Thursday, December 4, 2008

Amy goes travelling...

Hello, Amy here, (the tag along intern)!

As I have been in Japan for five months now and I have never wrote a blog post I thought I should give it a go.

On Sunday the 23rd of November, I as invited by Arakawa Sensei to go along to an exclusive female only, training session. The session was to be held in Utsunomiya Bunsei Girl's High School which is in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture, north of Saitama prefecture.

The session was to train with one of Japan's best female high school teams. I knew the karate-ka from reputation. And I had once had the pleasure of watching one of the students train for the Wadokai Worlds that was held in Canada earlier in the year (Rie Hirai, Gold in both Girl's 16-17 Kata and Kumite, plus Women's Team Kata Gold, at the Wadokai Worlds '08).

Rie then was training in kata for part of the female team event. Having seen how dedicated they were in kata, with decisive techniques and a no holds barred attitude, I knew it was going to be fun, even if I was a little bit wary.

As it was about a two hour drive it meant an early start. So at six a clock in the morning the alarm rang. I woke with a chilly start, (I later learnt that it was 2 degrees). At seven-ish Sensei pulled up in the car with two other students from his dojo, Misaki and Kana.

Misaki, Amy, Kana at a recent competition...

I was sat in the front seat so Sensei could practise his English. I asked Sensei ‘What time does the training course start?’ He then informed me that it started at 7:00am. AGHHHHHHHHH I thought. It seems that the students from this dojo train in the morning before lessons, then in the evening, every week day and then on Saturday morning and then again on Sunday 7:00 till late afternoon. Pure dedication!

We arrived at about 9:30am at a huge complex. We walk into the dojo and the first thing we see is a monster of a heater. Though it didn’t take the chill off anything more than a metre away from it, but that was fine for the spectators who were grouped around it sitting in chairs. We changed straight away and did a quick warm up, (the warm up lasted less than two minutes, the Japanese karate-ka do not seem to have the need to spend time warning up, even in sub-zero conditions).

Picture taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

This was a very special training session and two other dojos were invited to take part. I should point out at this part that the students invited were all cadets and I was probably the oldest one there for training. But I do not mind this as I have the mental age of about twelve and I'm also only ‘about’ five foot tall, so I fitted in well.

The first part of the lesson was fighting stance, which is much shorter than that of a European fighter, also both heels are up with a much greater gap from the floor, almost as if you were wearing high heels. This produced a sharp pain running up my right leg until I got use to the stance. One of the main advantages of this stance is the push off power; the muscles in your legs are so tight that they are bursting with explosive energy. This gives these fighters great speed when attacking.

We then went on to the bread and butter of fighting, tobikomizuki and gyakuzuki. After watching the WKF World Championships, it was clear to see that the Japanese techniques were more formed, almost the image of a perfect technique as seen in books or more correctly in kata. The punches we were taught in this course were almost ‘kata-ised’ as they would have the look of the perfect punch. You punch, the opposite arm comes back, on the pull back, the opposite arm blocks inwards, then you return to fighting stance and move in. If I had not seen this work in real life I would have doubted the effectiveness of this style.

Picture taken from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

We continued in this manner until a halt was called for at about 11:00. We then had a short break were we were presented with a very yummy cake and a drink of ‘Pocari sweat’, (an energy drink).

We then started on kicks. There was a very painful warm up before this however. It was partner stretching on a whole new level. Matsumoto Sensei demonstrated how we were to do the stretches. On one of them I was demonstrated on. You lie on your front with your arms on your head as if you had been arrested, your partner then takes hold of your arms and pulls you back so your back arches.......nothing new there until the stretch keeps going and I was almost bent back on to myself, needless to say my back went crack crack crack very loudly and all I could do was laugh. (My back had need cracking off for about a month and he had just saved me from having to see a specialist!)

I was surprised to see that the kicks were more of a European style, than that of the traditional Japanese style. We paired off and started various types of kicks. Sensei decided that my partner should be changed and I was paired off with one of the Karate-ka from the University. She was about a foot taller than me, but I still managed to kick jodan. The only problem I have is my ura-mawashigeri (hook kick), finishes too far from the target, but this is mainly due to the fact that I know I can't control it properly and having once seen someone almost KO'd by it (from Carl), it makes me wary of inflicting that on my willing partner.

On a very short break while keeping my legs warm, the university students noticed a strange technique that I was doing, mainly while you throw a kick that is out of distance part way through you do a little hop and suddenly you're in distance. They studied the technique a few times and suddenly reproduced a replica kick only better. I was very impressed. Also European kicks have a fancy flick pull back, where as the Japanese kick cuts through, they also copied this and yet again it was far more superior than mine. I thought to myself, ‘I need to train with these students again!!’

We then finished the session with some fighting drills. The session came to a close at 14:30, we were then presented with a Japanese style feast. The food was lovely and I even managed to eat sushi. This was a great experience and I loved every minute of it. It was great to be around dedicated students all eager to learn from one another.


No comments: