimble for Ueno to counter but he put up a good fight, despite this being his first tournament as a dan grade.

Kumite analysis
I figure that I did three things wrong, which lost me my fight:

1. I underestimated my opponent, he looked very meek and I self-assuredly said to myself that ‘I could take him!’ a fatal and basic mistake!

2. I didn’t switch on; I knew that the smaller opponent would come straight in with tobikomizuki every time. That’s exactly what he did, I just didn’t react. I let him get too close and then my reach advantage meant nothing.

3. I misjudged the time of the bout. I thought I still had 30 seconds remaining when the referee stopped the fight for the last time. That would have been more than enough time to rescue the fight and my pride with it.

Kata, ha! Only Lawrence and I were in the category (and turned up) which automatically made it the final. So, you could say that I got 2nd place in only my second ever kata competition and in Japan of all places. Yes, obviously Lawrence beat me lol! I’m still working on controlling my nerves in my competition kata and didn’t really have a hope in hell against a Wadokai World Team Kata Champion (and individual World Wadokai Kata silver medallist).

Here’s a theory!
I have figured out why my kata is so bad in competitions. Fear! I was always taught to imagine that you’re fighting someone when performing kata. Now in competition kata, you’re effectively fighting yourself, your shadow even. So I’m only scared of myself and my own fighting abilities. Okay, maybe not! The funny thing is though; I never get so nervous in kumite that it actually affects my performance.

Competition summary
The Competition overran by a bit, but I think this could have been due to all the extra high school fighters. There were some really good bouts, the teams really got into it and they’re all heavy hitters. So much so that the collective punches actually took me away from my sleepy state (with IPod plugged in) because I thought there was a thunderstorm (no really!). I quickly realised that it was the collective noise of 3 areas running high school team kumite with everyone’s favourite technique being gyakuzuki.

It was a good day, and it was fun. The demonstrations at the end were good, this consisted of a good display of Unsu from a shotokan team, then the Shiramizu ladies (and Wadokai World Kata Champions) re-enacted their winning performance of Wanshu with bunkai. Due to the time constraints, the second group of Shiramizu kids had to miss their chance to show their demo which was shame because it’s my favourite. Two young Shiramizu girls smoke three Shiramizu boys, it’s very good. Both Shiramizu demo’s can be seen on this blog.

I was again disappointed with the lack of senior competitors in particular my kata event (2 entries!).

Tournament setup
This competition was organised and run by Arakawa sensei, with the Tatami chief being Uehara Sensei. We set up the competition the night before; Arakawa sensei had amassed a group of 40 volunteers which made the whole process very quick.

There were 6 areas, one area with jigsaw mats and the rest marked out on the floor in tape. As per custom, the Japanese were meticulous in making sure that the areas were exactly 8m by 8m, and that they were perfectly square. Even the red and blue strip of tape that marks were each competitor will stand was exactly the same length on every area!

I particularly liked the way they had organised the area equipment, the red and blue tags; flags, bells and whistles etc... They were all pre-sorted into clear plastic bags and sealed. This meant that all the equipment was at hand immediately. When they packed up the competition at the end of the day, they re-packed everything into clear bags again thus making the next event that bit easier. I thought this was a very simple but good idea.

The After Party
Party afterwards, we were late because of a misunderstanding about the start time, oh, and then we got lost!. When we finally arrived, most people were already merry but the food was delicious, and their was lots more drinking and speeches still to be made.

Yet again, the dragonball influence!
Picture courtesy of Arakawa Sensei' blog

I was particularly pleased with my (rather limited) speech which was entirely in Japanese! When I stood up to start I took a piece of paper out of my pocket as though I had prepared a speech. I quickly put that away and just winged it though. I said something along the lines of hello/thanks for letting me talk then I moved to say that my kumite was terrible and my kata was worse. I then asked Arakawa sensei to keep on teaching me (which I thought was a nice touch ) I finished by saying that the Tobu Takai competition was fun. See, easy when you know how.
I did have to look up the word for terrible – hidoi!

Amy couldn’t attend the competition because she was working, yes on a Japanese holiday! (The company she works for is run by English/Americans). All she ended up saying was ‘I was at work, I’m sure the competition was great, Kampai’ Lawrence kindly translated this into Japanese as Amy ran off.

You’ll notice that there are no cool action photos for this competition because of the fact that Amy was working. She is a professional photographer with a first class honours degree and was quickly designated the ‘official’ Shiramizu event photographer. I promise my readers some better photo’s from the next competition.

The 5th Annual Tobu Taikai

Lawrence back again and here to talk a bit about the Tobu Taikai that took place this past Monday, Sept 15th.

The Tobu tournament is essentially for the eastern region of the Saitama prefecture and is open to any style. Last year it was held in a huge gym in the nearby city of Kuki while this year, it was held at the Satte city Asukaru (aka ATHCUL, for Athletic Culture) Sports Centre. This is the same place that Shiramizu holds a branch class at every monday night and is often used for other events, like the Shiramizu year end training and July's All-Saitama Wadokai Championships.

Monday we were in Asukaru's main arena (gym) and it all went according to standard Japanese tournament plan. Doors opened at 8:30, bow in at 9, and the first matches kicked off just after 9:30. And, like my standard Japanese tournament plan, I entered in both kata and kumite.

Kata was really interesting in that there were only three people entered. And one of them didn't show up. So seeing as my only other competitor in the adult men's black belt kata division was Carl, it became a sort of "International Shiramizu Intern Showdown". I won, but if I'm honest, I won with a kata I wasn't completely happy with. So it's more training for me I guess!

I also felt the same kind of feeling I got from the team kata division in Canada. I mean, last year there were 6 or 7 people in the division and none this year. I wonder.....

The kumite division faired a bit better (relatively speaking) with 6 registered competitors, although the mysterious missing man from the kata division dropped that down to 5. It also meant I got a bye since he was my first opponent. My first match (a semi-final round) was against the very tall Mr. Ueno, also from Shiramizu. I lost 2-1 so it's even more training!

In addition to some very good kumite from some very strong high school teams, the day ended off with two great team kata demos, one of Unsu from a Shotokan club and the other being the World Championship-winning Japanese female kata team from Shiramizu, with Wanshu.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shiramizu demos & kata videos from the Wadokai Worlds!

Richard here!
Shiramizu kids perform Team Kata (Chinto) then the bunkai. This is followed by knife defense.
Arakawa Sensei coached this demo team, along with the women's kata team.

2 Shiramizu girls defend against 3 boys!

Japan Women's Team Kata final - all the girls are from Shiramizu.

Kushanku by Woman's Open Kata Gold medalist, Iwasaki Honami (probably Ms. Honami Iwasaki), but she's not from Shiramizu. Pretty nice kata though...

Seishan by Men's Open Kata gold medalist Takuya Furuhashi from Aichi prefecture. 6x national JKF Wadokai champion and the 2005 Wadokai World Cup champ too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Men's Team Kumite Final Highlights at the JKF Wadokai Worlds

Here is the men's team kumite final, highlights only.

(I thought I had the women's final too, but it must be on another tape, so I will look again).


Who visits our website?

Our Shiramizu Internship blog gets a lot of visitors from many different parts of the world. This image simply displays where people are located, not the frequency or volume of visits.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

White Lily Kindergarten

CARL here, aka the ENGLISH Intern...

I started a new job on Monday 1st September as the ‘Happy Gaijin’ at a local kindergarten. The kindergarten is private and pretty exclusive, it looks like the owner has invested a lot of money simply into the building; at a rough count I would say that it has 200 students, from 3 years old.

Arakawa Sensei has a branch dojo here twice a week, which I think is very brave. In his own words, he says that he can teach the kids a new technique one week and they have forgotten it by the next. But I think the karate training they are getting is giving them a great start in life, and no doubt some of these kids will become international superstars of karate in 20 years or so. They definitely have a great teacher so there could even be a few future Olympians amongst them!

Monday was a pretty easy morning. I arrived a little early for work so I spent a little time reading a short story to a group of kids. For the rest of the morning I shadowed a Japanese teacher and rode one of the buses to pick up the kids; we went all over Sugito and Miyashiro (one of the towns next to Sugito). It was a pretty good set up, the kids and their parents are all waiting at a pre-designated spot for the bus. We pull up and the Japanese sensei and I jump out and greet the parents and the kids, I end up repeating ‘Hello’ and ‘Good Morning’ about 100 times on the morning. When we got back to the kindergarten, the Japanese sensei and I got out of the bus. Then the kids say ‘good morning’ to me and ‘ohayo gozaimasu’ to the Japanese sensei as they get off. They are then led in to the school yard and I board the bus again for round two.

I managed to scare 4 kids and 2 parents into crying during my bus tour. This is a new personal best for me, ok so the parents didn’t actually cry! But they did look terrified at the idea of their only child getting on a bus with a big scary gaijin!

Most of the morning was spent on the bus, but when I got back I helped to get all the kids sorted into lines by class. This was pretty easy because each class has its own coloured hat. The kindergarten boss gave a short speech over a microphone and introduced everyone (including me). Then I was called up to give a short speech, something which I certainly wasn’t expecting. I’ve been here for a few months now, so I’m pretty comfortable with my self-intro in Japanese BUT I’m here to help the kids learn English so I’m not allowed to use Japanese. I was stumped! I think I managed to mumble a few things like ‘Hello’ in a really happy gaijin voice, which all the kids happily shouted back, and then I think I told them my name and that I was happy to meet them. All the kids bowed and I walked away a little embarrassed. After that, we all marched (no really!) back to our respective classrooms where I got to put a sticker in all the kids attendance books and then helped get the kids changed for running practise. After a little bit of running it was my home time so I had to leave them all.

I arrived a little early on Tuesday morning and there was a group of kids sitting on the floor of the main office. I said hello to them all, and got the loud ‘hello’ back and then some of the kids started saying lots of things to me in Japanese. I countered this by getting some flashcards out of my bag and started playing some colour and animal games. I was doing this until it was time for me to board the bus. The bus ride was the same as Monday, though I only made 3 kids cry and no parents so I’m putting this one down as a ‘good day’. Afterwards I played some English flashcard games with a class of 20 cute little 4 year olds until my home time.

The job is really fun and really easy; it’s just about having a good time with the kids and helping out where necessary. I think the fact that I only speak English is secondary to the fact that I look different to everyone else there. I am a white guy, and for most of the kids I’m probably the first white guy they’ve ever met. This makes some of the kids (and parents) a little nervous but I think it’s great that the kindergarten is taking steps to overcome this before it develops into a strong prejudice against westerners.

Some of these 3 and 4 year old kids will become leaders in the business and political world when they get older. It’s therefore very important that they don’t have any prejudice towards westerners if Japan is going to secure its place in the 21st century. If the kids can have a good time with the ‘gaijin’, then they will get used to the idea of people being different. Perhaps more important, they will realise that us gaijin aren’t really scary at all, just ugly!

(Richard here, Arakawa Sensei calls this making sure the kids don't develop a 'gaijin allergy')


NOTE - Pictures taken from www.flickr.com (I didn't think it would be a great idea to walk around the kindergarten with a camera!)