Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Carl's 'half way' interview...

Amy here...

For a rather late 'half year' intern interview with Carl to see how things are going so far.

So Carl here are all your questions……………………….

Well Carl, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself….. because I know you will love that!
Are you trying to say that I’m an egomaniac?

Ok, my name is Carl Jorgeson, I’m 26 years old and I’m from the seaside town of Hartlepool on the north east coast of England. My day job is being a Line Manager for Tesco PLC a supermarket chain in the UK. I started my own dojo, Hartlepool Wadokai with my brother in 2003 and I’m now the club development officer. In my spare time I like sea kayaking, scuba diving and hiking.

I’m now one of the 08-09 Shiramizu Karate Interns.

When & where did you start Karate?
I started karate in 1988 at the tender age of 5! I was very eager to follow my big brother and my parents into a karate suit.

My first club was the Hartlepool Wado Ryu Karate club, but I didn’t train there very long. This was around the time that the Japanese Sensei in the UKKW (United Kingdom Karate-do Wadokai) split apart. My family decided to stick with Sensei Sakagami and were among the first students of Sensei Mick Stainsby’s Kihon do Karate club.

Why did you stay in Karate?
I’ve always loved Karate. I remember that even when I was in primary school, I was never into football like most of the other kids, though I would train in Karate almost every evening. My mother would probably call it fighting, but my brother and I would always practise Karate on each other. He’s two years older than me so when we were young, that always gave him the advantage but he stopped training for a while and when he came back I was more of a match for him. Now I would say that we have a very healthy rivalry in Karate that keeps us both motivated to push ourselves.

I got the competition bug shortly after getting my Shodan. I’ve had the honour of representing Sakagami Sensei and Wadokai England at a number of European Wadokai championships and bring home a few medals too.

Karate has always been a challenge for me, but it’s great to have something that you can throw yourself into wholeheartedly and get out what you put in. You get nowhere in Karate without blood, sweat and the occasional tears, which certainly helps keep my ego in check!

When did you start teaching Karate?
I started teaching in 2000 once I got my Shodan at the Kihon do Karate club. I was only helping out in the junior classes to start with, but it was enough to give me the teaching bug. When I moved to Jersey I taught a few of my friends a little bit and that gave me the confidence to start my own dojo.

When did you first think of coming to Japan?
I originally wanted to come to Japan when I left college in 2001; I took a ‘gap-year’ with every intention of coming to Japan then going to University. Instead I ended up accepting a management job for Woolworths at their Jersey branch in St. Helier. When I eventually went back to the UK mainland, my brother and I decided to set up our dojo. The dojo put my plans for Japan on hold until we got the club established.

What was your image of Japan before you first came here?
The home of Dragonball! Japan has always seemed to be exotic, for most martial artists it’s Mecca! I’d always thought of Japan as a mix of old and new, with everyone practising the martial arts. I’ve seen plenty of movies based in Japan all showing the usual stereotypes.

How do you find the internship program?
I think it’s a great idea. A great way of visiting Japan whilst training at a great dojo.

What were your first impressions of Japan?
Concrete everywhere and hot! I think I’ve probably seen too many Samurai movies, but I was expecting Sugito to be like an old fashioned Samurai village.

Any strange first non-karate experiences?
The first time I was packed onto a rush hour train was an experience I’ll never forget. I could have lifted both feet off the ground and not fallen!

What were your first impressions of Shiramizu and Arakawa Sensei?
The Shiramizu dojo has a great family feel to it, the standard of Karate is very high and the students are very focussed. Arakawa Sensei is a genuinely nice guy; he goes out of his way to help people and his positive personality is infectious.

What’s your relationship with Arakawa Sensei now?
I see Arakawa Sensei as my Sensei first and foremost, he has a fountain of knowledge and experience that he is more than willing to share. I would like to think that he sees me as one of his students, rather than simply being a foreign visitor to his dojo.

Outside of the dojo, I see Arakawa Sensei as a friend who has dropped everything on a number of occasions to help me or Amy out.

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?
The funny thing, or maybe not so funny thing about Japan is the work ethic here. Before I came to Japan I had the idea that Japan was a very conscientious country.

I don’t claim to be a social expert, but what I’ve found is that people work too much to such a degree that it’s detrimental to the culture of the country and often the health of the individual.

High school kids catching a 6am train to school every day including the weekend, coupled with extra supplementary schools is a recipe for mental breakdown! White collar workers catching the first train to work and the last train home every day is not exactly conducive to a healthy home life.

It’s very easy to get ‘sucked into’ this culture, I’ve lost track of weeks where all I can remember doing is working and training. There has to be a balance so I force myself to try new things and do loads of sightseeing whenever I have free time.

How do you find the activities and atmosphere of the Shiramizu dojo?
Busy, there’s always something going on. The dojo has so many members that it’s often working towards a number of things that are happening over the same weekend.

The atmosphere at the dojo is inspiring; all the instructors are very motivated and clearly love teaching Karate as much as Arakawa Sensei does. This enthusiasm rubs off on everyone.

Do you notice a difference between who you are now and who you were when you first came to Japan?
I’ve always been fairly sure of whom I am, but I think that being here has shown me the career path that I will follow when I get home. I’ve lost some of my English reserve being in Japan, I’m certainly not as shy as I was, but I’m still a total ‘mummy’s boy’.

So how do you find the political side of karate?
I’ll keep it brief. I’ve found that being responsible for a dojo means that you have to get your hands dirty in the politics of Karate to some extent.

Karate in England is something of a political quagmire and people outside of England just don’t seem to understand it! It’s only natural that the ‘mistakes’ of the governing body will be reflected in the smaller member associations.

A lot of the ‘old-boys’ have been doing Karate since the 50’s and 60’s so there is a wealth of technical knowledge. The problem is that not everyone has the necessary skills to ‘steer the ship’ so to speak, though everyone wants to try anyway! I do think the English Karate Federation (EKF) is making great progress and is the right way forward in England.

I think the Wadokai would benefit from having some sort of international oversight to coordinate international relations and events better. This would certainly stop things like the date clash from last year where the JKF-Wadokai Nationals were held over the same weekend as the JKF-Wadokai World Championships on different continents!

What other dojo have you been to in Japan?
I’ve trained at Saitama Sakai High School a couple of times, the kids there are all great fighters. I had the privilege of training at Yanagawa Sensei’s dojo in Ogikubo. Yanagawa Sensei has his own ideas of what Karate is and his teachings and ideas are very interesting. I’ve also been to the Guseikai dojo headed by Takagi Sensei who is thought by many to be the greatest technician in the Wadokai.

How has karate changed over the years from your perspective?
I think it’s almost all sport based now, even in Japan which was a big surprise. The uses of modern scientific principles in coaching are great for the sport, but I think we are losing some of the traditional parts of the martial art. I also think that too many dojo shy away from trying to teach the philosophies and culture behind Budo.

What’s your own competitive success?
I’ve only been in five tournaments in Japan which was a little disappointing, but I’ve come away with one gold (Sugito Taikai), one silver (Satte Taikai), one ‘best 8’ (Satte Taikai) and two ‘best 16’ placings (Wadokai Kanto Taikai & Wadokai Nationals). I was also a member of the Seiritsu Gakuen Kumite team that got 3rd place at the Northern Tokyo Taikai.

What’s your belt rank success?
I got my Wadokai Shodan in June 2000 under Sensei Sakagami in England. I passed my Nidan in March 2009 in Tokyo under a panel of 10 Japanese Sensei.

What does it take to run a successful dojo?
I think all sports clubs and dojo are personality driven to a large degree. The Shiramizu dojo has a large number of students because of Arakawa Sensei’ personality, drive and business sense. But also in part because of its location, there isn’t a lot to do in Sugito and there isn’t a university or big high school nearby to compete with for students.

I’ve been writing a new business plan for my own dojo since September based in part on my observations of Shiramizu. I’m hoping I have the secret formula!

What do you see in regards to your personal future in karate?
I’ve decided not to return to my job in the UK where I originally took a 12 month career break. Instead I’m going to try to make my dojo more successful using what I’ve learned whilst being in Japan.

Short to medium term, I want to keep competing. I’m flying back to Japan for the Wadokai Nationals in August, September is the British Open and in October I have the Wadokai Europeans in Ireland. Also, I hope to make the Wadokai England squad for the Wadokai World Cup in August 2010.

Coaching wise, I want to lead more of my students to European medals and get all my students ‘hooked’ on Karate. I want to increase the size of my dojo without losing our standards. I also plan to go to university at some point and study for a Sports Science / Sports Coaching degree.

Lastly, I want to help my Aiwakai, my association in England to be successful.

If you could redo this year what else would you like to accomplish?
I’d enter more competitions, climb mount Fuji and make more of an effort learning the Japanese language.

Favourite place in Japan?
Kamakura, closely followed by Kyoto.

Any words of advice for future interns?
A year is a long time, so make sure that you’re not going to get homesick after 5 months (like me!). But, seriously coming to Japan and training is something that a lot of people talk about doing and only a few actually do. The whole experience will be something that you will never forget. If you’ve always wanted to visit Japan and train intensively in Karate then Shiramizu is the ideal place for you to do just that.

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