Sunday, December 27, 2009

The 37th All Japan Karatedo Championships

Erica here.

On the weekend of December 12th and 13th, the All Japan Karatedo Championships were held. I’m told that this is THE competition to win if you’re going to win one. To qualify for this competition, you must have won a competion in your prefecture. Then you compete with all the other gold medalists in your area and the winner advances to represent their prefecture at the All Japan Karatedo Championships.

All of Saturday was used for qualifying matches for team kumite and this took place at the Tokyo Budokan. On Sunday the 13th, the day I went to watch with Richard Sensei, the final rounds for team kumite, qualifying and final rounds for men and women's kata and individual kumite occurred at the Nippon Budokan.

Men's kumite. Intense.

We arrived at roughly 9am, when the competition started, and already the first 2 levels of seats were filled!! So we settled up on the third level and watched the individual men’s kumite. When I first started watching, the fighters were so fast I wasn’t able to tell who had scored a point first. Then after awhile I slowly began to be able to tell, with the help of Richard Sensei of course. There were 2 big screen TVs on either side of the stadium that had instant replay and that helped spectators to see the reasons for some of the calls the judges made. For example, there were quite a few times when to us it looked like red had scored the point, but the judges would award the point to blue. A replay of that point would come up on the big screen and we’d see that red had actually missed and blue had scored with a counter attack, but from our angle it looked different.

Kata being shown on the big screen.

After the qualifying rounds were over for kumite, kata started and it was amazing to watch. For me, I got to see katas that I’ve never seen before. Sitting up in the stands with Richard Sensei and Arakawa Sensei, we would guess which colour would win right before the judges made their call. Richard Sensei got all of them right except one. I stopped after awhile because I kept guessing the wrong one =_=’


Men’s Kumite -- Araga Ryutaro

Women’s kumite -- Miyamoto Yu

Men’s kata -- Furukawa Tetsuya (Suparinpei – Goju-ryu)

Women’s kata -- Usami Rika (Chatanyara Kushanku – Shinto-ryu)

Men’s team kumite -- Kyoto

Women’s team kumite -- Tokyo

This is definitely a must watch event!

Me! It was really windy =p

Monday, December 21, 2009


Louise here,

Last Wednesday, instead of going to karate practice in the morning as we usually do, Erica and I accompanied Arakawa Sensei to the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten to see how to make mochi, (rice cakes).

Rice is the staple food of the Japanese, and is very important to their way of life. According to Boyé Lafayette De Mente, in the book “Japan Unmasked: The character and culture of the Japanese” (2005, Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing), the methods of wet-rice farming have shaped their culture significantly, by requiring group cooperation and self-sacrifice.

Nowadays, most mochi are made by machines in factories, but we saw group work in action at the kindergarten, where the parents and teachers carried out the traditional way of making mochi. (Also see Wikipedia's article about mochi)

Pounding za rice, yoisho!

Rice was steamed in pots over a fire, then put in a large wooden mortar called an usu. People took turns pounding the rice using large wooden mallets, called kine, while the rest (including the kindergarten kids) cheered them on in time with the strikes. The rice was kept moist with hot water by a brave soul wiping and turning it with his hand between strikes. All the kids had a go pounding as well, though using smaller kine and helped by the parents.

When the rice was smooth, stuck together and well mooshed, it was taken out of the usu and another group of people separated it into small cakes. These were rolled in sweet soy powder (kinako), and were then ready to be eaten.

Making cakes

I had a go at pounding the rice, and I can see why it requires a group effort, because it was rather tiring. It helped having people cheering me on though, and it was fun being a part of this traditional event.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Karate Interns Past & Present!

This is a great picture of all the interns past and present, which I snatched from Carl's English Shiramizu website. (Thanks Carl!)

While we've had 2 interns the last couple years at the same time, there are two reasons why we're going back to inviting one intern from 2010. First, the part-time jobs can be maximized for a single intern increasing their income hopefully. Second, the intern's acquisition of the Japanese language and understanding of the culture should progress faster by being on their own.

While there is no religious comparison, the internship was originally thought of to be something a little difficult to succeed at, like trainee monks who enter a Buddhist temple for a few months, or even years, to go through a rigorous study program (shugo) in order to qualify for an official monk status.

It really all depends on each intern's effort. The internship is only as good as the interns in the program, and to date, our interns have been great, very motivated and positive, plus they have gotten involved in as much as possible.

We've received lots of interest in the 2010 position, so we're looking forward to starting the interview process soon.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sainokuni East Friendship Competition

The 6th Sainokuni East Friendship Competition

Erica here!

As Louise mentioned, we participated in the Tobu Taikai last week and were both surprised. Kumite is definitely not my favorite and after the Sugito tournament (where I won a gold medal in kata) Arakawa Sensei insisted that I needed more kumite practice. So practice we did, but it did not raise my confidence very much.

In my division at the Tobu Taikai, there were 5 other girls with kyu (non dan) rankings. They were all from the same university club and I was nervous and a bit disheartened (my previous kata match did not go as I planned). But for kumite we had an odd number of people in our division and I was the lucky one to be given the bi into the next round. So my first match was a semi-final one. I went in hoping for the best and surprisingly I won the match advancing me into the finals! There I hoped for the best again and at first I was in the lead, but she started catching up! I scored another point and the match was over. Much to everyone's surprise, I won gold in kumite.

Gold? kumite??

At the end of the competition, when we were all supposed to line up with our clubs and bow out, everyone was running around like crazy. I looked around wondering what was going on when I realized people were going up to the bleachers to get their programmes. So of course I went and grabbed mine and discovered a number on the back of it. The reason for it was that there was going to be a draw!! The prizes included a digital picture frame, something that looked like a mini-heater (I'm not sure because I couldn't really see) and a brand new bicycle!! That's what all the kids were excited about. It was a very nice way to end the day =)

PRIZES!! It's so new and shiny!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tobu Taikai Surprise

Louise here,

Last Monday, the 23rd of November, Erica and I competed in the Sainokuni East Friendship Competition, otherwise known as the Tobu Taikai. This competition is organized by Takamasa Arakawa Sensei and Shiramizu, and is a 'friendship' competition because it isn't a selection for another, higher level tournament; it is just a chance to get competition experience. Held at the Kuki City Sports Hall, about 600 children and adults entered.

Competition Programme

I didn't do so well in kumite, losing my first round. I was nervous and didn't fully commit to my attacks, so they were too short and obvious. At the end of the time the points were 2-2, so we went into encho-sen. My opponent and I both punched at the same time, but because she initiated it, she got the point and won the match.

Kuki City Sports Hall set up with eight courts for the competition

There were five women in my kata division (Dan Grade Women). In the first two rounds I did Chinto, and both times managed to mess up the last spin and kick, so you can imagine my surprise when I won those rounds. My opponents and I performed our kata at the same time so I didn't see how they did. In the finals I did Kushanku and, to my even greater surprise, I won again. So for the first time ever I won a gold medal in kata.

Erica won her kumite division as well and she'll be telling you about that soon.

Erica and I with our medals

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Applications for the Sixth intern from 2010 now being accepted!

Spread the news!

For our sixth year in a row, we are now ready to accept applications for the next intern at the Shiramizu Karate Club in Japan. The internship will run from June 1, 2010 to April 15, 2011, with the possibility of a short extension!

Shiramizu is located one hour from central Tokyo in Sugito City, Saitama Prefecture. It is a full-time dojo with over 450 members run by the popular Takamasa Arakawa Sensei. Shiramizu is one of the most active karate dojos in Japan, and it has warmly accepted previous interns who have all had once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

There is a small furnished apartment for the intern near the dojo. The income earned from teaching English covers all basic living expenses. Interns are encouraged in their free time to expand the list of English classes and private lessons for the program. Shiramizu members meet the new intern at Narita Airport and they also see them off there at the end of their stay.

The application deadline for those wishing to be Intern #6 is January 15, 2010, but applications received earlier will be given preference.

While the internship accepts applications from anyone regardless of karate experience or style, JKF Wadokai members will be given preference. In previous years, non-Wadokai members have been chosen.

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 full internship time period, 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 have a native-English speaker's level.

Minimum requirements:

Age: Between 20-30 years old (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. An applicant with some post-secondary education of any type is preferred with recent university/college graduates being ideal.

English language teacher training is an asset. If an applicant has none, then at least they should be willing to take a short (1-2 days) ESL instructor's course prior to coming to Japan.

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

Karate experience: Any level of karate experience is ok. As mentioned previously, when two applications are similar, Wadokai members will be given preference.

If the chosen applicant is from another style, they may go to another dojo of the same style in Japan, but they have to commit to going to the Shiramizu dojo to train twice a week to maintain the internship program's interaction with Shiramizu members.

The intern does not have to compete in every available tournament, but they should make an effort to compete as much as possible. There are about 6 main tournaments a year the intern should register for through Shiramizu.

Previously visited Japan: Due to Japan being quite different from other countries, it will be an asset for applicants who have visited or lived in Japan.

Visa: There are two options.

1) If the chosen applicant is from a country in the working holiday program (English-speaking countries are Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland), then that visa will be used. The Shiramizu Director will guide the applicant through the process as the applicant applies by themselves to their nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.

2) If the chosen applicant is not from a country in the working holiday program (for example, the USA or South Africa), then Shiramizu will apply for a cultural visa (bunka katsudo visa) for the new intern and upon receiving a cultural visa letter of eligibility from Japanese immigration, the dojo will mail this document to the applicant to take to their nearest Japanese embassy or consulate. Then the embassy/consulate will make the final determination whether or not to issue the visa, and if everything is ok, it will be stamped into their passport prior to coming to Japan.

Both visas take a few days to process. Upon being stamped into the applicant's passport, the applicant needs to enter Japan within 3 months to activate it or it will expire.

Final application procedure: While highly unlikely, due to the chance the chosen applicant may be denied a visa for some unknown reason, a runner-up for the internship will also be picked. The original chosen applicant must apply for their visa just under the 3 month mark prior to coming to Japan, so that if they are denied, the runner-up can be informed with enough time to prepare to apply for a visa while getting their things in order to come to Japan.

This procedure makes it fair for everyone applying, while also keeping the internship going. There are many responsibilities this internship has, for example the various English teaching commitments, so it is important the internship program itself doesn't fail to keep these commitments going.

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

We look forward to hearing from interested applicants soon! The sooner people apply, the sooner interviews and reference checks can be done as early applicants will receive preference.


Richard, Internship Director

email: karateintern at gmail dot com

Monday, November 16, 2009

Richard's new bilingual blog has started! Yikes!

Last week I started my new bilingual blog at!

And within the first week, it has already been added to the blogs profiled by the JKF's own homepage, which gets thousands of hits a day! See the picture below, where my blog is listed in the top row on the far left, with Arakawa Sensei's blog listed on the far right!

Yikes, the pressure is on to be somewhat interesting now. I'm going to try to blog every 2nd day about things mainly related to the karate world I'm swimming around in, along with whatever else I find interesting that others might also, or things that I simply bump into or bump into me.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Satou Steakhouse

Erica here.

Two weekends ago, my parents were in town for a couple days so I spent some time with them (which is why I missed out on Disneyland).

My mom did some research before coming to Japan and found an article on a very popular steakhouse in Kichijoji and that visitors should definitely go and try it if they get the chance. So we took the train from Shinjuku to Kichijoji (6 stops west of Shinjuku on the Rapid Chuo Line) . When we got out of the train station, I realized we had no clue where it was because the article gave no directions! After asking a couple people for directions in my broken Japanese, we finally found it.

The inside of the restaurant was tiny, I estimated about 15 seats in total. The waitress sat us down then proceeds to explain the menu in Japanese, but when we give her a blank look she switched to English ( it happens a lot). She recommended one of the more expensive steaks on the menu telling us that it was "Japan's #1 steak". Now, let me give you an idea of what the prices were for this particular one.

Tokusen Sirloin Steak

180g (6.3oz) 8,400yen ($92US)

270g (9.5oz) 12,500yen ($137US)

360g (12.7oz) 16,800yen ($186US)

I told my parents that I was not going to have a steak that is worth almost 100 Canadian dollars and that I wanted to have the cheaper ones. But they insisted that we all try the recommended one because we came here for the sole purpose of trying these heavenly steaks. My dad then goes into an explanation of how the cows in which the steaks come from are fed vegetables, are massaged every night and get to listen to classical music. I’m not sure if I believe all of that but they talked me into it.

So we had 3 orders of the 180g Tokusen Sirloin and they showed us the steak before it was cooked and let me tell you, I have never seen a piece of steak that was so marbled and even distributed at the same time. Eating it was a different story, yes it melted in mymouth kind of steak, but because there was so much fat in it, it felt very oily to me. Perhaps I wasn’t used to this type of steak and apparently the Japanese thoroughly enjoy them. So I definitely think it’s something you should try...but maybe only once =)

My medium-rare steak.

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Time to Disneyland

Louise here,

On Monday I went with the Arakawa family (Arakawa sensei, his wife Keiko and his two sons, Yusuke and Masatoshi) to Tokyo Disneyland for the first time, hooray! Erica was spending time with her parents who had come over to Japan for a short visit. It was a cold and cloudy day, but that didn't stop what seemed like half of Tokyo also going to Disneyland.

We went on the big rides: Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain. I think the best one was Space Mountain, an insane roller coaster ride in the dark. It was scarier not being able to see where we were going.

Before the crowds got bad, Big Thunder Mountain

The main detraction from the experience I found was the crowds. We spent a lot of the day standing in line for rides that'd be only a few minutes long. Also, there were so many things to do that, to do everything with those crowds, we'd have to spend several days there. In other words, I will have to go back again!

In front of Cinderella's castle: l-r Arakawa sensei, Masatoshi, me wearing my newly acquired Monsters Inc. hat

Finally, after indulging my inner child by riding the merry go round, we watched the Electrical Parade Dreamlights. There were many floats with Disney characters outlined in coloured lights, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse (of course), Cinderella, Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc., Nemo, Peter Pan and Pooh.

Just as we were heading home, walking toward the carpark, the clouds burst and it was like someone had turned on a garden hose above us. We ran for the car but still got very wet. The many people still in the park must've been soaked as well. Good thing it happened on the way home.

Half of Captain Hook's ship

New JKF headquarters building!

Richard here!
Here's a picture of the brand new JKF headquarters! It's officially called the Japan Karate Building (nihon karate kaikan 日本空手会館).

The new kaikan is located southeast Tokyo near ShinKiba. To get there, take the
Yurakucho subway east to Tatsumi station, then a 5min walk, so with one change maybe it takes 20min from Tokyo station.

The first floor has an office, conference room, warehouse, and lobby.

The second floor has a medium sized dojo, a master's room (probably a Japanese tatami washitsu room), a training room, locker rooms and showers.

The third floor large dojo.

More news related to the kaikan in the near future related to the internship...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Welcome, Hans

Louise here,

On Tuesday night, we had a visitor to the Shiramizu dojo. Hans Haering is from Germany, and while visiting Japan he wanted to do some training. Hans is a shodan, and has been learning Wado karate for ten years. Now he trains at Karate PSV Dresden e.V. in Dresden, under Frank Heinze sensei.

When Hans is not training, he is a project engineer for the company Sigmar Mothes Hochdrucktechnik GmbH in Berlin, and a PhD student at the Technical University of Dresden, studying chemical engineering. He was in Japan for a conference at the Tohoku University in Sendai and afterwards spent ten days sightseeing in Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo, fitting in training with Michio Sato sensei at the Sendai Miyagi-ken Budokan, and with Shiramizu.

Hans said that Japan is very easy to travel around, due to the efficiency of the public transport system. He was also impressed by the hospitality of the Japanese people, with many going out of their way to help. Training at Shiramizu however was the highlight of his trip, he said.

After training. (Kneeling l-r: Toshi Okano, Hiroyuki Uehara sensei, Hans Haering, Takamasa Arakawa sensei, Hitoshi Kikuchi sensei)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nippon Budokan Budo-gakuen Training Camp

Louise here,

Last weekend, the 24th and 25th of October, Erica and I attended the Nippon Budokan Budo Gakuen's training camp at the Saitama Kenritsu (Prefectural) Budokan (埼玉県立武道館) in Ageo City, Saitama.

Yoshihara Noriko sensei, Yamazaki Yukiko sensei and two junior high school students also attended from Shiramizu. It was a camp also for other martial arts: there were people practicing kendo, judo, shorinji kempo, aikido, jodo, and naginata. Takamasa Arakawa sensei, and Kazuhiro Toya sensei from Guseikai Tokyo, taught the karate sessions. Including the Shiramizu people, there were maybe only a dozen karate people training.

Cover of the camp programme

I was very impressed with the Budokan training halls. The main training building seemed newly built and besides wooden-floored training halls it included an archery range.

The first day we trained in a very large hall with kendo, nagainata and jodo people. In the afternoon there was a seminar about how to treat sport sprains and strains, where we taped up each other's ankles.

The second day we trained in another very large hall. Though there were only a few of us, I enjoyed the training, especially practicing applications from chinto, kihon kumite and jiyu kumite drills. It was also interesting to see how the other martial arts trained, especially naginata, which I hadn't seen before.

One end of the main training hall (jodo to the right, kendo behind to the left)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sugito City Championships 2009

Erica here.

Last Sunday, October 18, Louise and I participated in the Sugito City Competition. It was a very small one, consisting of about 200 competitors for 4 different clubs. It took place at the Takanodai Elementary School.

l-r Louise & Erica with their medals & tournament result certificates.

Louise in kata action.

Interestingly, Louise and I were the only adult females in the competition. So for kata, we got put into the men’s division. I was in the adult coloured belt category which was made up of 5 people, myself included, while Louise competed in the adult black belt category which had 3 people. I made it through 2 rounds to get into the finals and there I won my first gold medal in Japan! Unfortunately, Louise had a very tough opponent in her category and did not advance to the finals for kata.

Then came the exciting bit: kumite! Because Louise and I were the only adult females competing, we went straight into the finals to have our match. We waited until the very end when all the different divisions had finished with their preliminary and semi-final rounds and we filed into the gym with all the other finalists in a big procession with music playing and everything. I must say, this was the first time I had such a grand entrance to a final round! With the entire gym watching, each pair went up and fought their hardest for first place and everyone cheered them on. When it came for our turn, I went up hoping to score at least one point during the 2 minute match. Louise won of course and our end score was 4 – 9. Yatta!! Personal victory for me =) It should be noted here that this is Louise's first gold medal in Japan too!

Misaki Yoshia from Shiramizu dojo - an up and coming kata champ who has won her junior high school division at the Wadokai Nationals plus had her kata profiled online by JKfan magazine.

The each age division's kumite finalists line up against each other for the final event, which is a show of each final round one after the other going from youngest to oldest.

l-r Erica vs Louise in kumite.

Kids from the dojo!

Smiles are a good way to end the day.

Because more than half the competitors were from Shiramizu, many of the matches had fighters going against a member of their club. I guess it further motivates them to do better since there is pre-existing competitiveness for some of them (especially with the junior high kids). There were smiles and there were tears and everyone put in the best efforts.

Everything ok? The Japanese sign for everything is 'ready to go' that someone far away

can see is to make a circle above one's head with one's hands.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Richard Sensei's Corner: monthly JKfan magazine column!!!

Richard here!

The very popular JKfan karate magazine has kindly asked me to contribute a bilingual 2-page monthly column starting from November! It is going to be called Richard Sensei's Corner.

One page will be my thoughts about karate in general as a non-Japanese (NJ) and the second page will include an interview I do each month with a famous, or up-and-coming, NJ karate athlete, instructor or association leader who either lives overseas or in Japan.

This is a unique opportunity to communicate different ideas and perspectives of the NJ karate world to the Japanese karate community, as well as highlight the commonalities.

It is my hope that through Richard Sensei's Corner the JKfan reader will be exposed to healthy new ideas for karate practice developed overseas, unique karate adventures, international tournament experiences as seen through the eyes of NJ competitors, increased awareness of the numerous karate communities around the globe and, simply, my own misadventures having a lifestyle devoted to this budo art.

Being the director for the internship was one of the several ways JKfan took notice of me here in Japan. I will be profiling the program, its benefits and the current interns in one column sometime in the next six months.

The column will be partially bilingual, and I have yet to work out with the magazine which parts I can use in other media, but I hope by the end of the month to have a personal website up and running that will contain as much media as possible, plus my own daily blog to provide glimpses into the various aspects of the karate world I bounce around in here in Japan.

So check back soon for more information on the new website.

After 24 months, JKfan will then publish all the columns as a book, which I want to have completely bilingual plus offer extras.

Below are images from the magazine with Wadoka personalities. Actually, I was profiled once in 2005 when I started as the head coach at the high school I work at, and every few months my picture gets included somewhere when I'm coaching at a tournament, part of the many Shiramizu short stories (they do so much they're in it all the time!) or participating at a seminar.

Dr. Hakoishi Sensei on the cover for an article on Wado Idori.

Wadokai member Matsukyu-san in 2007 when he won the All-Japan Nationals (Japan Cup) for individual men's kumite.

Furuhashi-Sensei, 2 time Wadokai Kata World Champ and something like 7-time Wadokai Japan Kata Champ. This picture is great because it shows how large and glossy the magazine's layout is.

World Karate Federation President letter re: Olympics!

Richard here!

Unfortunately as everyone now knows, Karate missed entry into the Summer Olympic programme from 2016, being beaten out by Rugby 7s and Golf. While Karate came third amongst the 7 finalist sports (the others were squash, baseball, softball & roller sports), this development is of course a major letdown. But not all is lost.

In conjunction with an interview I'm preparing for JKfan magazine for my new monthly bilingual column ('Richard Sensei's Corner, more on that in another post!), below is the letter I received from the WKF President, Mr. Espinos, in an email yesterday which he recently released to the public. I will reserve my own thoughts on this matter for another time, so please simply read over this letter if you haven't already. He had more comments about Karate which will be featured in my column.

I think this is interesting information for the interns to be aware of since all the former have wanted to help their home country clubs participate more in the sport's karate world, as well as the current interns too, so understanding all the facets of sport competition, including the Olympic challenges, is important. There has been lots of mis-information in the past about karate and the Olympics therefore reading details straight from the WKF President is quite valuable.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Arakawa Sensei Takes a Silver at the All-Japan Masters!

Saitama Masters Team 2009 - Arakawa Sensei is in the back row far right, and Masuda Sensei from the other dojo in Sugito, SKIF Zenshinkan, is seated far left.
(All photos from Sensei's blog.)

From September 19 to 21, the annual JKF All-Japan Sport's Masters Championships took place in Shizuoka Prefecture at the Shizuoka Prefectural Budo-kan Arena. In the Individual Men's Kumite age 40-44 division, Arakawa Sensei took the Silver Medal! This is the event he won last year. Congratulations to Sensei for still a great result!

A bruise he received during the event. He still said he would try again next year! There were 5 rounds to the final, and the pictures below I believe are rounds 2 to 5, with Sensei wearing a red belt for each one.

Sensei's final opponent was 187cm tall, 6'2'', so about 1/2 a foot taller!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Takagi Sensei`s Seminar

(Photo from Arakawa Sensei's blog)

Erica here!

Last Sunday, October 4 , Louise and I, along with a dozen or so other people, attended Dr. Hideho Takagi Sensei’s seminar held at the Ikebukuro Sports Centre (Takagi Sensei is the chair of the Wadokai's Central Technical Committee). It was a black belt event, but I was kindly invited to join as well. I was quite relieved to see another brown belt upon arriving and to Louise’s surprise; it was a fellow karateka from her dojo in New Zealand.

We started the 4 hour seminar with partner work where we would move up and down the room with one person punching and the other doing various blocks and counter attacks. Many times during these exercises, Louise and I had no clue what we were supposed to be doing so we did our best, occasionally mimicking Arakawa Sensei and/or making up our own drill. Afterwards, we moved on to ido kihon, kihon kumite and lastly kata.

As usual, Takagi Sensei was very instructive and humorous. During one of our many water breaks, Yoshinhara Sensei and Louise trotted towards Takagi Sensei for some pointers about the stance Naihanshi, upon spotting them, he proceeds to look around the room as if he hadn’t seen them and starts to jog away. Eventually, he let them catch up and gave some valuable advice on how the stance is supposed to feel.

During yet another water break, I was practicing with Yoshinhara Sensei my gyaku-tsuki (reverse punch). Takagi Sensei comes up to us and explains that I’m using too much of my upper body and that I should focus more on using the hips. I watched paying close attention when he was explaining it, showing us when out of nowhere he hits me with a chudan gyakutsuki. Obviously he held back and he had only lightly hit me but even so, I felt the force and could then imagine how it would feel to be behind a strike that had his full force.

Arakawa Sensei and Takagi Sensei (photo from Arakawa Sensei's blog)

Often, Takagi Sensei would enlist someone to assist him when he is demonstrating and most of the time; his uke would get attacked at the most unexpected times. It was quite funny for the rest of us, but a little unfortunate for whoever was his helper at the time. By the end of the seminar, my mind was brimming from everything we’ve done and desperately trying to retain everything. I’m sure I have forgotten some of it already, but it was a very enjoyable seminar and it went by really fast.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Job at the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten

Louise here,

So what do I do when I'm not gainfully employed doing karate? No, I don't lead a life of idleness and dissipation, but have various part-time English teaching jobs, picked up from Carl and Amy, the previous interns. On Monday and Tuesday mornings, and Friday afternoons I work at the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten, which is very near to the Shiramizu dojo.

Entrance to the Sugito Shirayuri Kindergarten

I ride one of the buses for an hour or so, saying good morning to the kids as they are picked up.

In the kindergarten bus

Then, depending on the weather, I might play outside with the kids, or help get them sorted for the day in one of the classrooms.

Me and the red hat class (a.k.a. Kobato) of four and five year olds

I usually give one or two half-hour English lessons, but for the past month, the entire kindergarten has been preparing for their sports festival, so I've been tagging along and distracting the kids as they practice. The festival is taking place this Saturday (the 10th of October), at the kindergarten's sports' ground, so by now everyone is looking pretty good. I'm quite looking forward to it.

Practice in the hall