Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's Arakawa Sensei up to...?

Richard here!

Last week I had a nice chat with Arakawa Sensei about this year and next, getting some ideas about his own personal karate plans.
In terms of instructor myth-building which has been unnecessarily common with some leading karate figures in my opinion, Arakawa Sensei is much more down to earth, training and teaching everyday, easily standing beside anyone when practicing in his dojo or at seminars, in turn making it easy for others to interact him.

We were going to chat in his car on the way to a branch dojo, so as I waited at his main dojo entrance, 30 some younger elementary school kids had just finished their late afternoon karate class and they were high-fiving me on the way out while another slightly older 30 some elementary school kids were high-fiving me on their way into the dojo for the next class with another instructor. Zig-zagging between the kids, Arakawa Sensei still in his dogi zoomed by me to run upstairs to his house on the 2nd floor, and then he re-appeared moments later in a Shiramizu track suit while holding a huge sport's bag. We jumped into his wife's mini-van and hit the road.

At 41 years old, holding a Wadokai 6th dan and 2nd kyu (national) instructor's certificate plus having won numerous competition titles, and the recent Japan Master's kumite win, not to mention the 450 students in his dojo, you would think he would slow down a little. But no, he has a whole new list of challenges for himself from now into the new year. This persistent drive probably explains why he is so successful, and why others are motivated to be around him.

The key phrase he said to me in the car was he wants to 'skill up' his Wado even more. Is that even possible, I thought.

Other than the fact he goes to Dr. Takagi Sensei's Guseikai club about once week and helps Takagi Sensei teach every Thu night at the Nippon Budo Gakuen, Arakawa Sensei never misses a Wadokai technical seminar or instructor's practice, of which there has been one the last 3 weekends in a row, from Tokyo to Sendai, another one in Gifu on Oct 25-26.

From the famous Hakoishi Sensei in Sendai he said he has begun to learn the precise way to practice shinken shihara dori, the 2 person series that teaches Wado defense against a sword. It is hardly practiced by anyone in the Wadokai anymore, but he wants to continue to learn it and eventually teach it to his own students one day. Hakoishi Sensei is one of the few senior instructors still practicing it regularly.

Also from Hakoishi Sensei he is learning the finer points of idori. The Shiramizu black belts have been practicing idori on a regular basis for some years now.

The tanto dori series is something Wadokai dojos practice here and there, and Arakawa Sensei has been doing so for some years. Here is a video of himself with Okumachi Sensei from the 2007 Wadokai Nationals doing an idori and tanto dori demonstration - see mid-way into the video.

2009 will be quite busy for him as the Shiramizu Tournament's 10th Anniversary event will be held on February 22nd. In addition Arakawa Sensei is planning to have each of the karate programs in Shiramizu do some sort of traditional or fun demonstration, so I'm thinking he might be including a shinken shihara dori demo.

In April Robbie Smith from New Zealand Wadokai is bringing a group of his students to Japan to visit Shiramizu and stay with some of the karate club families. Everyone is looking forward to this. Arakawa Sensei thinks very highly of Robbie Sensei, who's also a professional instructor, so perhaps he feels they are a kindred spirit.

In late April he will be off on his annual trip to Germany to run a series of seminars which he always looks forward to.

At the Celebration Dinner party last Sunday night for his Master's title win, he said he plans to keep competing in the Japan Master's Championships, especially next year to defend his title in the 40-44 age group.

Just when 2008 looked jam packed, 2009 is even more so! It's very motivating to be around someone so positive and driven. Actually the other instructors at Shiramizu are also like this, hence so many members perhaps. And the high school and now university aged members, who were young elementary school members some 5-10yrs back, are extremely active in karate, many winning National titles and getting into good university programs too. Arakawa Sensei unwavering consistency year after year is truly paying off for his dojo.

No comments: