Monday, April 27, 2009

Amy's Half Year Interview...

Carl here,

I thought it was well past time that Amy and I interviewed each other. We’re nine months into our one year in Japan, so this is a great chance to see what we’ve thought so far, what we’ve learned and what we’re planning for the next three months.

So Amy, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself?

Hello, I’m Amy. I am now 26 years old, (after having my birthday recently in Japan) and I love karate!!! I have a 1st class honours degree in photography and I have a passion for art. I have many hobbies they include kayaking ,rock climbing, scuba diving, running and going to the gym. I was working for the police in England as a PCSO before I came here and that’s about all………

When & where did you start Karate?

I started karate on the 29th of April 2003 to be exact!! I started at a brand sparkling new club in England in my home town of Hartlepool that had at the time six different sensei’s. The funniest part of this story is the reason I started karate in the first place. It was New Years Eve and I was celebrating with some friends as many stories begin. One of my best friends was talking to a friend of ours who had just came back to England after living in Jersey and was about to open a Dojo. She decided that the best way to get fit and lose a few pounds was to join karate and of course she couldn’t go alone………so I was dragged into it. I did not mind as I had previously done a bit of kick boxing and I had really enjoyed it.

Why did you stay in Karate?

As most stories like this goes my friend left after becoming a yellow belt as life always seems to get in the way. But I stuck at it. Karate helps keep me relaxed and fresh. It motivates both my body and mind. Also being an Aries I am incredibly stubborn, once I have set my mind to something I achieve my goals no matter what. As I am not a natural at karate I had decided that I wanted to be the best I could possibly be at karate! Which as you can expect will take me the rest of my life, so I can’t quit yet!!

Also my friend was right. Karate does keep you fit and toned in all the right places!! I also believe that it keeps you looking younger too.

When did you start teaching Karate?

I started teaching karate at the end of 2005. I was a purple belt and I had just started training with the Wadokai England squad on their kumite team. I found this an amazing experience and the best way to truly understand karate, because all your juniors expect you to have all the answers, be able to do all techniques and partner drills perfectly. Karate becomes a very steep learning curve at this point!

When did you first think of coming to Japan?

I have wanted to come to Japan from about the age of 16. But I must admit that this had nothing to do with karate!!! I wanted to visit the place where all the amazing wood block prints and other traditional Japanese painting had come from. Japanese imagery had always been a big factor in my art work and continued to be all the way through my degree in photography.

What was your image of Japan before you first came here?

I had an image of ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘The Last Samurai’ in my head. I knew it was a thriving industrial and business country with huge cities and tower blocks, but to be honest that had no place in my mind as I wanted to see a traditional and artistic Japan.

You were ‘seconded’ to the Internship half way through the year, how do you find the internship program?

To be honest the intern program did not really affect me. I was lucky that it did provide me with somewhere to live and train in karate but really I forced my way in, after all Carl was not having an adventure without me!!!! I found it very easy to find jobs in Japan and that was without speaking any Japanese. I have a very independent nature and I am used to doing my own thing.

What were your first impressions of Japan?

After a full day travelling the first memories are all a haze. I remember the pure heat and some very nasty tasting drinks that we got at the airport while we waited to be picked up. Then arriving in the dojo thinking oooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh this looks nice. Also on the first day we had the pleasure of watching some kyu grades. Some tiny children all about half my height taking a different level of brown belt. I was left thinking wow these kids are amazing, and then to my pure amazement Arakawa Sensei then failed them all.

As for Japan in general it is a pure blend of old and new.

Any strange first non-karate experiences?

I have to agree with Carl on this point the strangest thing has got to be the trains!!! I admit that I love the way they are on time, unless someone has committed suicide (which they always do on my train line). But for the amount of people they fit into a train has got to be against human rights. The worst train I have to catch is at 10pm from Omiya and it is so full you can hardly breathe. I am lucky to have such broad shoulders because they keep a lot of people at bay.

What was your first impressions of Shiramizu and Arakawa Sensei?

I loved the place from the very beginning. It was filled with people like me. People who are dedicated to their training and work hard to improve at all levels. Arakawa fills the dojo with his enthusiasm. But this feeling is also help by his many instructors, who are all so kind and caring. And all who are willing to help you with any problem big or small whether it is related to karate or not!!

What’s your relationship with Arakawa Sensei now?

I hope that Arakawa sees me as a grateful and hard working karate-ka. It has been unfortunate that Arakawa has had such a busy year and that my working hours have been conflicting, as I never really got to speak to him as much as I would have liked. He is such a hard working, nice gentleman.

The internship is supposed to allow the intern the chance to really experience Japan and karate deeply. What have you found to be the most important for you while being the intern?

I don’t believe I have scratched the surface of traditional Japan. As for modern Japan I currently work, breathe live and commute in it. The most important part for me has been the karate aspect. In England I would never have had the opportunity or time to commit as much as I have to my training.

How do you find the activities and atmosphere of the Shiramizu dojo?

The atmosphere in the Shiramizu dojo is infectious!! It’s a great place to be motivated and train. Shiramizu is always busy going somewhere or doing something!!

Do you notice a difference between who you are now and who you were when you first came to Japan?

I would not say I have changed in my opinions. I am now more willing to eat exotic foods, but that always happens when you travel to different countries. The biggest thing I would say is I have changed in my attitude towards training. I use to believe I was dedicated and trained hard, after viewing some of the students from Shiramizu on the run up towards the worlds in Canada I now know I can train harder and smarter.

You’re seen karate associations in the UK and now in Japan, so how do you find the political side of karate?

Mainly a mess. But I don’t get involved, all I want to do is train thank you.

What other dojo have you been to in Japan?

I have trained at Saitama Sakai High School and I have had the privilege of training at Yanagawa Sensei dojo in Ogikubo. I have also been to the Guseikai dojo. I have also trained at the Utsunomiya Bunsei girls high school and I must admit there are so many good fighters there it is just a shame that it is very far from where we live as I would really like to have trained their as often as possible.

How has karate changed over the years from your perspective?

I think karate, like fashion goes in cycles. The right way to do something today is the wrong way tomorrow and then it’s the right way again. The karate I have seen is Japan has mainly been competitive karate. I believed before I came here that karate in Japan would be traditional and heavily in depth, the true secrets of Karate…….everything changes.

What’s your own competitive success?

I have only been in 4 compititons since I have been in Japan. Which I was deeply disappointed in, as it takes me time to get my competitive fitness up. I have received Gold in the Satte Taikai, Silver in the Sugito Taikai, ‘best 8’ in kata in the Wadokai Kanto Taikai. The ‘best 8’ in kata was my biggest surprise, to me, Carl and Sensei Arakawa. It shows I have made some improvement in kata. My kumite in Japan has not been at its best. I find it difficult with all the extra protective equipment that the Japanese wear. The head gaurds are a nightmare because they fog up and you can not see techniques that are thrown and the body armor stops your movement.

What’s your belt rank success?

I took my Shodan in May 2008. I then did a pre Dan test with Arakawa Sensei for my Nidan in February which I failed as my kata was not strong enough. I feel honoured that Arakawa Sensei would pre test me after just under 9 months of being a Shodan. I completely agree with the feedback as I want to shine as a Nidan and not just scrape through.

What does it take run a successful dojo?

Personality, hard work, commitment, talent and above all else a team of people who are happy to help you achieve it!

What do you see in regards to your personal future in karate?

I will continue to gain as much knowledge as possible so I can become a worthy instructor. I am going to continue to compete in hopes of winning the European Championships and hopefully the Worlds in Japan in 2010! I am going to continue working on my kata. I also want to train and become a referee.

Any final words of advice for future interns?

RUNNNNNN…..only joking. Enjoy yourself here, give it your best and work hard. The Japan experience is everything you make it.

No comments: